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MPE and Polyphonic Aftertouch
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> General Gear  
Author MPE and Polyphonic Aftertouch
>>Branched from the ASM Hydrasynth thread since we were straying off topic.

Panason wrote:
I tried the Roli Rise in a shop... horrendous feel (I'm not even a keyboard player) and will surely not be in good shape 5 years down the line. Silicone has no place in anything other than drum pads- the kind that you hit with sticks. I don't see how anyone who has ever laid their hands on a piano would want to play this thing.

I think Poly AT wil be a really inspiring thing to have and can make keyboards more attractive to play- if it's done right. The normal aftertouch on the entry level keyboards i have tried has always been pretty shite- too stiff and/or not enough travel.

The Roli Seaboard does have a strange feel at first, but it really is a great MPE controller. Long term durability is a question, but it pretty much is for any other MPE controller as well. TouchKeys was the best of both worlds. You still had the standard keyboard keys (either weighted or not) with the added MPE control. Unfortunately they have been out of all stock for over 6 months and don't know when they will be back in stock.
All of the different playing surfaces of the MPE controllers have varying strengths for performing different sorts of articulations. I am fortunate to have three poly aftertouch capable keyboards and four MPE controllers, so I have some experience in this topic.

I really have gotten to like the Roli Seaboard, but for me it’s strengths are really in adding expression to fairly simple parts. One to four parts at slow to medium tempo is about what I can manage accurately. Overdubbing single lines of a string section like part really brings the arrangement alive. The raised surface is somewhat helpful in translating pitch position from a standard keyboard, but that’s about where shared technique stops. I find it best to play the surface very lightly. The Keith McMillen K-Board is great when you want to play faster chordal stuff, but don’t need a lot of wide pitch bending. The unmoving keys were harder for me to get used to than the squishy surface of the Roli, probably because it looks so much like a conventional keyboard controller. For truly free pitch control, I pull out the Continuum. I tend to use it for more abstract soundscapes, or nuanced solo lines. Playing chords accurately beyond a triad is for now beyond my pay scale. I also own a Linnstrument, but being key-centric, the string paradigm it uses makes it mostly a way for me to explore chord and harmony in a non key-centric way. The keys are much smaller for X & Y, so timbrel changes are controlled by finer motion than on my other MPE devices, which can be good or bad depending on the playback instrument’s programming.

Poly aftertouch is really useful to me in musical parts like pads and drones. I mostly use it to control filters and wave shaping, but sometimes also LF modulators or FX parameters. For atmospheric playing, it is great to be able to bring out different notes in a chord and subtly morph the waves over time. I am working on a horror soundtrack, and poly AT is being used a lot to generate evolving textures & ambience.

While poly aftertouch is a subset of MPE, the fact that it is usually bundled in a standard keyboard form factor makes it the easiest to learn to use IMO as a source for extra expression in your electronic arsenal. The unique form factors of most MPE controllers make them more difficult to learn as there is little muscle memory that translates from a standard keyboard to most of these devices, but the added dimensions they bring to the table are worth the learning curve in my opinion. Especially in the pitch domain.
Yeah I've really come to love the Roli Seaboard. I'm not really a player though, so it's realism isn't an issue for me. And using it as a percussion surface is tons of fun. That's actually mostly what I use it for. That, and slow chords/arps. And for the price, its expressiveness is off the charts.

Roli's upcoming Lumi Keys, might be better suited for players. Hell, it looks to be a pretty cool thing to start learning the keys on. I believe it'll have poly AT but not MPE.
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