Fake MPE with Grid?

Apologies in advance if I’m not using proper terminology. I’ve been obsessed lately with aalto/soundplane performances and was wondering if I could do something similar with a grid.

Basically I’m looking to have polyphonic pitch bend. As much as I’d love a soundplane for pressure and additional expression, I’d be happy if I could just play a chord and slide the notes around independently.

My thinking is that maybe I could split the grid into sections per note and if I “slide” my finger around after playing a note, that it would glide as opposed to trigger another note? Not quite sure if that’s possible to do when moving from one button to another, while still having the ability to play quick staccato notes.

I’m also assuming this will have to happen with the aid of the computer but if this functionality is available in module/hardware form, I’m all ears.

Just trying to think outside the box since soundplanes are difficult to come by. The answer is probably Linnstrument :slight_smile:

I would concur with this.

However, meanwhile, your description of glide behavior sounds like portamento to me. You can still have plucky/short note duration with portamento. Make the glide happen when multiple buttons are pressed, but not when the prior note off precedes the next note on.

I’m not sure how you’re using the grid, so I can’t really get more specific than that. Are you using Max? Something else?

the more i think of it, linnstrument is the answer but I’m looking for a reason to pick up a grid again haha. And even tho I’m not admitting it, I’m prob tempted to get back into eurorack as well. But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume max, or more specifically max for live in ableton.

You’re right, it’s exactly portamento that I’m describing but instead of last note as a whole, it would be per “channel” if that makes sense? So say I press two notes simultaneously, then staccato one of them, while sliding the other one around.

I guess I’m not sure if sliding my finger from one button to another would give me the portamento behavior or if more often than not, it would register a note off before the adjacent button gets pressed.


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you could achieve this with some programming. for example:

  • register a new note.
  • if, while holding the original key, the following key presses are within a distance of two keys, don’t retrigger the note but rather “slide” towards the pressed note
  • if out of range of sliding, start a new note, then apply same rules as above.

Shameless plug here: if you have an iDevice, I made an app that will let you do this.

If you have a phone with 3D Touch, it’ll also do pressure.

It doesn’t help with giving you an excuse to pick up a grid, and getting MPE into Ableton is it’s own task, but it might be helpful for what you’re after


It’s a task I don’t think is worth the effort. Bitwig, Logic, or Cubase do sensible things with MIDI and MPE. Ableton takes all your channels and merges them, removing the ability to do note-per-channel pitch bend. You can work around this by creating a track per channel and routing things around, but it’s a total kludge and it introduces all sorts of other issues. I love Ableton Live, but I never use it for MPE.

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You know, this might be a good solution! Of course, I’d have to figure out how to program it and my pitchbend amount would be limited but maybe that’s ok.

Thanks! I actually tried it out with Geocontrol with aalto in mainstage and I really loved the sounds I could produce but not too much the ipad. So that’s why the soundplane is most appealing to me. But using the ipad to show me that yes indeed, this is what I’m looking for, was worth the effort and minimal $.

True. I guess I was thinking that a max for live thing would be some sort of non MPE solution that gives me MPE like results - but it sounds like even that might not be worth it in ableton? I mainly want a setup for live performance and jamming so I’d be happy to just record audio and not midi data so mainstage is fine as a host for me.

Thanks guys! I’ll also take suggestions for grid/arc based expressive playing methods. I’m less interested in the sequencing and generative stuff since I have plenty of that.

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No problem with single channel midi in Ableton, and your portamento idea doesn’t really require multiple channels, if I’m right (but hey, I haven’t done it, so I’m not sure).

I highly recommend looking into earthsea and also stretta’s gridlab.

Here’s strum, from gridlab:

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Thanks very much for the links!!! I’d pick up a soundplane in an instant, mainly because of the minimal looks and how I imagine it feels playing it but also willing to hear takes on the linnstrument as well. It seems like the answer (especially since it’s available) but for some reason I find it hard to pull the trigger on it, and find myself looking at more complicated solutions haha.

I love my Linnstrument like no other music making object I’ve ever interacted with. I tried really hard to wait for the next rev of Soundplane, but I admit, I lost my patience.

And in hindsight, I really like a couple features Linnstrument has that Soundplane lacks, namely the lights and the DIN MIDI, and the ability to rearrange the keys for different tuning.

I have also used a Seaboard Grand. Coming from more of a guitar than piano background, I much prefer the Linnstrument layout.

I have looked longingly at the Haken Continuum, but I just can’t justify the expense.

that’s quite the endorsement!!

and it very much changes my perception of it. I guess I like the idea of the soundplane being this big honking thing that I play with on my lap and that the linnstrument seems less suited for that. Maybe I’ll just house it in a wide wood box haha.

I’m like you, coming from the guitar which led me to soundplane/linnstrument over the roli stuff. I’m by no means a guitar “player”, but I’ve made more music in the last 3 months with the guitar than years with modular. Granted, a lot of it is shitty grindcore type stuff but it’s still making music haha. I feel like I want that interaction but with synths now, especially aalto/kaivo.

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I think Linnstrument (full size) and Soundplane are about the same size?

oh realllly? i always thought the soundplane was much wider. hmmmmmm

do you find it restricting to have the y axis only go up and down the amount of the square key? And can you pitch bend from row to row or does it have to stay on the same horizontal row?

also earthsea looks really really nice :slight_smile:

The short travel on y-axis doesn’t bother me at all. You basically just roll your finger, don’t need to even move it. It’s surprisingly easy to independently control “slide” (y-axis) and pressure. “glide” (x-axis) only works on the same row. It’s never bothered me.

From the manufacturer’s websites:

LinnStrument: 22.4" (570 mm) x 8.22" (209 mm) x 1" (25.4 mm)

How big is a Soundplane?
About 1" by 8" by 28" (3 by 20 by 71 cm).

I have a Soundplane, can’t speak to the Linnstrument as I’ve never tried one. Your guess for the feel is right - the Soundplane feels amazing to play. It’s no small deal that it’s continuous in X/Y/Z, getting you outside of grids/notes and letting you experiment with expression in a more open way. Having spent time with it (and not being particularly interested in the melodic side of things for my music), I don’t think I’m all that interested in feeling the suggestive grooves of the Linnstrument for each pad while I’m playing. It’s all very subjective though!


Pressure is an amazingly expressive tool. Otherwise, yeah, iPads are great.

Thanks for the great info everyone!!! Even tho this is not really about grids anymore haha.

I think I’d be happy with anything MPE wise, but prob not going to be satisfied until I at least try out the soundplane. When I was messing around with the ipad, I enjoyed not being bound to rows or cells with the x/y, but that’s more about my abilities than a knock on the linnstrument.

I’ve had the chance to spend a few hours playing most of these (and own a couple of Eigenharps). I don’t think there’s a huge amount between the Soundplane and the Linnstrument. I think the Linnstrument is probably the more sensitive/accurate of the two, but I prefer the visual aesthetic of the Soundplane.

I don’t like the feel of the Seaboard. I can see how it would be the easiest conversion for keyboard players, but it doesn’t work for me. I really really like the Continuum, and the inbuilt synthesis engine is excellent.


Soundplane just arrived, Linnstrument soon to depart
Together for a while, so you can compare their size…