Vindor ES1

Vindor Music awarded City of Somerville grant

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We are delighted to announce we have secured support and funding from City of Somerville’s Engineers-in-Residence program!  This will support us as we continue to work to bring the Vindor ES1 electronic saxophone to market and as we finalize all design and pre-manufacturing phases before we launch our funding in October. 

It makes us part of the first round of Engineers-in-Residence program backed by the City of Somerville, Greentown Labs, and the Northeast Advanced Manufacturing Consortium.

We want to thank all parties who make this possible and make Massachusetts such a great location for startups and innovators. Access to programs like this really helps companies such as us to address manufacturing challenges and to make our visions real.

You can read our announcement on this here – we would like to thank you everyone who has helped us to secure this and all of you who continue to support us as we rethink musical instruments!

As we continue to take strides to bring the Vindor ES1 to market, we are sharing updates, offers and insights – sign up here to get the news first.

Why Even Non-Sax Players Should Be Excited for the Vindor ES1

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I’ve never played a traditional saxophone. Or any woodwind for that matter. But I can’t wait to add the Vindor ES1 to my arsenal of music gear. Sure, learning how to play the sax with a diminished learning curve is an amazing proposition, and something that will be on my to-do list. But what really gets my musical imagination worked up is the ES1’s MIDI functionality. Though the technology driving the MIDI protocol is 35 years old, artists and engineers are constantly pushing music forward using this intersection of sound waves and electrons.

 Ikutaro Kakehashi (Feb. 1930 - April 2017) is regarded as a pioneer for inventing synthesizers and drum machines, like the Roland 909 above, that are still used today and are sought after not only as music production tools but also as objets d'art.

Ikutaro Kakehashi (Feb. 1930 - April 2017) is regarded as a pioneer for inventing synthesizers and drum machines, like the Roland 909 above, that are still used today and are sought after not only as music production tools but also as objets d'art.

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and was developed by a cadre of synthesizer engineers from Japan and the US. Ikutaro Kakehashi of Roland, Tom Oberheim of Oberheim Electronics, and Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits devised a universal protocol that would allow electronic music equipment from different manufacturers to communicate with one another. For example, a MIDI-equipped keyboard synthesizer could synchronize with a MIDI-equipped drum machine to trigger drum hits along with certain notes played on the keyboard. Or a MIDI file could function like a player-piano music roll, triggering a video game console’s sound processor to create background music. Furthermore, MIDI, being unleashed in the early 1980s, grew up right alongside the personal computer. Connecting a MIDI instrument to a computer allowed musicians, classically trained or otherwise, to compose songs on a graphical grid as opposed to a standard G- and F-clef.

The creators of MIDI knew flexibility would be key to its success. A variety of parameters can be defined on a virtual instrument, such as the waveform’s attack, decay, sustain, and release, each with 128 levels of sensitivity. And while keyboard- and touch-based synths can approximate the breathy qualities of a saxophone, they often don’t hit the mark. The Vindor ES1 creates MIDI data based on the player’s blowing into the mouthpiece and applies it to the aforementioned attack, decay, sustain, and release parameters, creating MIDI data that can be sent over USB to a computer or external synthesizer. The qualities of a woodwind – a highly controllable attack, decay, sustain, and release – can finally be applied to virtual instruments in an accurate way.

 Most synths, like to Korg MS-20 above, use a piano-style keybed as an input mechanism. The Vindor ES1 uses the rising and falling of the player's breath to measure attack, decay, sustain, and release.

Most synths, like to Korg MS-20 above, use a piano-style keybed as an input mechanism. The Vindor ES1 uses the rising and falling of the player's breath to measure attack, decay, sustain, and release.

Sure, MIDI controllers that use a wind-based approach have been on the market for a few years, but these are often prohibitively expensive, use strange and uncomfortable buttons to control certain parameters, and use proprietary mouthpieces. The musicians and engineers behind MIDI knew that charging manufacturers to use the technology would be detrimental to its proliferation and therefore did not require any licensing fees. While we do have to charge for manufacturing and engineering costs, Vindor is taking a similar approach and making the ES1 available to as many people as possible by maintaining an affordable price point, and I can’t wait to see what new techniques and sounds ES1 users come up with by using its MIDI functionality.

Reflecting on Zumix's Experimental Music Ensemble

Running a music ensemble with different groups of teenagers is an incredible experience.  I had the great opportunity to test out the Vindor ES1 at Zumix with two different “Experimental Music Ensembles” with students who had a varied range of musical experience. It both gave me unique insight into how different people view the creation of music, and it gave the students a great chance to explore new forms and styles of music that they hadn't seen before. But with both the ensembles, the students mostly appreciated being part of a group and creating and playing music together.

One of my favorite experiences took place in the second semester of the Experimental Music Ensemble. There were only a few students in the band. We had already written a few songs together, but when looking for inspiration, one person thought it could be fun to write a hip hop groove and invite two other students to rap over it. The students all found their own role in this song only using the Vindor ES1 and one person on drums. One, who was also taking bass lessons at the time, decided to play in the lower range of the ES1 and the other, who was taking saxophone lessons at the time, wrote some very interesting rhythmic figures to play over the drum beat.  

The first rehearsal with the rappers was very inspiring. The rappers had only ever worked with pre-recorded backing tracks before and had never had the experience of playing with a live band. When they started rapping more aggressively, the band followed suit and started playing a bit louder. When the band switched grooves to something more mellow, the rappers would switch who was on the microphone to change dynamics. These moments don't always happen with professional bands, and I was certainly not expecting this with students who had only been playing the Vindor ES1 for two months. After that first rehearsal, the rappers were really excited and expressed to me how fun it was to play with a band.

Putting something new in front of these kids gave us back some life experiences that the students will never forget. Trying out a new instrument put them in a situation where everyone was willing to get out of their comfort zone and create something as a group. They worked on finding weird sounds they could make from the instrument and took new directions of influence in their songwriting. A big part of running an ensemble at Zumix is to let the kids take their own direction with the band, and it was incredibly rewarding to see where they took it and how they grew as a group.

Vindor: Pilot program completed: The ES1 journey continues...

On behalf of the team at Vindor Music I’m excited to share an update on the ES1, our electronic saxophone.

We’ve completed our pilot program, which included a collaboration with ZUMIX, a Boston-based nonprofit dedicated to building community through music and the arts. Joel, our chief musicologist, was able to spend time with the students to show them the ES1, play alongside them, and answer questions. Here’s feedback from Corey DePina, the youth development and performance manager at ZUMIX:

“The electronic saxophone workshop experience here at ZUMIX was priceless. Allowing our students the opportunity to play a new instrument, and to understand the engineering and creation of such a product, was illuminating. They got to ask the Vindor team about the process of making the instrument, and the ES1’s electronic saxophone workshop inspired and granted access for students to play and think creatively about music, technology and engineering.”

It was crucial to our team that we included children in the pilot program because the ES1 is designed for anyone over the age of six to easily and affordably learn the saxophone, clarinet, or flute. The students at ZUMIX were alongside testers of all different skill levels and ages including saxophone enthusiasts and music professionals. Working across these different groups has allowed us to gather vital feedback so we could “fine-tune” the ES1’s usability, features and ergonomics. And now we are ready for the next stage.

Our vision is to make music fun, easy and accessible by changing how people learn to play musical instruments. Please join us – sign up via our homepage for updates and news on the ES1, music education and events we’ll be at as we continue to increase awareness of the ES1 ready for its formal launch this Fall.