Playing a Roland synthesizer with a wind controller

Updated: Dec 17, 2020


Roland released a new wind synthesizer, Aerophone Pro several days ago. It has been appealing to many EWI players as it has Roland's superNATURAL and Zen-Core sound engines. Personally, however, the Aerophone series do not appeal to me as I don't like the plastic keys and I was disappointed with inaccurate lip bite sensor control when I had the Aerophone AE-10. (compared to Yamaha WX-5)

I know pros and cons of the Roland supernatural sound engines as I have Roland Integra-7. I also use Zenology-pro synthesizer on my PC and so I am familiar with Zen-Core sounds. Therefore, I am thinking that I may get the similar sound outcome(like Aereophone Pro) from Integra-7, VST instruments and EWI.


In the past I had tried to make the Intergra-7 Supernatural sound patches suitable for EWI but I have not made much success. I kind gave it up. But I recently found the very useful article on "Programming a Synth for Wind Control " from Windworks design website (http://windworksdesign.com)


This article gave me some insights on my work. Here are some guidance from the article.


First Step>

  1. Disable the tone’s sensitivity to velocity. The note-on message’s attack velocity component can affect initial volume, or any other parameter the synth’s architecture associates with velocity. It is near impossible to consistently attack successive notes with the same velocity using a wind controller, effectively making velocity-related effects unpredictable. The fix is to remove velocity dependence. Later, you can reapply velocity sensing to selectively control patch behaviors.

  2. Initially, set pitch, filter, and amplifier envelopes to zero. These time-variant elements determine how the tone “mutates” while it sounds. They are extremely useful for patches intended for the keyboard, but can have limited value for a wind controller. Like velocity sensitivity, you might later decide to apply an envelope to a tone to shape the tone at the same time it is being controlled by CC02.

  3. Assign CC02 to the tone’s level and set CC02’s effect to maximum.

  4. Set the sustain level of the tone’s amplifier envelope to maximum. This enables CC02 to produce the maximum possible volume as determined by other patch and/or wind controller settings.



Second Step>

  1. Connect the computer, MIDI interface, WC, and module, turn everything on.

  2. Run the editor software and set up the editor as needed to establish communication with the module.

  3. Using the editor, load all the patches from the user area of the module. Find an unused or unneeded patch and open it.

  4. Initialize the patch. This will load a waveform into the tone and reset most settings. You now have a basic keyboard

  5. Click the patch’s Patch Common section and assign Breath as system controllers 2 and 3.

  6. In the Patch Common section, set the “Key Assign” parameter to monophonic (MONO). If the patch is polyphonic, it may “pile on” new notes without turning off the old – definitely

  7. Turn off all but tone #1.

  8. In the tone’s Wave section, assign the desired waveform. This should be a “sustaining” waveform, i.e., a brass, wind, or bowed string instrument, or a continuous electronic wave (sine, square, triangle, etc.). Percussion waveforms (piano, drums, etc.) don’t work quite as well for wind control.

  9. As a starting point, set the tone’s “Gain” to “6dB.” When you complete a pass at creating the patch, you can raise or lower the level.

  10. Set the “Level” in the tone’s Amplifier section to zero. Note: A patch can contain multiple level settings with various labels. Some of these affect the complete tone or the whole patch. The “Level” setting you want is located in the Amplifier

  11. In the Amplifier section, set the sustain portion of the tone’s envelope to maximum. This will provide “breathing room” so that CC02 can raise the tone’s volume level.

  12. To eliminate dependence on attack velocity, check and set the sensitivity of all velocity controls in the Pitch, Filter, and Amplifier sections to zero.

  13. In the tone’s Controller section, assign CC02 to the tone’s “TVA Level” parameter, and set CC02’s control level to maximum. This allows CC02 to control volume.

  14. Save the patch. Play and re-tweak as needed.


More tips>

  • Activate the other tones in the patch, copy and paste the original tone into them, and create layers that use the same or different waveforms. A common trick is to assign a white or pink noise waveform to one tone, and dial in a small amount to serve as breath noise.

  • Set up tones to increase in volume at different rates, or for one tone’s volume to decrease as another tone’s volume increases (cross-fading).

  • Simulate attack transients. For example, if your module contains a string attack waveform, you can use assign it to a tone, and make the tone sensitive to attack velocity. When you tongue the note more strongly, the waveform sounds to simulate the chop of the bow.

  • Configure the tone’s filter (TVF) as a low-pass filter, and adjust filter cutoff to initially make the patch slightly “dull.” Then, tie CC02 to cutoff and adjust the degree of control. Breath pressure will increase brightness, simulating how some acoustic instruments brighten as they are played louder. You can also create “wah” effects, or tie breath to filter resonance.

  • Modify LFO rate, depth, or delay to vary with breath pressure. This provides vibrato that is more realistic than what occurs when a patch is assigned a static LFO rate and depth.

  • Vary effects parameters (e.g., reverb time) with breath pressure.

  • Use the new patch as a template to create new patches just by swapping waveforms.

  • Experiment, experiment, experiment.

From Programming a Synth for Wind Control http://www.windworksdesign.com/blog/programming-a-synth-for-wind-control-part-1-of-2/





Update #1

Here is a brief report that I have figured so far. I will do more experiments and update this page.


1) SuperNatural Acoustic tones : assigning MIDI CC #2(breath control) to expression (MIDI CC11) as well as to volume or tone level control (MIDI CC# 7) can achieve better outcome with EWI. Sending Aftertouch from EWI is essential for breath vibrato and tone change on the play.

- Cutoff ( midi cc 74), Resonance (midi cc 71) can be targeted by breath controller (midi cc 2)


2) SuperNatrual Synth tones : use DAW midi filter and map MIDI CC #2 to CUTOFF MIDI CC #74 , choose proper range of cutoff value (like 50-90 ;0 can make sounds too quite, 125 can make the tone too loud/too much distorted)

- volume ( midi cc 7), Resonance (midi cc 71) can be targeted by breath controller (midi cc 2)


3) PCM synth tones : MFX control, MTRX control can be set to make breath control MIDI CC # to level, filter and cutoff by choosing system contol scr 2, 3 to be set to control certain parameters such as level, cutoff, resonance, etc.


All cases - sending Aftertouch from EWI is vital for more expressive sounds. I also use the effect VSTs on my DAW to increase the volume and brightness of tones. Vibrato and growling effect can be also achieved by another VST effect plugins with MIDI binding.

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