volca devices are great by themselves. And, they are great when used together through control voltages. But, they are also extremely cool as sound modules, where your computer controls and plays one, or more volca device through the built-in MIDI ports. In this quick tutorial, I’d like to show you how I’m controlling multiple volca devices at once. And, a few really cool Max for Live patches that I’m using to control them even further than I normally might be able to in another DAW.
Step 1. Decisions on Usage
With devices that have both internal sequencers, and built-in sound generation, it can, at first, be a major decision to decide how you are planning on using it. For example, my volca keys, bass and beats have internal sequencers, but also have internal sounds. Do I want to use the internal sequencers, or just use my volcas as sound modules?
If you just want your volcas as sound modules, then you’ll need to disable Auto Sync function, within every volca. You can do this by holding down the FUNC button, when you turn your volca, and then pressing either the step, or keyboard button 6, so that the LED underneath is no longer on.
This switches your volca over to follow only it’s internal clock. Once the light is off, I’ll press the Record button to lock my settings in to place.
Step 2. Hooking it Up
Aside from decisions on how you’ll use your volca, you’ll also want to know how to hook up your unit(s) to your computer. Since I have four volcas, I am using my faithful MIDISport 8x8, also known as a MIDI Patchbay, or MIDI Interface. When this USB MIDI Interface is hooked up to my laptop, I can control up to 8 MIDI devices (8 volcas at once, sign me up!).
This also allows me to play each volca, through my DAW, with my MIDI keyboard. And, you’ll note, on the back of my MIDI controller, there is a MIDI Output. So, if I’m playing a gig that only requires one volca, I can simply leave the MIDISport at home, and use my MIDI Controllers built-in interface.
I’ll also need to hook the audio out of all of my volcas into my audio interface. My MOTU traveler takes care of all of the inputs I need for my volca devices, having 8 1/4” inputs.
Step 3. Controlling It
Now that I’m hooked up, and inside Ableton Live, my host DAW, I’ll set up MIDI tracks for each volca. Each MIDI track will have its output set to each individual MIDI Port, as they are connected to each volca device. For example: My volca keys is connected to MIDI Port 1, my volca beats is connected to MIDI port 3, and volca bass is set to MIDI Port 2.
In addition to setting the MIDI channels, I recently purchased ($8 for all three) three different Max for Live patches, created by Fabrizio Poce (http://www.fabriziopoce.com).
These patches are incredible! They give you the ability to control and map several parameters on your volca device. You can even save presets for sounds you’ve created on volca keys, and recall them later. A function that does not exist without a computer... well, outside of writing your settings down on a pad of paper.
I also discovered a cool, and easy makeshift way of elevating my volcas forward, as opposed to having them lay flat on a table. I made little wedges out of Sugru, that allow me to see, and control my volcas a little better with that forward elevation. This keeps me from having to hunch over so much!
Now, with everything set up, propped up and hooked up, I can start playing my keyboard and trigger either beats, keys, or bass, depending on what track I’m set to control in the computer. And, I can record whenever I’m ready. Just press arm!