Roger Linn LinnStrument Update


Software developer Geert Bevin shared an update on the state of the Roger Linn LinnStrument, Linn’s new polyphonic multitouch controller instrument.

He notes that version 1.0 of the LinnStrument firmware is close to being finalized, and that several new features have been added:

Just two last issues to fix and the LinnStrument firmware v1.0 is complete!

Here are some of the creative features we added that were not part of the original plan, when I’m in San Francisco next week Roger and I will record a few demo videos about these:

  • a continuously per-note expressive arpeggiator that’s very playable (intelligent handling of chord/note transitions)
  • real-time slide control over the arpeggiator speed
  • optional low row that can act as a long ribbon controller to control various aspects of playing (sustain, pitch, mod wheel, …)
  • external MIDI control over the LEDs and colors
  • ‘strum’ behavior like on stringed instruments, but with per-note expression (vertically and horizontally – this is a lot of fun)
  • three MIDI modes: single channel, channel-per-note and channel-per-row
  • 8 horizontal CC faders to directly control synth parameters by sliding
  • internal tempo with fine control as well as tap tempo
  • easy-to-use but very detailed calibration routine to make expression on each cell predictable and very precisely tuned for each individual LinnStrument

The LinnStrument is expected to be priced at US $1500. Availability is to be announced.

23 thoughts on “Roger Linn LinnStrument Update

  1. I swear when I first read this post it said pricing and availability to be announced. Oh well, I was on a smartphone. Small text, misread, edited post or hallucination, I’m happy with $1500. When it’s primary competitors with the Haken Continuum at Tony Stark prices, the Madrona labs soundplane at 1895 (what no blinking lights? Hardly an instrument made for electronic music 😉 ) and the Roli Seaboard at 1,999 baseline, the linnstrument is very competitively priced in the futuristic keyboard market.

      1. There’s also no tactile feedback of where you are, so you have to always look at the iPad to play. Also, the surface of the iPad is really small, you can’t really play with two hands.

      2. Another iPad downside I just thought of, the touch sensor is bound to the screen refresh rate, which is 60Hz. This gives you an inherent input jitter of 16.66ms, which is huge. It’s most certainly why nobody plays live drums on the iPad but uses an external controller. In my experience, the touch screen only really works well for pads or leads with a steadily rhythm. In any case, I still have to see someone perform with just the iPad as a musical instrument in a convincing way.

        1. Yeah and it’s worse than that even. The fastest touch-response time of the latest iPad is 58 milliseconds. So the jitter you mentioned plus the lag, and of course no pressure.

          I happen to know Roger Linn is playing the Linnstrument live, because I saw him in a photo on Facebook playing with a San Francisco band that a friend of mine plays in. I had a startle-moment when I realized what I was seeing.

  2. Oh, I just realized I forgot about one other feature we added, and that is ‘one handed operation’. We went through all the UI interactions and made sure that you can use them quickly with two hands (hold – interact – release), but also at the same time allow all the features to be accessed with just one hand (toggle – interact – toggle), even though it might be a bit slower to use. This allows musicians to easily integrate the LinnStrument with other gear and have each hand being responsible for different things, but it also allows musicians that lost the ability to use both hand to have a fully functional expressive electronic musical instrument.

  3. $1500 seems like a rational price, as that’s not far from what one pays for a decent synth or guitar proper. More to the point, any buyer is certain to know what they’re getting into and be jazzed enough to invest in the inspiration. My only “issue” is wondering at what point someone will define the thing more prominently. There needs to be a line between acoustic emulations and synth sounds so weird, the general audience will be hard-pressed to connect the sound and the player. Think in terms of making sure your hands ‘show’ enough and the rest will follow. If you actually play enough in real-time, then pressing Play part of the time becomes a tool instead of a cheap cop-out. I look forward to the first time someone really shreds on it in a R&R fashion. It’ll happen. The design is just too inviting not to seed that.

  4. I’ll be getting a Linnstrument as soon as they let me. I figure a Linnstrument is worth more than two Ableton Pushes. I have a Haken Continuum, but have been looking forward to something that does not need to be tethered to a wall outlet. HP is coming out with a pair of 2:1 tablets with stereo front-facing beats-audio speakers (13.3 and 15.6 inch screens, HP Envy X2). One of these tablets, a Linnstrument, and a cable would be all the hardware I would need.

  5. Not sure if you answered this elsewhere, but will Linnstrument support custom scales (e.g. scl files) and custom tunings (just intonation or microtonal), and overtone series (different each octave), or only 12ET??

    1. The LinnStrument’s initial firmware focuses on making expression for electronic musicians accessible to as many people as possible. Dealing with per-note expression and the continuous touch sensitivity is already a lot for most musicians, that’s why we preferred using a fixed 12 tone equal tempered note division that maps to the cells. You can however turn all pitch quantization off and play it like a fretless instrument if you want 🙂

      In the future it’s possible that we extend the layouts and scales through advanced features. For the moment though, we want to prevent the LinnStrument from confusing musicians too much by offering too many options.

      1. Thank you for the reply. Yes, the 3D expressiveness alone is revolutionary and developing that muscle memory may be a real challenge! Thus I admittedly am “pushing the envelope,” but just intonation (or Carlos superjust) can increase likelihood of harmony. With the fretless option, can the number of octaves be changed (e.g. distance between 12ET notes) or will we need microfingers to play microtones?

        1. Currently it’s always one note per cell, it’s a good idea though to stretch out the width of a note and definitely a feature that we’ll consider for advanced users in a firmware upgrade. Currently you indeed need micro fingers 🙂

      2. Yeah –
        I definitely would like the Linnstrument to see not only in the 12 tonal system.
        It has the potential to play also in the microtonal spectrum, so why not?
        .Scl – files shoul dbe interpreted, though.
        Will be a further argument to be an ultimate controller –
        also a big one for me to purchase one!

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