Check out the expressive instrument taking music to “the next dimension”

Imagine ROLI keyboards had a baby with an Ableton Push controller and they had a baby that looked like a board game – That’s Striso.

This bizarre and incredibly interesting new instrument has just come to our attention and we are enthralled. It is a next level expressive instrument with an intelligent layout and a completely personal feel to playing.

Lets take a look at what makes this new Kickstarter project tick. Firstly the most noticeable thing about it; it’s build. It is a square device with diagonal rows of black and white buttons, making up nearly 4 octaves of range with its 61 pressure sensitive buttons.

Now what makes it so cool; the fact that those 61 buttons are completely pressure and motion sensitive. They can tell how hard you’re pressing the button, sense motions your fingers are making on tip of, all whilst using this input to create “the next dimension” of sound.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/striso/striso-board

With its sophisticated sensitivity the Striso board can change its loudness, pitch and timbre all making for a variety of sounds. They have been designed to simply feel good with the haptic feedback guiding you on making the precise movements you want to get the sound you want.

But beyond the buttons, the entire board is motion sensitive adding a whole extra layer of control over your possible sounds. Tilting and rotating, or even shaking the instrument can put your sound under a range of effects. With MIDI control you can customise it so that you can have whatever result you want with every movement.

The layout at first looks quite random, a bunch of white buttons in between two crowds of black buttons at an angle. However, the Striso board has been built intelligently with music theory at its essence.

Using typical music patterns to place notes in places that match up musically to their surrounding notes, every button having the same pattern of connections surrounding it. They have built so that you can easily stay in key by following nearby buttons and learning how the patterns work.

Here is folk violinist, Baltazar Montanaro, saying how the layout works for him:

I love to use the Striso board to compose my music, it gives a very clear and logic idea of how to travel in harmonies and melodies, with a lot of space for intuition and feeling. As a violinist, the Striso board gives me a complete other map of how to build my music.

There’s a lot more to it than we’ve covered, but if you’re still interested at this point then you should check out their official Kickstarter to learn more about this fascinating little instrument.

For is little as €420 you can secure yourself a Striso board for when it’s planned to launch and ship in December.

Music tech creators around the world celebrate MIDI (at distance) for MIDI Month this May

This month is the third annual celebration of MIDI, the technology that has revolutionised digital music.

May, in case you didn’t know, is MIDI Month. A month dedicated to celebrating the amazing technology that aids and powers so much of our musical equipment and hardware.

2020 marks the third year of the celebrations which feature over 23,000 individuals and companies coming together over MIDI in it’s various forms. They collaborate on celebrating and bringing attention to the technology and products itself but also to the teams and people that work with it and have defined it’s legacy.

This year is a particularly special MIDI Month as 2020 is the first real year in which MIDI 2.0 comes to the public with Roland launching the first MIDI 2.0-ready keyboard. The upgrade comes nearly 40 years after MIDI’s initial conception and builds on the connections with quicker, better and more detailed control and information.

This year the organisers are hoping that MIDI Association members and MIDI users and lovers alike will come together in aid of a little fundraising for the Grammy MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund. They’re hoping to reach a total of $15,000 which MIDI Manufacturer Association sponsors will match donations making them 10x greater.

Sponsors are: Ableton, Art+Logic, Audio Modeling, Bome, IK Multimedia, Moog, Steinberg, Sweetwater, Roland, Melodics and Yamaha.

For every Saturday in May, The MIDI Association (TMA) will be having live webinars on what’s happening in the MIDI world. They will then send a newsletter out every Sunday that covers all the technology and artists involved. Membership to the TMA is free and access to any activities is also free.

Take part and find out more here.

SoundCloud are giving away music gear every day for the next week!

SoundCloud have launched a contest to give away quality equipment from Native Instruments, Fender, Pioneer DJ, ROLI, and many more.

A new gear giveaway contest from SoundCloud gives you the opportunity to win some incredible new gear to get you creating whilst we’re all at home. The competition is running until the 28th April with winners announced every day on the SoundCloud Twitter account.

