Here’s how the Sensel Morph’s custom touch control works

The Sensel Morph’s specialized touch control lets you apply both multi-touch position and force (how hard you press). Some new and recent videos make it clear how to customize that for your different tools.

The Morph isn’t alone in the force + multi-touch position game. The growth of MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) depends on multiple controllers. But the Morph tool is uniquely adaptable, thanks to specialized overlays that let it adopt different layouts. So, as I’ve written before, you can swap between a musical control setup for a live show (say, with the Buchla Thunder overlay), and a different overlay for video editing (and fire up Premiere or Final Cut), and so on.

Peter Nyboer from Sensel is a perfect person to explain all this. Now we get to see his full presentation from Perfect Circuit in LA, right in the comfort of our own home. (The magic of the Internet – behold! It’s like we can be everywhere at once, instantly! Or something.)

Here’s his full talk on the overlays and how the customization software works – that last one being a big point, I know:

If you’re looking for a standalone control device, this isn’t it – it’s really more about being lightweight. But I do find the nice thing about the Morph is that it’s small enough you can put it in your backpack and forget about it – even more so than the iPad, and with greater accuracy and force sensing that the iPad lacks.

Sensel have also been busy with additional tutorials on how to work with the Morph. Bitwig Studio gets interesting because of its native MPE support – and there are custom control surface scripts there. (Bitwig seems well-suited to just this sort of tinkerer application.)

You don’t even need to buy a Bitwig Studio license to get started – there’s an included Studio 8-Track license included with the Morph.

It’s really the Buchla overlay that puts things over the top for me. Buchla himself had it right – this diagonal layout just ideally fits under the hand, especially for something performative.

And yeah, here’s the Buchla looking right at home with a modular setup – just as this controller was intended:

Here’s more on how the Morph works with MPE:

Find more at the Sensel Morph product page:

The post Here’s how the Sensel Morph’s custom touch control works appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Buchla’s pioneering Thunder touch controller is back, on Sensel Morph

Software and hardware are finally becoming more responsive to expression from more than one finger at a time, via MPE. But how do you get those sounds under your hands? Sensel Morph is one answer. And now it has an appealing layout from one of the people who shaped synthesis – Don Buchla.

Human hands are pretty incredibly sensitive, capable ways of interacting with the world. And your brain – even untrained – has enormous capacity to imagine sound. So why is it that we’re still limited to simple grids of buttons and organ keyboards? (Nothing against those things, of course, they’re fine – but is that all there is?)

The answer to this has always boiled down to some chicken and egg arguments. You don’t have the hardware to control sounds. You don’t have software capable of making sounds for which you’d want more control. There isn’t a standard way of connecting the two. Even if there were, there wouldn’t be enough adoption.

And so the argument continued, in circles. And it was actally true – for a while. But now, software instruments from Sculpture in Apple’s Logic to the Moog and PPG apps on iPad to Softube and Cherry Audio software modulars have MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) support, which allows for more control information between your controller and your sounds. Hardware like Black Corporation Deckard’s Dream and various Eurorack modules do, too, so you can really get your Vangelis fantasies on. And sounds like physical modeling or granular synthesis or even just rich polyphonic patches suddenly make sense when you can intuitively connect all that finger sensitivity to electronic instruments.

That just leaves the missing link – finding a hardware interface you like. ROLI are big advocates, yes, as are some smaller boutique makers. But what if you don’t like those options? (Musicians certainly don’t agree about … anything.)

Sensel’s Morph is a compelling new option now for several reasons. It’s an affordable computer accessory. And while the sensor is a flat rectangle – looking a lot like a mousepad – you can swap overlays to give it different functions. (Joué have taken essentially the same approach.) Sensel in particular have unparalleled support for different third party use cases. There are overlays for various apps – from music production to video editing – so you don’t have to buy this just for the novelty of doing weird things with synths. (Yeah, the fact that you just change overlays and get some edits done in Premiere makes this a lot easier to justify as a purchase and as another thing taking up space on your desk.)

Okay, that handles a lot of rational reasons to consider this device. But to really feel passionate about something as an instrument, you actually need one layout that you stick with, and it has to resonate emotionally.

So here’s the interesting development. Sensel have partnered with Buchla U.S.A. to recreate a classic instrumental interface that might have just been a bit ahead of its time.

Don Buchla conceived the Thunder in 1989. The layout makes loads of sense — diagonal strips give you continuous control, but with guides that match a resting hand position and put controls where your hands would go. It’s a layout that looks like something out of Star Trek – and, well, it also proved to be mostly speculative, because few were made and there wasn’t at the time as much for it to control.

Now times have changed – both hardware and software are far more powerful, meaning they’re capable of generating the sort of real-time nuance that demands this sort of control. And apart from that, whereas for years Buchla’s designs languished because they seemed foreign, now more and more people seem to be ready to make weird and complex sounds.

