I1 and orchestral vsts



I’m seriously considering purchasing an Instrument 1. I’m a relative newbie with electronic music, but a lifelong classical guitar player. So while I’m picking up keyboard basics with my MIDI keyboard, I’m feeling the allure of a familiar fretboard type of input. And the I1’s wide fretboard/neck doesn’t scare me, that being the default for classical guitar anyway.

I’m wondering about I1 users’ perspectives on using it to compose or arrange orchestral, chamber music, or film scores. Are there inherent advantages of the I1’s various modes for these types of applications? Traditional strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion and so forth?




Interesting question. My own experience of orchestral composition is limited to tinkering in Orb Composer (i.e. completely faking it), but for the basic process of assembling an arrangement in a DAW the I1 does have one very striking advantage over other controllers: you can have it slung round your neck and enter notes by tapping with your left hand while mousing with your right (or vice-versa for lefties), instead of having to go back and forth and reach across a bloody great keyboard between you and the computer. So the tap guitar mode is definitely a plus; I’m not sure other modes would see anything like as much use.

MPE capability is obviously a key feature for the performance of solo strings and wind, but I’m not sure it has a huge role in composition and arranging, though if you have solo lines they’ll definitely sound better played in in multichannel fretted tap mode than they ever will on a keyboard (even an MPE-capable one like a Seaboard).


Thanks for weighing, Nick. Your point about the physical convenience of slinging the thing is something I can relate to.

I’m curious about articulation for orchestral strings in particular, comparing keyboard vs fretboard input for things like slurs, slides, trills, vibrato, etc. I’m using EastWest Hollywood strings VST and it really is quite amazing with keyboard input, but I wonder if it would/could even better via a fretless fingerboard like I1’s.

Needless to say I have miles and more miles to go to gain even minimal competence in composition/orchestration, so I admit that to some degree my question is a distraction from what I should be really focusing on! hehe



The fretless mode is very cool and you can do absolutely amazing things with it, but I’m not sure whether it would help or hinder in a compositional, as opposed to a performance, workflow. Not being a string player, I’m pretty rubbish at getting a plausibly natural sound out of string samples played fretless, and there’s a longstanding debate in this forum over the desirability of pitch rounding as at least an option for the I1 players who want to fake it. (It can’t be more than an option because actual string players want to be able to use their real-world skills.) If you’re not already a string player, the fretless mode is probably the most challenging to play well; I like it best with big and forgiving synth sounds, rather than with natural string samples where my technical inadequacies are more fully exposed.


Thanks Nick. I think you’re well-placed to connect the skills/knowledge of a real world violin player (or any other acoustic instrument), with what might be possible with the I1. As a guitar player, nylon/classical, I can say I haven’t come across a credible CG VST and in fact, most of them make me laugh. Not derision, no, but comfort or reassurance that nothing beats the real thing.

As a prospective purchaser, I combed other threads looking for critiques and stumbling across a rather long thread which intrigued me. The main concerns focused on lagging product/software development and a perception of inadequate transparency with the user base. These sorts of critiques appeared to be well-intentioned, and I have to admit they’ve given me pause to reconsider.



Yes, I’m a classical player myself and couldn’t agree more about the utter inadequacy of classical guitar VSTs; it’s not the fault of the software implementation but of the extreme difficulty of simulating the complex nuances of how the strings respond to playing techniques, which no physical controller is anywhere close to capturing. The I1 is no better than anything else at this (and in some ways even worse); its real power lies in the completely new things it enables the guitarist to do with existing skills. (It’s also the best device I’ve ever known for quietly practising scales, arpeggios, and solo lines without driving your loved ones nuts.)

I’d take grumbles from discontented users with a pinch of salt. There seem to be a small but vocal minority of people – none of them on this forum – with a toxic combination of (i) completely unrealistic expectations of how closely any guitariform controller can replicate physical guitar playing technique with (ii) a laziness and inflexibility that refuses to think outside a narrow existing box and recognise the vastly expanded affordances of the I1 for existing guitarists as opening up new, different, and ultimately better ways of playing than are ever possible on a physical instrument or a more compromised simulation of a physical guitar (particularly the many that insist on physical strings rather than the fingerboard as the expressive core). As a rule of thumb, it’s usually safe to discount any comment that uses the word “toy”, which is generally a marker of a collision between a radically flexible instrument and an unhelpfully inflexible mindset.