Prizes include music equipment from Native Instruments, Fender, Pioneer DJ, ROLI, Serato, Roland, iZotope, PreSonus, and Dolby. Upgrade your music production space – all you need to do to be in with a chance of winning is to send a picture of your home studio setup on their daily Twitter threads.

Every day they’ll announce the winner’s at 3PM EST. To take part you just need to submit your home studio set up and be a legal US resident over the age of 13.

View the official rules here.

Arturia KeyStep Pro – an all-in-one sequencing solution

Arturia have just released their new KeyStep Pro MIDI controller. Get a three octave keyboard, four-track sequencer, 64-step drum sequencer and unparalleled connectivity for $449.

Since Arturia released their BeatStep Pro, artists and producers have been waiting for the Pro follow up to their KeyStep controller. With pro level controls and connectivity for all your external gear, the KeyStep Pro is the perfect companion for the studio and live performances.

The controller features 37 velocity sensitive keys, a four-track polyphonic sequencer, 16-part integrated drum sequencer, multi-mode arpeggiator, OLED displays and LED-illuminated controls.

KeyStep Pro Top

4 CV, Gate and Mod outputs, 8 dedicated drum Gate outputs, Clocks, MIDI in, 2 MIDI outs, a solo metronome output, sustain input and USB, ideal for controlling modular gear, vintage synths, software instruments and DAW while performing.

KeyStep Pro Back
Overview:
  • 37 note slim keys, velocity and aftertouch sensitive
  • LED above each key for efficient visual feedback
  • Four track step sequencer
  • 16 step buttons, up to 64 steps per sequence
  • Up to 16 notes of polyphony per step
  • Melodic sequencer
  • Real-Time recording, step recording, step editing
  • Pitch, velocity, gate length, time shift and probability for each note
  • Scale quantization with user scales
  • Polyphonic CV outputs
  • Drum sequencer
  • 24 part drum sequencer
  • Polyrhythm
  • Performance-oriented sequencer
  • Forward and two random playing modes
  • Pattern randomization
  • Quantized or unquantized recording
  • Looper
  • Arpeggiator
  • 7 arpeggiator modes, 5 octave range
  • Chord mode
  • Controller mode
  • Use the 5 encoders to send CCs
  • Automate the CCs
  • Crisp OLED display
  • 4x (CV, Gate, Mod) outputs + 8 drum gate outputs
  • 1 MIDI in, 2 MIDI out, USB, Clock synchronization
  • Metronome with included speaker and line output
  • Sustain pedal input

Get you hands on this controller for 399€/$449.

Amazon’s AI musical keyboard is now $99

Late last year Amazon dropped the jaws of a fair few people with a brand new MIDI keyboard which is powered by AI to create music with you.

The Deep Composer looks very much like many a 32-key MIDI keyboard that has come before. But it’s not. Using Amazon Web Services’ technology the keyboard is capable of expounding upon every input towards musical cohesion. In other words; it can write music.

You can use genres to lead it towards a certain path for it to follow when it’s defining the sound of what it’s developing. If you don’t want something as simple as rock, pop, jazz, or classical standards then you can get in there and tweak the AI for your own custom genre output.

From there you can play with it to create songs from a sequence, a chord, or even just a single note. Their AI technology is built to be able to create a full song with all the elements of core instruments like drums and piano using machine-learned patterns and music theory with MIDI music. You can also use it jam along with as the software creates a backing band for you to play with based on your inputs.

Now you can get your hands on this very unique piece of technology for yourself at just $99 a pop. Whilst the keyboard has gained mixed reviews in action it is still very impressive for what it is capable of beyond all of the usual MIDI keyboard functions.

Best 5 headphones under $50

If you’re after a new pair of headphones on a strict budget, your best choice varies based on what you need them for. We’ve picked some of the best headphones you can get for under $50.

We’ve decidedly stuck with wired headphones, as going under $50 for wireless can cause issues with battery life, connectivity, bluetooth range, build quality and sound quality. So if you’ll mostly be looking for headphones to pair with your 3.5mm jack-less phone, you may want to look elsewhere.

