In this tutorial we'll learn how to create a basic sawtooth sound in Equator and expressively control it with the Seaboard's dimensions of touch.
Step 1: MIDI Settings
First, let's make sure that ROLI Dashboard and Equator are using the correct MIDI settings. In Dashboard:
- Turn MPE On.
- Set Range from 2–16.
- The Global Channel should be 1.
- You may leave the other settings at their defaults, making sure that they match those in the image below.
Equator's MIDI settings should match Dashboard's. To make sure this is the case, in Equator click on the menu icon, and under "Settings..." click on "MIDI Settings..." MPE Mode should be On, the Channels should be from 2–16, the Global Channel set to 1, and both Note Pitch Bend and Global Pitch Bend should be 48.
Now that we've ensured our MIDI settings are correct, let's start designing our sound.
Step 2: Making a sound respond to the dimensions of touch
Let's start with a very basic sound. In Equator, click on the preset name in the top center. Type "init" in the Preset Browser's search bar. This will show several of Equator's basic built-in presets. The simplest is "init - NO MODULATION"; click on it to load it. Return to Equator's main view by clicking on the preset name in the top center or by pressing Esc (Escape).
Play a few notes on your Seaboard. You'll hear a sawtooth wave that responds to Strike and Glide but not to the other dimensions of touch. The preset's basic timbre doesn't change, and it's not very expressive.
Let's start adding expression to this sound by changing how Strike affects the amplitude envelope. Right now, when we Strike a keywave the sound begins and immediately reaches full amplitude, and then when we release the keywave the sound ends almost immediately. The Amp Envelope visualiser displays this response, and if we click in the upper right corner of the Amp Envelope panel we can switch the envelope view, which shows us that the attack time ("A") is 0 ms, and the release time ("R") is 32 ms.
Let's increase the attack time to half a second by clicking on the attack time dial below "A" and dragging the dial up until the time displayed below it is around 0.50 s. Now when we play a note, we hear it fade in gradually over the course of half a second, but there's still not much expression.
Next let's make the attack time vary based upon how hard we Strike the keywaves.
- First, click on the "Strike" text in the Modulation Panel. You'll see an orange border surround the Strike panel, indicating that Strike will be modulating the parameters you select next.
- Next, mouse-over the Amp Envelope's attack dial ("A"). You'll see an orange border surround the attack dial, and the attack time (0.50 s) will now be orange instead of white. This means that the attack dial is ready to be connected to—or modulated by—the Strike dimension of touch. With the mouse still over the attack dial, click on the dial and drag it down until the attack time (in orange) is 0 ms, and now release the mouse.
- Now, click on the "Strike" text again so that the text is white again, meaning that we're no longer mapping it to parameters.
Play a few notes and vary how hard your Strike the keywaves. When you Strike the keywaves softly, the attack time is long, but when you Strike them hard, the attack time is short. Great – this sound is beginning to respond to the dimensions of touch!
We can improve upon it, though. Let's add a filter and modulate it with Strike.
- Look for "Filter 1" – it's inactive, so it's greyed out. Click on "Filter 1" to activate it; the text will turn white. The filter type is automatically set to a lowpass filter with a -24dB/octave slope (abbreviated by Equator to "LP24").
- Click on the downward triangle in the filter menu to see the other filter types. Let's select LP12, a lowpass filter with a -12dB/octave slope.
- Let's increase the cutoff frequency ("Cut") to 1 kHz.
- Finally, let's use Strike to modulate the cutoff frequency by 7 kHz: click on "Strike," mouseover on Cut and make sure that the dial border is orange, drag the dial until the orange text beneath the dial is around 7 kHz, and then click on "Strike" again to stop the modulation assignment.
Play a few notes, and notice that the harder you Strike the keywaves, the brighter the sound is. Our sound is getting more expressive! Let's keep going.
We haven't yet used the Press dimension of touch, so let's use it to modulate Oscillator 1's Level and Filter 1's cutoff frequency.
- Click on "Press" to begin mapping it to parameters.
- Next, click Oscillator 1's Level dial, and drag the dial up until the orange indicator is at the dial's center.
- Click on Filter 1's cutoff frequency ("Cut") to about 5 kHz.
Now let's use Slide to modulate our filter cutoff frequency and resonance.
- First click on "Slide," then drag the cutoff frequency ("Cut") dial upward so that its value is 10 kHz.
- Next drag the resonance ("Res.") dial until its value is 60 %.
Lift is our final dimension of touch. Let's assign it to modulate the release of our Amp Envelope.
- Click on "Lift" to begin mapping it.
- With the Amp Envelope's release ("R") dial highlighted, drag the dial up until the release time is around 2 s.
While we're modulating the release time, let's use Strike to shorten the release time on loudly struck notes.
- Click on "Strike" to begin mapping it.
- With the Amp Envelope's release ("R") dial highlighted, drag the dial down until the release time is around 5 ms.
- Click on "Strike" again to end mapping.
Our sound now responds to the 5 dimensions of touch and is pretty expressive. We can adjust a few more parameters to fine-tune this expressiveness.
First, to make the amplitude envelope sound more natural let's change the Amp Envelope from a linear curve to an exponential curve. Click and drag the Attack portion of the envelope up, and click and drag the Release portion down.
Next, we can adjust the curves of the 5 dimensions of touch in the Modulation Panel. Let's try dragging the Strike curve upward, and the Press and Lift curves downward.
Finally, let's apply some effects to add some depth to our sound.
Real acoustic instruments have numerous formants, or resonant frequency bands. We can approximate these formants by using an equalizer (EQ). In the effects section click on "EQ" and click the power button to the left of the "EQ" text to turn on the equalizer. Let's add a few formants at approximately 500 Hz, 1.6 kHz, and 4.8 kHz by clicking and dragging the equalizer's dials.
Using a chorus effect approximates having numerous instruments or voices as in a choir or string orchestra. Click on the Chorus tab and then click the power button to the left of the "Chorus" text. Now change Depth to 20%, Speed to 18%, Width to 50%, and Wet to 20%. Play a few notes and listen to how Chorus thickens and adds life to the sound.
We can also use our dimensions of touch to modulate our effect parameters, for instance by setting Slide to moduate the Chorus Wet parameter by 50%. (Note that effects are global rather than per note, so one Slide gesture will control the effect parameter for all notes.)
If you're happy with this sound you may save it by clicking the menu icon and then "Save As..." Enter a new name for your preset. You'll notice that if you've designed a sound specifically for either the RISE or the GRAND, you can click the appropriate button, and otherwise you can click "ANY." Now click "Save" to save your preset.
We've taken a basic sawtooth sound and have made it much more expressive by making it respond to the 5 dimensions of touch. We've also learned how to modulate parameters and add effects. Now you can take these lessons and begin creating your own expressive sounds in Equator! For another take on making an expressive sound in Equator see this video tutorial: