« Navichord Update | App News | See Music Update & Contest »

Pen 2 Bow

Dimos Gaidatzis released Pen2Bow, which is the most impressive musical use of the Apple Pencil I've seen yet. The app is a violin-styled MIDI controller that generates 4 MIDI CC messages based on the Pencil's position, tilt, and pressure. It sounds almost gimmicky, but the demo video is amazing!

Pen2Bow iTunes Description:

Pen2Bow is a violin bow MIDI controller using the Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro. It recognizes linear as well as circular pencil motion and generates bow movement from the user input. Circular motion enables the infinite extension of the bow that otherwise would be limited in length. This frees the user from constantly thinking about performing bow changes in order to prevent the bow from running out. Intended bow changes are accurately recognized and included in the midi output. We are calling this type of device an infinity bow controller and believe it is one of the very few, if not the only practical MIDI input device for bowed instruments.

Pen2Bow takes full advantage of the sensors in the Apple Pencil and generates 4 continuous MIDI controllers: velocity, force, tilt and orientation. These can be used to drive virtual instruments such as violins or synthesizers. The software is optimized for minimal latency which amounts to about 10ms on the iPad Pro 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch(2.gen) and 20ms on the iPad Pro 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch(1.gen). Pen2Bow fully utilizes the high resolution positional information at 240Hz provided by the Apple Pencil to estimate robust bow velocities.

Folks have been trying to come up with designs for the "future of musical instruments" for a while now. We've seen some impressive and innovative efforts, like the Eigenharp. I think this app is on a more likely track. Very few people cared to learn the Eigenharp, because it was both weird and expensive. This looks simple and intriguing. I wonder if we'll see whole instruments designed around this concept in the future.

Reader Comments 16

Glad you mentioned Eigenharp! Haven’t used the bowing simulation that much (especially since breath works well, even on the cello model). But it’s true that it innovated in this way.
There’s also the Leap Motion bowing…
http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2014/06/02/virtual-bowing-with-gestures-leap-motion-geco/
I'm surprised we haven't seen more of the Leap Motion in recent years. I remember reporting on it with great interest at its release, but it seems not to have garnered a lot of sustained interest.
I downloaded Pen2Bow as soon as I saw it mentioned somewhere else on the internet today. It’s true, the demo with the Swam violin sounds great. One might think that Pen2Bow would work with anything that lets you map CC infor. But that, as far as I can tell, isn’t correct. So, for example, while my MIDI monitor can see the CC streams from Pen2Bow, my Animood and my Mood Model D (app) can’t. They remain silent!

I haven’t watched the whole video so maybe I’ve missed something essential but right now, as it downloads out of the box, it’s not a very satifying app .... although of course it should be!

Eigenharp .... I haven’t played one but I do have a Haken Continuum. THAT, the Continuum is a beast to be checked out! Yes, it’s on the expensive side but it truly is a wonderful instrument.

I don’t see any reason why Pen2Bow can’t be amazing. But first it’s got to work with more than SWAM and/or if it already does it needs some documentation about how to make that happen.
April 02, 2018  | person Printer1
I do not understand why we need a $100 pencil for this. Why can’t we just use a finger or other body part?
April 03, 2018  | person_outline El Jeffe
On April 03, 2018 - @El Jeffe said:
I do not understand why we need a $100 pencil for this. Why can’t we just use a finger or other body part?

Because the pencil is also contributing useful data. The orientation and pressure of the pencil become expressive elements.
On April 02, 2018 - @Tim Webb said:
I'm surprised we haven't seen more of the Leap Motion in recent years. I remember reporting on it with great interest at its release, but it seems not to have garnered a lot of sustained interest.
Part of that story:
http://blog.leapmotion.com/app-store-sunset/
Geco has gone donationware:
http://uwyn.com/geco/

The idea is, Leap is trying to appeal to the VR helmet crowd.
(Two years ago, bought two Leap Motion controllers for 20$ each. One from AliExpress the other from Amazon. They work quite well for what they are.)
On April 02, 2018 - @Printer1 said:
Eigenharp .... I haven’t played one but I do have a Haken Continuum. THAT, the Continuum is a beast to be checked out! Yes, it’s on the expensive side but it truly is a wonderful instrument.
Especially since it isn’t a mere controller.
Local composer Edmund Eagan has done lots of great work on it. Still beyond my budget (and carrying capacity), but a thing of wonder.

On April 02, 2018 - @Printer1 said:
I don’t see any reason why Pen2Bow can’t be amazing. But first it’s got to work with more than SWAM and/or if it already does it needs some documentation about how to make that happen.
Fair points!
It could be neat if it worked with the SWAM Engine sounds on iOS but, unfortunately, these only work with ROLI controllers (through the Noise app). Was told that they might eventually add those sounds to the AUv3 but that can take a while. Would be a real gamechanger, though.
To be very honest, Pen2Boy SHOULD now be working as a MIDI controller because on the APP store it says that it is and does. I spent a few hours with it last night determining that it will register on a Midi monitor but it won’t otherwise work with the apps with which I tried it where controllers can be mapped.

I’m always hesitant to say anyone is disingenous. But, the developer could have put on the web site that Pen2Bow only works in very specific situations with very specific apps. Or, that it doesn’t work at all.

So, I don’t want to just be totally negative but until this thing does more than control SWAM which as far as I know doesn’t live on IOS it’s fairly useless. Which is a shame because it could be spectacular.

I think my next step is probably to connnect it to Pure Data or Max and see if the control streams are recognised there. If there are then either Pure Data or Max or both can be an interface between Pen2Bow or whatever.

But to reiterate, right now, as it’s presented on the app store it simply doesn’t work. That word should spread on the internet as well as how cool the thing is or could be. And if I’m wrong or need to be corrected I accept that! In fact I’d like that!

