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Alpha: OK -- I need help getting started

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written by: dhjdhj

Hmm, if you, who clearly has significant experience, can't remember the key, then what chance do I have? (:-)

More seriously, even if you can control the browser from the instrument, you still have to be able to see the browser, in which case, it's going to probably be much faster to use the mouse. Can you also control the AUs with it, or just navigate the browser?

0beron said:
You can interact with a browser window using the scroll key. This key is one of the unmarked keys next to the main metronome (drummer) start key at the very bottom. It's either in course 3 or 4, not sure without checking.

written by: dhjdhj

Fri, 6 Aug 2010 22:37:21 +0100 BST

Just received my Alpha --- I'm VERY excited by the potential of the physical instrument but I would really appreciate some explicit tips on how to configure it so I can focus on playing the instrument without dealing with EigenD and complicated key combinations.

Here's what (I think) I want to know to get started and I would really appreciate step-by-step examples that don't presume that I already understand other aspects of the system.

1) Route the alpha to an IAC so that I can setup Audio Units in MainStage or another DAW to respond.
2) Set up a chromatic scale
3) Learn to play!

I'll use MainStage (along with Max, or Plogue Bidule, whatever) to handle splits, transpose, layering. I will also use Max for now to do things like remapping the keys to particular scales as I can't figure out how to get different scales directly from the Alpha.

I may also build my own AUs with processing as I gain experience. But I don't want to use's just too hard for me to understand.


P.S. Is there any way to configure this forum so I get automatic email responses?

written by: mikemilton

Fri, 6 Aug 2010 23:03:30 +0100 BST

Well, here is my suggestion. It isn't what you are asking for but what the heck.

0) download 1.1.7 (or 11) and load it - this eliminates the need to set up IAC and it is really *much* better than the 1.0 release and have virtual MIDI outs so you do not need to deal with IAC

1) watch the tutorials
2) watch them again
load whatever AU's you like directly and save the setup. Thye will load next time with no further effort and you do not need to go through MIDI.

I have some keyboard mappings here: Chromatic
and here: CMaj

There is also a script here root lights that might help you in chromatic mode. Not that I do not have a script to turn them off so save a separate setup with lights and without (or just leave them on and ignore them is you are not playing chromatically)

My advice would be to start out in major scales and work on finger training and chord shapes. You can have a great time and be rewarded quickly.


written by: mikemilton

Fri, 6 Aug 2010 23:04:35 +0100 BST

Oh, yes... The easiest way to follow the forum (IMHO) is an RSS reader

written by: dhjdhj

Fri, 6 Aug 2010 23:18:51 +0100 BST

You're right, it's not what I'm asking (grin) but I do (sincerely) appreciate your responding.

I have 1.0.14, which seems to be the latest available on the do I get 1.1.7?

I can't figure out HOW to load an AU ---- that's my first problem. There's a browser on the Mac that lets me see all my AUs, I can drill down to each of them, but it won't actually let me OPEN one of them.

I've tried watching the tutorials but they really don't help....there is a presumption of knowledge that I don't have that gets in the way....but I really want to use this system within MainStage so that I can integrate with my live keyboard rig.

By the way, I already found your blog and I"m apparently the first "watcher" :-)

I have already added the RSS feed to my iPad reader but it's not my favorite way of getting info.

written by: mikemilton

Sat, 7 Aug 2010 02:26:12 +0100 BST

Look Here testing releases

I'll respond at greater length tomorrow.

written by: 0beron

Sat, 7 Aug 2010 04:00:19 +0100 BST

Hi, if you've found the AU browser page you're most of the way there - once you've got the browser open, click on one of the AUs you want to load, and wait for the icon next to it to go green. A bug in the 1.0.14 release means that the AU window pops up behind all your other windows - including the browser, so have a hunt with expose to find the AU window. This bug is fixed in the more recent test releases.

What knowledge do you think the video tutorials are missing out? Let us know if we can help, and it would also be good to provide eigenlabs with some feedback if they don't make sense.

written by: mikemilton

Sat, 7 Aug 2010 14:18:09 +0100 BST

FWIW, I set out with the same intention as you; to integrate into my preexisting setup. That is not quite where things ended up.

