There’s nothing more refreshing on what seems to be a slow news day than to come across a new Mac-first innovation that promises to shake up the entire world of electronic music production – and it’s called the Eigenharp.
It’s not cheap – it costs around £4,000 sterling, so something in the region of $7,000 – but it is an incredibly futuristic musical instrument that’s built to last, feature-packed and opens up whole new opportunities in music making.
Because it works with your Mac, like a MIDI controller, it is every instrument you’ve ever heard of, it has shiny lights, amazingly sensitive keys, and can be played like a double bass, a guitar, a keyboard – even a saxophone.
As Distorted Loop puts it, ”because it’s such a physical object, it frees electronic musicians from the thrall of standing behind a keyboard or MIDI mixer and lets them develop a physical relationship with an instrument they can move around with – something electronica has always needed…”
It brings a satisfying physical dimension to electronic music production, and because it can be played in so many different ways offers an easy learning curve to any musician.
There’s a Mac story too – Eigenharp’s software presently only runs on a Mac., Why? Because of its Unix base.
The developers explain: “We developed our software on a Mac, partly because the platform is so much better for music making and has AudioUnits support, and partly because, and let’s be honest here, in professional music creation today, everybody uses Macs.”
Windows users’ (those that exist in professional music production) needn’t worry, software for you ships next year.
Eigenlabs believes its Eigenharp to be "the most revolutionary new musical instrument of the last 60 years."
The company has also introduced the Pico, a £349 product for the mass market – this can do almost everything the Eigenharp Alpha can do, but is smaller and offers far fewer keys.
Both instruments feature keys, a breath pipe and a strip controller and come with their own native soundsets. Thanks to their USB 2.0 connections, they can also play SoundFonts and Audio Unit/MIDI instruments.
Big model, the Eigenharp Alpha, also carries a mic input/preamp and ships with a base station that can have a variety of pedals plugged into it (expression, sustain, volume, etc).
Both Eigenharps are amazingly sensitive to play – you get better sensitivity and that far more important element – expression – using these than any keyboard you’ve ever come across, the report explains. Each key uses a unique sensor technology detecting movement in all directions to within a micron – the wavelength of light, the width of a living cell.
With the Eigenharp, the musician can play and improvise using a limitless range of sounds with virtuoso skill. The Eigenharp can play and record loops, change key, transpose, alter tempo, program beats, switch and layer sounds, all while the musician is performing live on stage.
Our music-making readers may want to take a look at the software features:
– Instantaneous scale and key switching as you play.
– Over 80 scales in the system.
– Instrument switching and multi-instrument layering.
– Complex live arrangements can be created with the step sequencer.
– Drum loop playback with time stretching in sync with live tempo changes.
– these things are Polyphonic – you can play chords, multiple notes & many loops all at the same time.
– Tap tempo to sync the Eigenharp’s tempo with other musicians.
– Live recording and loop playback of played phrases.
From the press releases:
“The Eigenharp Alpha is our ?agship instrument, designed with professional musicians in mind. It has 120 highly sensitive keys, 12 percussion keys, 2 strip controllers, a breath pipe and numerous pedal inputs. The comprehensive software system provides a wealth of musical performance features. The Eigenharp Alpha will retail from £3,950 inc. vat, available for pre-order online from October 5th 2009, shipping from 7th December.
The Eigenharp Pico is a smaller, more affordable version. It has 22 keys, a breath pipe and strip controller, sharing many of the performance features of the Alpha. It’s a great introduction to the Eigenharp and is suitable for all levels of player, from beginner to soloist. The Pico will retail for £349 inc. vat, also available for pre-order online from October 5th 2009, shipping from 9th November.”
Finally, here’s a video clip of an earlier private presentation of the device, which does a great job explaining its functions, given at London’s world-famour Air Studios in the weeks before today’s introduction of the Eigenharp.