I apologize for the long delay between posts. I’ve been really busy with some personal obligations since my last post. I’m still in the middle of working on these obligations, but I finally have an update on things.
In our last installment, I went over the strengths of the Modstep app, and talked about my possible signal routing scenario. I went into how I planned to use the MIDI channels to allow Modstep to talk to the Volcas individually. One problem I was addressing was how to incorporate using the Sample without the need for a Retrokits MIDI cable. As you will further read, that’s not going to happen the way I thought.
Last night, I went into Mad Scientist mode and started to hook up all my Volcas. I had finally cleared out some boxes that we occupying needed studio space and set up things for shooting video. I spent some time hooking up each Volca to MIDI and testing out its connection. I had previously made a demo song in Korg Gadget, using similar instruments to represent each of their respective Volca instruments. After loading up the MIDI files into Modstep(more on that later), I ran the sequences to see if I was transimitting MIDI Note messages to the appropriate Volca.
Let’s back up a bit and I’ll fill you in on where I started. in order for this whole process to work, I needed a song. I haven’t spent enough time with Modstep yet to actually write sequence patterns, so I went to a more familiar platform by using Korg’s Gadget app. Seems like a good place to start, since I am using machines manufactured by Korg. I had to keep in mind that, I’m writing a song with only four or five machines to use, so keep it simple. In order to get an idea of the tones I will be working with in hardware format, I chose gadgets that best represent each of the Korg Volca line. For the Bass, I chose Chicago, the Beats, London(obviously), the FM, I chose Chiangmai(okay, so it’s not technically an FM synth, but since there isn’t an FM gadget, I chose Phase Modulation), and for the Keys, I chose Phoenix. I used sounds that I thought I could make on the hardware and didn’t process any of them with effects.
Once I programmed a sequence, I exported the MIDI files to Dropbox, downloaded them to Audioshare, then imported them into Modstep. It sounds like a lot of steps, and it probably is, but that’s how I learned to do this step. Once in Modstep, I opened up each channel and set the MIDI port and MIDI channel. I had used a strip of tape and labeled each of the Volcas with their assigned channel. This will make it easier to tell which is which once I build the cabinets to house the Volcas, I can remember what I did. I hooked up the FM, since it was the first pattern to run in the song. I played the sequence and as soon as I heard the FM make noise, I was happy. Next up, the Bass, same process. The Keys and beats…well, you know by now how this song goes.
My question of whether or not you can daisy-chain MIDI splitters and have them work was answered. The answer was yes. I figured it should work, because all you are doing is splitting the signal. It reminds me of plugging in power bar to get more power outlets, but with MIDI data. I had used ports 1through 3 for the Keys, Bass, and FM and the fourth port was used to plug in a second splitter, to which I’d connect the Beats, Sample, the Microbrute synth and the Korg Kaoss Pad. Once I had routed all the cables and everything worked, it was time to test.
Upon connecting the Sample, I experienced the issue that I was expecting to encounter. The Volca Sample operates differently than it’s brothers, in that it sends each sample slot to a separate MIDI Channel(1 through 10 to be exact). When I hit play, every note that was assigned to a different channel for the other Volcas, was also being triggered on the sample. It made the Sample go nuts! Now, I can’t be too certain, but I don’t think there is a way to reassign the channels to each sample. My other options are to reassign the other Volcas to channels 11 through 14, Not use the Sample, which is not an option I like, or break down and buy the Retrokits MIDI cable. This cable allows all the samples to trigger on just one MIDI channel. It does other things as well, but this is the task for which I’d be using it. For right now, I disconnected the Sample.
Now comes the big moment! I started up the song in Modstep. At first, I ran into a cacophonous mess. I then realized that I forgot to clear out the patterns, shut off arpeggiators, and turn off the motion sequences. Once all that was finished, sweet music!!! I had set the FM for a Xylophone sound, as I did in Gadget, made a couple of adjustments to the decay rate on the carrier operator, and I had the sound. It took me a bit to sort out the Bass’ timbre, because I needed to set the wave forms on the oscillators to a square wave instead of a saw, and set the cutoff frequency and envelopes to mimic the Chicago’s sound. Once I had everything dialed in and running right, it was amazing!
I then took the next step in mixing everything and running it into the Kaoss Pad. Because I was only using four of the five Volcas, I just used a single mini mixer and ran the output to the KP2. From there, I ran the output of the KP2 to my camera. in spite of a couple limitations, this all worked. Because I’m running all of the Volcas through the KP2, they will all be affected. I may have to rethink this strategy, as I only want certain Volcas affected by the KP2.
Well, there you have it. Hopefully, my next episode in the series will be the last, as I build some enclosures and hide all the cables.
Thanks for reading and happy apping!