StringPort Released – The First Computer Platform for Guitar

“The path of the righteous string musician is betset on all sides by the inequities of MIDI and the tyranny of keyboards.”

Let’s face it, MIDI is about the smallest possible straw you can suck a compelling music performance through. For guitar players, it has been nearly impossible. That’s why after more than three years of development, I and the rest of the team at Keith McMillen Instruments are proud to announce the release of the StringPort, the worlds first computer platform for guitar (and coming for other string instruments – violin, viola, cello and bass).

It can do so much that it is hard to describe in just a few words what it is, but the best explanation is that the StringPort is a computer platform for string instruments. It allows you to control software in a personal computer using your instrument as the interface.

The StringPort is used in conjunction with an instrument with a polyphonic pickup (a pickup that outputs a mono audio channel for each string of the instrument, such as are available from Roland, GraphTech, Zeta and RMC) to enable the player to use multichannel effects processing and synthesis control. Prior to the StringPort, the only way for a string player to accomplish this was via a dedicated hardware box.

While some of these products work well, they have several disadvantages. Foremost, they are very rarely updated so the feature set that initially comes with the product may well be what is available for the duration of its lifespan. By contrast, the StringPort’s features are implemented in software on a personal computer. This not only means updates are as easy as downloading a new version of the applications, but also that as processor speeds increase the StringPort will gain a natural advantage over its competitors. While a dedicated hardware device is never going to get any faster, and never going to be able to support more features than its locked hardware can provide, our software can take advantage of every increase in personal computing power whether is be clock speed or additional cores.

At its base the StringPort is simply an audio interface, albeit an optimized one.  You can use the hardware without our software and record every string of your guitar separately right out of the box. This makes it possible to put different effects on each string of the instrument in any DAW software such as Logic or ProTools.  However, our software also includes an analysis system that looks at the incoming audio from each string to provide a full set of spectral metadata. While other devices simply output MIDI (a single pitch and “velocity” and sometimes pitch bend), the information provided by the StringPort analysis is much richer. It contains continuous pitch and loudness, pitch bend, centroid, parity, noisiness, and inharmonicity for each string. These spectral parameters are gained from complex FFT analysis to describe the continuous vibrations of the string, not a single event. All of this control data can be output to other software programs on your computer or over the network, meaning anyone can write a software program to use this analysis data. This really does make the StringPort a platform for controlling a computer rather just a completely isolated effects and MIDI output system.

Of course, we also provide standard guitar and studio effects. Take, for instance, our PolyFuzz application. It contains an entire effects rack including compressor, EQ, pitch shift, filter, delay modulation, amp simulation, delay and reverb. All of these effects are available for every string independently. Not only are they available for every string, but they can all be modulated with the realtime spectral analysis data. Do you want your filter frequency set by the note you are playing? Or your reverb level to go up depending upon the fret you are playing? We have build a modulation matrix capable of controlling every knob you can touch with a mouse cursor with the realtime spectral data.

We also provide two very satisfying synthesis applications. The first is a three operator “classic” synthesizer. It contains a two operator FM section, a subtractive section, and an LFO. This synthesizer is driven directly from the continuous spectral data, so it is very responsive to a variety of subtle playing techniques. It is easy to perform sounds with this application that it previously seemed impossible for a guitar to create, let alone control in realtime.

This just scratches the surface of what can be done with the StringPort system. The software package comes with twenty-four separate modules including notation, MIDI output, additional synthesizer control, phase driven synthesis, sound file playback and manipulation, and physical modeling. We’ve really put a lot of tools at the guitarist’s disposal with this product, and are excited to hear what gets created with it.

Find out more information on What features would you like to see in a polyphonic audio processor? Let us know.

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