Artiphon INSTRUMENT 1 Keyboard Guitar Hybrid Mode

After a couple of weeks with the Artiphon INSTRUMENT 1, I’ve developed an approach that allows me to create music in ways I haven’t seen described elsewhere, so I thought I’d share it. I’ll cover the basic how-to and link to a video on what it is like playing in this mode. I’ll then propose a wish list of related enhancements.

Personalizing INSTRUMENT 1 – Part of the Plan

Before diving in, it is worth noting that this user personalization and innovation seems to be a core part of Artiphon’s strategy.  They have several configurations out-of-the-box, but also have some basic tools for allowing you to refine it and use it in ways that match your preferences.

Setting Up the Keyboard Guitar Hybrid

This approach is to use the “Tap” method (which is used in the Artiphon’s piano mode) but to layout the keys using guitar “tuning”. Rather than strumming the bridge to sound a note in guitar-mode, you just press the fret board.  It is like a hammer on, but the keyboard mode has much better sensitivity. All the geometric patterns that a guitar player is used to (like a pentatonic scale), are easily translated.

Since I am a bass player, I elected to use a 6-string bass layout (low B and each “string” one forth higher).  If you are a guitar player, you will probably want to lay it out with standard E tuning.

One other tweak I found helpful is to make the lowest fret the “open” note. This is sort of like shifting everything one semi-tone higher. Remember – no need or ability to strum in tap mode.  Of course, this can be changed later with the press of the capo button, so this is just the layout in the capo-off mode.

You will need to install the Artiphon INSTRUMENT 1 Editor from the downloads section of the web site. Here’s what the Artiphon 1 Instrument Editor looks like after being configured as described above:

artihpon-instrumnet-1-editor

At the time of this writing, you must go to each specific cell and set the note.  I found this very tedious, but hopefully Artiphon will improve this soon.

Once your configuration is done, use the “File->Save Preset As” command and name it something you will remember.  Then, you can save the layout to the i1 itself using the “Presets->Save to INSTRUMENT User ” command.

Here’s a link to the preset file: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B0Ye6aq49srVNUp4d2pKZERDbnM

Jamming

In this videos, I show playing the i1 in two positions.  The easiest (I found) is on a table (or lap, but that leads to hunching and back pain). I also show holding it like a guitar which may be preferable for live performances.

I’m using the Artiphon to control Cubase and Halion 2.screenshot-2016-11-20-11-29-45

I have never been an impressive musician.  Going fast and sounding clean has never been my thing, even with lots of practice and repetition. But, the i1 in this mode makes it easy.  Victor Wooten and Geddy Lee, move over, here I come… (Not really, but still lots of fun!)

I can only imagine what somewhat with actual talent can do with this. Especially musicians who have great independent left/right hand control.

A few techniques I discovered in early days:

  • Slow Slide Chromatic Scale
    • Sliding the along frets (up or down) leads to clean sounding chromatic scale
  • Double tap same key for Sustain/Strum
    • Tapping a note with one finger results in a staccato sound. Using two fingers on the same key allows you to emulate a sustain (or strumming). Oddly, this works much better when it is on the same key and string and not so well with the same note on different “strings”.
  • Drone with a Pad
    • When using a pad sound, hold down a low key to produce a continuous sound scape. Use your other hand to do some slow melodies. Gotta love pads.

Wish List

Easily Sharable Presets

I was planning to export my custom presets and share links to them so people could import them instead of spending a few minutes in with tool.  Then I realized there is no import/export command in the Mac instrument editor. There should be! Or better yet, go straight to a “Share/Import from the Cloud” approach.  As Nick points in the comments below, there is a way of exporting and importing using the iPhone app.

Volume Knob – Configure for Velocity Sensitivity and Others

When held like a guitar with your left hand wrapped around the neck, it is very difficult to trigger the high velocity sounds. For example, if I selected a slap bass in my synth, I easily get that slap sound in the table position by tapping firmly. However, when I use the guitar position, my presses are very light (apparently) so it was difficult to obtain the necessary velocity to trigger the slap sound. So, it would be great if the circular button changed the velocity sensitivity.  When cranked, a lighter touch would send a higher velocity number to the synth. (The volume was useless anyways because I happened to be in Midi-controller mode.)  It is of course possible, to change the sensitivity in the instrument, but that can be very tricky and time consuming.

Presumably, the volume know could also be used as a pitch bend (micro tuner) or modulation wheel.

Programmable Bridge

In the layout above, I’ve configured the bridge buttons to be the next fret (and pretty useless).  Rather than being notes, it would be great if they could be set up to do more useful things. For example:

  • Octave Capo Up & Down – this would let you use the real capo buttons as tuning and the octave buttons for range changing.
  • Global sustain pedal (press on, press off. Or, holding on, not holding off.)
  • String specific “sustain” emulation (press on, press off. Or, holding on, not holding off.)
  • Global Pressure sensitive pitch bend up (or down – gotta love the digital world)
  • String-specific pressure sensitive pitch bend (up or down – might be helpful for pedal steel guitar type sounds. (Hugely challenging. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrbSL92Kz1Y)
  • Pressure sensitive modulation wheel
  • Slide on / off. You might want to turn slide mode on (keep everything the same but go into slide mode) on for expressive soloing.

Conclusion

The Artiphon INSTRUMENT 1 is highly versatile by design.  With a little investment of time, you can play it ways that the inventors may not have even considered.  If the Artiphon is a commercial success, they will be able to innovate and take the i1 to the next level.  Let’s hope they are and they do!

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3 thoughts on “Artiphon INSTRUMENT 1 Keyboard Guitar Hybrid Mode

  1. Really enjoying these Artiphon posts! On the preset sharing thing, this is actually already implemented: in the app, tap the Artiphon logo at top right, choose the Select Presets button next to Export App Presets, and you’ll get a single alphabetical list of both Artiphon and user presets together. Select the presets you want, and tap Share at top right to get a bundle which you can then e-mail or save in another app, and opening a bundle from a mail attachment or other app will then import the presets into the Artiphon app. I’m still waiting on my own Instrument to arrive, so can’t promise this is glitch-free, but it seems to work in the app at least.

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  2. Thanks so much, Ken – that imported perfectly! I did it all on iPad by opening the Google Drive URL in GoodReader, downloading the bundle, and then doing an Open In… to get it into the Artiphon app (which was right down the bottom of the list, but can be promoted). That gave me a new preset in the app called Ken, which looks to be exactly as you described in the post. (Now all I need is for my Instrument to arrive to try it out…) I also discovered in the process that the bundle is actually just a plain-text file with a fairly transparent syntax; it would probably be possible to roll your own if it ever came to it.

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