Before continuing to talk about your current and future projects, in the first part of this interview you told us about your incentives in designing the du-touch and how they were received by the public. Can you summarise the main points for those who haven’t read the first part?
Yes, I was saying that with Jules and the Dualo team, we wanted to create today’s instruments for today’s music. But that in fact, we’ve created the instrument of the future for today’s music (laughs).
Beyond their “accordion of the future” look, which doesn’t appeal to everyone, beyond the difficulty of getting people to admit that it’s possible to invent note arrangements other than those of the piano keyboard and the guitar, and finally beyond the absence of interest from the media other than French speaking, there’s one thing on which we were a little mistaken.
We were convinced that, like us, everyone wanted to have fun playing music, and especially playing with friends on the evenings and weekends, as we did when we were younger.
But many young people today have grown up in a world in which they don’t make music with friends in the evening: anyone who has a decent phone and a Spotify, Deezer or YouTube subscription will play the songs they like, and hopefully a few will sing along. I’m exaggerating a little here, but what was essential for us doesn’t exist in the same way for them as they grew up with other habits.
And yet we were pretty much spot on, because more than 85% of 12-25 year olds listen to music everyday, whilst only 69% watch videos everyday. And if about 12% of the population of developed countries practice music, 85% of those questioned would like to know how to play an instrument.
It’s for these reasons that, since 2019, we’ve put a lot of work into the du-game and more particularly in 2021 and 2022, when we’ve been working a lot with music teachers.
We’ve done many discovery workshops with audiences of all ages and levels, and we’ve been able to prove that it’s possible to reach great satisfaction in less than two hours without any basic knowledge in theory.
In a way, we succeeded, because almost 55% of people who buy a du-touch S consider themselves to be new to music. Still, we are aware that 500€ (Editor’s note: the price of a du-touch S) is a high price when you want to start music.
We concluded the first part of the interview by mentioning future developments, and you said that you separated your knowledge into three parts: the dualo keyboard, the creative workflow and the educational aspect. As you often evoke the ideas, the desires and the needs which guided you in your inventions, can you tell us what brought you to this separation?
First of all, we looked at the mechanisms that make us choose this or that instrument. After asking many people, if we put aside the “I wanted to look like…” or the “my parents pushed me to…”, we identified three phases: emotion, exploration, intellectualism.
Pure emotion is when you come into contact with the string, the key, the metal, and the first sound comes out. Even if it’s difficult and complicated, this is what can make you choose the violin or the trumpet. It has to resonate in you, you say to yourself “Wow! There’s a way to do some crazy stuff with it.”
Once the emotion has passed comes the time for exploration, which takes a few seconds of play to minutes and then hours. You have to have the feeling that you have still lots to learn at the same time as the satisfaction that you’re moving forward, but that the path isn’t too overwhelming.
And finally, intellectualism is when you want to go further, when you want to create or play melodies or whole songs. It’s in this phase that many give up because there is more work and less instant satisfaction.
From our experience with the du-touch, we know that the dualo keyboard is a great accelerator for exploration and intellecualism, as it helps us to know where the notes are that sound good together. And for the ability to create entire tracks, our optimised creation process more than proves itself, even with absolute beginners.
As a result, we focused on the pure emotion phase and we wanted to give more life to the keys of our keyboard. That with the simple fact of pressing a key you say to yourself “wow, that’s great!” and that you want to continue playing with this key, even before you want to touch another one.
To charaterise the most natural gesture, we only had to watch dualists playing with a cello sound to know what the du-touch lacked.
It’s therefore been two years since Stéphane, our mechanical and electronics engineer, and Vincent, our software development engineer, have been working on a new ultra-sensitive and expressive control surface. And they both know what they’re talking about because they cut their teeth at Expressive E, a company that designs expressive musical interfaces.
In the video shown here, there’s only a large keyboard, is this normal?
Yes! We’ve worked to combine the two keyboards into one, because we wanted to further reduce the handling time. And without going into details today, I can say that it works really well, that it opens up a lot of new possiblities. As a teaser, here is some additional information: in this expanded dualo keyboard, you can have both a left-hand keyboard and a right-hand one….
In the video, we see that it’s a prototype and that it doesn’t have the same buttons as on a du-touch. Did you change the creative workflow? Will a dualist be able to get used to it?
The basis of the creative workflow remains the same as on a du-touch, dualists will find their way around right away. You can’t see it on this prototype, but we’ve added a few buttons in order to have immediate access to specific functions, such as a play/pause button. Thus, we’ve gained in simplicity and clarity, especially for musicians who are already used to playing other electronic instruments.
We also added four potentiometers to modulate the sound, and we only kept one slider, which is used for other more temporal effects.
The great innovation is that we have separated control from the intelligence. The keyboard has therefore become a controller, and the workflow and sound synthesis are exported to another device. This opens up many new possibilities and allows us to respect one of the intrinisic values of the Intuitive Instruments company, that of trying to create the most eco-responsible producst possible. Like, for example, designing objects that will have the longest possible lifespan and that adapt to everyone’s needs and configurations: there’s no need to put a processor in an object if the end user already has a more powerful processor in his pocket.
With this logic, after intense discussions, internally and with musicians whether dualists or not, we decided to remove the screen from the new instrument. Which isn’t to say there won’t be a version with a screen, but the “basic” version doesn’t have one because we think it would have been redundant in most playing situations.
To be more concrete, we’ve been working on a multi-platform application for two years, a multi-track looper/sequencer that uses the same du-touch workflow and adds a multitude of new features for creating music intuitively. There are even things that don’t exist in any other music creation software.
The idea is that application also serves as a graphical interface. Any action that is made on the physical object can also be done on the app, which becomes an extension of the object itself.
For all our developments, we’ve chosen the path that enables us to open up to the existing as much as possible. As a result, for sound synthesis, our app allows you to load all existing plugins and virtual synthesisers because it’s compatible with all standards: VST3, Audio Units, LV2,…Of course, as for the du-touch, we will provide a bank of sounds already integrated into the app. We already have over 200 sounds that were created specifically for the expressiveness of our new keyboard, drawing on one of the best open-source synths around.
We also had the objective that each element of our know-how be autonomous: the keyboard can therefore be used with any MIDI-compatible software or machine and our app can be used with any MIDI-compatible control interface.
That’s exciting! And for the educational part?
It’s still too early to talk about it, but can already tell you that the current du-games will obviously be carried over into our new platform.
I still have lots of questions, but to finish for this week, have you found a name for this new keyboard?