In this two part tutorial we will dive deep into how many parameters we can control using just Breath control.
When we blow into a wind controller (ANY wind controller) The breath pressure is converted to a continuous stream of MIDI data in the range of 0 - 127. 0 means we are not blowing at all, 127 means we are blowing pretty hard - hard enough to max out the sensor. When we buy a wind controller, this is really what we are buying - a way to use our breath (and horn fingerings) to control the sound coming from some sound source, either a synth or sampler, or some combination thereof.
Let's run down what we can control 'out of the box' with the various Reason devices. We'll examine the parameters directly accessible via BC from the front panel:
Subtractor: Filter 1 Frequency, LFO 1, Amp, FM
NN-19: Filter Frequency, LFO, Amp
NN-XT: Filter Frequency, Mod Decay, LFO1 Amt, Filter Resonance, Level, LFO1 Rate.
Thor: Anything (via Mod Routing)
This is not a bad list at all, and you can, in fact, make tons of great patches with just the front panel controls, except for Malstrom, which has no BC front panel controls.
But what if... you want breath to control Subtractor's noise oscillator, or the filter resonance on NN-19, or anything on Malstrom? Or even control parameters on a Scream 4 distortion?
Let's dive in.
Technique Number 1: Combinator to the Rescue
If you create a combinator and put a device into it, you can use the Combinator Programmer to control any parameter on that device. In this example we'll work with Malstrom, because presumably, you can't use BC (Breath Control) with it.
This is a Combinator with a Malstrom in it, and nothing is set up in the Modulation Routing section. Did you know that Breath is a valid Source in the Modulation Routing section?
Reason 5 Combi Source Parameters
Here are the parameters I have available in Reason 5. I'll just select Breath and route it to what I want, in this case the Master Level on Malstrom, but it could be any parameter on any device.
Voila! Instant Breath control over the output volume. I can even scale this so that the volume change isn't so drastic. I'll set it to 64-100. Now when Reason receives my Breath data in the range of 0-127, it will be linearly mapped to 64-100.
The really sweet thing about using the combinator this way is that I can swap out the Malstrom patch and the Combinator routing holds - so any Malstrom patch I load into this thing will automagically be breath enabled.
The other great thing about this technique is that mapped knobs and controls actually move when you blow. This gives you a visual indication as to how you are controlling the sound.
Tips and Tricks
As I mentioned above, you can load any Malstrom patch into the Malstrom in the Combinator you just created and will instantly gain some degree of breath control. Check out the Malstrom patches in the Reason Factory Sound Bank. Or, you can get tons of Malstrom patches in the free refills section of Propellerheads web site.
I highly recommend 'eXode - Massive Synthesis ReFill', which contains all of the other eXode ReFills on the page, plus some previously released commercial ReFills. If you scroll way down the page you will find '1001 Malstrom Refill' which is just what it says. It's a little more electic, but there are some useful patches if you dig around.
In part two we will convert Breath data to CV and see what we can do with that.