Over-Ear Headphones

Over-ear headphones need to be comfortable to wear for all day desktop use.

over ear
Panasonic RP-HT161 – $15

Soft padding ensure they’ll sit on your head for hours on end without causing any discomfort. While the long cable makes them perfect for a PC under the desk in the office or gaming.

  • Powerful sound
  • Comfortable
  • Long cable
On-Ear Headphones

On-ear headphones should be fantastic for day-to-day use and easy to travel with.

On Ear
Sony MDRZX110 – $15

The Sony’s are one of the best rated pair of headphones on Amazon and for good reason. They achieve everything on-ear headphones should at a bargain price.

  • Great sound
  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable
In-Ear Headphones

Much like on-ear headphones, in-ears need to be great for day to day use while being even smaller to fit in a pocket or under a hat.

in ear
Panasonic RP-HJE120 – $10

The Panasonic earbuds produce an impressive sound for such a small set. Their changeable in-ear tips provide a great seal for all ear sizes and block out a decent amount of noise.

  • Sleek
  • Multiple colours
  • Three tip sizes
  • Good seal
Closed Back Studio Headphones

There are two types of headphones you’ll want to look into when building your home studio setup. Closed back and open back headphones. Closed back are perfect for recording. If your budget can stretch to $100 checkout out our ‘Top 10 tools for music producers’ for some truly professional grade headphones.

closed back
Tascam TH-02 – $20

These studio headphones provide a tight fit, leaking virtually no sound, while producing a flat frequency response, perfect for recording.

  • Balanced frequency response
  • No leaking
  • Great for recording
Open Back Studio Headphones
open back
Samson SR850 – $50

Choices are very thin on the ground when it comes to open back headphones when your budget is limited to $50. These semi-open back choice will be the best you can get for the price.

  • Super comfortable
  • Wide frequency response
  • Great for mixing

None of these choices are the best headphones you can get in each category, but if limited to $50 you get some surprising good cans.

Mix on Algoriddim with Hercules DJ Controllers

Get mixing tracks from streaming services on Hercules controllers with new support on Algoriddim DJ apps.

Algoriddim have introduced support for the latest range of controllers from renowned DJ tech makers Hercules. With Algoriddim’s apps like their flagship Djay users can use their mixing controllers to control their mixes with a world of music from streaming services at their fingertips.

By mixing via the djay app for iOS, users of the DJControl Inpulse 200, DJControl Inpulse 300 and DJControl Starlight now have instant access to millions of songs from their premium account on the world’s most popular music streaming platforms.

Once the djay application is installed, the DJ can use the controls of the Inpulse and Starlight controllers to mix, loop, add effects, scratch and even use the Assistant button, specific to the Hercules DJControl Inpulse range, to trigger the automix feature in the djay application.

Hercules has designed their controllers from the ground up to appeal to the aspiring young DJs, so this new hardware/software integration is a great new way to bring first-timers into the mix. Adding the ability to mix via the djay app creates new possibilities for DJs who still continue to master the fundamentals to explore their own unique style while mixing. 

DJs can now mix their favorite tracks from streaming services on their iPhone or iPad with the latest range of Hercules controllers. The result of close collaboration with Algoriddim, Hercules announces the integrated compatibility of its latest DJControl Inpulse 300, DJControl Inpulse 200 and DJControl Starlight controllers with the award-winning djay app for iOS.

More information about compatible controllers and djay integration can be found on Hercules.com.

Best Modern Analog Synthesizers

These analog synths all hope to replicate a classic looking, feeling and sounding instrument with modern reliability and connectivity.

All of these are from the last decade, but Korg, Moog and Dave Smith are not new to building synthesizers. All well established players in the game for over 40 years.

