I have been involved with the design of electronic music instruments and controllers since the birth of MIDI. I am proud to say that much of my early work was truly cutting edge and led to the production of some great product lines. So naturally I’m always on the lookout for the new.
This week's unveiling of the Barenboim-Maene Grand piano at the Royal Festival Hall is interesting as it reinforces for both designers and engineers the idea that it’s never too late to re-think a design (even one that has remained mostly unchanged for over 100 years). I'm certainly keen to play it.
Like the grand piano, you could say that guitars, cellos and saxophones haven’t really changed that much either for decades (if not centuries). If I look at an electric guitar, it’s pretty perfect. Yes, you can make styling changes to the shape, use different materials and change the technology of the pick-ups etc., but fundamentally, it works as it is, so it doesn’t ever really change that much. Maybe Barenboim’s piano should make us rethink.
Electronic instruments are different and potentially less perfect.
Reviewing the latest music equipment coming out of this year’s Frankfurt Musik Messe, I have to say that I came away a little disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, I love some of the vintage and retro gear, (I think Korg have really ‘got it’ at the moment) and some of the latest DAW software and hardware control is great, but I just wanted there to have been more progress since the 80s and 90s when I was designing regularly for Roland. It seems that after all these years, nothing has really changed. Yes, the technology and software have developed, and some of the shapes are ‘new’, but basically, it’s all the same.
Cheap processing and sensing should be opening up whole new ways of composing and playing music. The quality of today’s digital sounds is truly impressive, but if we want to get the full potential out of them, we need better ways of controlling and playing them. There are some great new devices out there, but they are all a bit esoteric, niche and/or expensive at the moment.
We need something more suitable for the mass market - watch this space! AL