The Thumbtronics Thummer Jammer

Remember way back in August I posted about the Thummer - a mysterious Australian instrument surrounded by hype saying it would change the world of music as much as the piano? Well, they've finally got some photos and details of the thing at thummer.com. As we suspected, it's a kind of Janko keyboard. US$365 will get you two cool-looking orange boxes covered in touch-sensitive (poly aftertouch) buttons with little joysticks on the back. Pick through all the waffle and hype (there are over 4,300 words on the homepage alone, including a claim that it will "benefit all Australians") and it seems like an interesting, cool-looking little gadget. I hope Jim, the inventor, does well with it, and he's keen to get feedback through his forums.


Comments:
Please tell me this thing is MIDI, and isn't sending its own tones, 'cause the demos sound like sweet, sweet corn.
 
Of course it's midi.. They just happen to be playing the filthiest sound-module dirt possible with it. But yeah, these things look pretty exciting - why aren't more people developing cool new stuff like this? Eh? With Max/MSP or Kyma or something this could be really, really incredible.
 
Oh, sorry - looks like it's not midi.. That's fine by me though. USB has a much better capability for handling high resolution numbers... to my mind making it even better than I thought.

The only thing I don't like about it is that it's red.
 
It looks spraypainted.
 
jamming your thumb is actually kinda painful.
 
one time i jammed my thumb and it hurt for months. i think i might have chipped my thumb-bone.
 
what would be really cool would be if you could hook one side of this up to some plastic strings to generate "note on" messages... to simulate strumming and plucking and so forth
 
Dude, this is a thummer jammer, not a strummer jammer.
 
We definitely need the max/kyma/reaktor crowd to start buying them asap, this could rock really hard.
 
holy moly this thing looks sweet!
 
This was interesting in the footnotes:
"The electric guitar’s tone wheels"
Tone wheels?! Wow! Is he talking about some kind of guitar/hammond hybrid? Like this one:
http://www.grouseguitars.com.au/godwin.htm
As for the jammer itself, I kinda lost interest when I had to do further reading about Porter's clusters and disruptive technology just to understand exactly how this thing will benefit Australia.
 
It sends the raw data via USB, then software interprets it to create MIDI (including polyphonic aftertouch if you want it). The software will be open sourced, so the Max/MSP crowd should be able to get off and running with it.
 
1. How is it different from any available midi keyboard, aside from having to learn a new keyboard system for playing it?

2. Why would usb be better than midi? If the raw data gets translated into midi on your computer anyway, wouldn't having direct midi output be more versatile since you can then use it with any midi drum machine, keyboard or synth module and also easily plug it into your PC with a midi to usb adapter?

I'm wondering what I am missing here. If you can do all that this does with any midi keyboard why would someone want to learn to use a new type of keyboard system for operating a machine that does the same thing, what are the beneifts?
 
Anonymous asked: If you can do all that this does with any midi keyboard why would someone want to learn to use a new type of keyboard system for operating a machine that does the same thing, what are the beneifts?

That's a very good question!

Answer:
On a piano-style keyboard, you can't affect a melody line with seven degrees of freedom (you get three or four at most). On a jammer, you can.

On a piano-style keyboard, you can't play both accompaniment and an expressive melody at the same time. On a jammer, you can.

On a piano-style keyboard, you can't change the key in which you are playing simply by playing the same pattern of key-presses on a different note (without electronic trickery). On a jammer, you can.

On a piano-style keyboard, you can't see the structure of music in the geometric patterns made while playing on the keyboard. On a jammer, you can.

On a piano-style keyboard, you can't change the tuning of the instrument across a very broad range in real time -- with the same fingering -- providing novel expressive and compositional effects. On the jammer, you can.

On a piano-style keyboard, you can't study or play the music of Indonesia, Thailand, Africa, Arabia, and other musical cultures, all with the same fingering as in standard Western 12-tone tuning. On a jammer, you can.

On a piano-style keyboard, you can't teach someone to deeply understand the fundamental structures of music through tangible, concrete experience, in a period of weeks. On a jammer, you can.

On a piano-style keyboard, you can't explore the new frontiers of music opened up by the jammer's expressive power and isomorphic keyboard. On a jammer, you can.

That's why.

Jim Plamondon
CEO, Thumtronics Ltd
The New Shape of Music(tm)
 
Hi,

Yes, I thought I was missing something... You said:
"On a piano-style keyboard, you can't study or play the music of Indonesia, Thailand, Africa, Arabia, and other musical cultures, all with the same fingering as in standard Western 12-tone tuning. On a jammer, you can."

That is very cool. I see what you're saying now. I hope you have great success, the world needs more instruments like this.

Thanks.
 
The way the various forms of electronic music develop these days however is generally more into live manipulation of streams of sound. The question is whether we really need a 'new' electronic music keyboard to be so heavily pitch orriented? There is a good reason why so many of the new 'keyboards' are controller tablets with lots of faders and less keys.
 
Hi,
Are you refering to midi controllers used to manipulate sounds being generated by another source? (So rather than transmitting notes a more useful machine would transmit countinuous controller CC messages.)

Just curious of what you're saying.

Thanks,
Tony
 
There is some interest in this instrument from the microtonal music community. Currently, a keyboardist who wants to make microtonal music has to come up with arbitrary mappings of pitch to conventional keyboard. For example, 19-tone per octave scales do not line up neatly - the next C note up from middle C is 7 keys away from its conventional equivalent.

The solution for keyboardists is a generalized keyboard. The Thummer Jammer will be the first generalized keyboard controller that will sell for less than $5000 US. Hence the interest....
 
Anonymous said...
"live manipulation of streams of sound... [requires] lots of faders and less keys."

And Tony said
"rather than transmitting notes a more useful machine would transmit countinuous controller CC messages."

Both comments are suggesting that to support the needs of electronic music, new musical instruments/controllers need to provide lots of continuous controllers -- and the jammer does.

In fact, the jammer provides real-time control over more mutually-independent variables than any other controller -- a minimum of five, and seven, nine, or eventually thirteen with optional accessories.

Because each "note" button is pressure-sensitive, you could use each one to control a continuous variable rather than a note per se. Further, you can press two buttons per fingertip, varying the relative pressure between each continuously. That's 16 continuous variables that can be controlled by the player's eight fingers (the two thumbs being on its joysticks), in addition to the five-to-13 variables already mentioned.

That's a lot of continuous control!

Thus the jammer delivers the best of both worlds in a tiny, portable, low-cost device.

See www.thummer.com for details.

Thanks for your interest! :-)

Jim Plamondon
CEO, Thumtronics Ltd
The New Shape of Music(tm)
 
Just to clarify, I didn't say "rather than transmitting notes a more useful machine would transmit countinuous controller CC messages." I was quoting someone else, trying to understand what they meant.

I think this is an instrument with great potential. It's hard to get people to change though... Hopefully some will.

Tony
 
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