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Turn a Rock Band Keytar Into a Mellotron, And More Standalone Instruments

Lurking in the bargain bins of game shops is a surprisingly well-built keyboard. The Rock Band “keytar” controller may have been made for games, but the keybed is solid, the thing is light, and it can run on batteries. So why not turn it into a standalone instrument? That’s what Jamie Robertson has done with his, and he shows you how. The magic here is something he calls the WAV Trigger. Without naming any names, while there are a lot of cool Arduino shields and the like out there, a lot of them are pretty functionally limited. They’re cool to …

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Watch The Retro-Fabulous, Colorful Real-time Freakouts of Robotkid

Robotkid, aka Josh Randall, is the veteran former Creative Director at Harmonix who regularly infused VJ and real-time visual aesthetics into the company’s games (Beatles Rock Band, VibRibbon, etc.). Now, he’s gone to LA, where his passion for the most fantastically colorful trips of the past is feeding new visual fancies. And they’re too good not to share. Where better to start than with a full-on freak-out on Disneyland’s Space Mountain, here seeming more futuristic than ever:

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iPad Meets Kinect, Twister Meets Tenori-On: Behind the Scenes of Pxl Pusher Music Game

What happens when you meld the most futuristic Microsoft technology with the most futuristic Apple technology with the most ColecoVision-esque graphics as built in Jitter? Or you create gameplay that couples physical human contortion with the step sequencing rhythms of music? A different take on music games, that’s what. Developers Matt (“M@tt”) Boch and Ryan Challinor work, in their day jobs, on the music game as most people know it, at Harmonix. Harmonix’s roots remain in the rhythm game, so that music play, even at its most serious, is still about musical timing accuracy. Pxl Pusher is a very different …

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Rock Band 3 Mustang Guitar as Expressive MIDI Controller: Frets, Strings, and Accelerometer

As a guitar, the Rock Band 3 Mustang is a bit unusual – there are strings, but an array of buttons replaces the frets, and it is intended as a game controller. But with all those buttons, strings, and sensors, it makes a remarkably flexible, surprisingly inexpensive controller. Our friend nay-seven puts it to good use with Sensomusic Usine. And talk about a budget-minded setup – one that could put platforms like the iPad to shame. Usine costs just EUR90 for a full license, with discounted educational pricing and a version you can try for free. The Mustang runs just …

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Music Gaming Franchises Face Difficulties, But Here’s Why It’s Not Game Over Yet

These drums need a new hit. Photo (CC-BY) Nathan Forget. There’s no more brutal opponent than elevated expectations. At least, that’s one explanation for the recent meltdown of the triple-A music gaming franchises. Harmonix, company that gave birth to the modern instrument genre saw both of its creations hit hard times in recent weeks. Activision gave Guitar Hero the axe [Wired], terminating the division, its employees, and a future game in the franchise Harmonix originally created. Harmonix got an extra life, at least, but it wasn’t pretty: the LA Times reports that Viacom unloaded the company – and some $100 …

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Wild, Colorful Controllers for Guitarists and Ableton Live Users, from Starr Labs

Kids today. They just love their Ableton Live and their Rock Band and their alternative tunings and their Live triggers and touch controllers stuck to their far-out new boutique controllers and high-end MIDI guitars. Starr Labs has a line of MIDI controllers for Rock Band gamers and musicians on a budget, real guitarists (that’ll be the pro MIDI guitarists, not the gaming ones), and a novel new controller designed especially for Ableton Live. We saw their wireless line earlier today, which interoperates with these; here’s them exploring control. Gaming and serious musicianship have some surprising overlaps here. Look at the …

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Audio Podcast: Talking Music Tech News with Wire to the Ear, CDM

Vintage radio equipment, ca 1957, (CC-BY) the Seattle Municipal Archives. Oliver Chesler and his Wire to the Ear blog have long been among my favorite reading on the Web. It turns out he and I have both been pondering the idea of doing an audio podcast to talk about trends in music and technology. After we did a panel together, the idea was irresistible. Sure, podcasts have exactly none of the hype they once did, but both of us listen to spoken word content voraciously. So, here’s the first experiment. We get a chance to speak, uncensored and off the …

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Hands-on: Rock Band 3’s Keytar, a Surprisingly Serious $80 MIDI Keyboard

The Rock Band keytar Rock Band 3 Wireless Keyboard, next to an iPod touch, for scale. What if a gaping product hole for musicians were filled by a game company instead of a musical instruments company? There’s no need to imagine: pick up the new Rock Band 3 keyboard, and you’ll see what I mean. Consider: most sub-$100 and compact keyboards have dumped 5-PIN MIDI DIN ports in favor of USB only – little comfort if you want to plug a keyboard into that DIY sound module or eBay treasure. (Alesis’ QS25 is one exception, but even a $150 M-Audio …

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Exclusive Details: How the Rock Band 3 Fender Mustang Works as a MIDI Guitar

A toy controller – in a good way. The Mustang Pro guitar controller for Rock Band 3 is equipped with a full MIDI implementation and standard 5-pin port to connect to synths and computers. Since the very first Guitar Hero game, musicians have found ways of converting game music controllers into genuine music controllers, through various hacks and tricks. But now, no hackery is needed: Rock Band 3’s new “Pro” controllers ship with actual MIDI DIN ports on the back. With the help of Harmonix, we get to look inside how that MIDI implementation works. The Rock Band 3 Fender …

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Rock Band 3, Behind the Scenes: When A Music Game Gets More Real

Play testing Rock Band’s challenging new play modes. You know, challenging — kind of like music. Alli Thresher, community moderator, and Jessa Brezinski, intern. What Harmonix has achieved with Rock Band, and their original Guitar Hero, is remarkable. At their core, these games are descended from arcade rhythm games, reducing music to simple coordination of a few buttons. Yet numerous studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that, in an age in which recording has made musical experience passive for many, the fantasy of holding a plastic instrument is enough to convince people to explore music making again. Rock Band’s collaborative gameplay …

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