Creating Sounds for LinnStrument

By default, LinnStrument is set up to send over a single MIDI channel (channel 1) with the following settings that are most compatible with conventional one channel non-MPE synths:

In Per-Split Settings:
MIDI Mode = One Channel (See "Smart MIDI" at left for more about One Channel mode.)
Bend Range = +/- 2 semitones
Timbre/Y = CC74 (The standard MPE message for Y-axis control.)
Loudness/Z = Poly Pressure (Provides polyphonic finger pressure over a single MIDI channel, if your synth respond to it.)

These settings allow LinnStrument to work with the preset sounds of common one-channel non-MPE synthesizers, which are usually optimized for the on/off switches of standard MIDI piano keyboards. (See "What is MPE?" at left.) So while the above settings and conventional sounds will provide immediate gratification, you'll notice some limitations:

1) Left/Right pitch slides are limited to 2 semitones (sliding 2 note pads left or right)

Convention keyboard sounds usually have a Pitch Bend Range of 2 semitones, because they are expecting a keyboard's Pitch Wheel, which doesn't work very well for larger pitch bends. For longer pitch slides, increase the Pitch Bend Range of both your sound generator and LinnStrument. A Bend Range of 48 semitones is ideal because that's the MPE standard, but the Bend Range of many conventional synths only go up to 12 semitones, so use the highest value your synth will permit. For example, a Bend Range of 12 will permit pitch slides on LinnStrument of up to 12 note pads (semitones) left or right.

2) There is no response to finger pressure.

You'll need to assign your synth to respond to LinnStrument's finger pressure. This is different than a MIDI piano keyboard's Aftertouch, which is only sent after the key is fully depressed and therefore only useful for adding a modulation effect to a note that is already playing. By comparison, LinnStrument's senses pressure continuously from the lightest to heaviest touch and therefore can be used to control the entire volume of a note, as in a wind or bowed-string instrument. By default, LinnStrument sends pressure data using MIDI Polyphonic Pressure messages, because that will permit polyphonic pressure control. However, if your synth doesn't respond to Poly Pressure messages, you can Channel Pressure or any Control Change message.

If you wish to use finger pressure to control note volume, use a modulation destination like volume or filter frequency. If using filter frequency, setting the unmodulated frequency to below the note pitch will allow the filter to be used to control both brightness and amplitude in a natural way.

3) There is no response to forward/backward (Y-axis) finger movements.

To add Y-axis response, you'll need to assign your synth to respond to LinnStrument's Y-axis control, which is sent by default using Control Change 74 messages. (This is the standard MPE message for Y-axis control.)

Often people initially make the mistake of thinking that Y-axis should be used in the same way as Mod Wheel, adding a varying amount of LFO modulation as you tilt your finger forward. This is not a good idea because one of the main purposes of expressive controllers is to replace the venerable and unnatural LFO with performed gestures like vibrato (left/right finger movement) or tremolo (varying pressure). Instead, a better use of Y-axis is to provide a continuous change in timbre, analogous to bowing a violin at different string positions between the bridge and neck, or varying embouchure on a wind instrument. A good example of this in subtractive synthesis is to assign Y-axis to vary the pulse width of a pulse oscillator, thereby providing a continuous change in the fundamental harmonic content of the waveform in such a way that all tones produced are useful. In this way, timbral variation becomes a performance gesture.

4) There is no polyphonic pitch bend (left/right movement) or polyphonic Y-axis (forward/backward) control.

To add these, you'll need to use a sound generator that's compatible with the new MPE standard, with each of its voices receiving on a separate MIDI channel. (See "What is MPE?" at left.) And you'll need to to set LinnStrument into MPE mode:

In Per-Split Settings, MIDI Mode column, HOLD Channel Per Note for at least 1/2 second. Its light will turn light blue and it will automatically set the following Per-Split Settings to the standard messages for MPE synthesizers:

MIDI Mode = Channel Per Note
Bend Range = +/- 48 semitones
Timbre/Y = CC74
Loudness/Z = Channel Pressure

To see a list of MPE sound generators, click "Recommended Sounds" at left. The best MPE sounds for immediately gratification are listed on that page in the section "How to play sounds NOW that fully realize LinnStrument’s potential". Further down that page is a long list of MPE-compatible synths.