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Keith McMillen unveils string instrument interfaces

updated 06:00 pm EST, Fri November 7, 2008

McMillen string interfaces

Keith McMillen Instruments has unveiled two computer interface products designed for string instrument musicians, the K-Bow for bowed instruments, and the StringPort for a wide range of bowed or picked string instruments. The Kevlar and carbon-fiber K-Bow uses Bluetooth communication to transfer live information to a computer for further sound processing. The information can be used as input for a synthesizer, audio processor, or exported to other applications.

The K-Bow tracks several factors that contribute to the particular sound a violin will produce, using a three axis accelerometer, grip strength sensor, tilt sensor, and hair tension sensor. The system also tracks the bow's position from the bridge or across the violin.

K-Tone software is included with the package, providing the user with modulation routing, MIDI signal conversion, and live recording looping. Users can program the application to recognize gestures that can control things such as lighting or specific software functions. K-Bow uses the customer's own instrument, serving as a replacement for just the bow.

StringPort combines a software suite with a device that converts string vibrations into polyphonic signal sent via USB 2.0. The system works with picked instruments, including guitars and basses, along with bowed instruments.

Instead of simply converting the string sounds into a MIDI tone signal, the actual sounds are sent to the computer for processing. The software breaks the signal down into several sonic properties, but is claimed to retain the acoustic dynamics of the string behavior. The programs can be used to analyze or synthesize the sound, and output a performance as a format readable by scoring programs.

The K-Bow system is priced at $4000 and will be available from the company after its official debut at the Anaheim NAMM show in January. The StringPort device and software suite will also be available early next year, and will cost $500.

by MacNN Staff



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