UX of Music Instruments & Tools


I hadn’t really thought about applying skeumorphic ideas for TPV2, but more reflecting on how it can be inviting (ala Madronalabs stuff). At the same time, the old iCal “leather binder” thing is tacky as shit…

I’ve been thinking about some ideas already on how to restructure things, and just change the visual weight of screen elements. Also rethinking the ‘all number boxes, all the time’ approach, though I do like how tight/efficient they are in terms of screen real-estate.

For sure. I was inspired by his approach when writing my thesis, where it didn’t have to be just a wad of ‘normal text’, but only up on a webpage. It’s an intrinsically interactive document, that is web-by/dynamic.


That reminded me of this:

Which I completely wish wasn’t so entrenched in academia/conference-speak.


It’s out of print, but there are… ways to acquire it.

App - The Party Van

The Tools Of Unknown Purpose are beautiful! It’s amazing the degree of patina the artisans conferred, conveying a long history of use (that doesn’t actually exist!) Pretty neat trick.


used to be the standard


A lot of digital plugin interfaces are based on physical interfaces, old rack-mounted hardware for instance. Don’t get us wrong, we love physical interfaces, but a physical knob that’s easy to turn between two fingers makes no sense to drag with a mouse. Basically, a lot of plugins are visually complex in an unnecessary way, for aesthetic purposes only. On the other hand, some plugins are digital natives — not a drop shadow or knob in sight — but suffer visual complexity for a different reason: too many controls, too many options. We try to strike a balance: embrace the elegance of hardware without the affectation, & focus primarily on usability over aesthetics. https://goodhertz.co/about


ooh, thank you so much for sharing. First I’ve heard of Goodhertz. I may be in love.


thank devonwho

found em trawling his twitter a minute ago


the “history of” is interesting:


hah! i was just about to post this. we must have both listened to it at the same time.


Those are some really slick plugins. Nice unique UI (though the angled center fader weirds me out).

And the demo/vids are great too!


very good demos

(and background on the origin…madlibs rbma lecture and associated interviews from the madvillain era are the main reason i use SPs instead of MPCs)

rarely comp and never for the vinyl sim tho

i’m extremely partial to the bitcrush and autowah & you can hear both all over my music . if Ghz (or anyone) cloned those fx i’d toss my 404 in the garbage

nothing like em


I wonder if the angle has a purpose?

One of my personal heroes is Edward Tufte, writer on the topic of data visualization. I think it’s fair to characterize this UI as “Tufte-esque”.



It’s a clear signifier as to it being different, and also quick ‘brand-ly’ distinctive, just the style of it isn’t my favorite (although it’s effective).

I like that idea of data-ink ratio.


from anthropology standpoint it’s fun to think about music + touch as a tool for mothers to teach babies, i think. we learn best with fun…my guess is that something like pulling and swinging babies around by hair - lovingly! -while tickling them in order to dance is a ‘musical’ interface. …why are ivories are tickled? or maybe that’s where idea of pulling hair and screaming when stressed came from too? a baby with hair as ‘strings’ would be a hilarious/terrifying midi controller at least…

for visual stuff… excited for OLED display to go mainstream because i think emphasis on real blackness will bring about de-emphasis on visual realism and lead to more abstract/ personal implementations and user experiences. literal visuals are pretty limiting? - and personally i like old school stuff because it still makes think of the future and outer space and can be a very psychedelic experience, like end of 2001 when you get into the flow of music and the glowing dots on screen stop making ‘sense’ … if you think about all the innovative techniques movies use, there isn’t any reason software couldn’t… i’d like to play an instrument that felt kinda like a wim wenders or terry gilliam movie!

oth, i’m not sure i could design interface for other people to use because i’m not sure i could abstract myself/ how i personally use interface out of it enough. seems tough. for me music is a lot easier to feel when it’s ready to let go, but the interface is more fluid.

for hardware stuff i’ve been getting into behringer xtouch compact, it’s bunch of motorized faders. dunno. for me it’s very usable in terms of hardware/ layout/parts, but software is comically under baked… i often like to work with music in terms of wave shaping, dissolves, cuts and ‘additive’ synthesis/mixing so it’s good fit for me…but i wish software was coming from musical instrument framework and it was easier to get use cases like force feedback and momentum working with the faders.

and yeah big fan of apple track pad, got me back into computers. i’m curious about force touch or whatever they’re calling new thing. haven’t used it yet.


It is tough. It’s tough for all designers. That’s why we work with researchers that have methods (of varying degrees of formality) for helping us see beyond our personal biases and better appreciate how other people see, think about, and use your work/product/etc.

But it’s also useful in some situations to design for oneself, especially if other users of your work are very similar to you in outlook, background, assumptions, experience, etc. The likelihood of such similarity is low in a mass-market product, but much higher in a tight-knit community such as this one.



Well: some of that is confidence, and some of that is practice. In that: you practice removing yourself a little from it, but who said you should remove yourself entirely from it? The reason there are many things in the world that do the same thing is down to personal preference - of users and designers. Sometimes, I buy or use things because I like the taste embodied in them.

And often, that’s what design is: taste developed over a long while, a gut for not necessarily what’s right, but what feels good. So sometimes, what you have to do is put yourself out there: saying “this is what I like and I actually think it’s good” is as much a statement of confidence as it is one of assuming you’re right about something. To quote a former colleague:

“Some people (they are wrong) say design is about solving problems. Obviously designers do solve problems, but then so do dentists. Design is about cultural invention.”

Which whether you agree with it or not, is an interesting statement, for the places it takes you.


Also interesting to ponder dentistry as cultural invention.


This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Recently, I was quoted on a blog that appeared on the Novation website, where I was asked about the Launchpad pro as a practical instrument to replace the traditional piano keyboard. I tend to use both for different reasons, and I felt it was important to point out something that was stated by Don Buchla some years ago about the nature of tactile interface in the human brain…

Loosely paraphrased, he pointed out that human beings have difficulty recognizing clusters of more than four or five objects at a time. This is especially difficult if said objects appear identical. as a result, the traditional piano keyboard is something that the brain encompasses more easily than one might expect… It consists of groups of black keys with white keys around them that are easily broken down by the brain into manageable chunks.

The contrasting shapes, sizes, and positions of the two types of keys provide anchor points for muscle memory, making it easier to memorize hand positions in multiple keys than one might expect. While isomorphism has its benefits, this lack of distinction between neighboring keys actually contributes to a mental equivalent of throwing up one’s hands and giving up!

This is frequently seen in the frustration that people have with generic control surfaces. Long rows of effectively identical controls can lead to confusion and frustration. The more generic and uniform the interface, the easier it may be to map, but the more difficult it is for the brain to follow and turn into effective action.

This is one of the reasons why I favor synthesizers as Control surfaces. They have controls that are grouped into small and logical blocks that are easy for the brain and hands to work with.

my recent design efforts on multitouch surfaces reflect this. I try to avoid having large rows of identical controls, because they’re simply confusing. This is especially important because tactile contrast on such a surface is nonexistent.

Please forgive the bump of this very old topic, but this is something I feel strongly about, and the existing discussion has been fascinating. :slight_smile: