Narrator(read this as if Morgan Freeman was talking): The saga continues with Brian donning his mad scientist lab coat and that crazed look in his eye. All the wiring and routing has affected him negatively. Between finding a signal path that will accommodate his sonic needs and making an organized and aesthetically pleasing array of cabling to cater to his OCD, Brian is slowly deteriorating into madness, or as he would say, “I can’t brain, I has the dumb!”
With part two, we left off discussing the audio and MIDI routing plan. I would like to go more in depth on the MIDI side of things by talking about the iPad and the apps I will be using to drive the Volcas.
I had started work on this blog entry as I began to piece together my plan for which app I was using. I originally had the idea to use Gadget, thinking it could send MIDI note messages to the Volcas. In thinking so, I had posted a part 2.5, talking about how I built up a nice little sequence in Gadget so that I could use Gadget to talk to the Volcas and even have the audio of the iPad mixed in to beef up the sounds. To that end, I made an erroneous statement, claiming that Gadget COULD send MIDI note messages, when in fact, it cannot. I also underestimated the power of the Volcas in that I had only been using the on board speakers at this point.
After realizing that Gadget would not be a suitable choice, I did some more thinking about the apps I already have and which one would be qualified to prevent me from eating my own words. Save Fugue Machine, I had no apps that could transmit MIDI note messages. I had been resisting buying any new apps lately, because I barely have any room on my iPad for more apps and I wasn’t sure if I’d use something like Modstep, but I finally broke down and bought Modstep, because it could do everything I’d need it to do for the Volcas, and then some.
I spent a couple of hours hooking up the Volcas in a very basic set up. Downloaded Modstep, and began reading the manual(yes, I’m one of THOSE guys that reads the manual…no, you cannot have my man card, because I still know how to rock out and I ride a motorcycle). Once I got a basic understanding of everything and, thanks to Jakob Haq’s(seriously, this guy is super cool!) tutorials via the Modstep YouTube channel, I had a firm enough grasp on the concept of how to use Modstep. I had also spent some time with the Gadget manual, not only to learn that I’m an idiot, but to also figure out that you can export MIDI files to Dropbox. So between those two manuals, I was able to export my sequences from Gadget via MIDI and import those MIDI files to Modstep via Audioshare.
Now the moment of truth! I have everything hooked up, the MIDI splitter box was on and ready, I hit play in Modstep and………wait for it…….nothing. Sure, the file was playing, the Volcas were on. I had gone through each Volca and set each one to it’s own MIDIchannel. I made sure that Modstep was transmitting to the respective channels. So why am I not hearing sweet analog and digital noise?
As I claimed previously, I am not an expert by any means, so I turned to the one place that I knew would help me out, the iPad Musicians page on Facebook. Ultimately, The problem came down to a faulty MIDI cable that connected the iPad to the MIDI Splitter box. I fiddled with it a bit and finally, sound! It’s ALIIIIIIIVE…BWAAAAHAHAHAHAHA! Modstep played the parts perfectly and I sat and tweaked the Volcas until they were working together sonically.
Here is a link to the demonstration of the Volcas playing nicely with Modstep. This video was a direct out from the mixer with no effects and no processing to the audio.
Test one, complete. Now, it’s time for me to get more in depth with Modstep and learn about automation and using the X/Y controls for all the CC messages. Also, I want to see if Modstep can manage on board audio and sync up with the Volcas with minimal latency. That’ll be a blog post and video unto itself.
The moral of today’s story is, make sure you do your research before making a statement that will backfire on you; always expect something to go wrong when trying a new experiment; and do not be afraid to ask for help, because even if you do have extensive knowledge on a topic, there is always someone out there who knows more than you do, or at least, knows something you don’t. I want to say thank you to Benjamin Weiss from Modstep for stepping up to make some suggestions and point me towards their support service. He also gave me some great pointers on how to get the most out of Modstep. Thanks Benjamin! Also, I want to thank Jason Donnelly for helping me figure out possible solutions for my problems AND hooking me up with my own blog. He’s been a great source of encouragement for me. Thanks Jason!
On part four of this series, I’ll touch base again with Modstep and talk about it’s various features and how I plan to implement them with this rig. If you would like to check out Modstep or Gadget, by Korg, you can purchase them here:
Thanks for reading and happy apping!