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introduction: legacy midi vs mpe

a word on mpe

Osmose is part of a family of MIDI Polyphonic Expression (MPE) instruments and controllers that strive to tear down the expressive restrictions of common electronic instruments. When starting to control external instruments from Osmose, it’s useful to understand the way legacy MIDI communication is set up and how the MPE extension builds upon this.


In a classic MIDI environment, all MIDI messages that belong to a sound are sent on one single MIDI channel. Any modulations (such as pitch bend or changes in timbre) are sent per channel and thus affect all notes of that sound in the exact same way. If other MIDI channels are used, then this is commonly done to address a separate instrument or track of a multitimbral sound engine, e.g. in a hardware workstation or in your DAW.


MPE is an official extension to the MIDI standard where multiple MIDI channels are used to control the same sound. One channel is retained for global messages (master channel), but every single note that is played is granted its own MIDI channel. This way, per-channel modulation can be applied to each note individually, giving you much more control over your polyphonic performance.


backward compatibility

Even if the external software or hardware instrument that you hook up to Osmose doesn’t support MPE, you can still intuitively shape their sound directly via the keys of Osmose’s Augmented Keyboard Action. Pressure and Aftertouch motion axes can continuously control any parameter inside the synth on a global basis. Bending can perform a pitch bend of all the notes you play as a whole. 

In a non-MPE context, this global value of a motion axis will affect all the notes you play in the same manner, just as if you would move a knob or a fader on a standard MIDI controller. Osmose lets you define whether the global value sent by a motion axis is calculated as an average of the individual values of all keys pressed, or whether it is derived from the pressure or bending you apply to a specific single key (highest note, most pressed down, etc.). 

ℹ️ Monophonic lines on external synths can always be played expressively from Osmose. This is because for monophonic sounds, there’s always one dedicated channel per voice, even in a legacy monochannel setup.

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  • 03-Apr-2024