What are you doing with your Linnstrument?

I’m seriously considering investing in a Linnstrument. In particular I’m looking for a tool that benefits from dedicated study as I’m hoping to make 2017 a year of focused exploration. Since much of my study time will be at the office, "traditional " instruments are probably out as I have limited access to spaces where I can make proper noise. This is unfortunate since in many ways, is really like to re-up on guitar or jump into something new like the cello.

There’s always piano (or a synth with black and white keys) but I’m drawn towards less traditional applications so multi-dimensional expression appeals.

I have a manta and love it but am craving something a bit deeper.

Any thoughts on the Linnstrument?

I’ve consumed every video demo and though I’m mostly turned off by what I’m hearing (e.g., simulated slide guitar), I’m drawn nonetheless. Am I crazy?

Thoughts and impressions greatly appreciated!

1 Like

just devil’s advocate…
why not pick one you already have fluency with, get deeper, build connection, master further?

i say this simply because a. consumerism. b. midi controller is midi controller. c. guitar (elec) unplugged is usually about as soft as can be.


if you decide on a Linnstrument you will also need appropriate software instruments. Omnisphere and Bazzile are two I would recommend. On iPad, ThumbJam and Model 15 are good too.

1 Like


Lots to say on these but quickly:

consumerism. But how will Roger Linn pay the elves in his workshop?!?! Really though, I hear you. a la the great GAS thread, it’s complicated but always good to check yourself and I appreciate the nudge.

midi controllers. A big can of worms but to be honest I haven’t done much with midi since the early 90s! You mean it hasn’t gotten any better? :wink: MPE really has my attention but maybe it’s more snake oil?

acoustic electric. I dismissed this at first but too quickly — mainly because I do really like to play loud but now you’ve got me thinking and there’s surely an oblique strategy in here somewhere: “Play something loud, soft”, “Make it quiet”, or something. I like angles like these so cheers!


Absolutely. A key of the appeal is MPE so that limits the space quite a bit. Also complicating is that I use Ableton as a DAW and I’m just waking up to it’s lack of MPE support.

Sweet. I’ve heard these mentioned but haven’t gone and looked. Cheers!

1 Like

As a linnstrument owner, I would suggest you get a cello or re up on guitar instead. The linnstrument is great, and there are tons of great synthesizers, but there’s still a big disconnect between the two. With an acoustic instrument like a cello (or anything else really) every nuance of your movement, from what part of your finger pad is touching the string to how hard the bow is pressing, everything effects everything. Most sound producing gestures have no limits on their dynamic range except for your limit to play very softly or very powerfully. You can bow as fast or as slow as you can and it will produce some kind of sound. These factors and a variety of other forces make acoustic instruments very complex, and it is that complexity which rewards dedicated study.

It’s been my experience with the linnstrument that at least half of my time with it is spent cultivating synth configurations. There’s no where near as much complexity built into the design of most synthesizers, and the kinds of mapping strategies emphasized by the synthesizers I have access to are fairly limited. There are 5 degrees of freedom on the linnstrument if you include velocity and release velocity. Most synthesizers will connect those each to a single parameter, if you’re lucky enough to have a synthesizer that understands release velocity. Even the model 15 app (which is tremendous) limits you in terms of how many multiples and VCAs you have.

I guess my point is, the linnstrument is great, but you should be aware that a lot of your dedicated study will be spent programming synthesizers instead of playing music. That is, if you’re anything like me it will. Maybe that’s what you want, but I find it a bit frustrating at times.


Exactly the feedback I was looking for. Thanks a million @doctorsunset!

I’m inclined to quote your entire post but this is the rub. If there’s any snake oil I was trying to sell myself it was that the Linnstrument was the magic ticket to a synthesized world precisely without this disconnect.

Yes! Added bonus when you’re standing in front of a big amp and you can ride feedback with your body.

Where’s the +1000 emoticon?

This nails it entirely. The last thing I need is another programming rabbit hole to tumble into. I have enough of those already!

And yes, I suspect I am very much like you and that is in fact exactly what would happen to me and with a similar outcome.

If you ever make it to PDX, let me buy you a beer.

Cheers! :beers:

1 Like

It’s funny, this is a benefit for some people. As in, “I was going to be doing that anyway, but now I get a more expressive instrument as a result? Sign me up!”


The majority of the modern expressive controllers, i.e.: Linnstrument, Continuum, etc. have fully adopted MPE. Top software companies also support it, i.e.: cycling 74, u-he, electronics (in a limited, but useful way). The momentum is there, even if the MIDI industry as a whole don’t get it yet.

1 Like

True if hardware based. But several of the software plugins (mentioned above) make it quite simple. I seldom make many/any mods to default patches.

Re: getting a cello or guitar. Great idea. But if you don’t have several years to devote to learning good control over those instruments, something like the Linnstrument combined with a great software tool - there’s even a collection of sampled acoustic instruments recommended on the Linnstrument website - can bring you satisfying results quicker.

1 Like

This resonates for me and is a big part of the appeal. It’s what makes me sure I’ll invest in a controller like this at some point down the road. The question is whether this is a year for playing instruments or building them. Not that I have to choose of course, but I do want to favor the former as the last few years have been largely about the latter (and I have plenty of building blocks to more fully explore besides!)

1 Like

This is interesting to me as I tend to be a tweaker. I try to create a few patches/presets that are more or less mine that I return to but this often opens the door to bike-shedding and endless refinement. Dedicated study of defaults would do me good I think. :thumbsup:

Great points! With guitar I have a leg up as I’ve played for a long time. That said, I’m most comfortably an electric guitarist so there’s lots to explore if approached unplugged. Alternatively, processing is something I’ve done a bit of in the past and an instrument based on processed guitar (using something exciting and fresh like virta for example) has a draw too but then we’re back to building vs. playing and the pandora’s box of tweaking.

As for cello, what can I say besides having a life-long obsession with the sound and physicality of that instrument.

Regarding satisfying results, this is also a great point and exposes something I need to clarify — what is the goal here? A timely meditation as we turn the leaf of a new year. Cheers!

I’m grateful to you all for the thoughtful conversation.

1 Like

The argument for acoustic instruments is kind of weird. The Linnstrument obviously only makes sense if someone plans to continue to explore electronic instruments, which by its very nature usually involves just as much sound design as it does playing (isn’t that the whole point of synthesizers?) The whole reason I got a Linnstrument in the first place is to have a way to add more expressive playing to electronic instruments, which is something I think it is very good at. Of course it’s not going to compete with acoustic instruments like cellos, that serves an entirely different purpose. Also a cello is not exactly something that lends itself well to playing in an office.


I’m having a hard time imagining making music in the office in any way, but that’s probably just a failure of imagination on my part. Pretty amused by the thought of doing it with a cello. It would certainly improve my office if somebody were to do that.


I think I actually agree and created a bit of a false dichotomy with my original post. And probably another one in suggesting a split between playing and making instruments. Thanks for the push back!

There’s a lot here. For me this is probably true.


This is exactly what draws me to it (or a soundplane or continuum or … ?)

I appreciate this point. Where this is a competition (and if I’m honest the only one that really matters) is in the contest for time and attention and this ties back to the question of goals. No question that a cello is an odd way to explore electronics but as an instrument that inspires play and deliberate practice? Of course, that’s really personal. And really in the end, this is all really personal. Like a lot of threads around here this is turning into a nice bit of group therapy. :slight_smile:

Well yeah. It’s fun though to imagine an office with more cellos. A few years ago I setup a little modular on my desk (I work in tech) and did some work to try and effect the culture of my office to be more embracing of creative pursuits in the workplace. It was mostly a success and re-engaging with this effort is on my list for 2017 — but this is a derail and topic for another thread. (On a little more reflection I think mentioning a cello which on the surface is so impractical was my subconscious trying to provoke exactly this conversation. Thanks for playing along!)


Of course, this is the key thing. However, at the outset of the thread you mentioned that you’re looking for something that you could study while at the office. In that sense I don’t see how something like a cello could be competing for the time, as it’s not really practical. I guess if you used the time to finish your work faster and then left to go play the Cello this argument could be made :slight_smile:

1 Like

Ok. That seals it. Fresh thread:

Great points.

I’m actually motivated to push on this a little. Why not play cello at the office? Situational for sure but I can’t help but wonder what a culture that encouraged and accommodated work-place creativity would look like.


For me this is the impractical part. The current reality is that I spend a good chunk of my life at the office. There’s also the argument for creative breaks. But again, there’s the other thread for this meditation.

Coming back to this:

@doctorsunset: I noticed some of your posts on the Roger Linn forum and I’m curious if the more recent firmware updates got velocity more playable for you or whether you’ve just made peace.

@kisielk: do you use velocity or pressure for amplitude modulation (or both)?

For anyone: I’m interested in specifically slow expressions/modulations (e.g., glacial pitch bends and very gradual modulation of parameters like filter cut-off or FM index) and the demos I’ve heard of X and Y bends have been pretty quick. Is there enough XY range for that to be feasible/fun? If you rock your finger very slowly does it feel smooth? On the one hand, I’m wondering if this is at odds with how the firmware is tuned, how the sensor is designed or maybe this is as much a function of how your given instrument handles the relatively coarse MIDI expression data?

Roger Linn writes tantalizingly here:

For Z/pressure, it current uses 7-bit Poly Pressure or Channel Pressure messages, which seems to work fine. If someone wants more, it’s easy to send an additional 7 bits of resolution in a CC.

Does he mean easy in firmware or as a user? Anyone found a need in practice?

Sorry for the newbie questions. Analog guy here! :blush:

Thanks in advance!

1 Like

I don’t use velocity, just pressure, and also generally don’t use envelopes either except occasionally to add a release stage for some ringing. Thus far I haven’t missed having more than 7 bits of pressure resolution. Having more than 7 bits would require using two CCs or NRPN and would make it less usable without some custom software.

1 Like