Here's how to program MIDI CC and Program Change to optimise our studio.

At the end of the previous post we theorised how to program a monophonic synth (a Novation Mininova) to play a pad in the first bars of a song, to then recall a bass sound with filter automations during the first verse and finally return at the initial pad but with a more aggressive ADSR envelope, all in one MIDI track.

We have also mentioned the different types of visualisation of a MIDI track (Grid for drums / percussive sounds and Piano Roll for synths), and although these displays are certainly more suitable for immediate and musical programming, in order to manage CC commands in detail we will have to use Step Edit mode.

Step mode allows us to view any type of event recorded on our track.
From left to right we can read the Time Code relating to the single event, followed by the type of event (Note, CC, PC) and its values.

We see that at the beginning of the first quarter of the first measure (001.01.00) a Program Change command is sent to the Mininova to recall the patch of the initial pad (PC: 82), followed by two CC commands: one to set the filter at the desired cutoff (CC74 Brightness: 81) and one to set the envelope attack (CC73 Attack Time: 106)
Then we have programmed our sequencer so that it always recalls these settings at the beginning of the song, without us having to program the Mininova every time we reopen the project.

At 001.01.01 comes the first Note command. The synth will then play a C2 of 258 Ticks duration at a Velocity of 4.

In sequencers language, a Tick is the unit that divides the Beat.
In the MPC, a Beat is divided into 96 Ticks.
Since a Beat equals a 1/4 note (96 Ticks), a Half Beat will be a 1/8 note (48 Ticks) and so on.

1/2 = 192 Ticks1/4 = 96 Ticks1/8 = 48 Ticks
1/16 = 24 Ticks1/32 = 12 Ticks1/64 = 6 Ticks

After playing our pad for 8 beats, at bar 9 comes the bass part with filter automations.

We just need to add a new Program Change command to recall the bass patch (PC: 85), followed by the first Note command (C2 with a duration of 48 Ticks with Velocity 100), the CC command relative to the filter opening (CC74) and its automation.

At this point it’s important to understand that the Grid, Piano Roll and Step Edit display modes are just display modes of the same MIDI track and its events.
The modulation of the filter will be displayed as text in Step mode or in graphic mode in Piano Roll, but it will always be the same information, it depends only on how we want to program it.

automazione del filtro CC74 in visualizzazione Step Edit
automazione del filtro CC74 in visualizzazione Piano Roll

After writing the bass part, from bar 14 on we reload the initial pad, but with a more aggressive attack.

We do that with a third Program Change command (PC: 82) to recall the initial pad, and with the CC73 command to set the attack of the envelope to 22.
We are now ready to add Note commands at bars 14 and 16.

Having set a loop playback, at the end of bar 21 the sequencer returns to the beginning and sends the information relating to bar 1 to the Mininova.

Despite not having changes related to the Program Change, because we are using the same patch (PC: 82), we note however that the attack of the pad is again softer, thanks to the CC73 set at 106.

We then used a single machine to reproduce three distinct tones in three different parts of a song.
To modify the song even more, we could change other CC commands, such as the Resonance of the filter (CC 71) or the Release of the envelope (CC 72). Just check the MIDI Chart of your synth and program the relative values into the Step editor.

In the next post we’ll see how to integrate CV and Trigger / Gate commands to our system, so we can use modular synths.