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Note Toucher BTH1

Dancing Fingers "demo" video | MIDI Line-lump "demo" video | User Instruction videos | But I use a 4-octave keyboard

Note Toucher stops artificial-sounding MIDI instrument tracks from spoiling your music.

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MIDI tracks can sound bad for a couple of reasons. Limited keyboard skills may force you to record MIDI parts at reduced tempo and then quantise to make the performance sound smooth. Or maybe you compose parts that are too difficult to play, so you draw the notes with a mouse. Those tracks often sound OK the first few days you listen to them, but afterwards they begin to stand out in the mix for all the wrong reasons: Their missing heart and soul starts to become obvious.

You know how your music should feel, but you keep telling yourself that it’s really not bad, and leave the stiff tracks the way they are. Spending hours and hours trying to edit the death out of them is disruptive to your work-flow, and your time is too valuable. This is where Note Toucher can help.

As corny as this may sound, it is as though Note Toucher grabs what you are feeling inside right at this moment, and then delivers that into your tracks to bring them to life. I know that description might not be technically accurate, but it does vividly describe the musical results that Note Toucher achieves for you. Instantly those instruments begin to breathe and connect with the flow of your music in exactly the way your feelings dictate.

Note Toucher overcomes the problem of limited keyboard skills by blending two vital ingredients:

  1. Notes and chords that you have drawn on a MIDI track,
  2. The spark of life from your heart and soul, which you inject by playing the keyboard using just two fingers.

The real live expression of your simple two-finger performance merges with the difficult notes and chords, and enlivens them. What you end up with is a vibrant take that pushes and pulls with the ideal groove for the song. The notes and chords separate and slur into perfect phrases. Every note gets the force it needs, with accents hitting at all the right times.

As a part-time PRODUCER-MUSICIAN, what would YOU say if your day-job boss offered you $10 to work back an extra hour?

You would probably refuse to work the hour for such a small amount because we regard one hour of our life to be of greater value than $10.

Now ask yourself:

"How many hours of my life have I spent pushing a mouse adjusting MIDI tracks trying to make the phrasing and dynamics feel right?"

Has it been more than three hours? ... more than 30 hours? ... or 300 hours? What is the dollar value of those hours that I could have spent on more productive things?

How many hours is a Note Toucher BTH1 worth? Well, it costs about the same as only three hours of a professional piano teacher's time, but its value is more like 300 hours of a producer's time because it lets you very quickly get your MIDI tracks sounding alive — and when I say alive, I mean sounding just like how a real live player sounds. Plus, you will produce a lot more music, and you will easily achieve the feel, and quality of expression you hope for.

If you are interested in buying one, please email me

Specifications

No battery required: Note Toucher runs on 5 Volts via the MIDI cable connected to SEQ IN.

Maximum polyphony is 10 notes per chord. Legato playing will sound up to 20 notes during the overlap.

MIDI latency from Touch-In to the output to your synth is between 608 Ás and 928 Ás, which equates to the time it takes sound to travel 28 cm (or 11 inches). The latency is a constant 288 Ás in both MIDI-thru modes, which equates to less than 9 cm (or 3.5 inches) of sound travel.

WARNING Do not operate your Note Toucher BTH1 inside a naked flame or within flinging-distance of a sulfuric acid throwing machine.

FAQs

Q: What happens if you don't play a TOUCH input note before the device gets more notes on its SEQ input? Does it just queue up all the sequencer notes and then release them at once when you play your TOUCH input note? Or does the device discard them after a timeout, or after the note off message comes through, or when the last held TOUCH key is released?

A: The notes received via the SEQ input are buffered by the BTH1, but not in a queue. Think of its buffer as a painter’s pallet on which a few colours have been made available, and will be eventually applied all at once. The SEQ input drops notes onto the pallet, and also cleans them off the pallet after the artist has no need for them.

The TOUCH input is like a paint-brush that has been dipped into every colour that is currently on the pallet. Every time you hit a performance key, all the notes on the pallet are sounded at once. They can be repeatedly sounded until a SEQ note-off message cleans them off the pallet. If the pallet has no notes on it, hitting a key will sound nothing at all (the paint-brush is clean). This is why the MIDI track feeding the SEQ input must be shifted early — it is preparing the pallet before the paint-brush gets used.


Q: What gave you the idea for Note Toucher?

A: I remember messing with a toy violin/guitar belonging to Jack, the 4 year old boy of some friends of mine. It was a plastic electronic gadget that made a beeping sound. I noticed that the seemingly random pitches it produced every time its “strings” were touched would turn into up and down scales after you touched it 15 times.

I asked if my friends if it was meant to play a song or something. They replied that it must be broken because all it does is make these annoying random notes. The up and down scales reminded me of a Mozart sonata, so I switched the toy off then on again to reset it, and then I tapped the "strings" with the timing of the sonata. It came out perfectly.

Even though it was a kiddy toy that made a cheap sound, I felt such a buzz being able to play those fast tricky notes with no mistakes. It pulled the performance out of me, and it prompted me to groove and syncopate some fairly "alternative" funky versions that Mozart would have hated but certainly got Jack dancing. My thought was this would be so cool if it responded to dynamics and could play my music instead of just this one piece.


Q: What does BTH stand for?

A: Better than humanising. Quantised MIDI tracks sound robotic. "Humanised" MIDI tracks sound robo-sloppy. Pre-packaged groove templates occasionally help, but often they fight against the feel of the music. There is nothing artificial about what you have inside, so a device that lets you grab the feeling burning within you and then rub it onto your music has to be far better than any artificial "humanising" algorithm (no matter how intelligent).


Q: Why did you create the BTH1 as hardware and not a DAW plugin?

A: If I coded it as a plugin, it would then be reduced to just a DAW enhancement. By instead making it an enhancement to a controller keyboard, the musician is able to route the enlivened MIDI to hardware synths as well as their DAW. Plus, I wanted the option of adding analogue inputs if users thought a Yamaha breath controller or some other expressive gesture sensor would be good to have.