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The Seaboard: discreteness and continuity in musical interface design [pdf] (rca.ac.uk)
37 points by archagon 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 14 comments

In trying to find out how the Seabord Rise[1] was invented, I unearthed ROLI founder and CEO Roland Lamb's original thesis. This paper goes into incredible, minute detail about the design of a vanguard product from idea to manufacture, including motivation, analysis of competition, prototyping, engineering, incorporation, and a complete timeline of the entire process.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jh-hzbG5FzI

Cool to see this on here! I work for ROLI and love it. If you’re interested in building new kinds of music instruments and the software to complement them, we’re hiring: https://roli.com/careers

Is Corey still living in the cupboard and cooking fresh bread?

Anyone interested in the seaboard should check out the continuum fingerboard.


As a player of both i can attest the continuum takes many of these ideas farther, and encourages uniquely expressive playing as a result.

The design is electrically really interesting as well, it leveraged high precision pressure sensing (hall efect sensors) to construct a much higher x axis resolution than the number of physical sensors. Because a finger always depresses at least three mechanical bars concurrently, the software can draw a parabola through that and calculate the location of the fingertip extremely accurately.

I assume the use case is a bit different? For example, it doesn't look like you can play the Continuum very well in a polyphonic, piano-like manner.

They're similar. Polyphony would be a bit harder on the continuum because you've got to tune the intervals by ear and feel, whereas I believe the Seaboard quantizes to quarter tones. So, you can play chords easier on the Seaboard, but in theory the chords could sound better on the Continuum if you're really good at hitting those just-tuned intervals.

Another instrument that's similar is the Linnstrument from Roger Linn. It's very playable and last I looked was a lot cheaper than the Seaboard or the Continuum. You can turn quantization on or off. The firmware source code is also open source.

There’s also the soundplane, not sure how it compares though https://madronalabs.com/soundplane

That seems to be based on the same idea as the Linnstrument[0], which is fairly widely available now, and sends MIDI data in the standard way over USB or DIN ports without requiring a client application. Its creators Roger Linn and Geert Bevin (programmer) were some of the original drivers of the Midi Polyphonic Expression standard alongside Roli. It's quite funny, but it seems that Geert is also behind a lot of other MPE-compatible software now, including Moog's iOS apps. His YouTube channel is a treasure trove of current and near-future music tech[1].

I have one, and it's great for learning how to play music, because the silicone pads light up according to the configured musical scale. Really well thought out as an instrument, and I believe it's also open source if you want to hack around with the Arduino microcontroller inside.

[0]: http://www.rogerlinndesign.com/linnstrument.html [1]: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJyEknT0SnyUr4wdvmObWHQ

I play it polyphonically in a piano like manner all the times.

It requires more technique adjustment, but you can use pitch rounding (quantization) and other features to make it feasible, and in some ways it’s great that it is different because some piano-like things are actually easier (while others are obviously more difficult)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAN98p7a4AY - "WHATS INSIDE A ROLI SEABOARD?" by LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER

So it's just foam on top of a bunch of buttons? That's rather unexciting.

I own a Seaboard Rise and it's awesome!

That being said, there's still something about it that feels "artificial". When I play the guitar, the strings still gives a level of stretch and feedback that it's quite captured with the seaboard's bends.

Yes, Roli is mentioned in the acknowledgements

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