I love music. Seriously, it is one of the few things that brings comfort in this cold and lonely world. Do you want to go deeper into Joni Mitchell, William Onyeabor or Pablo Casals? I am a game Yes, I worked in several record stores years before TechCrunch. Yes, I will always be that boy. What I will never be, however, is a musician, professional or not.
I am resolved to this fact at this time in my life. I will never be a rock star like I will never be a professional baseball player, both made with which I have made peace. We don’t need to enter two years of high school when I played the trombone, or in the decade and a half that I tried to master the guitar. All you need to know is that I had no aptitude for either.
It is not for lack of desire to make music. It’s just a lack of direct and good talent. Precisely for this reason, I see any new piece of musical equipment with great interest. You can earn a lot of money for the startup that can really unlock the potential of creating music for those who lack the basic skills to do so.
Roli has always interested me for this reason. I was one of the first people to cover the Seaboard when it debuted at SXSW several years ago. It is a fascinating instrument, which allows users to fold notes by courtesy of a soft makeup material, but mastering it, or actually making music, requires some ability to play the piano. The company’s modular block system, announced a few years ago, was even more convincing, but similarly it was not possible to scratch that itch.
Last week at CES, the good people of Kickstarter introduced me to the founders of a trio of crowdfunding companies that conform to the law to some extent. The French startup Joué actually won first prize at our CES launch this year, with its modular MIDI controller of the same name.
The device works with a principle similar to the Sensel Morph that we have covered before, with silicone masks that overlap on a touch surface to offer a variety of different controllers. Joué’s take is more focused on music than that of Sensel. And also, based on a conversation with Sensel on the show, I think it is quite fair to say that the company is diverting most of its attention from that device, in favor of compelling tactile components that it is working to build on third-party phones .
The Kickstarter project is impressive, as evidenced by the brief demonstration. It is extremely versatile, since it only requires a new mask and sound package for the system to adopt completely different auditory qualities. The company also discussed the potential of custom sound packages. Joué brought the founder of the NWA, Arabian Prince, to act on his two throughout the week. A strange setting for CES, no doubt, but an interesting example of the types of artists that such a product might be able to draw. It’s easy to see musicians expressing interest in a custom pad.
That said, while the company seems to be positioning the product as perfect for beginners, I hope there is a reasonably large learning curve here. That seems somewhat removed from Rhythmo. The Austin-based startup project combines the creation of music with a guided immersion in the world of creators.
It is a MIDI controller drum kit that you make from a cardboard box. It is sent with all the pieces, and its assembly offers a good connection in the process of creating a musical instrument. The founder Ethan Jin let me take a model built to walk around the floor of CES. The demonstration was a bit unsuccessful for several reasons, but it was fun. The kit features large arcade buttons that can be assigned to a variety of sounds. You can use the Rhythmo application or interface with your music software of choice on iPad, desktop computer, etc. It is a fun entry to that world.
Artiphon, however, is probably closer to fulfilling my very specific wishes. The company is best known for its successful Kickstarter project, Instrument 1. It raised the incredible amount of $ 1.3 million with the promise of delivering a guitar, violin, piano and drum machine, all in one device.
However, the newer Orba ($ 1.4 million this time) really caught my attention. The disk-shaped device is a pocket synthesizer / looper / MIDI controller that requires little or no musical knowledge to get going. After a conversation with founder Mike Butera, I have come to consider it at the basic level as a kind of musical spinner.
That is, it is simple enough that you can use it absentmindedly to make music while touring your apartment, trying to find a decent middle headline for the history of crowdfunding-funded music projects at CES that you have been writing (a purely hypothetical example which in no way reflects my life).
Of the three, that is the one I like to check, hoping to finally scratch that musical itch.