Understanding The AlphaSphere

Why is it spherical? Why not just use a keyboard?

These are the first questions a lot of musicians have when they see the AlphaSphere MIDI controller. Nu Desine has released a series of videos that look at the these questions, exploring the design ideas underlying the AlphaSphere and how the new instrument works with DAWs and synths.

The first video, above, looks at the thought behind the AlphaSphere design. Additional videos, below, look into using the AlphaSphere with DAWs, to play melodies using different types of scales and to control sounds using MIDI CC.

C Major and basic notational programming

Harmonic Table and Chromatic scale layout

Controlling synth features with MIDI CC

More info is available at the AlphaSphere site.

12 thoughts on “Understanding The AlphaSphere

  1. If you’re going to go this far into “alternate” controlling, this is the kind of clarity and range that will make it roll. The thing is… I keep seeing such tools appear and then barely ever appear again. I almost never hear anything like a virtuoso on them and most users apply them to ambient goo or covers of “On The Run.” It asks a lot of even a synth-minded person and for an utter newbie, its a very steep mountain. The layout here is a smart one, though. Unlike most others, this one really does fit the way human hands work, with no contortion required. Because it has such a solid design, the chances of becoming fluid on it within a reasonable time frame seem a lot higher. We’ll have to wait and see if it inspires someone enough for it to become more distinct as a playable interface.

    If anything sold me, it was the option of assigning scales and CCs readily. It suits the shape from the player’s perspective. I’d set it up with just 3 or 4 templates and then really lock them in as The Instrument. I think that could be enough to best exploit its options without just milking its novelty. Constant change can eventually dilute what you’re doing, but flexibility is the bridge between tradition and the wild new territory you hope to explore.

    1. Programming flexibility is awesome. However, all the playing examples are simple melodies. I don’t see the advantage over a keyboard or a grid for playing chords, arpeggios, etc. Seems to need huge hands or superhuman coordination. I agree about seeing a virtuoso play…. Bach.

  2. I spent some time with the developer at NAMM, and I think this is a brilliant piece of gear. You can use it in so many ways, one being to generate polyphonic aftertouch, another to play an accurate emulation of some string instruments, since it not only does velocity, the pad can also be programmed to do a slight pitch bend when holding a note, something we would use a mod wheel for today, but when performed on this instrument/controller it sounds fantastic and realistic in a way I hadn’t heard before. Then there is the ability to trigger complex sequences, etc. It is a dynamic and versatile controller, if you had a chance to play with it one on one you might get a better idea of it’s potential, which in my opinion is off the charts when used by a creative person…

  3. It is so obviously difficult to target the pads underneath, and on the back side, only a person who dedicates huge amounts of time to learning how to play this ball will ever be able to make use of the spherical design in any sort of consistent way. Even then, would it be a preferable way to playing? I really doubt it.

    Looks slower and much much more difficult than just playing a keyboard, or a pad controller.

    1. Somehow people play steel drums and hand drum without much trouble – and they have circular note arrangements.

      I question the ‘lower hemisphere’ pads though. It would make more sense to me to have a half circle with twice as many pads on it.

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