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View Full Version : What do you assign your MIDI knobs and faders to?


Arcana
11-02-2009, 07:24 AM
I'm going to sit here and ask a pretty newbie question here.

I had a MIDI controller with a whole bunch of knobs, buttons, and faders on it, as well as the keyboard and mod wheel.

I never, ever used the knobs, buttons, and faders.

As I can envision that knowing how to use knobs, buttons, and faders while remixing as a pretty important skill, I'm wondering what kinds of things you veteran remixers like to assign to your MIDI controller doodads.

As I'm not doing anything live I'm most interested in what you do in a studio setup, but feel free to post information about how you use those things in a live setting too if you'd like.

Thanks everyone.

Kanthos
11-02-2009, 01:14 PM
What you use your knobs, faders, and buttons for really depends on what your setup is. The most obvious use is to adjust or toggle something while playing, where it'd be impractical to move a hand to the mouse, click precisely on the control you want to adjust, and drag it to the right spot. Even for buttons, you don't want to be trying to click a button accurately as you play. Knobs and faders also give tactile feedback that you don't get from dragging a mouse: the motion of your hand when moving a fader up and down or rotating a knob is much more naturally associated with the change in sound you're causing.

So really, what you'd want to do is figure out which controls you find yourself adjusting (or wanting to adjust) most, and map those to your keyboard. Or, if there are many of them, do some quick MIDI Learning as you play each part of the song you're working on, and basically do your assignments on the fly.


As for what I use, I'm really the live type, but I'd use some of my controls if I was doing remixing work.

My Korg TR has four knobs that I use for volumes in Forte, the software I use for live performance. I use Aux buses there so that the organ sounds, piano sounds, lead sounds, and 'pad' sounds (really, anything that's not in the above categories: synth pads, orchestral, sound effects and so on) are on their own bus. I use the Korg TR knobs to control the volumes of those buses.

I also use a Korg nanoKEY to send CC messages live. Two map to Next Program and Previous Program in Forte, one toggles the rotor speed for NI's B4-II plugin (I don't have an available footswitch to do that), and three are converted to keystrokes by another program and are used to send PgUp, PgDn, and Ctrl+Tab keystrokes to my PDF viewer which has all my leadsheets loaded in different tabs, letting my laptop act as both a sound rack and a full-screen music reader. I'm also going to start playing around with Guitar Rig's looper in the near future, and I'll certainly use some of the keys on the nanoKey to control that.

Harmony
11-02-2009, 04:11 PM
For me, it completely depends on what I'm doing. That is, I don't have any painstakingly constructed master assignment scheme -- I assign everything on the fly.

If I'm tracking, I will usually assign the volume of the armed recording track to a fader. That way I can adjust the volume without the mic picking up the mouse clicking. I also do volume automation, even simple ones, by using the faders.

If I'm in dBlue Glitch, I have a standard setup where faders control amounts of a parameter, like modulation speed, or bit crusher amount. Knobs control filter/cutoff of each effect, and one knob controls the global Glitch mix so I can easily turn off the effect.

For other effects I usually just setup a single fader for automation, like setting one as a Wah amount.

For synths, I have two faders that I almost always use for cut/res, but my favorite thing to do is assign aftertouch or modulation to a pad. You get a different style of control over the effect than you could ever get with a knob/wheel/fader.

theshaggyfreak
11-02-2009, 05:45 PM
I understand where you're coming from. For a long time, I really found it difficult to get MIDI surface controls into my work flow. That changes when I got my Behringer BCF 2000 (http://www.zzounds.com/item--BEHBCF2000). Despite Behringer putting out a lot mediocre stuff, this is probably one of the best products they sell.

The biggest problem with a lot of the standard knobs/faders on most controllers is that you often have problems with value 'jumping' when said knob of fader doesn't match what's on the screen. With the BCF 2000, the faders are motorized and the knobs are encoders with lights all around them. So, most software has the ability to sync up with them really well.

With Pro Tools, I set my BCF 2000 to Baby HUI mode which lets me control all of the mixing faders and panning controls. It also gives me control of the transport, etc. It's kind of handy to have that sort of thing when mixing. I don't know about you but I sometimes find mixing with a mouse to be counter productive.

The BCF 2000 works really great with Reason since it automatically maps to whatever device you select. Click a device and all the encoders and faders move to the values of that particular device. The only difficult thing is remember what control does what since none of them are labeled on the BCF.

The MIDI keyboard I use is an Edirol PCR-M50 and I can honestly say that I never use any of the surface controls on it. I find it's more of a pain in the ass than using a mouse to control things due to things not always being in sync as it were. Some people have no problems dealing with it but I've always thought of it as a hassle. I think it's because I came from using hardware stuff before I ever touched synth stuff on a computer. I prefer things to be more hands on with instant gratification. I suppose that's why I'm slowly drifting to using more hardware synths.

