Surge: an excellent, free, open-source, MPE synth

(and soon to be the official LinnStrument synth)

Surge is my new favorite synt. Unless I need samples. it's my new go-to synth. Why?

* Extremely versatile, enabling highly complex and beautiful sounds
* MPE compatible
* FREE and open source
* Runs on Mac, Windows and Linux
* 2 "scenes" (voice partials), each containing 3 oscillators and 2 multi-mode filters
* Highly versatile oscillators: classic, wavetable, FM,  a unique variant of wavetable called "window", Karplus Strong string synthesis, additive, and more, all with a wide variety of ways to modulate the timbre, ideal for LinnStrument's Y-axis control.
* Just about everything can be modulated by just about everything, and in a simple and intuitive way.
* Lots of effects: delay, reverb, chorus, distortion, rotary speaker, EQ, compressor/limiter/expander, frequency shifter, vocoder
* The Distortion effect has pre- and post-EQ, good for guitar amp simulation.
* The manual is easily accessible from the panel's "menu" button. Why doesn't everyone do this?

Surge is maintained by a group of talented coders, but was originally created by Claes Johansen, the principal creator of Bitwig Studio and one of my favorite music software creators. So the fundamental architecture is well-designed and extremely capable.

You can download Surge from here: It includes plug-in version for all popular format, as well as a standalone app called "Surge XT". I recommend starting with the standalone app.

To start using Surge with LinnStrument:

1) Set your LinnStrument for MPE play: In Per-Split Settings > MIDI Mode column, hold "ChPerNote" for 1 second to change all needed settings for MPE play.

2) Start up Surge, either from the standalone app or as a plug-in. Then turn on the MPE button in the top middle of the Surge panel.

3) Surge permits "skins", which change the look of the panel. I'm not so fond of the default skin, so I recommend changing the "Roger Surge XT" skin shown above. To do this, click the MENU button in the lower-left corer of the Surge panel, then select "Skin Library...". Then download the "Royal Surge XT" skin. Now click the MENU button again and select "Skins", then select the new "Royal Surge XT" skin.

To play some sounds:

Now that you've turn on the MPE button, all of Surge's built-in sounds (in the Patch Browser) will be MPE compatible, permitting polyphonic pitch slides and vibrato. However, these sounds are optimized for conventional MIDI piano keyboards, so there won't be response to pressure or Y-axis. That said, some of them do respond to Mod Wheel (CC1), so you can change LinnStrument's Timbre/Y setting to "CC1", then -axis movements will control the Mod Wheel (CC1) assignments in these sounds.

For sounds that are better optimized for MPE, the Patch Browser includes a small library I created called "Roger Linn (MPE)". Here's a video in which I demostrate those sounds:

There's also a patch folder called "MPE" but there are few sounds and I don't think they're very good.

For even better MPE sounds optimized for LinnStrument, I and some LinnStrument owners are creating a new and large collection of LinnStrument-optimized MPE sounds for Surge. So far it has tweaked versions of the above "Roger Linn (MPE)" sounds, as well as some new ones. It's a work in progress, but you can download the current state of this library, a folder called "LinnStrument MPE [date]" by clicking here and unzipping the download.

To install these sounds, click Surge's MENU button and select Data Folders > Open User Data Folder...". In the file browser window that opens, l;ocate the Patches folder and place the "LinnStrument MPE" folder inside this Patches folder. Then quit Surge and restart it. In the Patch Browser's "User Patches" section, you'll now see a new folder of sounds called "LinnStrument MPE".

Keep checking back here and I'll be updating the downloaded sounds periodically. Once the library is sufficiently large and versatile, it will become the official and primary recommended synth for LinnStrument.

Can you help create LinnStrument sounds for surge?

If you have a LinnStrument and are skilled at creating synth sounds, I could use your help creating new sounds for our Surge library. If so, please make sounds intended to be played by LinnStrument in MPE mode. (In Per-Split Settings, MIDI Mode column, hold ChPerNote to set all relevant settings for MPE play). The intent is that new LinnStrument players can set their LinnStruments for MPE play then simply step through our library of LinnStrument-optimized sounds for Surge and find to be high quality and useful.

If you're new to creating LinnStrument sounds, click the link at left "Creating Sounds" for some helpful tips.

When you have some good sounds, please email them to me at When saving them, be sure to include your name in the "Author" field. Thanks!