The future is now.
As a keyboardist I’ve always longed for expressive tools. If I’m playing strings on a keyboard, I want them to be able to soar, quiver, slide or diminish depending on what I’m doing with my hands on the fly, but to date changing the aesthetic nature of a sound hasen’t really been so simple or intuitive... until NOW! :D Watch the first 60 seconds in the video below. I need this in my life!
Now some history.
Many years ago Roli introduced a number of expressive instruments starting with their Seaboard which was launched in 2013. This keyboard is completely expressive. It triggers a number of things not just based on velocity, but also the position of your fingers and so much more. Check out the video below.
Though I have no first hand experience, I can only assume that the concept was great back then, but configuring the board to work with any soft synth or DAW the way you wanted might have been a bit challenging, especially since MIDI did not convey a lot of info regarding placement of ones individual fingers on a controller, let alone the ability to slide between notes, etc. Plus, most midi synths, be they soft or hardware, just weren't built for this out of the box.
All of that has changed thanks to MPE, the latest addition to the age old MIDI protocol. MPE is an acronym for MIDI Polyphonic Expression. I don't want to spoil the benefits of MPE with my own lame explanation, so here is a cool video that explains MPE and why it's so lovely!
Here’s what CDM (Create Digital Music) says about it:
So... Now, devices and software can transmit and record a lot more data, inlcuding what each and every finger is doing on a plethora of new controllers. Now we can be super expressive with ease on stage or in the studio and more creative with our sound design and configuration! Now Roli controllers and the like have much more real world use, as more and more soft synths ship with MPE. At this time, just about all DAWS are compatibile... except one (Sigh... Ableton... I didn't expect it to be you.).
I want to assume that this is the new normal and from this day forward controllers, soft synths, computers, mobile devices and accesories will continue to open the flood gates of creative potential with this new standard! For the first time in a long time I'm super exicted and looking forward to the sonic possibilities!
If any kind soul reading this wants to gift me a small Roli keyboard please click here! I will name my first child after you.