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Dafydd

Modulation MIDI/USB pedal?

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I bought this Yamaha FC7, a well-spoken-of expression pedal, that I've hooked up to my computer using this: http://www.audiofront.net/MIDIExpression.php

This works okay, but the signal from the pedal is noisy, it needs calibrating every time I restart my computer, and the built-in spring only kicks in at the very end of the range, where the signal is even more noisy (I've checked, the noisy signal comes from the pedal, not the MIDI Expression USB thing). I've tried to create my own "spring" by inserting plastic foam, but it wears out quickly and doesn't spring back reliably anyway. I also don't find the FC7 very comfortable.

What I want is a pedal that behaves like the mod and pitch wheels on my keyboard, one that springs back to 0 when I let go, and that doesn't need calibrating - ideally one that looks and feels similar to my M-Audio SP2 sustain pedal, but "analog" (like a mod wheel) instead of "binary" (like a sustain pedal, which is either on or off). I've been unable to find anything like this online, and I'm puzzled. Browsing expression pedals online, it seems like "no spring" is a feature in itself.

I'm getting so desperate for a solution I'm considering buying another SP2 and modifying the hardware into a modulation pedal myself. Another solution would be buying a USB racing wheel and using the pedals as a MIDI controller (I've done this with gamepads in the past, for fun) - those pedals do spring back, and they don't need calibrating. They take up way more space than an SP2, though!

Does anyone have any ideas or know of a pedal that does what I want?

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What keyboard do you have where the mod wheel springs back to 0? It must be one with a joystick-type control that does pitch bend and mod in one? I've never heard of standalone mod wheels that snap back. Also, why are you not connecting a pedal to the keyboard and sending MIDI into your computer that way?

You also don't want to be looking at expression pedals; none of them will behave the way you like. I've never heard of one that springs back. It's also extremely easy to make one 'spring back' yourself; I often do a trick where I have an expression pedal controlling the volume of a pad or strings on my keyboard,layered with a piano that's NOT controlled by the expression pedal. I can bring the pad in or out by quickly pushing the expression pedal all the way up or all the way down. Or, another example, my Moog synth has a mod wheel that doesn't snap back, and I usually use it to control vibrato. It's really easy and natural to add vibrato and then pull the wheel towards me to shut the vibrato off, and the benefit of the wheel not snapping back is that I can add some kind of modulation and then leave it alone for a while, freeing up my hand to do something else.

There really aren't many real-world situations where keyboard players WANT an expression pedal (or mod wheel!) that springs back.

You might have luck with a continuous sustain pedal like the Yamaha FC3. The problem is that it might not work with your setup; I have no idea how the MIDI Expression thing would handle it, and a keyboard would have to be designed to handle it (or, allow the FC3 to be plugged into an Expression Pedal input and treat it accordingly) in order to work.

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On 3/8/2016 at 3:19 PM, Kanthos said:

What keyboard do you have where the mod wheel springs back to 0? It must be one with a joystick-type control that does pitch bend and mod in one?

It is, a Korg microKontrol.

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Also, why are you not connecting a pedal to the keyboard and sending MIDI into your computer that way?

The keyboard only has one pedal input, and it's for sustain pedals (mono plug).

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You also don't want to be looking at expression pedals; none of them will behave the way you like. I've never heard of one that springs back. It's also extremely easy to make one 'spring back' yourself; I often do a trick where I have an expression pedal controlling the volume of a pad or strings on my keyboard,layered with a piano that's NOT controlled by the expression pedal. I can bring the pad in or out by quickly pushing the expression pedal all the way up or all the way down. Or, another example, my Moog synth has a mod wheel that doesn't snap back, and I usually use it to control vibrato. It's really easy and natural to add vibrato and then pull the wheel towards me to shut the vibrato off, and the benefit of the wheel not snapping back is that I can add some kind of modulation and then leave it alone for a while,

I mostly use it for vibrato on single notes, or toward the end of the note, especially for synth leads or synth bass.

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freeing up my hand to do something else.

That's why I want a pedal.

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There really aren't many real-world situations where keyboard players WANT an expression pedal (or mod wheel!) that springs back.

Well, I'm a keyboard player, and I do. I find non-springback mod wheels about as useful as non-springback keyboard keys or non-springback clutch pedals.

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You might have luck with a continuous sustain pedal like the Yamaha FC3. The problem is that it might not work with your setup; I have no idea how the MIDI Expression thing would handle it, and a keyboard would have to be designed to handle it (or, allow the FC3 to be plugged into an Expression Pedal input and treat it accordingly) in order to work.

Thanks for mentioning the FC3 - I did some research and "continuous sustain" seems to just what I'm looking for! The FC3 has the same kind of connector (stereo plug) as the FC7, so it most likely works just the same. The MIDI Expression thing comes with software that can route the pedal input to the CC of your choice, so it'll work with pretty much anything. I'll probably buy an FC3 or FC3A, then, once I figure out the difference between the two. Thanks again!

EDIT: Still, it's a little strange these things still aren't available as USB devices...

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11 hours ago, Dafydd said:

It is, a Korg microKontrol.

