For a niche prototype product that looks like a music technology gadget from a Wes Anderson movie, Nopia has certainly generated a lot of interest. Since its release just over a week ago, a video announcing the existence of the product and demonstrating how it works has racked up a whopping 2.6m views. If Nopia does make it into production, that could translate into an awful lot of sales.
Nokia’s playful aesthetic is certainly one reason why it’s generated such buzz (see also the Chompi sampler) and the calming nature of the demo has probably helped, too. It’s a semi-modular MIDI chord generator that functions based on the principles of tonal harmony, so you have a root and can trigger chords that move away from this in degrees of the scale (III, IV, V, etc). It’s a bit like a creative MIDI-generating plugin but in hardware, basically.
Speaking of the hardware, the tonal selector indicates the current key, and the chord builder combines notes together in that key. A dial enables you to choose between simple and complex versions of chords, adding the available extensions for each degree.
The built-in keyboard can be used for triggering chords, while the bass module plays the root note of each and can be triggered via a pad or linked to the chord builder so you get low-end sounds automatically. An alternative bass note that harmonises nicely with each chord you play is available on a second pad, and the bass can also play on ‘auto-pilot if it receives MIDI data from a kick and a snare.
Other features include an arpeggiator, which will ‘unfold’ the notes in the chord, and a synth that blends sounds from two banks.
Developers Martin Grieco and Rocío Gal say that, as things stand, an ideal use of Nopia is to use its modules to trigger different instruments via MIDI, but there are plans to make Nopia as a standalone instrument.
You can keep up with progress on the Nopia Instagram.