Almost all synthesizers (physical or virtual), respond to velocity sent from a MIDI keyboard. It’s a value sent on each key, determined by how hard you play the key. Because this is sent by default on nearly every instrument and MIDI controller, sound designers commonly use this to add dynamics and dimension to a sound. Things like the instrument’s volume per note, filter cutoff, attack and decay times, effects and more can all be altered by velocity, and often are.
When “drawing/stepping in” MIDI chords, melodies, beats and more into the Piano Roll, it’s easy to not worry about altering each note’s velocity (like in the image below). This can make for extremely flat sounding parts. If you play keys, sometimes recorded MIDI regions have great velocity movement, but there are areas that needs to be adjusted.
In this quick Logic Pro X tip, I’ll show you how to use a MIDI Modifier that allows you to incrementally increase velocity amount with your mouse or with the pitch-bend from your MIDI controller. Because you have direct control over how hard each note plays with either your mouse or your controller pitch bend, it makes it easy to add very human sounding velocity variances to your sequences.
Either open an existing project or create a new MIDI region to work with. I’m using a chord progression and melody I wrote and entered by hand into the piano roll. Here’s how it sounds now with all notes playing back the same velocity of 64:
From the MIDI FX menu on the channel strip, first choose the Randomizer MIDI FX. The default value of Velocity is already chosen in the Event Type. Grab the top small orange circle directly below the Random value, and slide it to the left till it reads “10.” What this does is + or - every note played by a random value within a 20 value range. Already your MIDI part/region will start to have a more varied feel. Keep in mind too that not all presets are programmed to respond to velocity, so make sure you’re using one that is, or open the synth and start assigning.
Now, directly below the Randomizer, place a Modifier MIDI FX. First choose “Velocity” as the value for the “Re-Assign To” menu. The “Add” slider here gives you the ability to literally add-on to the value it’s currently playing. With negative values, you’ll hear your MIDI play back at lower velocity, and as you raise the value over into the positive range, your regions play back as if you played it hard. Practice moving the slider to create velocity crescendos and decrescendos. When you’re ready, put the track into automation Touch/Latch mode by using key command Control - Command - A. Now you can capture the movement from the MIDI FX Modifier Add slider!
This is how my MIDI sequence sounds now:
Try assigning the Pitch Bend wheel on your MIDI controller to the “Add” button. First touch the Add slider, the press Command - L. This will open the Learn window. Now move the pitch bend wheel on your controller. The centered position becomes the zero position, down is negative, and up is for positive values.
So, want to see what your MIDI part looks like now? First download the free MIDI FX Freeze by Audio CR. Once installed, place MIDI FX Freeze below the MIDI Modifier and capture the MIDI with the big record button. Once the MIDI is dragged to the track in the workplace you can bypass all MIDI FX plugs. Check out my region’s transformation below!