The keyboard only has one pedal input, and it's for sustain pedals (mono plug).

I mostly use it for vibrato on single notes, or toward the end of the note, especially for synth leads or synth bass.

That's why I want a pedal.

Well, I'm a keyboard player, and I do. I find non-springback mod wheels about as useful as non-springback keyboard keys or non-springback clutch pedals.

Thanks for mentioning the FC3 - I did some research and "continuous sustain" seems to just what I'm looking for! The FC3 has the same kind of connector (stereo plug) as the FC7, so it most likely works just the same. The MIDI Expression thing comes with software that can route the pedal input to the CC of your choice, so it'll work with pretty much anything. I'll probably buy an FC3 or FC3A, then, once I figure out the difference between the two. Thanks again!

EDIT: Still, it's a little strange these things still aren't available as USB devices...

Fair enough; not everyone has to use their gear just like I do. I think the reason they don't have springback expression pedals though is because unless you're trying to do some crazy pedal-dancing with more than two pedals, there's no reason why you couldn't just use your foot to put the pedal back to the 'off' position (however you define off; is that with the heel down or toe down?) I've got five pedals on the floor - one is a two-button switch for a Leslie effect pedal for the speed and stop modes, like on a real Leslie, but I rarely use stop - and I don't find it unmanageable. I can use an expression pedal to keep my hands free, but when I'm done modulating a sound, I can just as easily push the pedal back, also without using my hands, and if I'm trying to do so much in a live show that I *need* three feet, I should probably think about simplifying something.

Pedals probably aren't USB devices because many controllers have more than one pedal jack or, for a lot of people, adding various modulation is something they'll do after the fact, or with one hand while playing the keys with the other. I think the music industry doesn't have a good handle on what people actually want, at least as far as keyboards go; you obviously aren't the only one who needs a way to get a pedal signal into the computer and doesn't have a good keyboard with which to do it. (Granted, I'd argue that a springback expression pedal is a pretty niche request, but still...) I mean, even something as simple as using one of the Korg nanoKontrols as a quick tool but wanting a sustain pedal is something that should be easier to do.

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On 3/9/2016 at 9:38 PM, Kanthos said:

Fair enough; not everyone has to use their gear just like I do. I think the reason they don't have springback expression pedals though is because unless you're trying to do some crazy pedal-dancing with more than two pedals, there's no reason why you couldn't just use your foot to put the pedal back to the 'off' position

The reason is convenience - I only use the pedal briefly and putting the pedal back off "manually" is inconvenient and unlike every other pedal I've used, including hi-hat and kick pedals on drums, the pedals in a car, and the pedals on a piano. I never learned to use an expression pedal and I don't like using it, so I want a pedal that feels like what I'm used to but that still has "continuous control", as in the FC3 case. It'll be a few weeks before I get mine in the mail (shipping from Japan, bleh), but again, FC3 seems to be just what I'm looking for, so thanks.

On 3/9/2016 at 9:38 PM, Kanthos said:

(however you define off; is that with the heel down or toe down?)

Depends on how you map it, but the FC7 is designed to be off when the heel is down. I've jammed some plastic foam under the heel part so I can push it with my toes instead, but like I said, the plastic wears out and I prefer the feel of a sustain-type pedal anyway.

On 3/9/2016 at 9:38 PM, Kanthos said:

I've got five pedals on the floor - one is a two-button switch for a Leslie effect pedal for the speed and stop modes, like on a real Leslie, but I rarely use stop - and I don't find it unmanageable. I can use an expression pedal to keep my hands free, but when I'm done modulating a sound, I can just as easily push the pedal back, also without using my hands, and if I'm trying to do so much in a live show that I *need* three feet, I should probably think about simplifying something.

I only have 2 pedals: a sustain pedal, and the FC7.

On 3/9/2016 at 9:38 PM, Kanthos said:

Pedals probably aren't USB devices because many controllers have more than one pedal jack or, for a lot of people, adding various modulation is something they'll do after the fact, or with one hand while playing the keys with the other. I think the music industry doesn't have a good handle on what people actually want, at least as far as keyboards go; you obviously aren't the only one who needs a way to get a pedal signal into the computer and doesn't have a good keyboard with which to do it. (Granted, I'd argue that a springback expression pedal is a pretty niche request, but still...) I mean, even something as simple as using one of the Korg nanoKontrols as a quick tool but wanting a sustain pedal is something that should be easier to do.

Yeah, you'd think they would give MIDI Expression some competition, at least.

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Just wanted to say I got the FC3A a few weeks later, and it's everything I could have hoped for. The pedal springs back just like a sustain pedal would, the signal is clear and noise-free, and it doesn't need calibrating very often. Thanks again for the tip, mister!

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On 6/2/2016 at 8:18 AM, Dafydd said:

Just wanted to say I got the FC3A a few weeks later, and it's everything I could have hoped for. The pedal springs back just like a sustain pedal would, the signal is clear and noise-free, and it doesn't need calibrating very often. Thanks again for the tip, mister!

Nice, glad to hear it does just what you want!

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