This could possibly be either the most genius or the most ridiculous expression controller for a keyboard yet. It aims to provide a very natural way to do pitch bend and vibrato by using the playing hand. And it does have a very cool name.
The Vibe Bar
It’s the brainchild of the slightly mad Claude Woodward who has created all sorts of eclectic expressive MIDI instruments. The Vibe Bar is a device that sits along the length of your MIDI controller keyboard, at the front of the keys, so that your palm would rest on it while you play. The bar can then be rolled forward and back to pitch up or down a semi-tone or moved side to side to change a whole tone. You can combine those movements to achieve a tone and a half, or a minor 3rd. Vibrato is possible with some gentle wobbling.
It’s USB powered, has a MIDI output and inputs for pedal and breath control, presumably using his own spectacularly lit controller devices.
Well, this is a solution, certainly, but I’m struggling to feel the advantage over the humble pitch and mod wheels. It’s natural I guess in that you are using your playing hand, like you would a woodwind instrument. But then with stringed instruments you apply vibrato and pitch bend with the non-playing hand. It would also be quite a challenge to use it creatively while playing with two hands. An obviously this is not an MPE device like the ROLI Seaboard, so any manipulation of the Vibe Bar would affect all notes being played.
The other thing is that it’s quite a chunky device and I wonder how well it would work for larger keyboards. Would it get a bit bendy if it was stretched over 8 octaves. You’ve also got to go with the Sonic Manipulations love of perspex.
It’s an interesting idea and a workable way of bringing more expression to your solos. At 350 Australian dollars it’s about £200 which isn’t too far off a Seaboard Block. But the Vibe Bar is certainly unique and could perhaps be taken in interesting directions by live performers. Ridiculous or not, it’s brightened up my day. If you check out the second video below Claude may well talk you into it with his enigmatic “How about some flange” demo that simply has to be witnessed.
Sonic Manipulation website.