You are here

MIDI Polyphonic Expression In Digital Performer

MOTU Digital Performer Tips & Techniques By Jim Cooper
Published October 2022

Screen 1: MPE allows modulation data to be applied to individual notes within a performance, rather than simply across the whole MIDI channel.Screen 1: MPE allows modulation data to be applied to individual notes within a performance, rather than simply across the whole MIDI channel.

We dive into DP’s extensive MPE capabilities.

This month, we delve into Digital Performer’s extensive MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE) features, which allow you to add increased expression and nuance in your MIDI performances and tracks. But first, what exactly is MPE?

I’ve always believed that MIDI guitar is a more naturally expressive controller than the average synthesizer keyboard controller. Set up properly, natural pitch bending and vibrato, for instance, are quite literally at the tips of your fingers. Each note’s pitch and timbre can vary and change in intensity, just as it does acoustically on a guitar or other stringed instrument. Until recent years, keyboards (and MIDI) have lagged behind in those more tactile modes of expression because, in MIDI 1.0, pitch bend, modulation and other continuous controllers (CCs) affect every voice (note) on a single MIDI channel equally. Very few conventional keyboards and synthesizers can modulate the pitch of a single note within a chord while leaving the other notes intact. MIDI guitars, on the other hand, have managed to accomplish this by routing the MIDI output of each string to a separate MIDI channel. In that way, each synthesizer voice can respond independently to MIDI messages.

MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE) takes MIDI guitar’s multi‑channel concept and runs with it, by way of redesigned keyboard controllers which can send discrete messages for each key, generated by multiple gestures. In addition to standard keyboard parameters such as velocity, release velocity and keyboard pressure (aftertouch), MPE devices sense motion on a key’s vertical and horizontal axes. Essentially, MPE assigns discrete streams of CC data to each note (Screen 1).

MPE rotates successive MIDI notes over 15 MIDI channels, with each note carrying its own MPE data. Similarly, every note you play on an acoustic instrument is a unique combination of articulations. Vibrato, timbre, string‑release noise, fret squeaks and breath (when playing a wind instrument), whether consciously executed or not, are all elements that can bring a sound to life. MIDI and, more extensively, MPE can translate and encode these musical dimensions into data that you can use to sculpt performances. Best of all, as with playing an acoustic instrument,...

You are reading one of the locked Subscriber-only articles from our latest 5 issues.

You've read some of this article for free, so to continue reading...

  • Log in - if you have a Subscription you bought from SOS.
  • Buy & Download this Single Article in PDF format £1.00 GBP$1.49 USD
    For less than the price of a coffee, buy now and immediately download to your computer or smartphone.
  • Buy & Download the Full Issue PDF 
    Our 'full SOS magazine' for smartphone/tablet/computer. More info...
  • Buy a DIGITAL subscription (or Print + Digital)
    Instantly unlock ALL premium web articles! Visit our ShopStore.

Claim your FREE 170-page digital publication
from the makers of Sound On SoundCLICK HERE

Buy Related Tutorial Videos

  • MachFive 3 Unleashed
  • Automation and Mixing
  • What's New In DP8
  • Working With Audio
  • Working With MIDI
  • Working with Digital Performer 7 - Level 1
  • Working with Digital Performer 7 - Level 2