Dublin-based Joyst Instruments has launched a MIDI controller with a difference: Every one of its 39 inputs is a thumbstick, offering full pitch blending and other analog controls on every single note.
"The Joyst uses gamer-style joysticks to make music creation tactile and expressive," describes Joyst's Philip Snell. "Bend notes. Feel velocity. The Joyst is a total rethink of what a MIDI controller can be: every note gets its own analog joystick for expressive control of pitch-bending and after-touching."
"On the Joyst notes aren't just on or off, they're pitching, after-touching, bouncy, springy and alive. Embrace the power of modern electronics for full-colour music creation. There's another way the Joyst will unleash your creative potential: the notes are laid out in an intuitive hexagonal layout. Every chord type is the same shape, just move it around to any root note you want. Learn one scale, you've learned them all. Less memorising, more playing: the joy of hex."
The Joyst works by implementing the MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE) specification, a relatively new development in the Music Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) standard that allows MPE-aware software and hardware to assign modifications such as pitch-blending to individual notes, rather than the entirety of a MIDI channel.
"The first Joyst prototype came out of Phil's dissertation project for his masters in electronic engineering," the company explains of the project's origins. "Fellow engineering graduates Will [Langrell] & Ed [Byrne] jumped eagerly on board once they saw the exciting musical possibilities this first prototype offered. The crew spent the locked-down Summer of 2020 with soldering irons in hand in Dublin, Ireland, iterating through prototypes and optimising the design. The Joyst JV-1 was born, and the supervising professor on the original project, Paul [Cuffe], was so impressed that he came along for the ride, too."
The crowdfunding campaign for the controller is live on Kickstarter now, with rewards starting at €199 (around $235) for early bird backers of the Joyst JV-1 — a claimed 43 percent discount off the eventual selling price. Delivery is scheduled for December this year.