MIDI Hero - Free Reaktor Ensemble
This week, I’d like to share with you all a simple ensemble I built recently, called MIDI Hero (drawing an obvious inspiration from Guitar Hero, despite the fact that I have never played Guitar Hero). The ensemble is made for owners of Maschine hardware, and builds off some other recent tutorials of mine, namely the Create a Simple Drum Machine series (1 + 2), and a tutorial on controlling Maschine LEDs with Reaktor.
The reason I created MIDI Hero is I was looking for a way to improve my finger drumming skills (which are quite terrible). Watching old South Park reruns late one night, I came up with the using an interface like Guitar Hero has to signify when certain notes should be played. The bottom row of pads on the Maschine grid are for playing back the samples, each column has MIDI notes “falling” towards the bottom row. When they hit the bottom, it’s your job to press the note!
Unfortunately, this setup reduces you to playing 4 sounds at a time, but if you’re as bad at finger drumming as I am, it’s probably enough to overwhelm you at faster BPMs anyway, even with relatively simple sequences.
The controls for MIDI Hero are simple. You can program in up to 128 sequences, each sequence can be up to 8 bars long. Simply draw the sequence into the Event Table with your mouse. MIDI Hero has the ‘Set BPM by Snapshot’ option checked in the Settings menu, which means the BPM will be stored along with the sequence when you save a snapshot. There is an option to have Reaktor trigger the notes for you (the Autoplay button), which allows you to hear the sequence if played back perfectly. Finally, the Velocity switch determines whether notes will be played back at maximum velocity or controlled by the incoming MIDI data.
The tutorial on controlling Maschine LEDs that I linked above explains how to set up the Maschine pads to receive MIDI data. The LEDs are presumed to be receiving MIDI in HSB mode for use with MIDI Hero. The default template of the Maschine in MIDI mode has 8 pages for the pads – page 1 has the pads sending MIDI notes starting at C-1 (or 12). MIDI Hero uses the same notes to control the LEDs, so just make sure to set them to HSB mode and you’ll be all set.
Once you have your template made, press Shift+F1 on your Maschine hardware to enter MIDI mode, open MIDI Hero, choose a sequence, and press play on the Reaktor transport. The LEDs will begin flashing to let you know which notes to press. Finally, you need to load in some samples.
Here’s how I set up the sample map in the Sample Map Editor, which you can open by pressing F9 (or the icon that looks like a sample on the top row of the Reaktor interface). The top row of the Event Table controls the kick drum, the second row controls the snare, etc.
I am currently contemplating ways to expand this idea to somehow use the full 16 pads for playback for more dynamic and useful sequences. If anybody has any ideas towards that end please feel free to leave them in the comments.
This year I am going to try hard to create more content that is easily usable for people who do not build in Reaktor. To that end, I’ll be creating more simple ensembles and projects that can easily be used for music production or teaching. If there are any specific projects that you would like to see me tackle, please be in touch.