Roger Linn Instruments LinnStrument Review

In the latest Sonic Lab video, Gaz Williams takes a look at the Roger Linn Instruments LinnStrument.

The LinnStrument is a MIDI controller that’s designed to let you play synths and virtual instruments more expressively than a traditional keyboard MIDI controller allows. Unlike a standard MIDI keyboard’s keys – which generally sense note on/off or on/off & velocity, the LinnStrument is designed to capture three dimensions for each of your finger’s movement.

This allows for a much broader range of performance expression than traditional keyboard controllers. 

The LinnStrument does not generate any sounds but rather sends standard MIDI messages over its MIDI or USB jacks to any MIDI sound generator or software. To get the most out of the LinnStrument’s capabilities, though, requires a synth that supports Multidimensional Polyphonic Expression (MPE). MPE is a de facto standard for communicating this expanded range of expression over MIDI.

Roger Linn has a list of hardware and software synths that support MPE at his site.

Pricing and Availability

The LinnStrument is available now for US $1,499. Details are available at the Roger Linn Instruments site.

6 thoughts on “Roger Linn Instruments LinnStrument Review

  1. > [re Cubase] In real-time, you can use it with third-party VSTs just as any other DAW by streaming MIDI straight to the plugin when the MIDI input channel for the track is set to Any.

    This claim that all third part VSTs simply handle multichannel pitchbend in mode Any in Cubase is simply not true for most plugins. Linn should not post unverified claims on his web site, it damages his credibility and wastes the resources of customers.

  2. I’d be inclined to purchase this awesome looking controller if there were deep ableton integration (i.e. bidirectional push style control) and custom pitch class sets – standard equal tempered 12 tone, but also heptatonic modes etc and quartertonal scales. This could be an amazing instrument for the performance of ragas and maqamat. I know part of the lure of the linninstrument is that its open source but unfortunately I’m not a programmer. The quneo I bought a few years ago has been sitting in the closet most of the time for this reason.

      1. re: awkward chords, I’m surprised Gaz didn’t try it ‘upside down’ – ie. play it like a guitar fretboard. Linn uses it this way, it even has strap pegs so you can wear it. Sure, not the most comfortable thing, but I’m sure that would help with the muscle memory.

  3. On the topic of chord shapes… I’ve owned a Linnstument since they first came out, and actually the chord shapes are not awkward at all. Notice at around 14:20 in the video when he plays a simple 1,3 5 that looks a lot like an open C chord on a guitar. That’s a fine way to play it, but he could play that same chord by playing a root, the third 4 buttons to the right on the same row, and the 5th one row up and two buttons to the right. Very natural with your hand in a position like typing on a computer keyboard. I think maybe the reviewer is just new to the Linnstrument and is tending to think like a guitarist where you have to play one note per row (string).

    The other thing that is almost universally missed in reviews of the Linnstrument is the amazing voicing opportunities that are possible. With the standard tuning config of each row being a 4th higher, playing chords in either hand that span 2 octaves is super easy. 4 note chords spread out like this give you a ton new voicings to explore. Splitting the grid and playing these big spread out chords in the left hand while the right hand plays melodies and harmony is a great experience. And FWIW, these big chords spread your hand out and are very comfortable to play.

    Totally agree with all of the comments about the feel and expressiveness. Roger and Geert did a fantastic job in creating an instrument that’s truly unique and wonderful. Love mine dearly.

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