MIDI Target Manufacturer(s):
This is an original instrument from Master Layout Author Ibo Kai. Inspired by the Linnstrument and Eigenharp, Xpressive Keys allows the player to play a key and then modify the pitch (slightly) by moving off-axis in the X-dimension. Moving off-center in the Y-dimension allows the user to change the Modulation (usually to alter the sound character). The layout is made to be modified easily by other users in Design Mode: "when you go to Design mode, 2 further controls will pop up at the top left, below the name. Here you can change the function of vertical and horizontal movements on the keys. This will change the whole keyboard (because the keys are all supercontrols of these)"... it's a brilliant and original entry, and opens the door to further riffs on this layout.
It´s an awquard looking keyboard (see screenshot below), so what´s the point?
I got inspired when I watched a video about the Linnstrument, which reminded me a bit of the Eigenharp: keys, which can not only be pressed down, but while holding also be moved up and down or left and right to modify the sound of the note being played. Then the idea came up to use the XY-Pad in MIDI Designer for a similar effect and that is what makes Xpressive Keys so special. Of course there is no velocity or aftertouch, as the touch surface of the iPad doesn´t allow that. However you can play notes and then, while holding down a "key" you can modify the sound by moving your finger on that key.
For the X/Y pads horizontal control the most obvious thing, which came to my mind, was pitch bend. So I programmed this on just a fairly small amount of pitch bend, considering that most sounds in most synths or VSTis are set to a pitch bend range of +/- 3 half tones. It still works well with even +/- 2 half tones. Now you can perform a slight vibrato just like a violin player, which will sound much more lively and natural than a LFO-driven one.
The vertical control of the X/Y pads I set to CC01 Modulation, which I personally use mostly to control the sound character, such as filter cutoff or the like. However in many preset sounds this is set to LFO pitch modulation, so you might want to re-arrange this (see below).
On the left there is an additional slider set to CC11 Expression, which changes the volume of a sound in relation to it´s current setting. This can be used with the left hand, while playing notes with the right.
As I realized that users needs might be somewhat different from mine, I tried to make changes as easy as possible. So when you go to Design mode, 2 further controls will pop up at the top left, below the name. Here you can change the function of vertical and horizontal movements on the keys. This will change the whole keyboard (because the keys are all supercontrols of these).
It might need a little practice to play Xpressive Keys fluently, especially if you are used to regular keys. Because here the key size is smaller, there is no physical response and the arrangment is a bit different. However after a while it really works fine.
I considered to add the accelerometer at some point, but I found that it is too difficult to move around the iPad while performing delicate movements on one key. If you want to try this, please feel free and let me know your experience ;-)
Screenshot, Xpressive Keys