KMI products like SoftStep and QuNeo are handy controllers for music creation and more, but how do they work? They use a data protocol called MIDI to send event information such as note events and parameter changes. It’s important to understand that MIDI does not create sound. Instead, it streams a list of instructions that can be sent to a sound making device. While note event information in the list could be equal to “play and hold F#” and then “release F#”, there is another powerful aspect of MIDI called continuous controller commands, or “CCs”. CC data can send out values that can be applied to a large number of uses including adjusting the pitch of an oscillator in a synthesizer – or all parameters of a synthesizer, also adjusting parameters in software applications like audio or video software, or even controlling lights or robots.
Within a full MIDI stream, note events and other data flow through one of 16 identical MIDI channels that run in parallel. But besides the note on and off messages, there are also 128 CC sub channels (“CC#s”) on each MIDI channel. This means that through a single MIDI cable you can control the values for 16 x 128 = 2048 parameters at the same time. To put that into perspective, you could have 2048 lights pointed at a stage and you could fade each individual light to any brightness level and you could adjust them all simultaneously.
On a more practical level, musicians love to use CC data to control electronic instruments and software. If you want to have your SoftStep 2 control the filter cutoff on your favorite synth, all you need to do is go into the SoftStep Basic Editor and assign the pressure of a key to modulate the CC# that corresponds to that parameter. Finding the correct CC number is easily found in the instrument’s user manual and MIDI implementation chart. After that you will be able to press a key and the harder you press that key, the further your filter cutoff will sweep. Try it!
Here’s a tutorial video of Cuckoo programming the SoftStep to take advantage of CCs: