At Keith McMillen Instruments, we’re constantly working on a new project, developing new technology, and challenging ourselves to create instruments with the power to change the way people make music. This is why we have created a place for us to show off some of the exciting work we do here as it’s being done. We encourage you to look around, check out what’s on the horizon, and ask questions about applications for these exciting technologies. Watch the video of our technology premiere event held at Gray Area in San Francisco. Welcome to KMI Labs.
“When I was a kid a chemistry set had some truly powerful and potent substances. You could learn a lot about the world and create some fun and exciting new concoctions. For seven plus years we have created new instruments that are as potent as my first chemistry set. We are excited to share our work with you here at KMI Labs.” – Keith McMillen
Smart Fabric Technology
One of the first innovations at Keith McMillen Instruments was the research and development into smart fabrics. The grip sensor on the K-Bow required that we come up with a flexible material for a circular sensor that could sense variation in pressure. We developed a unique and proprietary conductive material that changes resistance as it is compressed. This Smart Fabric (now in its sixth generation) became the core technology in all of our MIDI control surfaces from SoftStep to K-Board Pro 4 and BopPad.
For over 35 years Keith has been on a quest to perfect the ideal stringed instrument controller and bring string technology into the 21st century. Our work at KMI over the last several years in this field has yielded a number of new technologies to solve the problems that have long plagued guitar synths.
Inspired by kids jumping rope, Keith devised a way to mechanically activate the entire string with the application of a very small amount of energy at the bridge. This concept led to the creation of the StrongArm Sustainer, a system of piezo pickups, string drivers and frequency analysis to give you infinite sustain and a polyphonic signal for processing each individual string.
Acoustic Instrument Message (AIM)
While MIDI works great for keyboards it has trouble when trying to describe the dynamic sonic nature of vibrating strings. Keith developed the Acoustic Instrument Message (AIM) protocol which can run over standard MIDI. AIM performs a spectral analysis of the sound from each individual string to turn timbre into synth commands.
The problem of latency has always been an issue with string-to-MIDI interfaces, making them clunky and awkward to use, particularly when playing fast. Our solution for this is a fret scanning system that knows which notes you are holding down before they’ve been plucked, giving you excellent pitch tracking and near instantaneous note triggering.
The combination of these string technologies will yield a system of ultra high fidelity, ultra low latency string to MIDI conversion without compromising performance or expression.