Keith McMillen Instrument’s SoftStep at NAMM Show

This weekend Keith McMillen Instruments (KMI) will once again be exhibiting at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA. Find us once again in booth #6227 in Hall A to see the latest developments in our award winning products.

All of the KMI products share a common goal: making real-time interactive electronic music performance possible in an ensemble setting. The K-Bow brought the first commercially available wireless sensor bow to the whole quartet of string musicians. The StringPort did the same for audio signals, allowing guitarists and string musicians to use their playing as control data, allowing expressive synthesis control right from the instrument. And now the SoftStep presents itself as the worlds lightest and most configurable foot controller available.

In particular, I have been greatly remiss in not posting something about the SoftStep sooner. This foot controller was released by KMI at the beginning of last October, and has been receiving fantastic reviews and user feedback. The svelte pad is as remarkable in its functionality as it is in its form factor, offering an incredible range of completely customizable controllers with exceptional mobility.

The controller is USB-powered and measures 4-inches x 18-inches, and weights slightly over 1 lb. It features ten 2.5-inch square foot pads and four 7/8-inch navigational pads. An 1/8-inch port for a volume or expression pedal is on the front, and there is also a USB expansion port for a SoftStep MIDI Expander that lets you use SoftStep to control external MIDI devices with or without a computer. It is very brightly lit, so easily visible on a dark stage, and has red/green programmable LEDs by every pad for feedback.

If the whole controller only consisted of 10 foot triggers it would still be an impressive device. However, each one of the ten main pads is a continuous controller in 3 dimensions. This allows you to control multiple dimensions of effects in real time with each pad, think reverb time on the x-axis and room size on the y-axis. With this kind of multi-dimension parameter space accessible right under your toes, the possibilities for realtime performance expand geometrically.

These controllers are not static, but are completely assignable from the integrated software package. An extensive modulation matrix allows routing of each pad’s axes to multiple destinations. Each modulation line begins at left with an on/off switch, and includes an area to choose which type of modulation parameter to use. A gain and offset control allow you to scale your parameter within a useful range. The destination section lets you choose whether you are outputting Note, CC, Bank, Program, OSC, Pitch Bend, MMC, Aftertouch, or Poly Aftertouch information.

All settings in the program are recallable via a preset system. The hierarchy of presets makes sub-libraries of functions accessible and enables rich sets of scene changes during live performance. The idea behind all of our software products is to make intensive configurability possible while maintaining manageability in live performance. The SoftStep fits this bill perfectly, letting you define myriad possibilities, but then have the intuitive control you need during performance.

This description delves a bit into what the SoftStep can do, but you have to try it out to get a feel for it. If you are at the NAMM show this weekend stop on by the booth. All of us at KMI would be delighted to show off what we’ve been working on.