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Kickstarter: mPIANO by Jordan Rudess & ALPHA Pianos

Reader Joe alerted me to the next Kickstarter campaign that is sure to end in a fiery death of fail.

Before I lay into this one I want to point out I like Jordan quite a lot. Sure he shills a bunch, but I don't hate a man for his hustle. In my own limited experience with him he's seemed like a super nice guy, and anyone who has talked to him will say the same.

But this pipe dream was literally doomed from day one. No one can deny how stylishly cool the mPIANO looks, but at a staggering €8,000 (USD$9,435) they were only ever going to sell 1... to Jordan. That's exactly what happened in the first day of the campaign where they raised a little over $9,000. Two days later the campaign is now sitting at $10,565... of a $753,625 goal. ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND?! Imogen Heap couldn't meet half of that for her gloves! And those gloves were an entirely new kind of awesome.

The keyboard has a lot of interesting tech crammed into it. Each of the large keys is basically its own touch screen. They've already released an iOS app for controlling how vertical gestures are translated into MIDI.

It's a shame all that tech comes at such a high price, because there is no way in hell they are going to sell enough of these on Kickstarter to pull it off. It looks like a lot of fun to play in this demo though!

Reader Comments 12

As John Oliver liks to say "COOL".

Note: The Seaboard GRAND Limited First Edition Next generation synthesizer of which Role says that that only 88 will be made is $8888.88 $USD https://roli.com/products/seaboard/grand-limited-first-edition

The Seaboard GRAND Stage (61 key) is $299.95 $USD.

Just saying....
LOL, I love the way John delivers that too. It is so amazing how he can be so dismissive in a single syllable.
Just to play devil's advocate here:

Let's just say this is a pinnacle of MIDI controllers (and that is a HUGE assumption)-- then it might warrant a hefty price-tag. Many pianists wouldn't blink at spending 10K on a piano. If it has high resolution attack & release velocity, if it has high-res polyphonic AT, and all the other controls that are polyphonic are also 14-bit, then we'd have a beast on our hands, but forget about using MIDI, as that stream would be too dense.

GRIPE #1
Jordan Rudess clearly doesn't shlep his own gear. What does he care if it takes an extra vehicle to get it to the gig? The probably could have easily made this into a standard 88 key rig, but he wanted it to look like something from the bridge of the enterprise.

GRIP #2
Are they going to put a crumb tray under there, like on your toaster oven? That will catch all the guitar picks, post-its, nail clippings, nostril hairs and other things that fly between all those cracks.

Not to be a nay-sayer. If I had 10K to throw around and a mansion, I'd be all over this.
August 11, 2017  | favorite_border stub
Plus, the Seaboard GRAND is an actual synth, while the mPiano is "just" a (probably great but freakin' expensive!) midi controller...
August 11, 2017  | person Joe Maron
"mPIANO is a MIDI controller that hides all control functions for polyphonic expression inside the keyboard of a grand piano."

Finally, something that makes the $4K Yamaha Montage sound like a bargain! And you get some onboard sounds...
August 11, 2017  | person DavidF
On August 11, 2017 - @Frozen Lonesome said:
As John Oliver liks to say "COOL".

Note: The Seaboard GRAND Limited First Edition Next generation synthesizer of which Role says that that only 88 will be made is $8888.88 $USD https://roli.com/products/seaboard/grand-limited-first-edition

The Seaboard GRAND Stage (61 key) is $299.95 $USD.

Just saying....

You're missing a 9 there, it's $2999.95. Still a third of a price of this thing, though, and better yet it actually already exists.
August 11, 2017  | person_outline Dan
The playing is pretty good (though it's not really my cup of tea). Still not sure what this controller “brings to the table” which isn't already available. Got an Eigenharp Pico (the entry-level controller in the Eigenharp range). It does polyphonic 3D touch at a fast rate and 14-bit depth. The Pico only has 16 keys but the higher-end models have a lot more (72 for the Tau and 120 for the Alpha, not to mention twelve extra keys on each, to trigger percussions or loops). Not sure about the LinnStrument and Haken Continuum but they also have pretty deep articulation. And, as others are saying, the comparison with ROLI’s Seaboard range is apt and Rudess himself has denied them enough to show that their expressiveness is sufficient to do the same kind of thing done in this video.
Now, it's quite likely that this keyboard is more satisfying to piano players, in terms of the touch and feel. But a video doesn't give you that sense. Heard that the ROLI’s rubbery feel requires adjustment on the part of players and, based on the Lightpad Block, could easily imagine. If this controller is a lot more enjoyable than a Seaboard, they need musickers to try it to feel the difference. A crowdfunding campaign is ill-suited for that.
The other thing which isn't in this video is the sound generation side of things. There's a growing number of MPE-compatib'e softsynths out there, including some by Rudess himself. But it's not yet a “solved issue”. Part of the advantage ROLI has, in the long run, is their ownership of JUCE. They could facilitate the development of more software making good use of such expressiveness. There's no real lock-in, since non-ROLI controllers can make use of any ROLI app at this point. But they do make it easier to use their own devices with their apps.
On the hardware side, though, the situation isn't so amazing. With the modular craze going on, one might guess there's an appetite for a CV version of MPE. Might be quite an engineering challenge but such challenges are a good fit for crowdfunding.
August 12, 2017  | person_outline Alex Enkerli
@alex

About the Seaboard/Lightblock feel: they're totally different. The Seaboard hash a more slippery covering and is "mushier".
August 12, 2017  | person_outline rbh
On August 11, 2017 - @Dan said:

You're missing a 9 there, it's $2999.95. Still a third of a price of this thing, though, and better yet it actually already exists.


Thanks for the correction. Maybe a wishful thinking typo but I certainly did not intend to mis-lead. I agree 100% with your comment.
On August 12, 2017 - @Alex Enkerli said:
On the hardware side, though, the situation isn't so amazing. With the modular craze going on, one might guess there's an appetite for a CV version of MPE. Might be quite an engineering challenge but such challenges are a good fit for crowdfunding.

Devices like the Polyend Poly have appeared on the scene to do MPE->CV conversion. I've got a roli habit but no modular habit yet, so cant comment further on that side of things but its already possible for sure.

Meanwhile my seaboard block finally arrived last Friday and I am in love with it. The mind boggles at how many of these could be purchased for the price of one mPiano!
August 14, 2017  | person SteveElbows
This looks like it would make a great spoiler on a speedboat :D
August 14, 2017  | person_outline cloudswimmer
On August 14, 2017 - @SteveElbows said:
Meanwhile my seaboard block finally arrived last Friday and I am in love with it. The mind boggles at how many of these could be purchased for the price of one mPiano!

I like that picture though! I did the math... You could buy 31 Seaboard Blocks for $9,300, so you'd still have $135 left over for hookers and blow. We can reasonably assume in this scenario that the majority of that would be put towards the blow, because you're already high as a kite if you're buying 31 Seaboard Blocks.
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