The Accord Melisma
by SDS Digital & K
The Melisma brings an unexpected fluidness to MIDI.
If you've dreamed of integrating your synths with your modular system,
or secretly dreamed of manipulating MIDI in the most modular way possible,
the Melisma is just for you!
Introducing the Melisma!
One thing that escapes the realm of
"easy" in modular arrangements is the production of chords. Patching for
chords is both expensive (in the physical dimension way and cost-wise) and
time consuming. The Melisma is a multi-tiered solution to creating chords
as well as accompanying melody or bass line in a very simple way, without
breaking the bank.
The Melisma can imitate a
concert pianist, a tech-heavy trance sequence, or ambient with a
mission, the choice is yours!
How does it work?
First off, the Melisma outputs
MIDI exclusively. So if you have a MIDI synth, GM player, or like to use a
DAW along side your rack this is the module for you! If you are not into
MIDI, it is certainly worth acquiring a MIDI2CV module (of which there are
many to choose from) just to take advantage of the features of this
module. We plan to offer a rear-patched MIDI2CV interface in the future
that will include proprietary link capability as well as a MIDI merger.
Chords! Because the Melisma has 64 chords built-in you can patch as few as 2 jacks
to begin playing these chords. All of the other jacks give musically
precise control over the way the chord is played and allow an amazing
amount of flexibility in the way a sequence or whole piece will sound.
These chords can be from the main list, or one of the user programmable
lists to fit your style of composition.
Arpeggiation! Seamlessly switch a chord progression into an Arpeggiation sequence, or
manually control bursts of notes in different cadences with the Hold
input. Any pulses entering the ACLK (arp clock) will trigger notes
according to the type of Arp that is selected. (There are 8 popular types
easily accessed as a primary function of the Arp button)
"Pulling apart" chords is musically coherent in just about all types of
music and these 2 inputs will do that for you!
Melody or Bass line?
A special input, LHAND (left-hand), lets you pulse a musically pleasing bass line that
always follows the present chord playing according to musical rules that
change from chord to chord. If an analog CV is used instead, LHAND will
play the notes as the CV changes so a melody can be achieved. CV input can
be quantized to the scale, making it easy to make accompanying melodies
with even random or haphazard sequences, or true 1V/Oct chromatic scale.
With a random CV input the Melisma can intelligently use divisions of the
ACLK input to quantize and limit melody note timing to prevent 100's of
notes being triggered. Sequenced CV inputs will of course trigger melody
notes on a change.
The really great part of using LHAND is that it can send notes on any MIDI
channel so you could have piano chords with strings or a bass guitar.
LHAND above can be configured as "Percussa", an accumulative note
burst (via ACLK) for poly percussion. Very interesting rhythms possible!
Embellishments! The Melisma has a pair of inputs that will take a standard chord to a new
level. The Inversion and Expand inputs can shift the chord so the root
(lowest) note becomes one of the notes in the chord, then spread the chord
out into something that sounds completely different but is always
harmonically agreeing with the original chord.
Chord Timing? The Spread input, also known as Strum, humanizes the way a chord is
played, which is surprisingly easy to set up even with a simple LFO input.
Spread is an exponential delay of note to note play from 0 to 2 seconds.
This means notes from one chord can overlap another resulting in some very
interesting transitions indeed!
The CC CV input and knob can be configured to send any MIDI CC, PC, AT, or
pitch bend. in addition,12 assignable internal functions (Progression
limits, reset, Spread modifiers, LHAND (left-hand) timing, Arp gate, Arp Type, and
Select Bus) make the CC CV the most versatile jack on the panel.
Level Control? With the velocity jack chord's notes levels can be changed via CV, with a
maximum level setting or boost. The velocity also has 3 curves to choose
The Gate input pulse width
controls the lengths of all notes that follow in the chord or arpeggiation,
and also loads new chords or roots (keys) so offers great control over the
way a passage is played and allows the use of less defined analog CV
inputs to experiment with new combinations of chords, roots, and
Progression Sequencing? A unique feature of the Melisma makes use of the same Root and Chord
Jacks when used with digital trigger signals. This type of input is
detected and the jack switches over to progressions mode to play a
pre-programmed sequence of chords and/or roots from a selected user
progression list. As one input can be used this way while the other with
analog CV, or both with different triggers, the possibilities become
endless while still maintaining a degree of control. Also "Pauses" can be
inserted that wait until the opposite progression hits a pause at which
point they continue together. There is a CC CV function for CV control
over start/end limits, and "windowing" a range. Progressions do not
require a Gate input to play.
MIDI Clock? If the pulses on the ACLK are equally timed and relatively stable, the
Melisma will output a MIDI clock that is perfect for sync'ing up delays,
FX, and even Arp's in the receiving hardware to keep everything in sync
with your rack. This can of course be turned off.
