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Controlling a Roland Fantom XR

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  • Controlling a Roland Fantom XR

    Hello members:

    I have my Roland Atelier AT90 hooked up to a Roland Fantom XR. It has become clear that the organ only transmits note on/off data and the damper pedal data. No sysex messages. Clearly, I would like to control overall volume and make sound selection changes whilst playing. I wonder if it is possible to add into the system some sort of box with MIDI sending buttons that I could mount on the organ to control the Fantom. I suppose that I could also add an additional swell pedal to control the volume coming from the Fantom. My question to which I would be grateful for your opinion, is - are such devices available or would one be straightforward to build and finally, do you think it would work the way I need?

    Any help gratefully received. Please be aware - although I have used the term sysex in this message it does not support the view that I know what I am talking about in the world of MIDI.... otherwise, I suppose that I wouldn't have got myself inro this situation...

  • #2
    Hi there:
    Not too sure what you are trying to achieve but I dont think you would need any sysex messages. Sysex messages are used to control parameters specific to a marticular make and model of hardware (hence 'system exclusive') eg the message to alter the reverberation tail on your Fantom would be completely meaningless to a Korg Triton.
    To alter the output volume you send a Control change message - for volume its CC number 7 irrespective of the equipment manufacturer. Incidentally you would be far better to send an Expression control change message (CC#11) since this would alter the overall volume but not the relative volume of sound layers within that voice. To alter the progam you need to send (usually) two control changes (CC#0 and CC #32) to select the sound bank and a seperate program change message to select the particular voice (from 0-127) within that bank. Again these messages are common to all equipment makes.

    There are several manufacturers of midi control 'surfaces' that are capable of sending these and many other message types. One I am familiar with is made by Behringer and gives very comprehensive and fully programable control :
    If you dont require this degree of control then simpler smaller and cheaper units are available.

    Alternatively are you sure your AT90 doesnt transmit program change messages (even if they're not the ones you require to select particular programs) It might be possible to 'remap' such changes. If you able to write simpe 'Basic' computer programs, it's possible to greatly expand the midi control capabilities of an organ. I use an old Technics EX70 with very primitive midi control to 'drive' several synths including a Fantom X6. I'm more than willing to help if you have the skills.


    • #3
      Hello TG and thanks for taking the time to give me your advice.

      Since I posted the query, I have taken a different option using a Behringer pedal taking stereo signal in from the Fantom XR and, controlled, stereo volume out to the Atelier. So that I can use the Atelier's swell pedal to control its output and the Behringer - the Fantom's which is quite good as I can give enriched tonality as I 'add-inn' the output of one to the other, rather like the crescendo pedal of a theatre organ.

      On the control side: I have added a touchscreen to the organ desk which is connected to a laptop running 'jOrgan'. I don't know if you are familiar with the FREE software that enables the user to design an organ console with activating stops, ranks etc, that the user programmes with the midi codes of the Fantom.

      I am having problems with the midi codes and some electrical feedback through the system when the USB plug is inserted into the laptop - or even, when touched against the surrounds to the USB socket. I must say that I find it both interesting and frustrating as I really only want to PLAY!

      Do you have any idea where I could get hold of some good choir/voice samples?

      Thanks again for your help and if you haven't come across jOrgan, you might like to take a look. It could, at least be used to control external synths rather than being necessarily, a traditional organ console emulator.



      • #4
        Hi Geoff
        I do like the idea of a sensible sized touchscreen as a control surface, how does it work out in practice? Do you find it's as easy to use as 'proper' switches and sliders, it's certainly loads more versatile. I'm not familiar with 'jOrgan', but I'll have a look. There are several programs that allow you to use a connected midi controller to run software emulators or external midi modules, usually using a translation or mapping technique to convert the incomming midi messages to different messages suitable for the equipment you are controlling. Coupled with some decent graphics they can be pretty good.

        The limitation I find is that, in order to give these programs a wide range of application, they have to be kept fairly 'general' in nature by which I mean they take fairly common standard midi messages coming in and convert to the more commonly needed output commands. I find that I often need to covert an incoming midi message into an outgoing system exclusive message to achieve what I'm after. Since different equipment uses very different sysex messages, it's not generally possible to do this with such a program, which is why I tend to write much of my own stuff. It's not much use for other quipment though.

        Concerning your problem with 'electrical feedback', from what you describe I'm wondering if you're suffering from so called 'Earth loop' problems. These can occur when you connect a piece piece of equipment to a number of different earth points (I guess you say 'grounds'). Circulating currents within these ground loops can give rise to humming ,buzzing or other problems, and when you touch your usb plug onto the seperately grounded usb socket metalwork you will certainly be creating an additional ground path. The original midi hardware specification recognized this and you will find that a standard 5 pin din midi input socket includes what's called an opto isolator, a sort of optical coupler, to prevent direct ground connection between equipment. You dont get opto isolation if you simply connect two pieces of equipment with a usb lead. If this is the case you may well find a proper midi interface cures the problem - there's plenty of usb midi interfaces around, I use M-Audio 'Midisport'

        You say you're having problems with midi codes and I guess that isn't just knowing what the codes are - there's plenty of listings on the web eg
        http://www.soundsonline-forums.com/a...hp/t-1546.html gives the standard control change codes. If you need help in interpreting what the codes actually mean give some detail of your specific problem(s) and I'll try to help.

        Finally you ask about vocal samples. Two points here 1. we all like different stuff and 2. Samples set up to play on say a Korg Triton or Yamaha Motif won't play on your Roland, at least not without a lot of reworking.
        I Think it's a case of searching the forums and other web resouces to find what you personally like. If you're into software samplers Native Instruments (Kontact) do some stuff.


        • #5
          Hello TG

          I had intended to use the pistons of the Atelier with the Fantom XR translating what was sent from the organ into the Fantom's understanding using an events processor. NB, my application knowledge is simply not so advanced as the previous sentence suggests! Unfortunately, the organ sends no sysex messages and beyond note-on, note-off nothing else other than the sustain pedal message. In short, there was nothing that the events processor could process.

          It was then that I looked around for other possibilities and, given that I have no history of using a soldering iron, I decided upon the screen based option through jOrgan. I have yet to start the serious business of setting up ranks so that, when its stop is selected, the relative bank/performance (patch) will also be selected on the Fantom. There are lots of 'elements' that can be incorporated into a jOrgan screen including sliders, switches, couplers etc. At present, I will be happy to change voice reliably.

          I understand that the Fantom can play several patches at once and I also understand that it needs to be in performance mode for this to happen. I can't get anything out of this unless I change Performance CTRL Channel from 16 to 1, sharing channel 1 with Patch Mode Rx. Is there anything particularly wrong with this?

          I'll take you up on your kind offer to help with midi codes when I have identified some that I really need.

          Meanwhile, electrical 'earth' is fine - we use it here in Co Durham all the time.... as opposed to 'ground'. We gave the USA/Canada many place names: Washington; New York; Quebec; Toronto; Durham; Philadelphia etc but, in those days, the electrical term for earth/ground wasn't actually needed ;-)

          Thanks again