Expressive Percussion - How to Implement?

Has anyone played around much with expressive percussion instruments? This is something I’m getting interested in but am unsure about how to go about implementing it.

I have the drum overlay for the Sensel Morph, and the default map for that uses regular Midi notes. I turned them into MPE note areas, sending per-note pitch/timbre information and it sorta works, but I have yet to find a drum synth that can really deal with mapping this to anything useful. Bitwig’s Drum machine, for instance, does not expose note-expressions as modulation sources inside of the individual rack instances.

Short of building my own percussion synth in MSP, or trying to hack something together with VCV Rack or similar, has anyone played around with this sort of technique?

Maybe some physically modelled stuff…? The Wavedrum makes some great sounds, but it’s a self-contained system; need something like that as a VST. I don’t know what’s out there that’s comparable. Just found this thread on KVR which might have some ideas.

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do we really need to use MPE for this?

percussion is not really voiced in the same way as a synth, a pad = a particular sound.

the way Ive been doing this on my modular and erae touch is simply to pads on different midi channels, then x/y as different CC… so I get x/y position, and velocity for modulation
(I could add Z, but its not really useful in most cases for me, similarly I don’t really care about pitch)

this is pretty much what MPE does, but without the voicing… which as I say is not required.

the same would work in software… you could do this with the Bitwig drum machine, using filtered channel/cc. (*)

(*) an alternative approach if your controller supports it, is simply to put each pads X/Y on different CCs, rather than use midi channels… that way you can do it all on one midi channel. (assuming you have less that 64 pads :wink: )

it’s really a lot of fun.
I quote like the way, you can then get quite different sounds, by just playing in different areas of the pad.
so its quite nice to have large pads… Erae is pretty nice for this.

as for what to modulate, usually I have velocity on something like gain, perhaps also. a bit of brightness…
then for the other two axis, I like decay time, and again some kind of filtering/brightness.
… but you can get creative, sometimes is nice to modulate things like delay or reverb times.
e.g. reverbs fun, you can then vary your kick from something quite subtle to big boomy caverns.

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The places I would want to use pitch bend would be for for talking drum/tabla-type voices.

There is a whole bank of Continuum percussion patches that make various uses of MPE, but I haven’t looked at their implementation in the matrix yet.

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I’m curious how much latency are you getting with the Erae controller?

About Percussive sounds and mpe, i like to use:
Lift, release velocity tempo amp release, filter freq and res.
Y: percussion sustain, with or without lfo ( retriger or noise gain)
Z: Sustained variation if Y is enable.
Velocity to amp attack, filter, saturation, gain…


I cannot say Ive noticed latency whilst playing - that said, Ive not gone looking for it :wink:

of course, everything has latency, so it’ll be there… but doesn’t seem to stand out as an ‘issue’ so far.

(I’ll say, Ive not done any percussive recording yet, which is probably where id likely see it)

Thanks for the ideas, everyone. I guess what I’m really trying to accomplish is being able to hit multiple pads simultaneously on my Sensel Morph Drum Pad layout and have it send velocity along with x/y/z info for each note. Thinking about it now I don’t really need MPE, rather sending that info on separate CC for each pad would be fine. From there I think I can map params to a drum synth.

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Wait, does the Continuum have its own synthesizer?

Big time.

That would be the EagenMatrix, and it’s amazing. Not available outside of their hardware, or the upcoming “Osmose” partnership with Expressive E.

Yes, it is amazing. There is a bit of a learning curve to it, but it is more than worth the effort.

A stand-alone module was announced at superbooth this year:


Midi drums and percussion have always bothered me with latency but I guess another way to look at it is to think you’re playing at the back end of the beat or in the pocket, as they say. :wink:

Depends on your approach.

Using pressure from one pad to bend pitches from another (up from your starting pitch and down again, but never below that – it’s like bending a guitar string) is pretty intuitive, and shouldn’t add any latency because your expression is already set before the attack.