Harmony
11-02-2009, 06:12 PM
The MIDI keyboard I use is an Edirol PCR-M50 and I can honestly say that I never use any of the surface controls on it. I find it's more of a pain in the ass than using a mouse to control things due to things not always being in sync as it were.My Axiom 61 has a "null" function that prevents parameter jumps and it works 90% of the time. The Edirol seems to be in the same class of controllers, but it doesn't have something similar?

theshaggyfreak
11-02-2009, 06:26 PM
My Axiom 61 has a "null" function that prevents parameter jumps and it works 90% of the time. The Edirol seems to be in the same class of controllers, but it doesn't have something similar?

It does but I still don't find it to work well enough to make me want to use them. There's just something about the feedback that you get from the BCF that makes it a lot more fun to use. I'm not sure I could go back to something that doesn't have motorized faders at least as far as surface controllers go.

Harmony
11-02-2009, 06:56 PM
It does but I still don't find it to work well enough to make me want to use them. There's just something about the feedback that you get from the BCF that makes it a lot more fun to use. I'm not sure I could go back to something that doesn't have motorized faders at least as far as surface controllers go.I actually looked at that controller since it's SOOOO cheap, but it would be a luxury item for me since I'm pretty comfortable with my current setup. What I'd be concerned with is how effectively you use the faders with more than 8 tracks? With your setup, what do you have to do to change which tracks each fader/rotary is assigned to?

theshaggyfreak
11-02-2009, 07:14 PM
I actually looked at that controller since it's SOOOO cheap, but it would be a luxury item for me since I'm pretty comfortable with my current setup. What I'd be concerned with is how effectively you use the faders with more than 8 tracks? With your setup, what do you have to do to change which tracks each fader/rotary is assigned to?

It's actually pretty easy. There's a couple buttons that let you page left and right. It lets you go over to the next group of channels if there's more than 8. Now that would only become a pain if I was mixing a project with like 64 tracks but that never happens for me.

Harmony
11-02-2009, 07:38 PM
It's actually pretty easy. There's a couple buttons that let you page left and right. It lets you go over to the next group of channels if there's more than 8. Now that would only become a pain if I was mixing a project with like 64 tracks but that never happens for me.Oh cool, I'm going to have to see if I can set something up like that when I get home. I average around 30 tracks for a full song so I've never bothered trying to setup up my 9 faders for levels.

On a sidenote, if SONAR would get it's ACT together (Active Controller Technology) then it would a snap. As it is, ACT never works as it should for me.

Arcana
11-02-2009, 08:26 PM
I understand where you're coming from. For a long time, I really found it difficult to get MIDI surface controls into my work flow. That changes when I got my Behringer BCF 2000 (http://www.zzounds.com/item--BEHBCF2000). Despite Behringer putting out a lot mediocre stuff, this is probably one of the best products they sell.

I remember looking at that about 4 years ago when I first started making music and wondering if it would be any good. I was also thinking about one of the nano-series Korg controllers because they're cheap and they're small. Desk space unfortunately is limited.

Right now, I don't do any live stuff so it would all be for doing studio work.

When you assign things on the fly, do you just go (as a general procedure) to the software while you're doing some track and use the "Learn MIDI assignment" function for whatever you think is cool to fiddle around with? Logic Pro 7 has that (as well as every other sequencing software I've used) but I just want to check that that's an efficient way to "do stuff" so to speak.

Harmony
11-02-2009, 09:38 PM
When you assign things on the fly, do you just go (as a general procedure) to the software while you're doing some track and use the "Learn MIDI assignment" function for whatever you think is cool to fiddle around with? Logic Pro 7 has that (as well as every other sequencing software I've used) but I just want to check that that's an efficient way to "do stuff" so to speak.That's essentially how I do it. SONAR has a listing of all assignable parameters for a given effect or instrument, so I usually go that route rather than use whatever built-in learn functionality the plugin may have. But learn is learn, whatever way you look at it I guess.

zircon
11-03-2009, 01:00 AM
To be honest I hardly ever assign stuff on my keyboard to MIDI CCs, with the exception of the modwheel.

Arcana
11-03-2009, 03:17 AM
To be honest I hardly ever assign stuff on my keyboard to MIDI CCs, with the exception of the modwheel.

Why's that?

zircon
11-03-2009, 05:29 AM
Better question is... why? It's not as if I'm ever writing some part so complex that I NEED to input multiple forms of automation at once.

Zephyr
11-03-2009, 02:15 PM
I pretty much don't use any of my knobs and sliders for anything, I don't do any live work, so their not of much use to me. I draw most of my automation.