Note Surface part 1

There is a little on the site that talks about my philosophy on MIDI controllers. Allow me here to go into a little more detail on the control surface, with even more detail to come later.

As a recording engineer I spend an inordinate amount of time watching people play. I’ve noticed the kinds of instrument manipulations that are good when trying to be expressive musically. At the highest level I see two things: location and pressure. These correspond, of course, to the two elements of sound: frequency and amplitude.

As far as frequency or pitch in concerned, I’d like having the at least the kind of harmonic and melodic control that a piano keyboard has. However, I have a few issues with the piano keyboard. Not that it’s not good, it is actually really good, but it does have some problems.

  1. 1. The black keys were added later to a modal instrument, so it is not symmetrical.
  2. 2. Keys are mechanical and have a long throw.
  3. 3. It’s really big.
  4. 4. One had can reach only a little more than an octave.
  5. 5. Not really designed for aftertouch.

This is part of what led me to to designing an alternative key layout. I’ll go into more on the rational on my key system later, and also compare it to what else is out there, but let me just say that location is everything when it comes to pitch. (Like real estate.) In other words where your fingers come down determines the pitch. So just to get started I attacked the five points above. And a sensor matrix was my solution.

Now, of course there has to be dynamic control too right? I think so. Otherwise the music gets boring fast. So, I figured figure pressure is good. (Breath control would have been good too.) And therefore my sensors have to be force sensors. Originally I wanted to do a touch screen. This was even before I was aware of the Lemur. But I quickly found out that multi touch screens with z-axis sensing may exist somewhere, but I can’t find one. (Feel free to correct me on this one!) That brought me to using discrete FSR’s (Force Sensing Resistors) and later having a FSR array manufactured.