The Zen Flute is a highly intuitive MIDI controller that is uses the position of ones tongue and jaw to control pitch, much like one would control the pitch during whistling but without the need to blow or purse ones lips. Mouth-shape is determined by a small speaker and microphone that acoustically map tongue and jaw position without effort by the user. By using mouth-shape to control pitch, extremely fast and precise pitch changes can be implemented using the familiar brain-pathways that we already used to sing or speak. In its simplest embodiment, the Zen Flute requires only a single button to control the start of a note, leaving the users other hand (an additional fingers) available for non-pitch control such as volume, timbre, harmonics and the like, using a small joystick.
While there are MIDI breath controllers, they are not used to control pitch, and devices like the talk-box ( à la Peter Frampton) require a separate instrument (for example a guitar fretboard) for pitch control. At the end of the day, most MIDI pitch control is by means of a keyboard, an interface which requires a significant skill and practice to master. In contrast, for the beginning user or for individuals who wish to extemporize freely but have not yet reached that level of proficiency with a conventional instrument, the Zen Flute provides a wholly novel control pathway of mouth-shape that can be learned in less than a few hours. The closest instrument to the Zen flute is probably the theremin, but a theremin requires large and often tiring arm movements that are difficult to master. The Zen Flute tries to minimize the distance between a performer and the music.