Using Midi Expression and Continuous Controllers

How to use Midi Expression and Continuous Controllers to add life to your mixes.

Automation


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Midi Controllers can be divided into two main types: those that are variable or continuous (like a knob) and those that are either on or off (like a switch). For example, a sustain pedal is simply a switch, so it can only be on or off, whereas pitch bend is described as a continuous controller (CC) because the actual position of the controller is transmitted.

In theory, midi could allow you to have up to 128 different controllers working at the same time. Controllers 122 and upwards are reserved for selecting the various midi modes (Local On/Off, All Notes Off, Omni Off, Omni On, Mono On and Poly On).

DAWs will invariably house controller lanes where specific midi controller messages can be input. The process of instigating a midi controller involves creating a controller lane in the key editor of the DAW, selecting what type of midi controller data needs to be instigated (common continuous controllers are volume cc 7, pan cc 10 , expression cc 11 etc) and then drawing in a value for the controller.

In the video I use Steinberg’s Cubase and run two midi sequences – one for a bass line and the other for a drum beat. I create a controller lane and assign it to control the velocity of each note played in the sequence. I then use note expression to instigate controller changes to parts within the sequence and in this instance I instigate tuning changes to parts of the bass line sequence. I show you how to draw in a pitch drop for the bass using note expression and expression maps I follow this with another example to instigate pan changes to parts of the bass line using note expression. I end by showing you how to use note expression to alter the filter cut-off on a single note within the bass sequence.

DAW used in this video:

Steinberg Cubase

Topics covered in this video are:

  • How to use Midi Expression
  • What are Continuous Controllers and how to use them
  • Setting Ranges
  • Working with Expression Nodes and Values
  • Mapping Continuous Controllers
  • Off/On Status
  • Switch Controllers
  • Drawing Expression