Unusual & Innovative MIDI Controllers Part One

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Post date:

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 13:13

Author:

Naomi Bolton

Thanks to software synthesizers, it has become easier and more convenient than ever before to create your own music. However, to make the most out of your chosen DAW and VST plugins, it is still better to make use of some type of MIDI controller. Most MIDI controller manufacturers have opted for the conservative route of designs that look, feel and play in a similar manner to a musical keyboard. Some of the better options even incorporate additional buttons, sliders and knobs for manipulating the audio without having to resort to your computer keyboard and mouse all the time. However, there are also a few manufacturers who have thrown caution to the wind and came up with very unorthodox designs. Here are just a few examples of the more unusual MIDI controllers that are or were available on the market.

Palette

Price: Three kit sizes starting at $199.99

Palette

Why bother with trying to adapt to a MIDI controller when you can completely customize one to fit your personal needs? That's the idea behind Palette, a system of magnetically connected dials, buttons and sliders. Although it appears to be primarily used with photo and video edition applications, such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Premiere Pro and more, there is nothing preventing you from using it as a MIDI controller for your DAW. Palette even has an article explaining how to set up your Palette Gear as a MIDI controller, so if you are a fan of complete customization, but lack the necessary DIY skills, then this could be your best bet.

Buchla Thunder

Price: N/A

 

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Price: The Buchla Thunder was designed in 1989 by Don Buchla himself and could certainly be considered ahead of its time. Unlike other MIDI controllers, the Thunder was not an imitation of an existing instrument, such as a keyboard or piano. Instead, it had a multi-faceted playing surface that was designed to be manipulated by the slightest touch of the performers hand. With 36 individual elements and programmed effects, the Buchla offered plenty of options to performers. It also has a very striking appearance, thanks to its cast aluminum housing. Unfortunately, the Buchla Thunder was never mass produced and fewer than 100 were believed to have been made. This means that even if you are fortunate enough to find someone will to part with theirs, it will usually be at a wallet breaking price.

AlphaSphere

Price: $899.00 (Nexus)

alphasphere

Although tte AlphaSphere can technically function as a hybrid MIDI controller, it is being marketed as a musical instrument that offers a brand new playing style. It consists of 48 soft touch, pressure sensitive pads, which makes the AlphaSphere compatible with polyphonic aftertouch. The AlphaSphere is also programmable, so you can assign any MIDI note and channel to any of the available pads. It even makes use of open source for its accompanying AlphaLive software, allowing knowledgeable users to add their own features. Thanks to the spherical design, it takes a bit of practice to use the AlphaSphere, but it is definitely more ergonomic and allows for a fresh playing style. The AlphaSphere is available as an "Elite" model for recording studios, "Nexus" model for professional consumers and the "ME" model, which is the entry level version.

MI-MU Gloves

Price: £1,250.00 (Single) / £2,500.00 (Pair)

glove

Those who remember the eighties might also remember the ill-fated Power Glove controller accessory that Nintendo brought out. It didn't take long for players to realize how bad the gimmicky controller was and has made a lot of people very wary of glove based peripherals. Mi-MU Gloves, which will be shipping towards the end of 2019, hopes to avoid a similar fate by being the world's most advanced wearable musical instrument. It was designed to get people out from behind their laptops, keyboards and controllers in order to transform how live music is performed. It also makes use of dedicated software to allow you to compose music using gestures, although presets for Ableton Live and other major software will also be available. Since the glove are the brainchild of Imogen Heap, it does have some musical credibility and a few artists have already been using early versions of the controller in their projects. However, time will tell whether or not the MI-MU Gloves will be revolutionary or end up like the Power Glove.

Crystal Ball

 

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If you fancy looking like a fortune teller while creating your music, then look no further than the Crystal Ball. This controller has been designed to create and control sound, light as well as video to impress your audience. It has all the functions of a typical MIDI keypad, but each key can also be used for the control of five optical sensors, which means you can simultaneously control numerous samples, notes or effects. The Crystal Ball also requires you to use your hands and body movement for control, which makes it a little bit more interactive than your average MIDI controller.