If you are up to the current testing releases, then you can easily select the MIDI out ports and connect them to mainstage and the alpha will become yet another peripheral controller just like, say, your keyboard. You may want to insert a program to map controllers between the two but that can also be done in mainstage.

After a lot of dithering about, I've done the opposite. Where once I used Logic, EWI/Kbd and a Euphonix MC control, I now use EigenD and the Alpha. It will probably be that Logic will become a peripheral (synched) to that for voice or other audio tracks but that might be coming in EigenD as well.

The reason for that approach is that, once a setup is created and loaded, it frees me from the computer. I can sit comfortably with the Alpha and play. Also, My focus has changed from recording to performing (or perhaps from creating tracks to playing)

A bit of a shift in the order of Copernicus

Anyway, you can proceed either way but the effort of learning the control system on the Alpha is less than mainstage and IMHO, worthwhile.


written by: dhjdhj

Sat, 7 Aug 2010 17:40:45 +0100 BST

First of all, let me say I really do appreciate the comments and help from everyone.

I think a big part of the problem is that because the instrument is so new, not only are users coming from very different starting places, but they're probably trying to get to different ending places...I just don't think there's enough common ground to drive how the EigenHarp SHOULD be used.

My live keyboard rig is managed by Mainstage and I have zero interest in giving up that environment. Rather, I want to integrate the Eigenharp into my live performance. MainStage can handle splits and layers for me as long as the Alpha is configured properly. MainStage is an amazingly wonderful tool and it's extremely easy to use, particularly for new users, even though it had some serious bugs in its earlier versions and still has a few quirks.

I have tried various wind controllers in the past, (and guitar controllers, and various "alternative" controllers such as the Buchla Lightning) but none of them had the potential for expressiveness that I believe is possible with the Eigenharp. That's why I bought one, even though I had a lousy experience when I tried it out in a store. I fully expect it to be brilliant, but I just hate being at the bottom of this incredibly steep learning curve.

The EigenD seems to come with a lot of "stuff" in it, but the thing is, I already have extremely powerful software for actual sound creation. I have no interest in the drummer stuff (there's a real drummer in our band!) and I have no interest in backing tracks, although if I did, I would want to leverage stuff like Logic/MainStage, or tools like Max, perhaps Ableton Live and/or other sophisticated systems. The only meta-control (as opposed to actual performance stuff (vibrato, breath, filter cutoff, whatever) that I might want from the Alpha itself, at least for now, is the ability to send MIDI program change messages back to MainStage which will then reconfigure the sound being controlled the Eigenharp, etc.

It would certainly be useful to leverage OSC to get more fine-grained resolution, but even then, for me the Alpha is about playing, not about control.

I'm hoping the latest software release will help to get me to my goal.

First of all, I'm wondering if your username is related to a programming language developed by one N. Wirth (grin). I did finally manage to get an AU to open, following your suggestion, thank you.

I think the problem with the tutorials (and perhaps with the documentation) is that they are too bottom-up. Further, the Eigenharp is being explained as if it is a "machine" rather than a musical instrument. They are describing all the building blocks but leaving it up to the reader to figure out how to put stuff together. (There's no point in trying to explain to a new music student how to play an augmented 7th chord before they've actually learned what a chord is or how to play a basic scale)

To use an analogy from the software development world, it would be like trying to teach someone with zero programming language experience by providing them with a list of keywords, some syntax and then leaving the user to figure out how to do a loop or use a variable, before the user even knew what those things are for. Much better is to start with a "hello, world" and then build on it with real examples, adding new features as you go.

There's a certain arbitrary aspect to the usability of the instrument, with the same keys doing different things depending on what mode you're in. (Modes, by the way, are a huge no-no in the usability world). The Quick Reference guide introduces sophisticated setups with complicated splits and "forward references" to things like "Arrangers" and "Drummers" which have not yet been introduced. If one looks at pages 10, 11, or 12, for example, there are shaded sections of the keyboard with absolutely no anchor points, i.e, there's no way to tell WHERE these key groups are actually located on the have to jump around all over the place to try and figure out what's going on. Then, depending on where you are, there are lots of lights just "on", some red, some yellow (amber?), green....what do those mean (for example).

