"It's all Relative!"

Click here to see the Samchillian Entry in the Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments

Samchillian software for Mac and PC

Leon Gruenbaum is a winner at the 2011 Guthman Musical Instrument Competition!

Video: Eitan Shefer's samchillian prototype: graduation project from the Bezalel academy of art and design!

Technical Article about Samchillian - how it was made, etc.


The Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheeepeeeee (patent #5,565,641) is a keyboard MIDI controller of my own invention based on changes of pitch, rather than fixed pitches. This scheme gives the performer the ability to perform extremely quick, rhapsodical lines.

Here's how it works: each key on the keyboard does not denote a fixed pitch, as it would on a normal keyboard, but rather a change of pitch. A user first selects a scale and a key (e.g. F# pentatonic), and then every note played will be in that set of notes. For example a key might be the "+1" key, which when pressed would sound the note one higher than the last note played in the selected note set; another might be "-2", and so on. By playing these two keys in rapid succession, for example, one would hear the following spiralling pattern:

C#, G# (down), A# (up), F# (down), G# (up), D# (down) etc.


Also the user is able to select from a number of scales, including microtonal scales and key signatures. A pattern, or "harmonic contour", once learned, can then be played in any key or scale without needing to relearn fingering.

In the current incarnation I use a modified PC computer keyboard pictured at the top of this page (made by Kinesis™ and painted by legendary graffiti artist Lonnie Heller), which plugs into a "black box" containing the circuitry that generates MIDI information. This information is then sent to a sampler or synthesizer which creates the sound.

This is fun:

SamKlavier - samchillian triggering a real piano (disklavier) live!

Samchillian Press Release Regarding NAMM

Look at the Samchillian sellsheet I handed out at NAMM

And in its March issue EQ Magazine ran this


Leon's background

- Born and raised in Brookline, MA; attended elementary schools and High School there.
- The New England Conservatory, preparatory department (piano and clarinet, theory, composition etc).
- The Rivers School Conservatory (classical piano)
- The Berklee College of Music (jazz theory, composition, arranging)
- Harvard University (B.A. in Mathematics, music theory and composition, electronic music, directing several musicals)
- For the past 20 years a resident of New York City.


Artists with whom Leon has played Samchillian

Vernon Reid, Living Colour guitarist - 7 years, James "Blood" Ulmer, Nana Vasconcelos (Techno Suggestion, Perc Pan 1999), Cyro Baptista (Beat the Donkey), Chaka Khan (Summerstage '99), Joy Askew, Jojo Maier, M.C.P.S., Micah Gaugh, Suphala


Contributors to the making of Samchillian

I have the very able assistance of three very able people: Dan Coates and Ray Haleblian for software and Joe Waltz for hardware

What does it sound like?

Remember that since it is a MIDI controller, there is no distinctive sonic character to the instrument*. However, the instrument tends to produce unusual phrases and patterns. Remember in the examples below that the lead line is completely live.

- sam solo sine
sugar daughter solo
"clarsolo" which is an excerpt from
"crunching patterns"
- "solo over James brown tune " (m4a file - you may need to save to disk)
- "warblesolo"

- "delay Lama"
- "distorted keys"
Samchillian Practice Session #2 (1.4 Mg - the solo is LIVE!)

- Out-guitaring the guitarists
- "5 Where They Alternate" (solo over "Genes and Machines" Groove)
- Vernon Reid's "Voodoo Pimp" from live radio show on WFMU, 5/3/04
(hear that entire radio broadcast here)
- Star Spangled Banner (played through plugzilla with the VST plug-in amplitube - with all due respect to Jimi...)
- Star Spangled Banner #2 (played through plugzilla with the VST plug-in DMI Flute - with all due respect to Jimi...)
- Samchillian over a Thomas Waltz Vamp (3 Mg)
- Scatwah Chip Chip (3 Mg)
- Oops I just took that last one off the server - try this instead, an oldie but goodie (microtonal Samchillian is LIVE!)
- Live solo on a Yohimbe Brothers tune (live)
Mishky CD: check out clips here

In this clip I am playing a guitaristic solo sound at the end of "Pop Arraignment":

- Short version mp3 file, mono: 300K
- Long version mp3 file, stereo: 1.2 Mg

In this clip I am playing in a 10-tone equal-tempered scale with a patch of my voice, with wah-type processing.

Leon solos on Samchillian over a Prince tune
Short version mp3 file, mono: 264K
- Long version mp3 file, stereo: huge

Leon illustrates the "tone row" feature of the Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheeepeeeee over a sequenced pattern (wav, 576K)

Also check out the Samchillian thought of the day

Samchillian thought of the day (old)
Samchillian thought of the day (older)

*"Native" Samchillian sound

There is one distinctive sound to this instrument - it is a low res sine wave that comes directly out of the audio jack of the unit and does not use MIDI. Furthermore, the controller pedal changes its pitch in a bizarre manner. (Delay added afterwards.)

- Solo using "native" Samchillian sound (1.5 Mg)

Quotes from various people about the Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheeepeeeee:

"Congratulations on a very creative idea and thanks for your contribution toward helping us all break free from mechanically-bound music interfaces...Your instrument design is inspired, beautiful and poetic...P.S. Great guitar-like solo! You’re quite a good player and that instrument truly excels at fast playing."

- Roger Linn, inventor of Linn Drum, the first drum machine to use samples, and many other devices, including the MPC drum machine series (with AKAI) and most recently AdrennaLinn - novel guitar processor and drum machine in one.

"...there is the opportunity for instruments to take input from the musician and to take make algorithmic determinations as to what note(s) to initiate. The idea of a particular key initiating an offset rather than a specific note is clearly an intriguing step in this direction."

- Raymond Kurzweil, pioneer of sampling technology, author of "The Spiritual Life of Machines", in which he predicts that in a century there will be no meaningful distinction between man and machine.

"Probably does everything except what you want it to do."

- Marvin Minsky, Artificial Intelligence guru.
M.I.T. Media Lab
This comment came shortly before the demonstration, after which he seemed suitably impressed.

"I thought the keyboard was extremely interesting and intelligent, in all sorts of ways. And it's clear he himself is a virtuoso on it."

- Evan Ziporyn
Professor of Music, M.I.T.

"Oh, two-fingered guru."

- Vance

"I'm content to just bang on various combinations of W,E,S,D on one side and J, K,L,O,P on the other- which sounds like Thelonius Monk on crack playing a duet with Sun Ra in the year 4000, which is good enough for me."

- Ian McGehee
Beta Tester

"...With his Harvard Business School looks...needling tone...long solos...onanistic...hideously employed...grating whinny...with the rapidity of a mosquito that had drained a caffeine freak, conjuring visions of Dustin Hoffman strapped to a dentist's chair."

- Ted Drozdowski
Vernon Reid Masque show, Boston 5-20-04

"I was watching you perform, and I decided you are a combination of Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, and Bill Gates."

- Marcelo from Argentina

"Sounds like a cross between the Teletubbies and Joe Zawinul."

- Joy Askew

"Sheets of beeps"

- Mark Bosch

Samchillian mentioned in "The Art of Digital Music" book!

Click here to see pictures of dorkbot" meeting in which Leon demonstrated Samchillian

Click here for earlier comments about the Samchillian tip tip tip cheeepeeeee
(humorous in spots)

Samchillian: The Last Instrument