LinnStrument + Sample Modeling’s “The Viola”

Inventor Roger Linn shared this demonstration of using the LinnStrument as a controller with Sample Modeling’s The Viola virtual instrument.

The video demonstrates the range of expression possible with an Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression (MPE) MIDI controller, especially paired with a virtual instrument that is capable of using the MPE information. 

What is Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression? 

linnStrument-MIDIMPE is a new specification for communicating musical performance gestures, polyphonically, that is compatible with MIDI 1.0.

Traditional MIDI keyboard controllers capture one dimension of movement – your finger moving up and down on a key. More advanced controllers capture and communicate three dimensions of finger movement.

For example, the LinnStrument is designed to capture these three dimensions of expression, for each note played:

  • Velocity and finger pressure (Z axis) is typically used to vary note loudness, like traditional MIDI controllers. While most MIDI controllers capture velocity, and some channel-aftertouch, the LinnStrument captures finger pressure polyphonically.
  • Finger left-right (X axis) movement is used to vary pitch, both discretely, like a traditional control keyboard, and continuously.
  • Finger forward-backward (Y axis) movement is used to vary timbre. Most control keyboards are limited to a mod wheel, which modifies all voices. The LinnStrument allows for per-voice modulation.

Beyond Sample Playback

Capturing this richer range of expression is only useful if paired with software or an electronic instrument that can make use of it.

Sample Modeling’s virtual instruments go beyond sample playback, modeling the waveforms and how they are affected by physical gestures. Here’s how they describe it:

Identification of the “fingerprints” of high quality instruments has been carried out by state-of-the art recordings of chromatically sampled notes, typical articulations, and expressive phrases, played by excellent professionals in an anechoic environment.

An “adaptive model”, based on the physical properties of the instrument, and exploiting the knowledge of the performance characteristics was then constructed. The purpose of the model was to minimize the differences between the real phrases and those played by the virtual instrument. Sophisticated technologies, including proprietary “harmonic alignment” (ref.1), de/reconvolution with modal resonances (ref.2), innovative techniques for sample modulation, along with advanced AI midi processing, are used for real time construction of all articulations and morphing across dynamics, vibrato, legato and portamento.

The result is a user-friendly virtual instrument with few midi controllers, which can be played in real time or from a sequencer, in standalone mode or as a plugin, for PC or Mac.

The LinnStrument is available via Roger Linn Design for US $1,499. See the Sample Modeling site for more information on their virtual instruments. 

12 thoughts on “LinnStrument + Sample Modeling’s “The Viola”

  1. Love the linnstrument. Be amazing if there was another version that was laid out like a guitar neck and used as such, alright itd be a bit odd not using the picking hand but man itd be sweet for any guitarists.

  2. The Linnstrument does have strap buttons and can be worn like a guitar. After watching a recent tutorial video from Roger, it looks like there are even a modes that allow you to re-trigger notes/chords or strum chords held with your left hand with your right hand.

  3. What’s the difference between PRESSURE and VELOCITY , if any? Something with velocity must have some sort of pressure and something with pressure must have some sort of velocity? Are they 2 different things? But 1 axis?

    1. I would say, ‘velocity’ is the initial impact speed that alters the volume of the sound, which is called the velocity control. While ‘pressure’ is a graded after-touch that changes some modulation of the sound – this modulation could also be linked to volume, or any control, but usually changes the filter cut-off in many cases. And the sensor input for ‘velocity’ may be the same sensor input for ‘pressure’, yet for ‘velocity’ it takes the initial speed/force of the impact, and for ‘pressure’ it is reading the force after that initial impact, as both are controlled on the same axis. I am of the understanding that the Linnstrument has one piece of pressure sensitive film that is used to sense all 3 axis of input – so in this case everything would really be a translation of pressure in the X,Y and Z axis’s.

  4. My only qualm with this, other than the price, is the way that the thumb seems to need to be disengaged for playing. I’ve tried a few other things similar to this and it’s kind of disconcerting for someone used to playing keyboards, where the thumb acts as a pivot. I suppose I’d have to get used to it. Nice idea and implementation though despite this.

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