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Alpha: The Alpha As An INSTRUMENT

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written by: john

Hi Carlos

Re: search feature - keep an eye out for the next couple of days....


written by: Tones2

Fri, 12 Feb 2010 20:30:30 +0000 GMT

I'm still on the bubble as to whether I should buy an Alpha, a Tau or nothing at all.

I have not seen much progress in the EigenD software since November despite all the claims and promises of what's coming (most of which is WAY past due from when promised), which is definitely a concern of mine. Hopefully, we'll see something major soon.

However, what REALLY concerns me about the Alpha is that I have not yet seen an actual player that I was impressed with in any video I've seen. I'm looking for an instrument that I can play as an INSTRUMENT in a band situation, and most of the videos I've seen have too much of the Arranger playing to really assess the Alpha as a solo instrument. In theory, it's really just a bunch of sentitive buttons, not unlike a lot of sensitive button controllers out there, including keyboards. What the appeal is of course is that it can be played like a guitar, which is unusual for a button controller. But since I'm not seeing anyone play this instrument very well, I'm thinking there is some inherent limitation of button controllers in general. I have a Pico, and truthfully, it's a pretty limited instrument in range to really make any kind of judgement.

So, someone give me a video link that I haven't seen there someone is actually playing an Alpha as a solo instrument WITHOUT using the arranger that is impressive, and I'll buy one (or at least a Tau) on the spot!

I really really WANT to want this, but my irresponsible needy self is having a hard time convincing my rational budget conscience self that it will be worth the money. :)


written by: john

Fri, 12 Feb 2010 20:42:58 +0000 GMT

Hi Tony

You really need to have a go on an Alpha for yourself. We will be making new releases of software through this year (and there are a lot of changes in the pipeline, but they are taking longer than we'd like - Hofstaders Law is still true) but that's not really the point. The Alpha in the standard factory setup is enough to keep one busy for a long time. And there is nothing like trying one.

We only started shipping Alpha's just before Christmas so it's not surprising that you have't seen anything that blows you away yet - it's a full on instrument and rewards practice. Two months isn't very long for the players who have them to have got that far.

In the meantime, will you be in the UK in the near future? We'll also be at Musikmesse in Frankfurt in March and I'd love to see you sit down and play one, it would be great to see you in our London office or on our stand in Frankfurt..


written by: GoneCaving

Fri, 12 Feb 2010 21:41:08 +0000 GMT

Fair point John, sure It's still early days, yet the first month and a bit of 2010 have seen some things that have caused me some concern (and many that have suggested the potential of great things). We've not seen any new pico or alpha tutorials, nor any in-depth demonstration of the instruments by the Eigenlabs guys and particularly with respect to the pico.
As another potential purchaser of the more advanced instruments, I'm also disappointed that we've not seen the documentation for the alpha more made widely available, and that documentation for eigend has also taken some time. It would be good to get some insight into the Eigenlabs roadmap for the future.


written by: geert

Fri, 12 Feb 2010 21:48:56 +0000 GMT

Quickly chiming in here, I think we should be realistic. Eigenlabs put the Eigenharp instruments already on the market and it's clear that anyone who's playing it now is an early adopter, with all the upsides and downsides associated to this. I think we shouldn't realistically expect Eigenharp players to be doing impressive stuff before 2011.

There's no point to ask for a roadmap of unreleased features, since it's impossible to predict how long anything will take when creativity is involved. Only rough estimates are possible and those are almost always totally wrong. Imho, Eigenlabs shouldn't give any dates since it would just appease you now and as soon as they'll be late everyone will be angry because they didn't hold up to their promise.

You should base your decisions on what's here now and what you see now. If that's not sufficient for you, then pretend you didn't hear about the EIgenharp until one year from now and check back.

I'm happy with the state EigenD is advancing, almost all major bugs are solved and new features are arriving in the unstable releases.

written by: john

Fri, 12 Feb 2010 22:07:45 +0000 GMT

Hi Duncan

We were pretty much taken out by going to NAMM in California in the new year, that and the launch of the Tau, which will be keeping all of us busy in testing and getting the first factory setups built over the next few weeks. Software is progressing well (and if you've been running the 'unstable' branch you'll have been seeing some of this progress) although quite a bit of the work has been preparing for a whole new GUI (completely different t the current one), which is unlikely to be released for another couple of months as it's a total rewrite. We've taken on board a lot of feedback from you all in this process and I suspect it will make people very happy.

As a more general point, we won't be producing any more instrument demonstrations to speak of, as we've decided its time we got out of the way and let you guys make hay with the Eigenharps. Given the increasing number of Youtube videos popping up, this seems to be the way of the future. You're right about the lack of new video tutorials. These have been on hold as we've been designing the new GUI, which is going to need us to reshoot all the existing ones as well. That and the fact that Nick (who writes and shoots all or vids) now has a baby boy and looks like he could do with a decent nights sleep right now... And on the documentation front, we have a wiki for the website in the pipeline (along with a search function for the forums) which will be where we start to hang this.

