Zoom has revealed a futuristic electronic tambourine at this year's Winter NAMM that leaves some drum pads, MIDI controllers and other digital music makers looking a little flat. The ARQ Aero RhythmTrak is described as a drum machine, sequencer, synthesizer, looper, and MIDI controller, and features a Bluetooth-enabled ring with a built-in accelerometer for music creation and playback control from movement.
String-pickers, digital tunesmiths and bin bashers are not the easiest of folks to buy gifts for. Some are quite conservative and prefer tried and tested old tech while others are gearheads who like to gather in the latest, the novel and the bizarre just in case the need arises. And then there's the (often) eye-watering cost of instruments and accessories to consider. The holidays are almost upon us and a state of muso-related panic may now be setting in. Here are a few ideas that should hit the right note.
Just a few short months after the first ever Russian was crowned Air Guitar World Champion, a new wireless system has launched on Kickstarter that's aimed at giving virtual musicians the chance to play music of their own creation. The patent-pending Kurv Guitar system is made up of a large pick-shaped air strummer and a handheld virtual fingerboard, and combines touch, motion and gestures to generate tunes based on player actions.
Though modular synthesizers can be both visually stunning and open the door to almost unlimited digital soundscaping, being able to create music and interact with sonic vaults with the wave of a hand is quite compelling. Team Metanaut's entry into the 2015 Leap Motion 3D Jam offers mid-air touch control of a software synth in a virtual world viewed through an Oculus Rift headset.
Spain's Reactable Systems first blipped on our sonar in 2006 with the launch of the "seeing is believing" tabletop modular synthesizer. Where large format modular synths like the Moog System 55 can be rather intimidating behemoths, the Reactable digital music maker made use of a projector-based touch surface onto which the player placed blocks to generate sounds and alter parameters. Development of the system has continued, and last week the company unveiled its latest intuitive, modular and portable iteration – the Live! S6 table.
MIDI music scientists will doubtless be very familiar with sequencers, hardware or software used for recording, editing and playback of a series – or sequence – of notes, chords or rhythms. Many will also have come across an arpeggiator in their tune creation travels, which, in simple terms, is a feature of many synthesizers that takes the notes being played and turns them into a looped pattern. The Arpeggio brings sequencer, arpeggiator and synth together in one portable package designed for music melody composition, storage and performing on the fly.
When Dmitry Morozov was offered a pyrite disc in the US, it was given free of charge on condition that the Russian media artist, circuit bender and musician create something sonic with it. He came up with a combination of optical media reader and digital music instrument called Ra, which uses a laser to scan the uneven surface of the pyrite sun and produce synthesized sounds.
For some players, faulty cables, abused amplifiers and neglected instruments can be a source of surprisingly gratifying sonic output rather than a performance or recording nightmare. But if it's true grit you're after, only actual topsoil will do. Such is the thinking behind the ERD modular Eurorack series distortion unit from Martin Howse, which has a box a real dirt at its core. Buyers of the strictly limited module are even being offered discounts for providing the creator with earth from locations linked to the macabre.
Back in March 2013, UK-based startup Roli introduced a new kind of expressive musical instrument called the Seaboard Grand. From a distance, it had the look of a digital piano, but getting closer revealed a playing surface that looked like a plastic keyboard cover had melted over the keys after being left in the hot sun for too long. The whole of this SEA interface was actually one continuous, pressure-sensitive playing area with pitch, volume and timbre controlled by strikes, presses, glides and slides. The company has been working to improve its Keywaves expression technology ever since, and has now revealed a new portable member of the Seaboard controller family called the Rise.
Riding on the crest of a video teaser wave, Yamaha has revealed its new reface series mini keyboards. Described as portable yet powerful, the two synths, an organ and a piano give a respectful nod in the direction of classic Yamaha electronic keyboards, and boast tactile sound controls, onboard effects and built-in speakers.