MIDI I/O? Behind the panel is a LINK MIDI I/O that can connect to other modules or a
panel MIDI breakout for Merging MIDI or remote manipulation of select
Melisma features via any MIDI controller. Keyboard connect gives you
remote Root note shifting while you play.
Yes, the Melisma supports true MPE (Low Zone) or converts any
multi-channel GM Synth into exactly the same thing. MPE (Multi-dimensional
Polyphonic Expression for long) allows IMPRINT CC mode to place
envelopes of any CC, AT, or Pitch Bend onto notes as they play
As of V.1.4 the Melisma supports Arpeggio Patterns. 1-16 steps that mask
steps that are not turned on. Up to 8 patterns can be stored for global
use. This makes it easy to create rhythmic Arps that can be easily
selected via it's own Quick-Box On-screen Button!
Arpeggio + Chords?
As of V.1.6 there is an option to turn on Chord playing while Arp'ing the
same chord. This adds depth to the progressions as the Hold input turns
Arp on & off. An arp can be run, with a spread chord indicating a change
in key & chord or a longer droning chord providing backing for the Arp
sequence, truly magical!
Select Bus? The Melisma can be a master or slave or automatic on the PSU ribbon Select
Bus. As a Master, changing from one PROGram preset to another will select
presets on other modules, while as a slave will choose a Preset to load
from the assigned Select Bus State/Preset#. As a master (or in Auto mode)
High states on the HOLD input can change the selection on the bus for
Arpeggiating. There is also a CV to Select Bus selection option.
Menu Diving? There is no menu diving in the Melisma. The way this is accomplished is
on-screen boxes that can be selected via the encoder knob to access a
single level of settings for that particular box. This includes lists,
parameters, limits, and options. A list of adjustments for some functions
may open and are edited without leaving that screen by simple scrolling to
it and selecting to adjust. Some parameters are directly adjustable while
still on the main screen making the Melisma quick and intuitive to use.
This was a primary consideration in the design very early on!
Why not just use a
The key feature of the Melisma
is to be able to create sequences that sound great without manually
plugging in notes and possibly destroying the inspiration because of the
amount of time this takes. I myself have recorded the Melisma into a DAW
for further enhancement or to easily compose a "hook" or main sequence to
try new progression ideas.
This is the "sneak-peak" video for the Melisma in it's
early development. The prototype Melisma looks a bit different and now
there are more functions and the Quick-Box order is different.
This presentation steps you through many of the
features, functions, and controls of the Melisma in a tutorial style.
This video demonstrates the CV Chord User List and
Chord and Root Progression Lists and how to select / set them.
Keep in mind the Lists look slightly different now! In the Root
Progression list, on the right the present Chords are listed, and in
the Chord Progression list, the Roots are shown to the right.
Pause symbols are also shown for each.
Here's a video on the Select Bus interface in the
It can be pretty useful (although this video doesn't cover "great
applications") especially the HOLD switch.
Melisma can be
master, slave, or run in automatic where becomes a slave if there's a
master on the bus, but can be changed to master again by sending a
state message from the Select Bus Quick-box.
This is a video on CC CV internal functions, the ones
that aren't MIDI controls..
There are 12 total + the 4 MIDI controllers
(CC, After touch, Pitch Bend, and Program Change)
Chord & Root Progression Lower & Upper limits, Range Windowing
LHAND_T time from 20-250mS
Arpeggiator Select (style / order)
Arpeggiator Gate length / pause (Relative to GATE input's duration)
Spread Modifier Data (Note Order, Swing, Randomize)
Select Bus (1-4 through 1-64)
Progressions Reset (CV input >0 to 4.9 volts)
This tutorial covers the in's and outs of the Spread
function, use, and it's modifiers.
Enabling or disabling the Spread Quantization is quickly done from
the Spread Quick-Box button. Spread can quantize to the GATE, ACLK,
Progressions, and LHAND timing, in any combination, making the
rhythmic possibilities pretty much endless.
This short tutorial video covers the Imprint mode for
CC CV input.
It applies envelopes to each and every note (if that source is enabled
to trigger env's) With MPE it becomes even more powerful as each
channel / note can have it's own identical envelope of any CC, Pitch
Bend, or After touch but at different times.
This Function can turn
any GM synth into more of a poly-synth with envelopes on each note,
much as a DAW synth may act. This of course depends on your synth but
it's fun to explore the envelope-ing of various CC's the synth may
This video tutorial covers the LINK MIDI input's
remote control of various Melisma functions including Root "take-over"
With a MIDI break-out panel (only uses 2 of the 4 LINK header pins)
the capabilities (especially if performing with the Melisma) is
augmented quite a bit!
Note - The 2 LINK input pins are optically isolated so there is no
real danger in DIY-ing a little patch to a TRS or 5-pin MIDI jack's
pin 4 & 5. See user guide for wiring info.
This is the long-awaited Percussa tutorial video!
A single CV to LHAND can be used to play poly-drums with a rhythm
defined by the ACLK input. Percussa mode can also be used as a strange
way to produce chords!