I think the first things that new users need to learn are
1) How to access your own audio units, select a sound
2) How to play basic scales and chords using those AUs
3) Practice the above
4) How to begin to add expressive control into the mix, i.e, assign up/down, left/right, in/out, ribbons, breath, to parameters of your AUs
5) Introduction to the physical models included with EigenD
6) How to create/use/change different scales

The other stuff can come after that.

My sense is that these documents were written by people who understand the system deeply and assume that readers will know almost as much. But people new to the instrument don't have any existing common ground from which to start. By the way, this is a classic well-known problem, very well explained in the famous bestseller, Make It Stick. (E.g, CEO is explaining new direction of company, is puzzled why employees don't share enthusiasm, reason is because CEO knows a lot more than he has actually said, and forgot that employees don't know what he knows)

I think it would be really worth while to consider bringing a tech writer with strong usability experience on board and have them rewrite the documentation (including the stuff on the wiki) in a form that's more suitable to people who don't already have domain knowledge. I don't know what kind of focus groups have been put together but I can tell you that it is a very humbling experience to develop a product which you think works great and which which you can quickly do magical things and then watch newcomers (even smart ones) try to use it and be at a total loss.

I don't know if you've ever seen the books written by Scott Kelby to teach people Photoshop but they are brilliantly written so that you can just open to any chapter and learn how to do something, without prerequisites. That means, for example, that whenever you introduce a new feature and want to show someone how to use it, rather than writing
Step 1: Press the Main Mode Key
Step 2: Switch to Advanced Control Mode

you would write
Step 1: Press the Main Mode Key, which is the bottom right key
Step 2: Press the Advanced Control Mode key, which is the middle key of the top row (or whatever)

Just my two cents....but I'm hoping you can ignore the "rant" in my text and extract the spirit of where I'm trying to go (grin). Now, because my wife and kids are away for the weekend, I'm going to spend the rest of the day trying to make some progress without interruptions!

written by: dhjdhj

Sat, 7 Aug 2010 18:10:25 +0100 BST

OK --- the proverbial light just went on in my head. I've added a couple of sentences to the wiki ( in the place that talks about how to access your audio units. I think perhaps the change I entered will help people to understand WHY I was struggling, and hopefully this will help the next new user.

written by: dhjdhj

Sun, 8 Aug 2010 22:38:27 +0100 BST

Incidentally, if page ONE of the book contained something like the following: (key numbers made up here)

Step 1: Run EigenD
Step 2: Press and hold Key 1 (referring to a chart showing numbers EVERY key)
Step 3: Press key 14 (say)
Step 4: Release Key 1
Step 5: Press key 34
Step 6: Press key 15
Step 7: Press and hold Key 1
Step 8: Press key 12
Step 9: Play

I would have been up and running in 30 seconds and nobody would have seen me rant!!!

Lesson 2 could explain what each step meant.

written by: mikemilton

Mon, 9 Aug 2010 13:26:31 +0100 BST

It is true that the instructions you suggest would work but they do not actually contribute to learning the instrument. Also, I'm not clear what you want the steps you cite to accomplish.

If you can get the SW / HW installed and turned on, the instrument DOES play with nothing further.

The next logical step is to introduce the control system in a manner that is consistent with all the possible setups. I think the tutorials do this well.

My point is that , with the exception of the bottom row of keys, you can't specify key on the physical device because they change based on the split you are using and the mode you are in. So it makes sense to me to refer to the system of lighting patterns of keys.

written by: dhjdhj

Mon, 9 Aug 2010 14:26:33 +0100 BST

Those instructions would contribute in the sense that they show you HOW to start learning the instrument.

The modal nature of controlling the Eigenharp made it completely unobvious to me how to make it work within the parameters of my own experience and knowledge. You push keys, other keys light up and there's nothing to indicate that you're actually navigating a deep menu tree to make it work.