I don’t myself have any problems with the I1 development cycle, though it’s a sign of how distracted Artiphon are with the Orba juggernaut that we haven’t seen any response yet to the identification of the string flip bug last week, which is something that normally they’d be on to. But the I1 was already way, way ahead of the game three years ago and rolled out a rapid series of firmware updates from full MPE compliance to Smart Strum that have left it pretty much feature-complete. If you ask ten people what exactly it should have by now that it hasn’t already got and that competitors have, you’ll get ten different answers, most of them either niche obsessions or trivial niggles.

I don’t think the I1 is perfect, and it’s fairly obvious from the Orba specs that if Artiphon were launching it in 2020 they’d have included Bluetooth MIDI and an internal synth. (I’m fairly sure the possibility of an enhanced I1 model with those features will be somewhere in Artiphon’s wishlist of fantasy futures if the Orba’s enormously greater user base and contribution to their business model doesn’t consume all their attention and leave I1 development languishing, which is my big fear.) But for anyone who loves the guitar fingerboard as the greatest cognitive and ergonomic invention in musical history, the I1 is what your life has been leading up to.


Thanks Nick, for a offering this fair and balanced perspective, neither hype nor horror! That you’re familiar with the classical guitar and have an open mind about exploring new ways with the fretboard, not just stuck on imitations of old ways, you make a persuasive case.

I’ll give the critics their due for arm-twisting efforts towards more and better things in development. A little shove now and then, as long as it’s constructive, can be a good thing.

Your opinions, however, offer the sort of critical counterbalance, which is helpful for someone like me, a cautious buyer confronting something completely new to me.

Thanks for your well-said response.



Hi Bob,

I’m also a mainly classical/flamenco player, 46 years experience, with an interest in electric rock/jazz/avant guarde styles. I purchased an I1 as a xmas present to myself! In guitar mode I find the I1 difficult to play, finger picking the bridge paddles often produces multiple triggers, and is virtually unusable without serious adaptations to playing technique. After only a weeks playing, using both with finger picking and plectrum, I managed to rub through the surface of the fret board and the bridge paddles are quite badly scuffed up! I emailed Artiphon regarding this issue and was advised to put mineral oil on the I7 to reduce wear!!!
Realising that the I1 may not be durable enough for actual musical use, I have tried to adopt more careful approach. I have now set my I1 to touch mode on the fretboard (much faster and with fewer false triggers, and I’ve dropped the bottom two strings by 1 octave for easy access to bass notes.) I’m reasonably happy with that. I think the I1 need to be approached as a new instrument with technique adjusted accordingly. Having said that, the I1 is just a midi controller which could easily be done without cost in a multitude of ios apps!! I purchased Geoshred for some I1 shredding goodness and was most impressed with the MPE (midi polyphonic expression) midi control possibilities available and configurable , and a fraction of the price of the I1, If I was looking to score for orchestral/film music

I’d give the I1 a score of 6 out of 10!



Geoshred is about to offer IAPs for the SWAM instrument packs, which will leapfrog ROLI (who offer them as IAPs in Noise, but only for ROLI hardware and and not in AUv3), and will finally allow I1 players to play the SWAM instruments on iOS. Can’t wait.

I have to say that it’s the MPE implementation rather than the control surface that make GeoShred for me, and I’d far rather play it with the I1 than with a touchscreen surface with zero haptic feedback. It’s ok for slow expressive playing where you’re looking at your fingers the whole time, but you can’t sightread or play fast by touch in the way that you can with a physical controller, and the I1 in tap mode is just phenomenal for this. Picking, as you say, is a complete bust, especially with nails or plectrum, but that’s the case on all physical controllers, and what I love about the I1 is that it offers a way for guitarists to do the same things faster, better, and more easily with half the hands. (And you’re spot-on about that trick of tuning the bottom two strings down an octave; it’s particularly brilliant with synth pads.)


Thanks Dermis. Good to get balanced input from a nylon string guitar player. Thanks for the tips. I’ve decided to hold off with the I1 for now. Several folks, including yourself, have suggested that the I1 is probably best approached as a new instrument and that makes a lot of sense. As a guitarist, though, I’m already saddled with the demands of a new instrument by way of a MIDI keyboard.

I’ll look into the Geoshred.



Hi Bashley,
Geo shred is very cool, but if you need dynamics look into Velocity Keyboard, which as the name implies is velocity Sensitive and highly configurable.