Using a Breath Controller
Breath controllers can make
wind instrument patches come alive.
Although the G2 doesn’t have a built-in breath controller jack, it can
Yamaha WX5 Wind Controller: A standalone
controller that uses woodwind fingering.
Yamaha BC3A Breath Controller: A breath
controller with a variable-voltage output.
Additional hardware is required to convert the voltage to a
BC3A Interface Boxes
A BC3A breath controller
requires an interface box to convert the output voltage into a
MIDI Solutions Breath Controller: A MIDI merge
box that contains a BC3A input, a MIDI input, and a
Kurzweil ExpressionMate: A very
flexible controller that contains inputs for a BC3A, a foot pedal, a foot
switch, and a ribbon controller. All
signals can be converted to
A Basic Breath-Controlled Patch
Below is a basic
breath-controlled patch. A breath
Making It More Playable
That patch has a serious problem: it’s difficult to play. The reason is that the range of air pressure values where good-sounding oscillation occurs is quite narrow: from about 41 to 44 Clavia units. It’s too difficult to keep the air pressure within this range.
Below is an improvement. A limiter keeps the input from rising above 43 units, so that the instrument won’t saturate. Also, a gain booster helps us reach that magic value of 41 without having to blow too hard.
Making It More Responsive
That was a big improvement
over the first patch, but there’s one remaining drawback: the G2 automatically smoothes incoming
The MIDI Control Receive
Module gives us direct access to incoming
This patch is similar to the
above, but no morph group is required.
Instead, we’ll get our breath controller data directly from
Controlling Multiple Parameters At Once
On the Yamaha VL1, the breath controller can be programmed to control many parameters at once. We’d like to do that too, and it’s easy on the G2: we’ll just combine both of the control methods described above: we’ll use the MIDI Control Module to control air pressure (where quick responsiveness is required), and use morph group 8 to control additional parameters. One breath controller can do it all at once.
The patch below demonstrates this: not only does the breath controller create air pressure using the MIDI Control Receive Module, it also controls volume and EQ using morph group 8.
We can always add chiff like we did before, using the keyboard velocity. But a wind player adds chiff by generating an explosive attack. Can we detect such an a attack on a breath controller?
Yes, we can, using a differentiator. A differentiator measures the rate of change of a signal. During a sudden attack, the input changes faster. A differentiator can detect this and produce a pulse during the attack. And the more sudden the attack, the greater the pulse.
In electronic music, differentiators are often implemented using highpass filters: if you send a step waveform through a highpass filter, you’ll get a pulse at every step. We’ll take advantage of that, and use those pulses as a control signal to a VCA. The VCA will gate a Noise Oscillator, like the earlier chiff circuit. Below is a patch that demonstrates this.
The chiff circuit is in purple. Here’s a description of the process, step by step: