Roger Linn Designs’ latest offering is the Linnstrument MIDI Performance Controller an inspiring and expressive instrument/controller. The Linnstrument is available in two configurations, the Linnstrument with 200 note pads (25 columns, 8 rows) and the Linnstrument 128 with 128 note pads (16 columns, 8 rows). The Linnstrument adds to Roger Linn’s legacy which includes the Linn-drum and the legendary Akai MPC 60. Will the Linnstrument obtain the same type of following and legendary status?
“Meet LinnStrument, an expressive MIDI controller for musical performance. Unlike a standard MIDI keyboard, LinnStrument senses your fingers’ subtle movements in five dimensions, enabling musical performance expression rivaling that of fine acoustic instruments.”
I added the Linnstrument 128 to my arsenal six months ago after watching damn near every Youtube video I could find of people playing the instrument. To save some money and desk space I opted for the smaller 128 over the larger model with the extra octave. I intended to use the Linnstrument as my main controller for a few weeks to see if it could replace my Komplete Kontrol for VI duties. I quickly checked my existing sound libraries to determine which would support MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE). Link to: https://www.midi.org/articles-old/midi-polyphonic-expression-mpe The additional expressiveness is immediately apparent when you are no longer playing instruments with on/off switches. Firing up a bass instrument in Trilian is very satisfying and playable using the default settings out of the box. The fretboard pads are laid out similar to a guitar with the octaves repeating from low to high. You can find documents showing scale and chord placements on Rogerlinndesign.com
The Linnstrument is very playable but like a guitar or piano it will take some regular practicing to get nice on it. The feel of the pads is firm yet not overly slippery when sliding your fingers. The surface friction is even and doesn’t seem to change much depending on room temperate or humidity. Once you learn a few chords and scale fingerings, you’ll discover how easy it is to slide chords around and rip through scales like a virtuoso. Enabling the bottom row to function in sustain mode is useful when you don’t have a hardware sustain pedal connected to the unit.
The pad sensitivity is light enough that you can finger drum with a light touch and play dynamically. The note mapping likely won’t line up with your drum kits but remapping the incoming midi notes should be doable in most apps. For example, learning/mapping notes in Steinberg Groove Agent is pretty straight forward and once you save the mapping as a template it’s a synch to load as needed. Assigning the first 16 pads to drum hits and the next 16 to patterns in Groove Agent is super fun and can transport you through wormholes of creativity.
The LinnStrument is a fun instrument. While it likely won’t totally replace your keyboard controller it will add another creative layer to your tracks and performances. Any time an instrument gets you thinking in new ways it can only help you come up with inspired and unexpected ideas.
• LinnStrument 200 note pads (25 columns, 8 rows) Pitch range: 5 octaves (60 overlapping pitches, F#0 to F5, in default Fourths tuning) Size/weight: 22.4” (570 mm) x 8.22” (209 mm) x 1” (25.4 mm), 5 lbs. (2.3 kg) Jacks: USB B (data & power), MIDI in/out, single/dual foot switch, power input (7.5 to 15v, AC, DC-, DC+, 300+ mA) Included: padded folding soft case, 4 guitar strap buttons, USB cable, introduction letter signed by Roger U.S. street price: $1499
• LinnStrument 128 128 note pads (16 columns, 8 rows) Pitch range: 4 octaves (51 overlapping pitches, F#0 to G#4, in default Fourths tuning) Size/weight: 15.7” (399 mm) x 8.22” (209 mm) x 1” (25.4 mm), 3 lbs, 10 oz (1.65 kg) Jacks: USB B (data & power), MIDI in/out, single/dual foot switch Included: neoprene sleeve case, 4 guitar strap buttons, USB cable, introduction letter signed by Roger U.S. street price: $999
• Note pads: 17 mm square, spaced 19mm center-to-center with 2 mm wide, .5 mm deep trough between pads, slightly compressible silicone rubber, and tactile bumps on all “C” note pads
• Minimum touch sensitivity: 70 grams
• Typical latency: 2 ms
• Maximum simultaneous touches: about 50, 15 in MPE mode due to 15-channel limitation of MPE
• Body: steel top panel, aluminum chassis, cherry wood sides