Legato playing over MIDI

I’m still quite new to modular so sorry if this is a stupid question, but please educate me!

What is the simplest way to achieve legato playing over MIDI, without using CV?

Before I get into it, I’m not sure whether my issue is in the way I’ve patched SSP, or if it’s just the way my MIDI keyboard sends data, like maybe the MIDI mode or something :man_shrugging:… I’ve seen the term MPE thrown around here but I don’t think that’s the issue, nor do I see the ability to toggle MPE on/off in the latest software build (23072019). My controller is a Novation ReMote 37SL just for reference.

I have a simple patch laid out with a saw-tooth LFO, filter, and amp envelope, and I would just like to know how to change pitch without envelope re-triggering for a more expressive performance - pretty standard stuff.

I have some semi-modular analog synths on my desk too, so I have tried and realize that pitch tracking over CV allows you to change notes exactly the way I want. When you look at the MIDI signals, however, pitch changes are only tracked when the gate has a chance to reset so it seems impossible to play anything but staccato…

One solution is to ditch MIDI and exclusively use CV, but I’m not going to go that route for a couple reasons; mainly, none of the hardware I have sends pitch CV over +/- 5 V so pitch tracking is all messed up unless I use MIDI. I also don’t have Live 10 so CV Tools is unfortunately not an option for me.

I thought at least one other person on here would have had the same question, so I’m hoping there’s a simple answer that I’ve overlooked, and that isn’t “MIDI can’t do that” lol!

Your patch is monophonic. If you want to play notes legato you will need a polyphonic patch (i.e. more than one voice). To make your patch polyphonic, take a look at an example such as the 8-voice wavetable synth patch (preset 000). That one has multiple voices and when you play it with your midi controller you’ll notice you can play legato.

You could of course make CV/gate from your MIDI outside the SSP and then feed your CVs and gates into the SSP’s inputs, but none of that is necessary since you can just plug your midi controller directly into the SSP. The SSP will do everything for you including voice management.

There are also other polyphonic patches in the preset collection which you can find here - Large preset collection + samples

Sorry - there’s every chance I’m completely wrong, but I’ve never heard or experienced that playing legato requires a polyphonic instrument.

Patch 000 does seem to allow you to play legato, but also retriggers upon each note press since it’s processing successive triggers through different sets of modules.

I have an MS-20 and a Berhinger Neutron sitting in front of me. Both are fully analog, 2 osc, mono synths; the Neutron is paraphonic but I made sure that that was disabled. I also have a bass station 2 at home, which is paraphonic as well, but again, I know this function is not active.

I am able to play legato on all 3 of these un-modded hardware units. There’s nothing polyphonic about the sound that is produced; each time a new note is played, the old pitch is cancelled by the new one, but none of these synths care that I still have the original note held. A polyphonic patch, on the other hand, will play whatever notes are held, and add voices as more notes are pressed.

I think the issue I’m having revolves around how the SSP handles note priority within a single midi module. Here’s a great SOS article that discusses the different ways that analog mono synths can manage note priority.

Perhaps a feature suggestion could be to add different priority modes to the MIDI module? That’s how some VIs like the Arturia Mini V do it. Or maybe just allow both the midi gate AND trigger to be sent as separate modulators? Like I mentioned in the first post, the fundamental issue seems to be that once the midi gate has opened, the module can’t detect changes to pitch until the gate has closed and reopened.

I’m not a music theory expert but did go through classical music education. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legato -

…musical notes are played or sung smoothly and connected. That is, the player makes a transition from note to note with no intervening silence. …

To do that you need a patch with multiple voices. The MIDI module only handles a single note at a time so you need multiple MIDI modules.

They are monophonic synths, and each time you play a note you are retriggering the envelope of the VCA, so I don’t see how you are playing legato here according to the above definition.

The MIDI module handles only one note at a time. I suggest you read the explanation about how the MIDI module works in this post - Update 22042019 [Major MIDI Module Improvements; Step Sequencer and Granular Fixes]

The SSP software does voice allocation automatically using the MIDI notes in the patch and sends the notes to the available MIDI modules in a round robin fashion.

The voice assignment was designed in such a way that it works out of the box with MPE and non-MPE controllers and with monophonic and polyphonic patches.

The MIDI module already gives you a gate signal for each note, as well as velocity on, off, pitch, pitch bend, etc. I don’t know what you mean with “midi trigger”.

You need to use multiple MIDI modules to get the behaviour you want.

Further reading at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legato mentions this -

In synthesizers legato is a type of monophonic operation. In contrast to the typical monophonic mode where every new note rearticulates the sound by restarting the envelope generators, in legato mode the envelopes are not re-triggered if the new note is played “legato” (with the previous note still depressed). This causes the initial transient from the attack and decay phases to sound only once for an entire legato sequence of notes. Envelopes reaching the sustain stage remain there until the final note is released.

so it is possible that because of technological limitations in the past that on some analog synths they came up with a trick to make it possible to play legato, according to the above. Basically a way to simulate polyphony.