If you're interested in an Alpha or Tau, I'd be very please to try and arrange a demonstration, if you can be in London or meet us at Musikmesse in Frankfurt?


written by: prstorms

Sat, 13 Feb 2010 15:11:30 +0000 GMT

Man, is it ever refreshing to get a real response like John's, rather than some PA spin from an ad man. I can deal with the reality of a slow development process, and have so far to go in developing my own skill on the Alpha that Eigenlabs will be fully ready for me LONG before I'm fully ready for it. Nice job, guys!


written by: GoneCaving

Sat, 13 Feb 2010 22:08:55 +0000 GMT

Thanks John.
I agree with Pat. The open and honest responses from the eigenlabs guys is certainly refreshing and I really want them/you to succeed. Both of the reasons for no new pico tutorials make sense (I'm pleased to hear that the GUI is in for a rewrite), though I think some good demos of the pico from the team would have been good (in addition to the increasing set from the community) . The wiki and search will certainly make things easier for new players. And again, it would be good to hear a little more about the alpha or tau setups.
As for the invite, I've no plans to be at either location in the near future, but if I do find myself in London I'll take you up on the offer.


written by: barnone

Tue, 16 Feb 2010 19:28:36 +0000 GMT

I have an Alpha and I really do believe that this is an instrument that will support virtuoso performance. It's not realistic to expect people just picking up the Alpha this year to be playing like masters yet. As a true instrument it must be learned. The learning curve I believe is certainly faster than guitar or piano or anything else really but it is still there.

A lot of the people with Alpha's, myself included are early adopters and some of us aren't master musicians to start with so it will take awhile for these to get into the hands of truly talented people and for those people to clock a lot of hours with the devices.

I also believe that the nature of the keys will allow things to be done that cannot be accomplished say on a keyboard and this is truly exciting.

written by: barnone

Tue, 16 Feb 2010 19:38:08 +0000 GMT

John said -
> We've taken on board a lot of feedback from you all in this process and I suspect it will make people very happy.

This is great. I think this is the right thing to do. I'm glad you are taking the feedback seriously.

One more thing. I've said this before but I think Eigenlabs should open these forums for Read only access to the public and maybe open a thread for people to ask questions who do not have instruments. I don't see any information on these forums that is damaging to eigenlabs. I think they will actually benefit from people being able to get real information on the devices and not just the PR spin. It was very frustrating to me to be locked out of the forums even after I had ordered an Alpha. I see people on twitter and other forums being confused by the lack of real information and the fact that they can't get information from the forums. It's one thing to create PR buzz which you've done, but now the buying decisions are made by allowing potential buyers to get real unbiased information.

If people can read the forums, you'll not only get customers whose expectations are met, but they will also be better informed and educated when their instrument actually arrives.

written by: prstorms

Tue, 16 Feb 2010 20:37:46 +0000 GMT

Agree re: opening up the forums. It took some time after my Alpha was ordered for it to come in, and forum access would have allowed me to get a head start on orienting myself to the instrument.


written by: stuwyatt

Tue, 16 Feb 2010 23:23:01 +0000 GMT

I also think that opening up the forums would be a good idea. I think most people who are debating buying an Eigenharp would be mightily impressed with the human contact and support that Eigenlabs offers... It is an asset that shouldn't be kept behind closed doors IMHO.

written by: Tones2

Wed, 17 Feb 2010 15:48:50 +0000 GMT

I absolutely think that there should be read only access to these forums for non-owners. I was VERY disappointed when I could not access the forum when trying to make a Pico purchasing decision. If Eigenlabs has confidence in their products, there is really no reason to keep potential buyers in the dark about what users are experiencing with the product.

written by: john

Thu, 18 Feb 2010 12:52:39 +0000 GMT

I heartily agree with everyone here that our forums should be public access but I have to share a story with you all about that.

When we launched, there was a lot of discussion internally here about the structure and visibility of the forums, particularly in the light that we were launching a totally new product. At the time I was vehement that they should be unmoderated and public. I felt strongly that this was the way to go. Others here disagreed with me and I overrode them, so if you recall, that's how we started out.

As it turns out, I was wrong. During our first few months we had the usual rash of teething troubles, both with hardware and software. After eight years of developement and a whole year of testing we were very surprised just how many teething troubles popped up in the real world. We shouldn't have been, but I guess the power of optimism is strong. Now this wouldn't have mattered, but very early on in these forums we've developed a great and very open spirit of discussion. I like this, and it's been very useful to the developments teams here. Unfortunately several early posts were very frank about some of our shortcomings (which were real, and as you all know are either fixed or being worked on very hard as I write). Now once again, I can say that these postings were very useful in making us understand the problems we had to deal with, and certainly spurred a lot of hard work here to fix them. However, after several notable postings, sales on the website immediately stopped. And I mean stopped, as in completely. This was really weird to me, and after having to admit (eating humble pie is never fun) that perhaps I had been wrong to refuse moderation in the forums, I had to try making them private to see what would happen. Literally within an hour of making them restricted, sales went right back up.

This was a lesson to me in that people are not so good at keeping things in context. One forum posting saying that there are problems is enough, in the right circumstances, to kill a business. If I hadn't taken the public access offline, we probably wouldn't be here now. It didn't matter that we responded well to the postings, that bugs got fixed or that software design is changed (or being changed) to deal with peoples frustrations, and it certainly didn't matter that we've had loads and loads of great and supportive feedback from our customers.

