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What's new in Ondes 1.1 : MIDI Output

November 19, 2014 4:44 PM

By far the most common feature request for Ondes has been MIDI out.  I have to say I was a bit resistant at first.... But you all convinced me to give it a go.  Here's a bit about MIDI, how Ondes tries to get around its limitations, and how you can most successfully use it with Ondes.  

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MIDI is a 30+ year old standard for communication between electronic instruments.  MIDI messages are simple commands like "Play note 60 (C) at velocity 100."  MIDI note values are always integers : 60 is middle C, 61 is the C# above that, etc.  There is no MIDI note 60.353. To play the in-between pitches that makes Ondes so special, we need to use MIDI "Pitch Bend" messages to bend the notes.  When you begin a note, Ondes sends a MIDI note message, followed by a pitch bend message to "detune" the note.  

That sounds simple enough, but there are a couple of potential pitfalls.  First off, different instruments interpret pitch bend differently.  One synth might think of pitch bend as being plus or minus 2 semitones, while another might see it as an octave.  So, the first important rule is that Ondes needs to know what pitch bend range the receiving synth is expecting.   If you move the note outside of the pitch bend range, it will simply stop bending at the maximum bend value.  Alternately, you can turn on legato mode to have Ondes send a new note and pitch bend message when the pitch bend range is maxxed out.  This is useful with modular synths or mono synths that have a legato mode where envelopes are not retriggered.  Experiment with your synth settings to see what works best for you. 

Another caveat is that pitch bend is sent to an entire MIDI channel.  What that means is that ALL notes on a MIDI channel are affected by pitch bend.  For example, if you hold down two notes on a keyboard and use the pitch bend wheel, they will both bend in the same direction by the same amount.  With Ondes, you can bend pitches arbitrarily in relationship to each other.  This brings us to out second important thing to know : a receiving synth can only play one note a time.  For the best results, put the receiving synth in MONO mode, if it has one.  Fortunately, we've made it easy to play polyphonically by configuring Ondes to send subsequent touches out to different MIDI ports and channels.  

MIDI out has been a really fun addition to Ondes, and we hope you enjoy using it.   Watch our quickstart video to see an example of using MIDI out with Ondes.