MPE with pocketMIDI and Surge Synth

Surge is an excellent open source and free synth that comes with MPE capabilities. In this tutorial, we look at how to use Surge with pocket MIDI MPE surface.

To follow along, first download and install the Surge VST or AU Plugin so that it can be discovered by your DAW of choice. Connect pocket MIDI to your computer so that it is ready and sending MIDI messages to your DAW.

Open the Synth on a track and its user interface should look like this.

Next we have to turn on the MPE button in the top section of the user interface as shown below:

We can design any synth patch, but for demo let us choose some existing patch. From the patch browser section click and drop down to choose any predefined patch as shown below. We select a patch named Flute 1 from the category Wind.

A few categories in the patch browser are pre-designed to work with MPE instruments, but this patch is not. We need to modify it slightly so as to use it as a MPE patch. Almost all MPE devices including pocket MIDI is designed to expect a MIDI mapping of CC74 (Instrument Timbre) to back and forth sliding of fingers. So we need to assign some knobs to the vary the timbre as we slide forward and backward on the MPE surface.

To assign timbre, double click on the “Timbre” button as shown in the image below.

As soon as the Timbre button turns green and starts blinking, you are ready to assign some parameter to change with forward-backward slide of the finger. You will notice that a lot of slider knobs on the screen which were earlier grey in color, turn into light blue color as shown in the image above.

All these blue buttons can now be changed to assign them for change of timbre . A few slide knobs are still grey. The grey knobs cannot be assigned. For the purpose of this demo, we slide the knobs shown in red circle in the below image. That adjusts the filter balance between two filters F1 and F2 as we slide out fingers on the pocket MIDI MPE surface thereby resulting in a change in the timbre of the sound.

Once you have assigned the param, double click on the timbre button again to save this mapping. The timbre button should turn blue confirming that the mapping has indeed been recorded.

Congratulations, now this patch has turned into a MPE compatible patch. When you slide the fingers on the pocket MIDI MPE surface, you should hear a change in the timbre of the voice as you slide your finger forward and backward. Sideways movement should result in pitch bend.

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