Ever longed to master the keyboards, like the late Keith Emerson, Gary Numan or Elton John? KordBot says it can help.
Each week, Crowd-fund Kangaroo Court surveys the tech beggars sat on the virtual pavement, holding a sign saying, "Please help need money for sketchy tech concept." This week that beggar is KordBot. So, will we ignore its drunken barking and walk past, or stop and treat it to a slap-up feast?
Well that looks nice and simple…
Indeed, but beneath that Star Wars Stromtrooper styling and initially confusing array of buttons lurks a simple yet sophisticated musical device: KordBot. Ignore all the other buttons for now and concentrate on the lozenge-shaped ones taking up most of the bottom right: that's a standard piano/synth keyboard.
Yes, thanks, I can see that. So what is it, a sequencer?
It is that, but it's also a music learning and creativity tool. Yes, I know that makes it sound awful, but bear with. Essentially, it allows you to play chords with one finger - though the keys light up to show suggested chord combinations, so you do learn how to 'finger' them correctly, missus.
Surely any keyboard can do that?
This gives much deeper and easier control though. For to the left of the KordBot are listed all the chord types we know and love - from boring old major and minor chords to the ever popular diminished minor 7th and sharp 9th suspended 4th. Mmm-mm. Nice.
Furthermore, KordBot then suggests other chords that you may wish to progress to, based on diatonic progressions.
Okay, I've no idea what you're on about now…
That's not necessarily a problem. The point of KordBot is that it allows those with minimal musical knowledge to create tunes.
What do the other controls do?
There are knobs to manipulate sounds, pads to store favoured chords or use for triggering drums and a touch controller for 'strumming' chords, as on a guitar. Which sounds a little odd, if I'm being honest.
Imortant question: does it make the "Wuuubb!" noise?
It's a MIDI controller, so it can make any noise. Just plug in hardware and software synths of your choice. It is a sequencer as wells, so it's a complete, if basic, compositional tool.
Did the Kickstarter video convince you?
I was fairly keen on founder Brad Holland's earnest, BBC2 Open University programme-style presentation, and his talk of "lush features" and "fingerings that would require five hands in the real world," missus.
Until it got to the product demo, which features a fruity jazz-funk jam that sounds like it would have been rejected by Nintendo for a SNES game circa 1993, due to being too rinky-dink. Given that KordBot is a MIDI controller, which could make any sound in the universe, it's an odd choice to use the preset called "Cheap, comedy organ," but there we go.
So what's the cost of this thing and how's it doing?
The current cheapest early bird price is $249, or for $425 you can buy two - and play one with each hand, presumably. It's already raised £137,213, so there is clearly no shortage of rinky-dink jazz-funk afficianados out there.
For creating fast ideas, ‘Song Builder’ mode lets KordBot automatically pre-select the seven harmonically related chords of a scale known as a 'diatonic progression'. These are standard chord sequences available from fourty-nine scales and scale modes, such as Major, Minor, Penatonic and Blues scales, Lydian, Phrygian, Aeolian and Locrian modes and more. Exotic scales are available as well, such as Pelog, Hungarian Folk, Balinese and Oriental.