Haken Continuum Fingerboard Vocal Synthesis

Sunday Synth Jam: This video captures a vocal synth improvisation by Peter Pringle, using the Haken Continuum Fingerboard.

Here’s what Pringle has to say about the technical side of this performance:

One of the new presets designed by audio wizard Edmund Eagan for the latest firmware version of the Haken Continuum is called TWO HANDED VOICE. As its name implies it takes two hands to control it: one hand for pitch, the other for the formant (i.e. the vowel sound you want to make – AH…EH…EE..OO…etc.) This precludes the possibility of playing another instrument simultaneously (such as a keyboard) because you don’t have a free hand to do it with. Normally, for the TWO HANDED VOICE, one hand moves from left to right on the upper part of the fingerboard (called the ‘Y’ axis), and the other from left to right on the lower part, with each hand controlling a different function.

So I devised “the FINGAH” (that’s New Yorkese for “finger”) which I cobbled together from bits & pieces I cannibalized from here & there. Never throw anything away because the minute you do you’re going to need it!!

Here is a video I made showing “the fingah” in action. The device fits snugly onto the Continuum, and exerts exactly the right amount of pressure on the upper part of the ‘Y’ axis, leaving one of your two hands free. The pressure (which is adjustable) is exerted by a roller, so there is no friction or drag on the neoprene fingerboard surface, and the formant can be modified by sliding the “fingah” along a rail that supports it from above. Everything is on roller bearings, both above and below, so it just seems to float along. Volume is controlled by finger pressure of the pitch hand. The “fingah” is hinged, like a lid, so you can easily lift it from the fingerboard when it is not in use, without having to remove it altogether from your setup.

Edmund Eagan’s TWO HANDED VOICE is the best, most versatile, and most consistently believable electronic vocal emulation I have ever heard. I love it….and it is so easy to play!

4 thoughts on “Haken Continuum Fingerboard Vocal Synthesis

  1. Really impressive vocal synthesis & performance – the video had me scratching my head for a little while 🙂

    But I think the need for an additional special device highlights the usefulness of the sliders and XY pad on the ROLI Seaboard RISE.

    1. Well you would still need a spare hand to operate “the sliders and XY pad on the ROLI Seaboard RISE”, that’s what he was trying to overcome in the video.

      On this Continuum patch the left half of the Continuum acts exactly like an XY pad while the right half acts like seabord “keyboard”.

  2. I am very familiar with vocal synthesis on the Roli Seaboard but there is a problem with it. Portamento (i.e. sliding or “glissing” between notes) is not smooth as it is with the theremin, the ondes martenot, or the Haken Continuum. Rather, it happens in quarter tone increments which creates an audible “zipper” effect. This is due to the FSR strip technology used in the instrument.

    FSR strips, vertically placed but horizontally distributed as I believe they are in the Rise, result in quarter tone resolution to which smoothing algorithms must be applied in order to mask the incremental effect. Unfortunately, to the sensitive ear, it is clearly still there.

    Another problem I had with my Seaboard has to do with the silicone rubber playing surface. The pad of a human finger does not slide freely and easily over it because there is too much friction and drag. The rubber grips your finger like your tires grip the road. The neoprene fingerboard surface of the Continuum has only a “fraction of the traction”!

    The Seaboard has definite advantages and uses, and I don’t mean to put it down, but no instrument is ever going to be all things to all people.

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