MIDI controller uses mini joysticks for expressive music creation
Dublin-based startup Joyst Instruments is launching a new MIDI controller called the JV-1 next month on Kickstarter that sports a bunch of gamer-style thumb joysticks up top for creating expressive music. Prepare your DAW for battle!
The JV-1 started as an engineering thesis project, where CEO Philip Snell explored ways to bend each note on a MIDI controller, precisely control velocity, add vibrato and employ aftertouch. We've seen similar things made possible from companies like Roli and folks like Roger Linn, but Snell became invested in the power of joysticks.
"I invented the JV-1 because I was tired of tradeoffs," said Snell. "Why can’t a MIDI controller let you bend notes like an electric guitar? Why do MIDI controllers have to copy the fiddly layout of traditional pianos? Right from the first prototype, the power of the joysticks blew me away: they’re springy, responsive and expressive. It’s like going from black-and-white to full color music. Joysticks just work on a MIDI controller: try one and see!"
The keying surface of the JV-1 is home to five rows of squat round joysticks, adding up to 39 little controls covering two octaves in an isomorphic layout. Clicking each joystick allows the player to shift the octave to make a four octave range possible. The pitch and velocity of each note can be manipulated by movement of the joystick.
The developers say that once you've learned the basic shape of a major chord, it will be the same shape no matter the root note. It's similar for scales and other chord types too, which should result in more playing and less learning time.
The controller makes use of the MPE extension to the MIDI protocol and can be connected to a computer running music production software, MIDI hardware, or even a smartphone using a USB OTG cable.
As you can see from the demo video below, it certainly looks to have powerful potential, and after several rounds of prototyping, the Joyst team is now getting ready to launch a Kickstarter on October 6 to fund production. The JV-1 will likely carry a suggested retail price of €349 (about US$400), but pledge levels for backers could start as low as €199.
Update October 7: The Joyst JV-1 is now live on Kickstarter, where pledges for the first 50 units start at €199. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in December.