Best Budget Synth
Korg Monologue – Around $300
  • Analog synthesizer with all-new synthesis structure optimized for amazing monophonic sounds and sequences
  • Fully programmable, with 100 program memories (80 presets included)
  • 16-step sequencer with extensive motion sequence technology to make your sound move
  • Microtuning lets you freely create scales and alternate tonalities
  • Oscilloscope function helps visualize the waveform in real time
  • Battery-powered for portability
  • Rugged and stylish with aluminum top panel, chassis-mounted pots, rubber-coated knobs, and real wood back panel
  • MIDI, USB MIDI, and Audio Sync for all types of in-studio and live connectivity, including direct sync with minilogue, SQ1, volca, electribe, and more
  • Five color variations that will shine on stage or in the studio
Best Mid-Range Synth
Moog Subsequent 37 – Around $1600
  • Sub 37 Design – All the controls and features found on the Sub 37 Tribute Edition
  • Sound Engine Evolution – Richer low end and greater sonic dimension
  • More Multidrive – Wider range and dirtier than ever before
  • Room For Two – More headroom means Duo mode sounds even better
  • 37 Note Keybed – Lightweight with swift action and aftertouch.
  • High-power Headphones – Cue up your next sound in the loudest of venues.
  • Extensive Modulation And Sequencing – 2 assignable mod busses, 2 DAHDSR looping envelopes and an ultra-powerful arpeggiator/sequencer
  • 256 Presets – 16 banks of 16 patches
  • Free Software Editor – Works as a DAW plugin or as a standalone editor.
Best High-End Synth
Dave Smith Sequential Prophet 6 – Around $2800
  • Vintage with a Modern Twist – The Prophet-6 is Dave Smith’s tribute to the poly synth that started it all—the Sequential Prophet-5.
  • Classic Tone, Classic Vibe – Central to the warm, punchy sound of the Prophet-6 are its two newly-designed, discrete voltage-controlled oscillators (plus sub-oscillator) per voice.
  • Dual Effects – The dual effects section provides studio-quality reverbs, delays (standard and BBD), chorus and phase shifter.
  • Poly Mod and Poly Step Sequencing – Also present from its classic predecessor is a Poly Mod section, with enhancements.
  • Easy to Program – The knob-per-function front panel offers instant access to virtually all Prophet-6 functions.
  • Easy to Play – All of this awe-inspiring sound is packed into a four octave, semi-weighted keyboard with velocity and channel aftertouch that’s an ideal combination portability and power for the project studio or the gigging musician.

Build your own custom instrument for $29

A new kickstarter gives you the equipment needed to code your very own instrument with a module smaller than your phone.

Daisy is a new product that’s being crowdfunded to make the cost of building your own sound-making machine cheap and simple. It provides an open-source embedded platform that you can use to create audio and customise it to make your own sounds.

Using a USB cable you can plug it in to create audio and MIDI. The board is smaller than a stick of gum and thanks to pre-installed header it doesn’t require soldering. With coding it can be used to create its own sounds making for a totally custom instrument, it can be used as a guitar pedal, to create a eurorack module and the possibilities don’t end there.

It’s capable of high-fidelity audio up to 24-bit, 192kHz from two channels of line audio IO. It provides example programs in a bunch of example languages to get most people started, although a bit of coding knowledge is required to get this working.

They are currently nearly double their funding goal and you can help them out and get one yourself for just $29 on Kickstarter. You can pledge more to get the kit to expand it into a guitar pedal, breakout board and more without having to do it entirely custom.

Arpeggio’s pocket sized sequencer & arpeggiator is as cool as it is cute

Sometimes beatmaking can’t wait and you need to lay out a beat in your mind or a melody you’re thinking of. Arpeggio fits in your pocket so you’re never caught short.

There are very few instruments that I’d describe as cute, and the ones that come to mind I wouldn’t want to actually own. But Arpeggio looks both incredibly playable and sweet, sliding easily into your pocket and making for much more fun than a smartphone.

It is at it’s essence a portable arpeggiator, hence the name, but it is capable of more than that. It is at the same time a sequencer and synth making it capable of creating melodies and beats and sketching ideas out on or you can use it to record with.

It uses live looping techniques to let you play on the single octave keyboard and create sequenced arpeggios with no limits to the number of notes in a sequence. You can edit the note lengths, adjust tempo, octave, portamento, swing and add rests to make a totally unique sequence.

With an editable 2-oscillator virtual analog synthesizer, a built-in speaker, and battery power, Arpeggio can help you make melodies wherever inspiration strikes. It can be plugged into other electronic instruments like synths and MIDI keyboards to expand it’s possibilities even more.