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Thread: From MIDI to modular: a complete walkthrough of the 'Soundtrack Machine'

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    Darkness on the edge of Tone TwilightOdyssey's Avatar
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    Default From MIDI to modular: a complete walkthrough of the 'Soundtrack Machine'

    My new live setup for synths is a pretty ambitious one and combines several piece of old and new gear and technologies playing in concert to create a symphonic/synth/chiptune rig for live use. I thought it might be helpful to show how I am using this setup for those that might be trying to do something similar. Getting everything to be in sync is probably the #1 challenge when combining different ecosystems like this together without the use of a central laptop/tablet/computer.

    This will be done over the course of a few parts and will explain, in detail, what each part of the system does.

    DESIGN GOAL. The design goal for the Soundtrack Machine was to assemble a set of hardware systems that will allow one to merge various types of synthesis together: sample and percussion playback; ambient/generative sounds; subtractive, additive, and vector synthesis; orchestral/symphonic sounds; chiptune sounds. It needs to have a master clock feeding several sequencers simultaneously to allow multiple polyphonic and monophonic sequencers. And finally, it needs to be able to interface with external effects, have stereo capability, and have minimal connections to the sub mixer and Front of House.

    IMPLEMENTATION. This was done by designating a sequencer as the master clock and converting its clock output to analog for the modular gear. The clock and then synchronize several other sequencers. As it stands now, the Soundtrack Machine can handle 64 voices via MIDI and another 8 voices via CV (control voltage).

    THE SOUNDTRACK MACHINE PART 1: MASTER MIDI SEQUENCER AND CLOCK

    For the master sequencer and clock I ended up going with the Roland MC-500 from the mid 80s. Although not 'micro' by today's standards, as a stand alone sequencer it's exactly what I need. It works just like a multi track tape recorder, except for MIDI. It also sends and receives a bevvy of MIDI commands and (most importantly for me) MIDI clock. While it can only store MIDI data on four 'tracks', you can merge any amount of MIDI information onto them and bounce down just like you would on a multi track tape. Best of all, it retains the original MIDI track that you recorded on; why this is handy will be explained in the next part.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by TwilightOdyssey; 06-23-2019 at 03:41 PM.
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    Darkness on the edge of Tone TwilightOdyssey's Avatar
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    Default Re: From MIDI to modular: a complete walkthrough of the 'Soundtrack Machine'

    THE SOUNDTRACK MACHINE PART 2: MASTER CV SYNC CLOCK

    The MC-500 is using both MIDI outs; Out 1 is going to the JV-1080, Out 2 is going to the BeatStep Pro. The BeatStep Pro is set to MIDI sync and has analog Clock Out going to the modular synths. The MC-500 has to be set up to transmit MIDI clock out along with other MIDI data. The BeatStep Pro is only being used for MIDI to CV clock conversion in this configuration.

    I have a MIDI keyboard connected to the MIDI In on the MC-500; it can be used for either recording or will pass MIDI through to another sound module. However, since I am using all 16 channels on the MC-500, this is being used just for recording new parts into the MC-500.

    THE SOUNDTRACK MACHINE PART 3: ORCHESTRAL SOUNDS

    The setup starts getting interesting here because this is where the sound generation actually starts. I set up a Performance patch on the JV-1080 with a different orchestral sound on each MIDI channel. The MC-500 remembers what MIDI channel is being input when recording and plays back the part on the same MIDI channel. This enables you to build up a single track with multiple layers of different instruments.

    The orchestral samples I am using are from the JV-1080 expansion cards, Orchestra I and II. I have the following sounds and articulations set up:
    MIDI CHANNEL/INSTRUMENT
    1/ First Violins
    2/2nd Violins and Violas
    3/Arco Violins
    4/Marcato Violins
    5/Pizzicato Violins
    6/Celli
    7/Marcato Celli
    8/Bass
    9/French Horn
    10/Percussion*
    11/Horn Section
    12/Brass Section
    13/Big Brass Section
    14/Woodwind Section
    15/Choir
    16/Harp

    *All Roland synthesizers and drum machines default to MIDI channel 10. Many other manufacturers follow this standard as well.

    As you can see, this doesn't cover all of the possible articulations by a long shot. However, it does get the job done!

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by TwilightOdyssey; 06-28-2019 at 03:05 PM.
    Why don't you take your little Cobra Kais and get outta here?!
    My collaborative PROGRESSIVE ROCK PROJECT, As Follows.
    FACEBOOK page for As Follows.

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