I thought it would be interesting to start a topic to see how people play their Soundplane, and tips and techniques they have developed.
Ive only had a soundplane a short while, so I'm still learning to play it, but my approach is to treat it as 'a unique instrument' which will needs its own techniques/approach.
( I learnt this was the best way for me, when I started with the Eigenharp)
Some basic questions:
a) Playing Surface (i.e. notes) or Control surface ( x/y, sliders)
b) Preferred layout
c) Single part (eg solos), Multipart (e.g both hands)
d) What do you find difficult?
e) What do you enjoy doing most, or is unique to the Soundplane?
a) Currently primarily I use it as a playing surface
b) Using rows as fourths
c) Im getting pretty comfortable with the SP, playing solo parts with perhaps 2-3 touches active using one or both hands. Im still practicing to do multi part pieces, (see Difficulties)
Arps, getting even pressure and ensuring each sounds and does not slide
Chords, fingering is diffcult (see next post), and I find it easy to either be too close to a border, and trigger incorrect note, or pressure is not enough on some fingers
(its getting better but its still hard)
playing non-legato with adjacent notes, when played faster... too often i end up with a slide. I think this is partially me, and partially the software not always treating as a new touch (regardless of LP setting)
Consistent velocity over midi, I don't seem to be able to get very light touches or hard, seems to play in the range 40-90 (rather than 0-127), can make subtle playing on some soft synth tricky
I love playing both hands, where only 2-3 touches are used. i.e. 1 touch left hand playing 'bass', 2-3 touches in right, the sliding between notes is brilliant. the 'poly pressure' is great, and the Y movement for times is excellent.
Its a really different instrument to the Eigenharp,
The Eigenharp excels in playing 'anything' as its key action is faster, and no limitations on layout.
The soundplane excels with multi finger expressiveness, its hard to explain why, but I think, its partly the size of the key zone, means you can really slide around it, its a more 'exaggerated' action. Overall Im glad i have both, as they compliment each other really well.
Playing chords (assuming fourths layouts)
heres now I'm trying to play chords
a) on one row - most obvious, but can take up quite a bit of surface to play a chord
b) over two rows - more compact, fingering not too bad, not all chords/inversions possible due to adjacent (vertical) notes, equal pressure can be difficult, and practice required to consistently get correct spacing.
example (left hand)
a) I also primarily use it as a playing surface, but I'm trying too start using it as a control surface.
b) My preferred layout is rows 4ths because it lets me reuse some of my experience from Guitar/Bass etc.
c) In a band situation I mostly use it as a single note lead or possibly bass sound. I'm also working on a 3 voice arrangement of the 5th movement from Quatuor pour la fin du temps. I'm not a fan of the sound of closed position triads in the left hand, so I tend to stick to 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, or 6ths depending on the harmonies I'm playing and what the right hand is doing. I haven't experimented with closed position triads much in the right hand so no comment there.
I also really enjoy pairs 10ths played with each hand, for example a major 9th chord could be played like:
+3rd |-r---1 |------ 4------ r
-3rd -|-r--3 -|----- 1r----- 8va
d) I find playing multiple voices at the same time quite challenging, especially when the voices are not legato. I think the Bach inventions are a good example of something that is possible with enough practise, but really hard to actually play.
e) See my bit about major 9ths. I also really enjoy pretending I'm a Theremin or Ondes Martenot. Using the Soundplane to control ambient soundscapes and do design work feels so good.
The Eigenharp looks super cool. I play reeds so breath controllers are super appealing to me, how does the Eigenharp feel to play?
I'm following this with great interest. The next version of the touch detector should get rid of some of the quirks we all encounter. Hopefully I'll be sending out beta versions with the new detector soon—I'm very excited about this work.
as you say, ambient and slow moving stuff is a joy to play on the soundplane :)
chords - interesting, I will try these, i guess sometimes I focus too much on the centre row rather than bridging row 2 & 4 as you are.
Eigenharp, breath is a great addition, its very sensitive and its great to 'breath life' into synthesised sounds :) generally the Eigenharp is very different to the Soundplane, very lively, precise, sensitive, quick - all make it very expressive. of course it lacks the the continous nature of the soundplane, but for me thats what makes it a perfect complement to the soundplane. I love them both :)
(btw sorry leesifer didn't see your comment, so been awhile to reply)
@randy, cool, the touch tracker is the heart (or brain?) of the soundplane, looking forward to your new work on it :)
an interesting article, relevant to playing a soundplane
I think most of us stick with the fourths layout, so the above article is relevant.
(i tried alternative layouts, but didn't find they had any advantages, though i do like chromatic too)
what the article does show clearly (actually RL posted before) is the reliance on using adjacent cells (possible on the LS, but not currently on the SP). but you can also see from the diagram the other possibilities, and its interesting to find these, and see if they are comfortable.
of course scales/chords are not everything, but they are a pretty important foundation to playing pieces.
my general observation, would be the LS shapes lean towards a more 'vertical' fingering for chords, this is not surprising... as the horizontal can be a stretch, and in this manner the LS has more rows (perhaps to accommodate this?)
but is this natural? ergonomic?
Im not so sure...think (or better try) how you need to hold your hands, and particular your wrist, it tends to need to be rotated... (unlike a piano where it stays parallel to the keys),
but perhaps this 'the technique' for grid playing?
in 'fairness', I'll say on the eigenharp, I do similarly rotate my wrist (particularly in the right hand) and its not an issue...
so its an observation, not a criticism.
btw, a few of us euro eigenharp players gathered a few weeks back, and it was very interesting to hear/see about different playing styles and approaches to the instrument, I learnt a lot (as did others I think) about techniques that Ive been slowly trying to incorporate.
this is why Id be fascinated to hear how others approach the soundplane...
with such a 'blank canvas', Im sure we all take a slightly different approach,
While playing simultaneous adjacent keys hasn't been possible on the Soundplane, I find no problem with using a half step in a melody line. So I play scales as on a guitar, or Linnstrument.
If you are playing over MIDI, the half-step transition needs to be done with some care. To retrigger a new note the previous note must be released before the new one is played. Otherwise the old note will be pitch bent to the new. I find practicing to control this difference with intention is key.
Over OSC, the instrument is much more forgiving because there is a continuum of expressive changes between the new note and the last. This applies to any patch that uses pressure to control its envelope. There is no binary distinction between staccato and legato, rather the amount of connection between notes is controlled smoothly and intuitively.
The new tracker coming soon will hopefully remove the simultaneous key limitation.