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Audio Production

Enhance Your MIDI Workflow with Keyboard Mapping

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Keyboard players often need to play different voices or samples simultaneously during a performance. You might have to play a drum loop at one time, a mixture of strings and piano at another, and possibly have to fill in for a missing bass player. We keyboard players need to have some tricks up our sleeves!

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to map different instruments to different octaves/regions of your MIDI keyboard using Cubase. By using this trick you'll be able to play many patches/instruments during your performance without having to manually change settings or click buttons.


Step 1: Choose Your VSTs

Before we begin the mapping process, we must select the samples that we are going to use in the performance. I will be using Steinberg’s HALionOne, MODARRT’s Pianoteq, as well as Vember Audio’s Shortcircuit for my samples.

I will be mapping the strings from HALionOne to the notes C2 through B2, Pianoteq to the notes C3 through B3 and a few ambience effects to the notes C4 through B4 using Shortcircuit.

keyboard_map
Tip: To improve your workflow, put these tracks inside a folder track. Whenever you need to select a specific mapping, just mute or solo the required folder.

Step 2: About "MIDI Modifier"

The MIDI Modifier is the core function that we will be using to map the keyboard to different tracks for our performance. The settings that we change will affect the real-time playback of the tracks. We can access the MIDI Modifier tab either by selecting the tab on the Inspector, or by adding it as an Insert in the MIDI Insert tab. We'll use the MIDI Modifier tab for this tutorial.

In the MIDI Modifiers menu we are presented with the settings for Transpose, Velocity Shift, Velocity Compression, Length Compression, Random and Range. Let us see how these settings can help us enhance our live performances.

Midi_modifier_Transport

 

  • Transpose: As the name suggests, this parameter lets you transpose all the notes in the selected track to the specified value. Values range from -127 to +127, though most instruments won’t withstand that much transposition. We can also use this for changing the octave of the instrument that we are using.
  • Velocity Shift: This is similar to the volume fader—it lets you adjust the volume or the velocity of the notes. The number that you specify in this setting will be added to the velocity of the notes in the track. Negative values can be used to reduce the velocities of the notes.
  • Velocity Compression: This function is similar to the ratio settings that you would find in any standard compressor. The number on the left and right (numerator and denominator respectively) helps in forming the fractions that will be used to multiply the velocities of the notes on the track. This method can be combined with the Velocity Shift function to compress the velocity range.
  • Length Compression: This is used to adjust the lengths of the notes in the track. If you specify the numerator to be 3 and the denominator to be 4, the notes will be reduced to ¾ of the original note. This function can be used to make drastic changes to the lengths of the notes in the track.
  • Random: This function can be used to add different variations to the notes on the track, like Position, Pitch, Velocity and Length.
    • Position: This parameter changes the position of the entered MIDI notes, with values from -500 to +500.
    • Pitch: This parameter lets us randomize the pitch of the notes that are on the MIDI track. It supports values from -120 to +120.
    • Velocity: This parameter adjusts the randomization of the velocity of the notes on the track. This parameter is particularly useful when using drum VSTs—slight variations to the velocity will add more of a human feel to the drum. This supports values from -120 to +120.
    • Length: This parameter changes the length of the notes on the MIDI track. It supports values from -500 to +500.
  • Range: This parameter limits the range of the notes that are played on the track. It has four modes that we can change to suit our needs, namely Velocity Limit, Velocity Filter, Note Limit and Note Filter.
    • Velocity Limit: This setting is useful when you want the all the notes to be within the specified velocity range. This helps in setting a ceiling and a floor to the notes. The notes which fall below the minimum range will be automatically adjusted to play with the velocity specified in the Min Value. The notes which are above the maximum velocity range specified will be automatically adjusted to play at the velocity specified in the Max Value. The notes that are in between these ranges will not be affected. It supports values from 1 to 127.
    • Velocity Filter: This setting helps us to filter out the notes that are within the range specified. The notes which do not fall under this range are not played back. It supports values from 1 to 127.
    • Note Limit: This setting forces all the notes in the track to fall into the specified range. The notes that do not fit in the range are transposed to fit in the range. It supports notes from C-2 to G8.
    • Note Filter: The Note Filter setting allows us to segregate the notes in the track. The notes which fall outside the range are not played. It supports notes from C2 to G8.

Step 3: Map Your Tracks

We'll use the Note Filter setting to modify the MIDI input data, and map the different tracks to different octaves onto the keyboard. This is a very easy process once we’ve decided on the tracks and ranges.

Let’s start with the HalionOne track, which will be playing the strings on the lower octave. Switch on the Note Filter setting of the HALionOne track and enter C2 as the minimum value and B2 as the maximum value.

Now move on to the Pianoteq track, and set the Note Filter values to C3 and B3. Finally, go on to the final track and set the Note Filter ranges to C4 and B4.

Tip: Make sure that you’ve turned on the Monitor for these tracks, so you can hear what you're playing.

Conclusion

This technique will enhance your MIDI performances, making it easier to play a diversity of samples when playing live. As you perform, you'll be able to play many tracks simultaneously, without having to waste time searching though channels, or changing instruments or VSTs.

With efficient workflow, we progress towards effectual performance.

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