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Annual NAMM show demonstrates how your laptop can become any instrument you want


Kevin Smith , San Gabriel Valley Tribune
01/20/17, 8:38 PM PST | Updated: 32 secs ago
Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes.
Visitors to this year’s National Association of Music Merchants, aka NAMM, show are seeing plenty of it. The nation’s largest annual music trade show rolled into the Anaheim Convention Center on Thursday with 1,700-plus vendors showcasing more than 6,000 brands of products.
“It’s mind-boggling,” said Steve Sarandos, 70, who came from Tacoma, Washington, to check things out. “When you look at what’s going on with guitars, and even saxophones, so much has changed.”
A prime example could be found at the Sensel booth. Sensel has designed a multitouch, pressure-sensitive electronic pad called the Sensel Morph that can convert a laptop computer into a piano, drum set, gaming console or virtually anything else a user would want.
Reuben Martinez, the company’s senior lab engineer, demonstrated it by placing thin, flexible overlays atop the pad. One had piano keys and another had geometric shapes, each of which mimicked the sound of a specific drum or cymbal when touched or struck with a drumstick.
“It has nearly 20,000 elements that understand pressure, from 5 grams to 5 kilograms,” Martinez explained. “We’ve created a drum set and a keyboard. You can also print your own overlay.”
The device can be ordered online at www.sensel.com for $250, and it comes with one overlay.
Across the way, Zylia was promoting a “sound-source separation” multitrack microphone that essentially serves as a portable recording studio. The softball-sized microphone can be plugged into a computer with a USB cable.
When a recording is completed, individual instruments can be isolated and cranked higher or lower in the mix to achieve a balanced sound. The end result does feature some bleed-over from other instruments, but it still allows users to come away with a relatively balanced recording.
“You can separate single tracks of guitar, drums and vocals,” a company representative said. “We don’t have 100 percent separation, but that’s not what we are expecting. This is something between recording your band with a smartphone and going to a recording studio.”
The unit sells for $1,000 and can be ordered at www.zylia.co.
Rock ‘N’ Rolla Records Inc ., another vendor at this year’s show, has put a modern spin on the classic turntable for vinyl records. The Camarillo-based company’s portable record player has additional functions to accommodate CDs, MP3s and android and Bluetooth uses.
But vinyl? Company President Marshall Blonstein can tell you all about that.
“Vinyl is hot right now,” he said. “What we’ve found is that people in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s bought albums but never threw them away. They didn’t want to spend $1,200 or $1,500 on a new sound system. So now they can pick one of these up for $70 to $100. That’s the charm of the Rock ‘N’ Rolla.”
They can be ordered online at www.myrocknrolla.com .
David and Angela Blacker aren’t vendors at this year’s show. But the couple came in hopes of getting the word out about AirGigs , an online platform they’ve created for hiring studio musicians and audio engineers.
“We owned a studio in SoHo and Manhattan in New York and did a lot of commercial projects,” David Blacker said. “We kind of had this network of people who were doing projects remotely and we saw the need for this.”
On AirGigs, sellers post music production services that they can deliver online. They set the terms, provide representative audio samples and specify what materials (rough mixes, session files, formats, etc.) they can deliver. All communication and file exchanges happen through the AirGigs system.
Chaz Winzaread, a representative with the Michael Kelly Guitar Co. out of Clearwater, Florida, said traffic at this year’s NAMM show appears to be good.
“We’ve exhibited at NAMM for many years,” he said. “It’s pretty steady. This is the big show of the year, as opposed to the summer NAMM show in Nashville, which doesn’t draw nearly as much.”
On Thursday several top-notch players were on hand to perform and sign autographs. Fingerstyle guitarist Laurence Juber , who once served as lead guitarist in Paul McCartney’s band Wings, played a solo show that featured powerful renditions of everything from the Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing” to the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
“Pete Townshend was the first person I played this for!” Juber said when asked about the latter song.
Other top-notch guitarists, including jazz/blues player Scott Henderson and rocker Steve Morse , also were on hand to mingle with fans and vendors.
The NAMM show runs through Sunday but is not open to the public.
Reach the author at kvsmith@scng.com
or follow Kevin on Twitter: @SGVNBiz .

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