CME Xkey Tip: Latching Sustain for Drones and Arps

I use my Xkey 25 Air pretty much every day in the studio. No matter what state my studio wiring is in, I can just turn this bad boy on and I’ve got velocity, pressure, mod wheel, pitch bend and octave shifts at my fingertips.

Because it’s so compact with no knobs to snap off – I also throw it in my pack for experimental ensemble sessions and performance where I don’t want to bring a lot of gear. In these situations I don’t want to have use a finger to hold the sustain button for drones and/or holding notes for synths that don’t support arp latch (U-He synths for example).

The good news is you can configure the button to toggle the sustain pedal on and off. Open the Xkey editor then:

xkey-sustain-switch

  1. Press “Read Selected from Xkey” button in the interface to load the current settings of the Xkey into the editor.
  2. Click the sustain button in the editor’s interface
  3. Change mode from “Push” to “Switch”
  4. Make sure the CC Number is set to “CC64: Hold Pedal On/Off”
  5. Press the “Save modified to Xkey” to save changes back to Xkey

That’s it! Now when you press the sustain button, it will toggle on as if you were holding the button down (or your foot on a sustain pedal). Press it again, and the sustain releases.

Drone on!

Mark Mosher
Sound Designer and Teacher of Synth Tech & Technique
http://ModulateThis.com

Madrona Labs Soundplane West Coast Demo Tour Starts Tomorrow

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After already presenting Soundplan at Expo '74 in NY, Madrona Labs has set off on the west coast leg of their tour. I pulled this schedule from the news section of their web site.

Robotspeak, San Francisco, Saturday Nov 5, 4pm
CNMAT, U C Berkeley, Monday Nov 7, 2pm
UCSB, Media Arts and Technology Seminar, Tue Nov 8, 5:30 pm
CalArts, Thur Nov 10, 6:30pm

All of these events are free and open to the public. Come play with a Soundplane, and ask questions about anything from capacitive sensing to CNC machining to software! I look forward to meeting you.

They are posting photos on their home page and tweeting as they go. If you are not familiar with Soundplane  I’ve included a video and description below.

The Soundplane A is a computer music controller with the sensitivity and feel of an acoustic instrument. It detects a wide range of touches on its walnut playing surface, from a light tickle to a very firm press. The Soundplane A can be configured as either a 150-note keyboard with position and pressure sensing on each key, or as one continuous surface.

The playing surface is a material custom developed for us, an articulated sheet of walnut veneer bonded to a fiber backing for strength. The case is milled out of alder, a sustainably harvested Northwest hardwood. We have sourced all of the construction locally and test and assemble Soundplanes by hand here in Seattle. The entire instrument is about 28 inches wide by 8 inches deep by 1 inch thick.

Included with the Soundplane is Aalto for Soundplane, a custom, signal-driven version of our patchable software synthesizer. The Soundplane client software can send MIDI and OSC messages to control other software and hardware.

Mark Mosher
Electronic/Experimental Music Artist, Boulder, CO
Synthesist | Composer | Keyboardist | Performer

Synth Geek Blog: https://modulatethis.com/
Artist Site: www.MarkMosherMusic.com

Korg microKEY Hands-On Review

I received a Korg microKEY USB powered as a gift over the holidays – woot! Here is a hands-on review.

Size
It’s bigger than I expected. Here are some shots giving you some perspective. Here it is when compared to an Akai LP2K25.

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Here it is compared to my Novation Remote SL 25.

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And finally, a shot of it in my laptop back pack.

So as you can see it’s not quite as backpack ready as some of the competition, but it is quite portable considering the number of keys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mini Keys
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It has the the same synth action 37-key velocity sensitive keyboard as the MicroKorg XL. I like the action quite a bit. Korg says “The proportions of the black keys and white "waterfall" keys have been adjusted for optimal playability, and the key touch makes it easy to play chords, glissandos, and rapid-fire phrases.” – I agree. Unlike the Akai, the white “waterfall” keys on the Korg go down to the case so they are less likely to get snagged when sliding in and out of a gig bag.

