Nov 052016

It was thrilling to be in touch yesterday with xenharmonic composer and LinnStrument owner, Carlo Serafini, who made me aware that the issue of the row offset interval on the LinnStrument had already been addressed, then have Roger Linn himself drop by to comment and clarify about this new functionality in the recent Xen-Arts article on the topic. The row offset interval has now been greatly expanded (although it is not documented as of this writing), from 0 to 16 MIDI Notes.

A most impressive virtuoso performance by Jeremy Cubert on the LinnStrument

Obviously this is very good news for xen-micro musicians and composers who might wish to map some larger equal temperaments with 4ths and 5ths between the key rows. With this increased row offset interval range, a maximum row offset value of 16 would accommodate 4ths up to ED2-39 (39 tone equal temperament) and 5ths up to ED2-28 (28 tone equal temperament).

Thinking more deeply – with some diagonal logic – about how various equal temperaments would map onto the LinnStrument keys, I wanted to see what would be the optimal row offset intervals for a small selection of ED2 microtunings (equal divisions of harmonic 2) that would enable the most ergonomic fingering of the available varieties of 7th chords, with the strict criteria of being able to have access to all of these intervals when playing across four adjacent key rows.

Let’s take a look at some of the the results found with my handy LinnStrument ergonomic ED2 microtuning mapping calculator. I think they are a rather interesting and inspiring glimpse into the possibilities of how the LinnStrument would work for microtonal and xenharmonic music performance.

On the first four rows I’ve used colors to indicate where the intervals (given in cents) would fall under the fingers for ED2-13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22 and 23:

1/1 and 2/1 = Orange

3rds = Blue

5ths = Yellow

7ths = Green










So, as we can see, where the criteria is being able to ergonomically play the intervals of a variety of different microtonal 7th chords on any four contiguous rows of the LinnStrument (rather than configuring 4ths and 5ths between them), there is actually quite a lot of territory that can be covered with smaller row offset intervals after all, and in the above cases, optimal ergonomic fingerings of 7th chords are achieved with row offset intervals between 2 and 4 MIDI Notes. Obviously, due to the isomorphic nature of this controller, these very same finger patterns can be transposed anywhere on the keyboard without having to change hand positions in the manner one must when performing on a Halberstadt keyboard.

It’s particularly encouraging to see how easy it would be to play these chords for ED2-17, 18 and 19, which would appear to be doable with one hand, while ED2-22 and 23 would require a stretch of 10 and 11 horizontal keys respectively, where one might need to get two hands involved.

Now I’m really interested in getting one!

In other exciting Roger Linn Design news, recently they’ve added the LinnStrument 128 to their line, and as the name would infer, it is a 128 note version of the controller. For what it may be worth though, like xenharmonicist, Carlo Serafini, I’m thinking that I would prefer the 200 key version, and especially considering that I routinely do a lot of split-keyboard MIDI configurations with different timbres on separate channels, this would essentially provide two adjacent 100 MIDI note controllers.

linnstrument-128The new LinnStrument 128

Being an owner of the now discontinued Axis-64 from C-Thru Music, which, as we know had 192 keys, the LinnStrument not only provides more MIDI Notes, but also features deeper MIDI Continuous Controller expression possibilities with its MPE implementation. The degree to which MPE has been implemented by developers of virtual instruments who also support full-keyboard microtuning remains an important question for the future of this new technology relative to its broad adoption by practicing xenharmonic and microtonal musicians and composers. It’s my hope that there will be many more to come in times ahead, however, by all reports, the LinnStrument works just fine with non-MPE virtual instrument plugins as well.

I’m very encouraged by what I’ve learned about all this over the past few days and especially about the customer support ethic at Roger Linn Design. In contrast, about three years ago, being that I was seriously considering contributing for a Terpstra keyboard, which are now being used for a looped playback perpetual performance of John Cage’s 4’33” (apparently they found a way to Silence those clicky keys), I’m glad I saved my dough, which I will very likely use for picking up a LinnStrument instead from the visionary developers and engineers at Roger Linn Design, who clearly have what it takes to bring their controllers into real-world play for xenharmonic and microtonal musicians and composers.

 Posted by at 3:48 pm

  2 Responses to “LinnStrument | Microtuning Mapping Ergonomics”

  1. Hi Jacky,
    Thank you for your kind words. I try. 🙂
    The Panel Settings page > Global Settings tab on my site is now updated with the information about setting the Row Offset to anything from 0 to 16. Also, I thought of a few other things worth mentioning:

    1) LinnStrument’s Row Offset setting (the pitch interval between rows) has an option called No Overlap. If selected, the starting note number for each row is one higher than the ending note number of the next lower row. Also, LinnStrument has a Split keyboard mode, dividing the playing surface into left and right splits, and you can freely choose the split point. So if both Row Offset = No Overlap and Split = on, you can set one split’s width to your chosen number of divisions per octave up to 24, and each row with be one octave higher. For example, let’s say you’d like the rows to contain increasing octaves of EDO 23. You’d set Row Offset to No Overlap then set the width of the left split to 23 columns. After transposing down using the Transpose button, this would result in the lowest row containing note numbers 0-22, the next row 23-45, the next 46-66, etc. Of course, MIDI’s note number range range of 0-127 means this would result in 5 rows of 23 notes each plus a 6th row of 13 notes.

    2) LinnStrument also has a mode called Channel Per Row, in which the notes played on each of the 8 rows are sent on a unique MIDI channel. This allows you to externally add any transposition you like to each row.

    3) LinnStrument has an RGB LED in every one of the 200 note pads. The Note Lights setting permits you to a) turn on or off each of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale in one color, and b) turn on or off each of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale in another accent color. Clearly this isn’t helpful for octaves consisting of other than 12 notes. To workaround this, we allow you to individual set each of the 200 note pads to any of 10 colors or off by sending LinnStrument the following MIDI Control Change commands:

    CC20: Column number of note pad to change (control key column is 0, left play column is 1, right play column is 25)
    CC21: Row number of note pad to change (bottom row is 0, top is 7)
    CC22: Color to change it to (0=as set in Note Lights settings, 1=red, 2=yellow, 3=green, 4=cyan, 5=blue, 6=magenta, 7=off, 8=white, 9= orange, 10=lime and 11=pink).

    First send CC20 and CC21 to select the column and row to be lit, then send CC22 to light it.

    4) As you mentioned, LinnStrument’s operating software is open-source, so you can customize it however you like.

    Lastly, there’s a LinnStrument owner named Chris Vaisvil ( who uses composes and performs on LinnStrument in a variety of EDO tunings. You can contact him through his site. Perhaps he would be willing to share his experience with LinnStrument.

    I hope this is useful to your readers, and I thank you for your interest in LinnStrument.

  2. Hi Jacky,

    After using the Linnstrument for well over a year and a half I have to say that the it is an incredibly well crafted, flexible and very playable microtonal controller. I can highly recommend making the purchase. I am glad I did – it costs less than a pro level 12 equal electric guitar and can do so much more! It has been my main instrument since I took mine home from Sweetwater (where you can try it in their showroom).

    I enjoyed your blog posts exploring the Linnstrument’s many possibilities.



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