Continuum Midi Controller…Changing The Way We Think About Keyboard Controllers

I’ve been aware of the Continuum Keyboard by Haken Audio for some time now.   I have never had my “hands” on one yet, but I intend to buy one for the next school year and utilize it in a number of classes and ensembles.  

If you haven’t seen the continuum you are in for a shock…  It is a fully functioning MIDI keyboard that works in 3 dimensions, unlike a piano or standard keyboard midi controller.   It’s Z direction typically works like a piano and gives you velocity sensitive amplitude changes.  It’s X position is usually matched to pitch (think going up and down keys on the piano)….However, it’s Y Direction (Imagine sliding your finger all the way up and down the ivory of the keyboard, top to bottom) is where the big midi controller change comes into play.  Using the Y direction you can literally change timbre parameters… imagine making a trumpet flutter tongue or a saxophone growl while you are playing from a keyboard controller…  You can do this with the continuum and much more!  Here are some of the highlights from the Haken site about this “Y Direction” function.

  • The front to back Y position can provide an important expressive tool for the performer when it is used to control appropriate timbre parameters.
  • A cello sample patch, where low Y values favor a soft bowed loop and high Y values favor an aggressive bowed loop. Playing with the accompaniment left hand chords close to the front and a solo right hand lead close to the back would create a dynamic and variable presence to the solo melody line.
  • A wavetable synthesis patch, with the wave table read location changing depending on Y position. This technique is part of the Multicycle piece in the Examples section (of their site).
  • As a panning location, with front playing mapped to the left output and back playing mapped to the right.
  • A gated octave switch, with sound jumping up an octave if the finger position is closer to the front than the back. This will allow for larger intervallic playing with one hand. This technique is part of the Tine Freshet piece in the Examples section.
  • As a balance between muted and unmuted trombone timbres, as demonstrated in this trombone piece from the Examples section (on their site).  

 

You can find a whole host of information about the continuum from their site.  Have any of you had a chance to work with this instrument?  If so, how are you using it and how is it changing the way you control your MIDI samples, etc.  What do you think of this new instrument?

         Dr. Joseph M. Pisano

Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D. is the creator of many education websites, a lecturer, clinician, trumpeter, and conductor. He is currently the Associate Chair of Music and Director of Bands in the Calderwood School of Arts at Grove City College in PA. He been named a TI:ME Teacher of the Year, received the JEN Jazz Educator Award and the PA Citation of Excellence. He is a past Vice President of the Technology Institute for Music Educators and the current Vice-President of the PA Intercollegiate Bandmasters Association. He also writes for DCI Magazine, Teaching Music Magazine, and is the Educational Editor for In-Tune Monthly Magazine; he has contributed hundreds of articles to various publications. Find out more at his website jpisano.com.
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