The existing documentation even at the beginning assumes that you already know how the control system works and simply explains what the different pieces do. However, I spent almost a day "futzing" before I realized how the control system works, it was very frustrating, which is why I was "ranting". The "page one" example I suggested would have completely eliminated that frustration.

The keys have absolute physical positions so they could be given either sequential or cartesian names (row 5 col 2) for guidance. Personally, I dislike that the keys are numbered vertically rather than horizontally. There are always 5 columns and so it's much easier to count across rather than down because the length of "down" varies depending on the structure.

The way it is now (in the documentation), the same relatively positioned keys in one group end up having different numbers from those in another group in the same relative positions....that's VERY hard to learn.

Key 3 in one group should always be located at the same position as Key 3 in another group (for example).

written by: Lowdene

Mon, 9 Aug 2010 15:55:39 +0100 BST

Well it's the first time I've seen someone articulate something close to how I have been feeling. What i would really like, once everything has settled down a bit, especially when the Workbench or whatever it's called is released, is a really good instruction manual with some worked examples. I could take it with me, read it on the 'plane, try out some of the examples. For a busy person, who does other stuff than music, but within music is trying to learn more about composition, improve acoustic / electric / 12-string technique, become competent on a couple of other instruments, learn how to use different DAWs, use MAX, Bidule etc, design sounds on multiple hard and soft synths, oh yes write songs..... and walk the dog, cook the meals.... It's too much to learn via scouring the forum and the wiki. I just don't have the time for complete reliance on 100% experiential / experimental learning. I can understand why it hasn't been written yet, but I really think it will become necessary. Sorry to be so old fashioned. Regards, Nick

written by: dhjdhj

Mon, 9 Aug 2010 18:33:11 +0100 BST

Yes, I am in a similar situation --- this is a (serious) hobby for me. However, I have a lot of experience with DAWs, tools like Max/MSP, Plogue Bidule and my interest is in integrating the Eigenharp into my existing environment, rather than adjusting my entire environment to suit the Eigenharp.

I don't know what "Workbench" is, but I'd like to see a GUI interface for the Eigenharp through which I can configure all settings (including control the function of each key), mappings, scales, and so forth and have only a small amount of "play-related" functionality on the actual instrument.

For example, I see very little value in having key sequences to do things like open the browser to your list of AUs since you're going to need to be at the actual computer immediately thereafter to actually do anything useful.

Perhaps one can configure a key on the Eigenharp to move the mouse around and click on things. Then I won't need to be right in front of the computer, I'll simply use binoculars so I can see the screen from a distance (grin).

More seriously, I wonder if a "chord" metaphor would be useful instead of the deep menu tree, at least for some common things. For example, as a guitar player, I could easily imagine the top few rows being used to set the scale simply through guitar chord patterns. Hold down that keymode key at the bottom and then finger an EMaj chord would instantly switch the keyboard scale to E. Fingering Dm would switch to Dminor, etc. Indeed, chord patterns would be a much faster way to instantly switch something, rather than a sequence where you have to wait for different modes to appear.

written by: 0beron

Tue, 10 Aug 2010 02:16:26 +0100 BST

You can interact with a browser window using the scroll key. This key is one of the unmarked keys next to the main metronome (drummer) start key at the very bottom. It's either in course 3 or 4, not sure without checking. Once the browser is open, you can rock this key up or down to scroll, and tap it to select an item or a submenu.

A manual with examples would be nice. I learned my way around the system by trying things out, and by writing some wikipages on eigenzone mainly as a way to commit them all to my own memory, but I appreciate that not everyone has the time or inclination to spend a long time with the reference guide.

written by: dhjdhj

Tue, 10 Aug 2010 03:13:16 +0100 BST

Hmm, if you, who clearly has significant experience, can't remember the key, then what chance do I have? (:-)

More seriously, even if you can control the browser from the instrument, you still have to be able to see the browser, in which case, it's going to probably be much faster to use the mouse. Can you also control the AUs with it, or just navigate the browser?

0beron said:
You can interact with a browser window using the scroll key. This key is one of the unmarked keys next to the main metronome (drummer) start key at the very bottom. It's either in course 3 or 4, not sure without checking.

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