MeloDICER/MEX3 – Polyphony

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With the help of the MEX3 extension module, meloDICER can generate polyphonic sequences via MIDI. But how can you control the two additional voices, and how complicated is it to access them?

All Started With a Rest

At a very early stage, when we were discussing the concept of meloDICER, we had to make a general decision about how to label the knob that sets the number of notes that appear in a pattern. We had two options:

  1. NOTE PROBABILITY: This would have meant that if set completely anti-clockwise, nothing would come out of meloDICER. After all, a chance of zero for generating musical notes, results in … you guessed it … no notes at all.
  2. REST PROBABILITY: This is the exact opposite of the previous option. A chance of zero for musical rests to appear results in 100% musical notes. In practice: if you turn the control to the far-left position, you will have no rest at all. As you increase the rest probability, more and more musical notes will be replaced by rests. If you turn the knob all the way clockwise, you end up with total silence (a setting that John Cage probably would have loved).

We chose the second option and added a REST control to the rhythm section of meloDICER.

MEX3 — Taking a rest, or two

When designing MEX3, we quickly realized that meloDICER has enough resources to handle not only one, but up to three voices. And MIDI makes it easy to get them out of the sequencer. Our main question was: “How can we ensure flexible controllability of the additional voices and at the same time avoid destroying the intuitive approach of meloDICER’s user interface?” Taking a rest was the answer.

The MEX3 update introduces two additional rest parameters, one for the second and one for the third voice. They work exactly like the physical REST control on meloDICER: the more you increase the control, the more rests appear.

Interconnecting Rests

We have implemented a clever dependency between these three REST parameters. The second voice only has a chance to generate note events if the first voice generates a musical note as well. In other words, if voice 1 plays a musical rest, voice 2 will also play a musical rest, even if its REST probability is set to zero (= 100% notes). The same relationship exists between voices 2 and 3.

Controlling REST2 and REST3

Adding new features via firmware updates is easy, but it’s impossible to add new control elements by sending bits and bytes through the USB port. The best compromise for setting up the additional REST features was to implement them in the edit-menu structure. It’s pretty easy to access them:

  • Press EDIT to enter edit mode.
  • Turn the rotary encoder to select parameter 10.
  • Press button A while turning the rotary encoder to alter REST2
  • Press button B while turning the rotary encoder to alter REST3

The LEDs around the rotary encoder indicate the setting of the dedicated parameter. The more LEDs that are lit, the higher the probability of rest.

Alternatively, the additional parameters can be set by using MIDI Control Change messages (CC#16 = REST2; CC#17 = REST2).

More than Words

Getting to grips with meloDICER’s extra voices is pretty easy. But if this text is too dry for you, take a look at our latest video on YouTube. It shows all the written content in action. We hope that you like it, and can learn something from it.