As for the Haken and carrying it .... it’s a beast! But for the best overall instrument of its kind I think it’s peerless. But it does come at a price as @Enkerli has noted
April 03, 2018  | person Printer1
I don't understand why so few people seem to be aware of FingerFiddle. It's the most expressive instrument on iOS. It even uses an almost never-used iOS feature for pressure (touch point size) to accomplish what Roli's apps require 3D Touch to accomplish.

It also sounds great. Best electronic bowed string synth ever. If the developer could turn his app into an OSC and MIDI controller, even better, but he doesn't seem to be doing anything with it anymore (probably because no one pays any attention to the app now).

IMO standard MIDI CC is too low-resolution for fine control of modeled synths (or filter cutoff), yet the MIDI standard hasn't changed in decades. The formalization of MPE is the biggest change in decades and it's still using MIDI's 0-127 resolution. Configuring disparate devices to work with each other is annoying, configuring 14-bit MIDI/NRPM is obtuse and hardly supported by hardware, and a labor most people want to avoid. The harder it is to get this stuff to work immediately, the less it's going to sell, so while this app has a curiosity about it (the potential to manipulate multiple CC at one time with the Pencil), it doesn't seem to be all that immediate to use. Also, anyone who uses the Apple Pencil knows how little physical feedback there is between tip and glass. Good controllers for performance need some tactile feedback. Flopping a stylus around on a tablet is not a very robust experience.

Between the need for explicit configuration, the need for tactile feedback, and cost/availability, that's probably why the other gadgets on the market haven't caught on with more than a few people (mostly people who already spend most of their time reconfiguring MIDI CC and controller hardware to operate with their modular toys). A Hakken Continuum is too expensive. Roli's Seaboard seems much closer to cost sanity but has all kinds of inconsistencies in its design (and Roli seems to be one of those companies that abandons higher end products to exploit the mobile/consumer craze).

We should have robust AND flexible electronic instruments by now, but the controller end has been going nowhere in the mass market, and the real advances are trapped behind expense and configuration pains (and MIDI's low resolution). Why can't we just get there already??
April 03, 2018  | person dysamoria
On April 03, 2018 - @Enkerli said:
Part of that story:
http://blog.leapmotion.com/app-store-sunset/
The idea is, Leap is trying to appeal to the VR helmet crowd.

Ahhh, thanks for that Enkerli. I hadn't realized they shifted their focus so hard.
On April 03, 2018 - @Printer1 said:
To be very honest, Pen2Boy SHOULD now be working as a MIDI controller because on the APP store it says that it is and does.
Sounds like that’s the reason behind the new tutorial, including about iPad synths. But there’s no real demo of that part. Anyone got it to work?
http://discchord.com/appnews/2018/04/03/pen2bow-controlling-synth-apps-plugins-with-apple-pencil

On April 03, 2018 - @Printer1 said:
As for the Haken and carrying it .... it’s a beast! But for the best overall instrument of its kind I think it’s peerless.
To me, as a sax player, breath control is very useful and being able to hold the instrument in front of me while standing feels pretty good. So the Eigenharp was literally a dream come true. But it has its quirks.
Yes, i did get it to work. First start the app you want to control. Then start pen2bow. From there everything is straightforward. So i was wrong in my earlier assessment that it doesnt work. It just needs some documentation ....
April 03, 2018  | person Printer1
On April 03, 2018 - @dysamoria said:
I don't understand why so few people seem to be aware of FingerFiddle.
+1
It's a surprisingly good app for what it is (and I play actual orchestral strings), though as you complain later about using Apple Pencil, it lacks tactile feedback.
April 04, 2018  | person_outline Blaaaarghonaut
Thank you all for your interest and feedback! We just released update 1.0.2 that includes some of the features that users requested to make Pen2Bow more powerful when used with synths. Here is a video introducing what's new: https://youtu.be/lch_I9Y3SEg.

Updates in detail:

- Added a settings page. It includes sensitivity and range adjustment for the 4 MIDI controllers.

- Added a touch piano keyboard. Virtual instruments can now be played without the need for an external MIDI keyboard.

- Added a refresh button for the MIDI device list. Pen2Bow no longer needs to be restarted in order to detect new MIDI devices.

- Added smoothing option for the pencil velocity. Pen2Bow is very sensitive and picks up the smallest fluctuations in pencil speed. When used with string instruments, this greatly adds to the realism. In the case of synths however, those micro fluctuations might be less desirable. Therefore now there is an option to dampen those fluctuations (version 1.0.1 and higher).
New video is out! Part 2 of a 4-part series of videos, showing the interplay between the MIDI controller App Pen2Bow and the virtual string instruments by Audio Modeling. This part is about the SWAM Viola:

https://youtu.be/Q6k6vOh4EX8
Here is a new video: Part 3 of our 4-part series on the interplay between Pen2Bow and the virtual string instruments by Audio Modeling. This part is about the SWAM Cello. It also includes a comparison between a breath controller and Pen2Bow.

https://youtu.be/hrgvRDx_KdE
comment

  Post a New Comment

You are not currently logged in. Would you like to login or register?
Enter your information below to add a new comment anonymously.

I'm not a racist, but...
Usernames need to be at least 2 characters!
I'm not a racist, but...
Please don't use weird characters in usernames!
{[ Ctrl.useravailable[Ctrl.userselector] ]}
{[ Ctrl.useravailabletext[Ctrl.userselector] ]}
Wow, that's a short email address!

Comment:

Do not use HTML in your comments. Tags: [b] Bold Text [/b] [i] Italic Text [/i]
Links will be generated if you include http:// or https:// at the beginning of a URL.
Submit