notationsurfacestudio

How expressive input, immersive 3D might make PCs cooler than Macs

“Pro.” “Creative.” They’re words that are repeated so often in computing it’s easy for some people to forget what they mean. By definition, though, if a “professional” is getting paid for their work, investing in more power to get their work done has a return on investment. And being “creative” on a machine means pushing it to the limits of expression. This may be the post-PC era after all, but that ought to mean we get computers that focus ever more on those use cases. Remember Jobs’ infamous quote about trucks? Embedded in his thinking was an answer to what …

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Apple’s computer vision looks backward, as others look forward

It was really hard for me to watch Apple’s “Hello Again” event today. Understanding history is important – to a point. But Apple’s obsessive navel gazing in the Mac event today speaks volumes. This is a company with no real vision for what its most creative users actually do with their most advanced machines. So, instead, they look into the past. And the Mac keynote was full of references to the past. The early 90s PowerBook 100 got a better pitch for its industrial design than the new MacBook Pro. And that’s with good reason: the PowerBook 100 was an …

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A report from the futuristic Continuum Fingerboard’s first Con

The 19th Century was the century of the piano. The 20th Century, for all its innovation, still saw the piano keyboard as the dominant interface for all those new sounds. But the 21st Century finally looks to offer some choice. And so it’s high time for the Continuum Fingerboard to get its day. The instrument allows you to find pitch as you can on a piano keyboard, but with expressive continuous control both in pressure and position – letting you bend pitch and shape sound more fluidly. Now having inspired instruments like the ROLI Seaboard (and with ROLI raking in …

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Steinway Model D. Photo courtesy Steinway & Sons.

These piano breakthroughs changed music forever

Yesterday was Piano Day – a day recently christened by composer/pianist Nils Frahm in order to celebrate that ubiquitous keyboard instrument. (It’s held on the eighty-eighth day of the year.) There are concerts, marathons, project, releases – and unlike Record Store Day, this event won’t clog the ability to produce piano music. With that day as inspiration, I thought it was a good moment to look at some of the technology of and around the piano, to understand what has made this instrument special. That includes both strictly acoustic innovations as well as design features and breakthroughs that either inspired …

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Sneak peek of HYVE, a 60-note touch synthesizer

Touchplates are so in this year. Yes, it’s a testament to the legacy of synthesizer pioneer Don Buchla: electronic musicians evidently long for something new. And the latest is a glimpse of something found in our news tip inbox. It’s called “HYVE” and it’s a hybrid synthesizer, combining a number of ideas about pitch arrangement into a single touch-plate layout. There’s a keyboard. There’s a hexagonal pitch array. And there’s a heck of a lot of polyphony. And… well, it’s best to just watch the video:

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5 years on, still the best way to control Ableton from iOS

touchAble remains the deepest touch controller for Ableton Live – or anything else – on iOS. And now it’s on a bargain sale, withs some new features, too.

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Akai MPC Touch is an MPC with a multi-touch screen

MPC lovers, you finally get a piece of hardware with everything in one place: touch, color displays, pads, buttons for workflow access. There’s just one catch: you will still need the computer. Ever looked at those beautiful color waveforms on Native Instruments’ Traktor and Maschine controller and wished you could touch the screen? Imagined pinching to zoom waveforms and navigate samples, the way you can on an iPad? Well, Akai are the first to do groove-making hardware that combines physical pads and a touchscreen in one unit – no iPads (or Microsoft Surfaces) in sight.

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Bitwig Studio is a real touch DAW you can use today

We’ve seen apps made exclusively for touch devices like the iPad. And we’ve seen very basic touch support in desktop apps. But Bitwig Studio 1.3 is both. So, on the same day we find out about a proper touch laptop, we also get a DAW that’s ready, today, to take advantage of it. (See also FL Studio below, though Bitwig brings specific support for Microsoft’s new displays, and some new ideas.) Also, is Bitwig actually trolling Mac fans, or Apple? Because Bitwig is touting the fact that OS X will at least get its new “E-Cowbell device.” (I’m not making …

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Let’s make sense of Apple’s new iPad lineup – with charts!

The iPad isn’t just a gadget any more. There’s now enough of an app ecosystem that investing in an iPad is investing in a creative platform that turns into lots of other things. That is, it really is like another computer. For music, that means a lot. An iPad is a drum machine, or a vocal processor. It’s a practice aid, a simulated guitar amp. It’s an extension of your desktop music software, too, whether controlling instruments and transport in Logic or live sets in Ableton. It’s a DJ tool. Of course, the same is true of a computer. And …

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A new ROLI instrument wants to make expressive control mainstream

We are all slaves to the piano. Two or three centuries after the instrument rose to dominance, and well over a half century after it became intertwined with the synthesizer (hello Minimoog!), it’s still something of a challenge to work out some alternative. And I love the piano. One of my great frustrations with some advocates of expressive new interfaces is their disregard for my favorite instrument. But let’s look at it this way: we’ve got beef. Beef is fantastic. We still really ought to have some chicken, some duck, and some vegan options. The formula for solving this in …

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