Scott McGrath shows off some of the innovative controller products on display at this year's NAMM show 03/02/14
NAMM 2014: Controller Roundup - Scott McGrath Writes:
Controllers are evolving rather revolving (that is, are in an evolutionary rather than revolutionary phase), but that's not bad news.
If you want to be cynical, you could argue that "more buttons, pads, keys, knobs, faders" all get a little numbing after awhile. But think about it: hardware controllers now have to compete with touch screens as well keyboards and dedicated mixers and the like, and that's driving more innovations across a broad range of devices that control computers, tablets, phones and music software.
I think we're in a golden age of controllerism where more integrated control across devices and platforms leads to increasingly sophisticated interaction between human, machine and software. And, this integration also presents a new era of affordability where manufacturers strike a strong bargain between durable materials and low cost. You get a lot more controller for your money, better displays, reasonably solid tools, tight integration with software and a lower price. Just add creativity, always the hardest ingredient.
Gesture controllers are on the rise, but not there yet, taking cues from the Leap Motion, just emerging as a category. I suppose you can argue that the Theremin is the first gestural controller (and don't get me started again about the Moog Theremini, still tracking as my NAMM favorite for 2014). These are fun tools but still seem to have somewhat esoteric real-world value. All the rings and continuous controls are empowering I suppose, but the demos seem to focus largely on awful modulation effects that should be used sparingly in actual music, one might argue. (Even if that statement does reflect rather poorly on my fondness for Theremins...)