Music journalist, historian, teacher, and performer Mark Vail is the author of The Synthesizer: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding, Programming, Playing, and Recording the Ultimate Electronic Music Instrument (2014), published by Oxford University Press, as well as Vintage Synthesizers(1993, 2000) and The Hammond Organ: Beauty in the B (1997, 2002), both from Backbeat Books. He holds an MFA in Electronic Music and Recording Media (Mills College, Oakland, California, 1983), was a member of the editorial staff at Keyboard magazine from 1988 to 2001, and has written for Sound On Sound, Arturia, Propellerhead Software, Moog Music, Korg, and Roland.

Alternative Controllers: Part 5 Hand-Held and Struck Controllers, and Controllers for Microtonal Tunings

Hand-Held Controllers Electronic MIDI controllers that you hold in your hands and shake or move about to make music date back to 1986. That was the year Palmtree Instruments introduced Airdrums, a tabletop MIDI controller wired to two tubes that contain sensors for detecting motion in any of six directions. The control box transmits six triggers pe...

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Alternative Controllers: Part 1 from The Synthesizer by Mark Vail

Alternative Controllers A keyboard isn't the only means of playing a synthesizer. Synthesist/multi-instrumentalist/composer Kevin Fortune (http://www.kevinbrahenyfortune.com) is one of many who enjoy using alternative controllers. He believes the kind of controller you use not only directly influences the type of music you create, but it also can l...

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Alternative Controllers: Part 4 from The Synthesizer by Mark Vail

Touch Controllers (continued) Another beautiful and powerful touch controller, this one featuring 150 rectangular walnut keys arranged in a five-row by 30-column matrix laid within a 29" by 8" by 1-1/4" block of Washington alder and weighing 4.6 pounds, is the Madrona Labs Soundplane Model A (http://madronalabs.com). Each key senses velocity, posit...

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Alternative Controllers: Part 3 from The Synthesizer by Mark Vail

Touch Controllers (continued) Although it isn't a dedicated controller, Teenage Engineering's OP-1 — a tiny (11.1" x 4.02" x 0.53", 1 lb. 4.4 oz.), battery-powered workstation packed with a variety of digital synthesis engines, effects processors, filters, audio recording and sampling, sequencing, and other capabilities — becomes a unique MIDI...

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Alternative Controllers: Part 2 from The Synthesizer by Mark Vail

Touch Controllers (continued) If you'd prefer a surface that's stretched much further, consider the Haken Continuum Fingerboard (http://www.hakenaudio.com/Continuum). Its control surface feels like silk and looks like a wide ribbon with alternating scarlet and maroon stripes. Designed by Lippold Haken, the Continuum goes beyond two dimensions. Its ...

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