Saturday, July 21, 2012

After several months with my new Akai EWI-USB MIDI wind instrument, I finally got a piece out. I am nowhere near mastering this beast yet, but here is my first effort:

The EWI-USB is a great addition to my gear in that it merges my ancient wind instrument memories (trumpet) with my electronic MIDI studio setup. I am pushing 50 and don't really have the chops anymore to push out trumpet pieces. The EWI lets me use breath control and wind/fingerings to perform any and all software instruments that I have in my collection - literally 100s.

The only catch is that you have to configure the synths or software to respond to breath control (MIDI CC#2) and/or to aftertouch. The device itself, as I have already blogged is round $240 street price but as always, that is sort of the tip of the iceberg.

The EWI comes with a set of Garriton samples that are mediocre at best and allow you to play samples that to paraphrase Douglas Adams, sound almost, but not entirely unlike the real instruments they portray.

After mucking for awhile with the EWI, I decided that I needed a better trumpet sound and went with Wollander's WIVI band (as I also blogged earlier). This product is a set of software-modeled instruments which is a fancy way of saying, it sounds REAL and doesn't use samples! A very difficult feat!

The piece above, however, is using 1980s sample technology in the Korg M1 legacy synth. In this piece I am using Korg patches that have been created specifically for wind instruments by Patchman Music. These are modifications that use aftertouch (since the Korg does not directly use breath control) to affect the volume and timbre of the sounds. The sounds aren't entirely real, but they do blend together well and support breath control extremely well.

This is where the EWI leads to more purchases. The patches for the M1 were another investment but well worthwhile. I now have several very interesting ways to use the wind controller:

  • Wivi Band - this gives me very realistic sounding trumpets, trombones, tenor saxes, oboes, tubas etc.
  • My old ESX24 sampler in Logic - if you set up the CC#2 (breath control) in the modulation matrix to control relative volume, sample selection and cutoff, you can make sampled instruments in Logic 9 sound very realistic.
  • Aalto synth - this is a Buchla inspired synth that you can "wire up" to use breath control which can be routed to anything. Sounds "synthy" but its great to use with the EWI.
  • Synth1 - The ubiquitous freeware synth has some nice patches set up for breath control as well.
The EWI so far is fantastic. I can play trumpet parts once again as well as sax or any other wind based interments and it also adds expressive possibilities to my software synths that aren't possible with just a keyboard.

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