This video, which was going to be the last of a
tutorial nature for the Melisma module, covers Progressions and
pauses. Pauses turn a simple progression sequence into a more complex
iteration based on rules of pause symbols inserted into the
This video was supposed to also cover progression reset methods but
it would have made this video too long so that will be the next (and
This video is about a new addition for the upcoming
There are 5 new MIDI CC remote controls! Root & Chord Progression
windows, Inversion, Expand, and Gate override. This allows flexibility
when using Melisma's LINK in from a MIDI breakout and desktop
This also frees up assigned MIDI CC jack to control other internal
or external functions and enables footswitch control of the Gate (i.e.
note stretching during progressions or direct control of chords
playing during no gate or progressions)
The long awaited version 1.4
has arrived and it adds some very nice features to the Melisma.
Now you can add up to 30 chords of your own (on top of the 64
factory chords) via the chord editor or MIDI Learn feature via LINK
There's also a Global Arp Pattern set the is similar to most synth
Arp pattern board. This Size can be varied from 1 to 16 steps and it
plays nicely with V.1.3's Arp Size and End Note additions.
There's some other stuff to make the module more enjoyable so watch
the video for those!
are 1 week later and already another update?
Some really great feature requests and ideas popped up a day after
the previous release and to be honest were too cool to be hidden for
This somewhat laid-back video covers some of the new features in a
basic way, but not reverse Spread or CC CV & LINK MIDI control of
LHAND's Bass Octave. (Those weren't added yet!) so that'll be a future
Stay tuned for more video here!
Please note that due to the Melisma being a MIDI
controller essentially, these samples won't reflect the way your synth's
sound! (of course)
This sample shows how MIDI remote (hand played) notes
take over the Root transpose knob while still using a Root CV
sequence. SOme of the Percussion is a pair of Disting MK4's and some
(embellishments) are Melisma's Percussa mode.
This sample was an
experimental MIDI + CV connection from our upcoming Sequarallel
module. Melisma is doing most of the work. I liked this patch so much
I decided to use it as the intro for newer video tutorials.
Using MPE, CC CV Sample&Hold alternately with CC CV
IMPRINT mode can yield some fine results. The GM synth is a yamaha
V-drums and the CC CV is controlling pitch bend (1V/oct +/-12 mode)
giving the the GM instruments a new sound! Melisma is all about
Multi-dimensional Polyphonic Expression (MPE) from the
Melisma can turn virtually any multi-channel GM synth into an MPE
synth. True MPE zone messages are also sent. This sample has IMPRINT
CC CV sending the same envelope to all notes. Because they are all on
their own channels each envelope can play out without interference.
Even very early in the development of LHAND, it
was a welcome addition to the Melisma's feature arsenal. The chord
hits are simply defining scales for LHAND to follow. LHAND input is on
a fast LFO and snapping to the 1/8th step duration of GATE input.
(as LHAND_T:GATE2 I believe)
This experiment involved a Korg micro & GM Synth split
from the Melisma, and a BSP sending MIDI to Melisma, which was merged
on other than the control channel. Random Select-bus is selecting
PROGrams in the Melisma. Most of the percussion is Melisma (before
This was set up pretty randomly to see how long it could play before
becoming monotonous...but that depends on one's mood!
The Melisma is now available (as of Jan. 16th
2020) and can be ordered by contacting me below. As the Firmware, while extensively tested, is new and there may
be improvements coming
in the form of firmware updates.
This can be achieved via USB and the included driver for Windows or now
native to Mac OS10.14 or newer.
Addresses issues: major:ChordList
"ALL" misaligned, minors: CC CV Arp_S (no CV) reads zero, CC CV PRG_R
(no CV) not displaying "OFF"
Added Spread Linear Mode, CC CV Prog. Reset now holds, New Screen
Splash & Vers.# on power-up
Added: Remote LINK MIDI CC's for Arp
Mask Pattern, Arp Size, LHAND Bass Octave. CC CV Controls for
Root+Chord Progressions Low/High/Window, Arp Mask Patter select, and
Arp Size. Custome Chords in SysEx fully functional, as well as
new CC's. Enhanced Spread CV 0 tp -5V: Spread in Reverse.
Fixes: unstable progressions Reset in 2X or 4X modes, Arp Pattern
reverse "1's", Select bus starts at zero.
BETA: Added ARP+CHORD feature option
so when HOLD input on, chords can still be played via Gate/Progression
Fixed LHAND to use Gate Delay (instead of fixed value) for both Bass &
CV Notes modes. Delay=2 is original. Better for CV source with slew.
Update to SETTINGS to disable sending
of MIDI data on PROG# change. If set to "N" no MIDI settings data will
be sent. To send data, press [PUSH] QB as before. This update includes
features of beta 1.6 (which is stable).
Temporary Display Experiment to avoid
display crash in one unit. Not required for a release.