In recent posts I mentioned I was experimenting with the iPad with Alchemy, Slim Phatty, and iTnri. The Dark Zebra (ZebraHZ) release got me back into synthesis with Zebra in a big way. As I dug into the patches by Hans Zimmer and Howard Scarr, I discovered they not only map XYs but Aftertouch and Breath controller. In considering how to map to this, I bumped into this article by Audio Newsroom Interview with Zebra creator Urs Heckman called “Off-the-record: Urs Heckmann (u-he)”. They asked:
About Zebra, in the past I remember you told me there was a remote chance to see an hardware product out of it. Did the idea evolve somehow and are you still interested in it?
I'm all for it but I can't do it alone. I've spoken to some people but I found nothing yet appealing enough to take a risk. I'd love to provide the industrial design for a zebraesque controller keyboard with 4 joysticks though.
While I think a dedicated hardware controller would be epic, it seems unlikely any time soon - so started working up an interface on Lemur with 4 XYs and thought I’d share the photo above.
Lemur Template Notes
I started with the “iPad – Studio Combo” template and:
- Scaled the keys and octave button down to make room for more objects
- In addition to Mod Wheel and Pitch Bend, I added sliders to the right for Aftertouch and Breath Controller
- Along the top you can see 4 XY (Multiball objects). Below the first one you can see 3 horizontal sliders that I’m going to map to physics params for the XYs for Friction, Attraction, and speed.
- I added 2 ADSRs (red and green) which I map to Envelope 1 & 2 in Zebra.
- Top right I have two custombutton objects. The first is mapped to a note so I can trigger a drone or arpegio (Zebra doesn’t have a “hold” on the arp). The second is mapped to MIDI sustain and toggle sustain on and off.
- Just to the right of the last XY there is a set of horizontal bars. I don’t have these quite working right but they are for the “VoiceMode” which will allow me to turn the arp on and off.
MIDI Mapping Notes
To map the Lemur to Zebra I use MIDI Learn by right-clicking on the target controls in Zebra then change the value of the corresponding object on the Lemur. This actually saves these mappings to com.u-he.Zebra2.midiassign.txt file so they work even after you close and re-open the host or add Zebra to a new set. Note that this file is shared between Zebra 2.5 and ZebraHZ so once you map Lemur works for both which is a real time saver. Note you can edit this file in a text editor (backup before you mess with it) and delete it if you want to reset mappings (it will be re-created when after you re-launch your host and start Zebra).
Like my experience with Alchemy Mobile as a controller for Alchemy VST, using Lemur running wirelessly on the iPad to drive Zebra is really captivating. It’s very organic and the ability to add physics with say XY ball movement takes performance to the next level.
As a result of my great experience with these controller interfaces, I find myself using iPad more and more in the role of controller instead of iOS synth platform.
Moral of the Story
iPad interfaces to PC synths make me use the PC synths more :^)