Modulation & Pitch Wheels
Besides feel, the mod and pitch wheels are the reason I wanted this controller. I love to do “couch potato” sound design and have been frustrated that all the small controllers don’t have a mod wheel. Well the microKEY addresses this nicely.

Octave Buttons
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You can transpose using the octave buttons. The buttons change color with each press giving you instant visual feedback on the setting.

  • Green = 1 Octave
  • Orange = 2 Octaves
  • Red = Three Octaves
  • Blinking Red = 4 Octaves

USB Hub

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There are two USB ports on the side allowing you to use the keyboard as a HUB. This is a pretty nice idea if you wanted to quickly hook up other nano controllers (or any USB device) without having to bring along another hub. Nice touch Korg!

Editor
As with other Korg controllers, you can use the KORG KONTROL Editor to set velocity curves and and mod wheel range.

Price
At $99, I think the microKey is a great value when you consider it's also a USB hub.

Final Thoughts
The microKey is the best feeling Mini-key keyboard I’ve played to date – much better than the button feel of the original NanoKey or the spongy action of the Akai.

The microKEY seems is a good choice for players and sound designers on the go who want a nice velocity sensitive synth feel with pitch and mod wheels but don’t necessarily need the unit to fit all the way into the pack.

The microKEY is now my controller of choice for “couch potato” sound design work with VSTs!

Link
Official Product Page – http://www.korg.com/Product.aspx?pd=579

Mark Mosher
Electronic Music Artist, Boulder, CO
www.ModulateThis.com
patchlab.modulatethis.com
www.MarkMosherMusic.com

At $99, I think the microKey is a great value when you consider it's also a USB hub.P

Overview and Time-Lapse Video of My Ableton Live Laptop Music Rig + Controllers

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Over the years I’ve played hundreds of shows as a keyboardist using my trusty Apex column with various hardware synths.  In late 2009 I had a vision to create a new Ableton Live laptop-centric rig using only virtual synths running in Live.

While I wanted to play some keys, I was really excited to add alternative visual, tangible, and spatial controllers and selected Percussa AudioCubes, Tenori-On, a Novation Launchpad. I went with my trusty Remote SL 25 for keys as it also doubles as a controller for Live. In the 11th hour I added a Moog Ehterwave Theremin which was clearly necessary to play “They Walk Among Us” live :^).

I’ve played enough shows to know that you can’t always count on basic lighting and P.A. to be adequate, so I added these elements to my requirements as well – just in case. My goal was to be able to run a room of 80 people if needed with just my rig. My other goal was 4 trips from the car load-in max with a 15 minute setup time or less.

The sketch above shows all this on paper (click the image to see a larger view). After months of slowly building up gear, the reality – sans lighting – is shown in the fun little time-laps video embedded video below.

Here is a list of what's in the rig:

  • Laptop: Windows 7 32-bit, HP DV6t-1200 Pavilion w/Core2 Duo P8700 @ 2.53 GHZ, 3G memory, 7200 RPM Drive (Update I now use an HP Envy 14 I5)
  • Soundcard: Novation NIO 2|4
  • DAW Software: Ableton Live 8 Suite
  • Primary Controllers: Novation Remote SL 25 (updated to MKII), Launchpad | Tenori-On | Percussa AudioCubes
  • Primary Virtual Synthesizers: Tone2 Gladiator 2| Native Instruments Absynth 5 | Camel Audio Alchemy | U-He Zebra 2, ACE | Ableton Sampler, Operator… | SonicCharge Synplant | Lennar Digital Sylenth1 | reFX Vanguard, Slayer2 | Image-Line Harmless, Toxic Biohazard | Cakewalk Dimension Pro | FAW Circle | DCAM: Synth Squad…
  • Hardware Synthesizers: Moog Etherwave Theremin, Waldorf Blofeld (not pictured)
  • PA: Bose L1 Compact
  • Stand: Odyssey ATT2 Table, Odyssey L2 Laptop Stand

Links to lots of the software I use here:
http://markmoshermusic.com/links.html

Mark Mosher
Electronic Musician, Boulder, CO
http://www.modulatethis.com
http://MarkMosherMusic.com