On the SSP there are no such limitations, so we don’t need any tricks.

However, if you want to achieve this behaviour you might be able to do so by using multiple MIDI modules, multiple oscillators, and use one envelope generator which amplitude-modulates all the oscillators, and then have this envelope triggered by the gate output of the first midi module in the patch. Or perhaps sum the gate signals from multiple midi modules by feeding them all into the gate input of the envelope generator so you get a kind of OR-ing of gates.

the SSP uses the 1v/oct standard just like any other eurorack module, so your pitch tracking will work just fine. You have a range of nearly 10 octaves with -5V/+5V voltage range.

legato means connected, but not together @bert so a mono source do just fine
when playing Legatissimo there is overlap, on legato not

when pressing more than 1 key on a mono synt, you’re playing legato de facto
some synths allow to choose for retrigger the ENV and some allow to choose to let the ENV (free) run, to it’s full extend and then retrigger - some synths allow both

but the SSP don’t
because of the voice allocation in the SSP you’ll need a MONO source, and legato playing so there’s no overlap, otherewise 2 (or more) notes will sound

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yes, that is what the above wikipedia definition says: playing notes without silence in between.

an acoustic piano is always polyphonic, and you can play legato on it.

if the OP wants the described old skool analog synth behaviour then he or she can build it in a patch on the ssp.

there is no need to change anything about how the voice allocation or midi module works in the ssp.

A built in offset setting on the input module would be helpful for this. Most eurorack sequencers send unipolar pitch CV.

the input module has a per-channel offset you can adjust, it’s called “bias”.

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Oh I must have missed it somehow!

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Sounds like we had ourselves an old-fashioned battle of semantics! I hadn’t considered that this form of legato is fundamentally different from the traditional sense, and assumed that you understood what I was referring to.

Now that we’re on the same page,

This is pretty much exactly what I was looking for! There are a couple changes I had to make to your suggestions, but I’ve now achieved almost what I was after…

My patch is now: 1 LFO, 1 ENV, 3 MIDI modules. Each of the 3 midi modules modulate the pitch input on the LFO, but only the first one modulates the amp. and sends gate to the ENV.

This fixes the ability to play a natural lead line without losing notes; I can now hold one note and change pitches without releasing the first note. Now, the problems are 1. If I want to return to the original note in the same legato phrase, and 2. If I wish to change the pitch of the originally held note:

Eg1. If I hold a C, play an E on top, then release the E. On a (low-note priority) mono-legato synth, the pitch should progress from C->E, then back to C; this allows you to produce a vibrato simply by holding one note and spamming another. My patch, however, is going C->E, but not back to C.

Eg2. If I hold a C, play and E on top, then while pressing the E, move the C to a D, then release the E, then finally release the D. Again, on a mono-legato synth I should hear C->E->D, and the D would now be controlling the gate on the Envelope. Although the gate came from the C, it stays open even after the C was let go, due to the fact the all note changes occurred while playing legato. On my patch, however, the envelope releases as soon as the initial note is let go. This makes perfect sense based on how it’s patched, but have you any clue how to program the behaviour I’m after?

I was remembering something incorrectly, please disregard haha.

I have further questions about the pitch tracking you addressed at the end there, but I just realized it’s actually 2 separate concerns. One has to do with this legato stuff, but the other is just general pitch tracking over CV. I’m going to redirect the latter to this forum post, otherwise this thread is going to be all over the place…

RE: Mono-legato pitch tracking :
With all 3 midi modules working on the same oscillator, SSP is getting really confused about what note I want it to play. This is particularly obvious when I play in one octave then switch; I’m not precisely sure how to reproduce it, but it will think I’m still playing in the higher octave after I’ve changed positions. It happens both from using the transpose buttons as well as physically playing a different octave, and it isn’t exclusive to octaves; Sometimes they keyboard seems to have shifted by a random number of semitones, eg. playing a C note produces the pitch of an F - it always eventually fixes itself. I’m guessing it’s related to the pitch info held in the other 2 midi modules, but regardless, it currently makes this type of patch quite unplayable.

I’m happy to provide more details - I’ve even taken some short videos showing the issue if that’s helpful.

Thanks for being so helpful, Bert!

you could “spam” both keys? :slight_smile:

have you tried feeding the gate signal from the midi modules all into the same gate input of the envelope to achieve a sort of logical OR? summing is kinda of similar to OR-ing.

you could solve that issue with multiple oscillators? one per midi module.

there is nothing wrong going on here. You have multiple MIDI modules and if they listen to the same channel for notes, the SSP software will send the notes round robin to the MIDI modules. This is how polyphonic patches work on the SSP - you have one midi module per voice and when you play multiple notes they go to different midi modules so they control different voices.