So faced with this, we had to either moderate and edit the forums to remove extremely negative comments or make the forums private. Neither of these options was attractive but in the end making the forums private has kept them open and with a nice spirit so I think we made the right call at the time. And to keep negative comments in context, I think there will always, no matter how awesome the Eigenharp becomes, be some. They may be ill informed in the future, but they will happen. I lost count of how many times I cursed my guitar during my first year or learning it (and anyone who can remember learning barre chords for the first time will surely sympathise). The Eigenharp is a real instrument, not a toy, and people will get frustrated learning it from time to time. They will want to let off some steam, and here is a great place for it.

Having said that, times have moved on. The forums are now a lot lot larger, there is loads of interesting commentary in them. We can probably archive some of the really early posts that are now quite historical. And there has been talk here about splitting the forums into a public/private model, where the public section is moderated to stop both spam (which sadly will come to visit us here at some point) and more extreme 'letting off steam' type postings that could inadvertently hurt us.

I'd welcome opinions about this...


written by: stuwyatt

Thu, 18 Feb 2010 14:02:18 +0000 GMT

Thanks for the detailed reply John. I understand why you made the forums private, and I think you were right back then to make the forums private... but you guys have done a lot of work since then, and it seems as though most (if not all?) regular posters here are very happy with their Eigenharps. Sure there are still bugs and issues, but you have to expect that with cutting edge new technology....

It might be worth then considering just having one sub-forum for general open access... a public Q/A section. I'm sure that regular posters here would be more than happy to help out with our first hand experiences of the units.

written by: LAYER8

Sun, 21 Feb 2010 11:36:51 +0000 GMT

Getting back to the original subject, I guess It would help a lot to see some top notch musician - say Herbie Hancock ;-) - use the Alpha live on stage. Maybe you can convince one of your judges to do this as there already is a relationship.

Maybe a more formal cooperation with the Eigenzone site can help getting more information out publicly.

written by: geert

Sun, 21 Feb 2010 11:52:38 +0000 GMT

Hi John,

I've put some thought into opening up the forums to the public. I'm also part of the Metric Halo mailing list community and it's not publicly readable off the bat either. However, anyone can sign up and participate, you don't need to own any of their products. Initially I found this a bit frustrating, but now I understand that it has helped this mailing list to become a wonderful place of exchange and communication. There are a lot of well known and established audio engineers contributing since they know that the people on there are real and have a genuine interest.

I would open up the forums to the public but only after requiring people to register with the site and having confirmed their email address. This would prevent quick glances that could generate wrong impressions.

Also, adding a section to the forum where people present themselves and putting it into the policies and the welcome email that this is something that is strongly encouraged, has been an approach that I've seen working well on other forums.

Additionally, and I don't think this is neglectable, having all these signed-up email addresses is a good way for Eigenlabs to generate leads towards potential customers. It's a great channel to advertise new releases, products, promotions, events, ...

Take care,


written by: geert

Sun, 21 Feb 2010 11:57:36 +0000 GMT

@LAYER8, I think they're working on that idea already and are loaning Alphas with private demonstrations and courses to established musicians. Imogen Heap, Jordan Rudess and Hans Zimmer are some of those that are currently publicly known. However, the initial remarks stand, the Alpha isn't a toy instrument and it takes many months for an establish musician to feel comfortable with it. I'd give it the time it needs, it's still very early days for the Eigenharp ... but I genuinely believe that in a couple of years it'll have taken off and you'll see many people playing it with great dexterity and expressiveness. Look at how long it has taken the Chapman Stick!

written by: strangeglow

Mon, 1 Mar 2010 01:33:54 +0000 GMT

The first place people will come to learn about your product is your site. The place they'll look for real information from other users is the forums. If people can't get access to the information there, those conversations will take place elsewhere, and possibly where you have no visibility. Better that it happens here.

I have no real problem with moderated forums.Assuming the moderators are fairly light handed. Ernie Ball/Music Man does this and gets great benefit from having a team of moderators who are not company employees. This cuts down on the "the company doesn't want the truth out" sentiment. I'd be happy to help with that effort here, as I'm sure, are others.

I appreciate your point about negative information at the start. But, as you point out, the situation is a little different now. There's a growing community of enthusiastic users who can give first hand accounts of their experiences.


written by: catoro

Mon, 1 Mar 2010 10:37:28 +0000 GMT

I guess strangeglow has made a good point here... I´ve been around the parker guitars forum for some years now and the system they have for users in the forum could be considered.
There you have both moderators within the brand and some power users who just want to help.
I think we have a pretty nice group of users here and the process of eigenharp evangelization should start here.
I know that there is some work in this direction (e.g the REALLY NEEDED search feature in the forums, capability to insert pictures, etc) but I guess that the need of the windows version is top priority in order to involve more people ...



written by: john

Mon, 1 Mar 2010 14:25:26 +0000 GMT

Hi Carlos

Re: search feature - keep an eye out for the next couple of days....


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