It seems like the Thunder is poised for a comeback, that is. The Thunder overlay, combined with the Morph sensor, gives you 27 different continuously-sensitive note areas. That’s already useful for conventional MIDI, but with MPE you get independent values for velocity (how hard you initially hit it), how hard you’re pressing down at any given moment, and how quickly you release. You can bend notes by subtly shifting your fingers sideways, or map timbral parameters to position.

Buchla’s 1989 hardware. There have also been touch version for modular.

A pre–production prototype of the new overlay – final production run looks better, Sensel tells us. Courtesy the manufacturer, for CDM.

It’s also encouraging that Sensel involved Buchla designer/engineer Joel Davel. Joel has unparalleled bona fides on both the engineering and artistic side, having made circuits for Don from 1995 onward, and working as a composer and instrumentalist with ongoing collaborations with Amy X Neuburg and Paul Dresher. The recent history of electronic music is defined by nothing if not the spread of once-esoteric ideas from limited elite contexts to wider groups of curious minds. So even though this may be a piece of rubber you slap on a rectangle on your desk, it also represents the potential of some of those ideas getting in the hands of new people.

And you can do all of this for US$269 – preorders now, shipping in April. (If you’ve already got Sensel, the overlay alone will cost you US$59 – so that overlay scheme is definitely less costly than buying new hardware every time you want to do something a little different.)

Anything that has a USB port will work with this – so computer software is the natural companion, though if you have a USB host device that outputs control voltage, you can also hook it up to a modular. If you want to see it in action and you’re in Anaheim, Sensel are demoing the hardware and overlay at NAMM this year.

So sure, this won’t be for everyone. And yeah, it still looks like you’ve invested in a Klingon gamepad. But for the cost of a plug-in, you can now use this – and add some productivity on the side as you mix or edit in other applications.

I should have one to test. I’ve worked with the Morph – the sensing and physical experience are great – so now I’m just waiting to see what it’s like using this as an instrument. And I look forward to doing some practicing.

Announcing the Buchla Thunder Overlay [Sensel Blog]

The post Buchla’s pioneering Thunder touch controller is back, on Sensel Morph appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Thonk Prok Drums – Morphing Schlagzeugsounds

thonk prok-drum-modulethonk prok-drum-module

Nicht analog, sondern virtuell sind sie, die Drum-Modul-Serie namens Prok Drums. Vier Module sind es insgesamt mit gleichem Aussehen, aber unterschiedlicher Arbeitsweise.

Bassdrum, Snare, Hi-Hats und Handclap sind die Namen in Kurzschreibweise (BD, SN, HH und CP). Mittels zweier CV-Eingänge verändern sie ihren Klang und bleiben dabei kompakt und klein. Die vier LEDs zeigen an, welche „Ecke“ des 2D-Feldes gerade durch die Steuerspannung anliegt. Denn man hat nicht so konkrete Parameter wie Decay-Zeit oder Noise-Teppich-Lautstärke, sondern eine fließende Bewegung, welche die Steuerung einfacher macht und auf wenige Steuerparameter und Steuereingänge reduzieren lässt. Das ist mit „Morphing“ gemeint, denn natürlich schalten die Sounds nicht hart um, sondern gleiten sanft von einem in den nächsten Zustand.


Die Bassdrum wird per klassischer subtraktiver Methode erzeugt, kann aber auch verzerrt und überladen werden, um härtere Stile abzudecken. Das Modul kann auch den Sound der TR-808 und 909 nachbauen. Bis zu vier Bassdrums können übereinandergelegt werden. Damit sind bis zu vier Oszillatoren im Spiel. Auch zwei Waveshaper sind im Einsatz.


Klarer und präziser als der Sound der TRs ist die Snare (SN) ausgelegt. Ein Shifter für den Rauschanteil und zwei Oszillatoren verhelfen dazu, was ebenso wie die Bassdrum mehr ist, als man gemeinhin für Drum-Synthese bereitstellt. Eine Art Bitcrusher ist ebenfalls an Bord, der aber auch spezieller an die Idee „Snare“ angepasst ist. Die Noise-Shifter-Idee kennt man vom SID, aber auch von der TR909.


Die Hi-Hats werden aus 6 Oszillatoren herausgequetscht, denen auch noch ein Rauschgenerator hinzugestellt wurde. Dazu gibt es diverse Filter und Hüllkurven für die einzelnen Töne. Damit ist das Modul sogar zu Akkorden und anderen kleinen Nebeneffekten fähig.


Die Handclap wird aus drei verschiedenen Rauschtypen gemacht. Wie bei allen anderen Modulen gibt es auch Elemente des legendären C64-Soundchips SID. Eine Art „Hall“ ist genauso zu finden wie Filterung.

Jedes Modul kostet 87,85 Euro und kann bei und über Thonks Shop gekauft werden.



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