Keith McMillen Instruments 12 Step Foot Controller

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Jimi Hendrix was famous for was playing guitar with his teeth, but if he had a Keith McMillen Instruments 12 Step Foot Controller, he would have been able to tap out notes with his feet, too. One would assume that there would be many expressive and responsive products that enable you to musically control keyboards, synthesizers, drum machines and virtual instruments with your feet. However, this isn’t the case. Quite to the contrary, the small world of foot controllers is filled with products that don’t allow much musical nuance.

Thankfully, Keith McMillen Instruments recognized this shortfall, and set out to correct it. Its first foot product was the revolutionary Soft Step, which provided computer-based musicians with the expressive foot controller of their dreams. It was equipped with ten pressure- and direction-sensitive backlit keys, a 4-character LED display, and it offered control of major audio applications and freely assignable MIDI and OSC messages. It also didn’t hurt that its industrial design encompassed pure beauty.

The new 12 Step is a sweet complementary tool, geared more for straightforward musical performance. It can be connected via USB to Mac and Windows computers directly out of the box, and used to play scales on virtual instruments without any configuration or fuss. With the addition of a Camera Connection Kit, the 12 Step can also be used to play Core MIDI complaint music apps on an Apple iPad. The 12 Step is a plug-and-play device with all compatible computers; meaning you won’t have to load software drivers in order to tickle its keys with your toes. The 12 Step can also be used to play hardware instruments with MIDI ports. This requires the separately available KMI MIDI Expander, which translates the 12 Step’s USB output to MIDI notes.

Each of the backlit keys on the 12 Step features velocity sensitivity, poly aftertouch and pitch bend, plus, you can assign each key to play up to five notes simultaneously. This gives you the ability to give a nuanced and emotive performance even while sporting footwear. Because the 12 Step was designed to be stepped on, it’s armored with tough carbon fiber construction. The chosen materials and design make the compact 12 Step surprisingly lightweight.

The rear of the 12 Step features a 1/8" Expression Pedal input, so you can use the Expression Pedal of your choice. A short, right-angle 1/8" to 1/4" adapter cable is included for connecting standard Expression Pedals. This jack can also be used to send Control Voltage from the 12 Step. A protective travel sleeve and an A-to-B USB cable are also included (the 12 Step is conveniently bus powered from the connected USB port).

Each key on the 12 Step has a corresponding LED light beside it. The lights give you visual feedback on the state of each key. A centrally located “Select” key makes it possible to change the octave of the scale, switch presets and carry out other foot-controllable tasks. There are 59 factory presets, like chromatic scale, poly (which lets you trigger two keys at once) and drum set (which assigns the keys for a more intuitive drum-playing layout). There are numerous chord and scale presets as well. You can also program your own presets with the included software editor (again, Mac and Windows compatible). You can create up to 128 presets. The 12 Step Editor is available as a download from the manufacturer’s website.

Keith McMillen Instruments is among the most innovative and forward-thinking manufacturers in the pro audio industry today. It’s no surprise that the 12 Step is so intelligently designed and easy to use. Its illuminated and expressive keys make it a no-brainer accessory for musicians and DJs who are in need of responsive foot control on stage, in the studio and during rehearsal. We’re looking forward to seeing more finely manufactured products from KMI. Perhaps it will make a mouth controller for the electric guitar?

The 12 Step and the KMI MIDI Expander are currently in stock and available at B&H.

Keys 12 Illuminated
Velocity Sensitivity  Yes
Tilt/Note Bend Yes
Aftertouch Yes
Notes per Key 5
Display 4-Character LED
Outputs 3.5mm Expression Pedal/Voltage Control
Connectivity USB
Compatiblity Windows, Mac OS X, iOS
Power Bus power from USB
Weight 1.0 lb (453 g)
Dimensions 17.5 x 4 x 0.75" (445 x 102 x 19mm)