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MainStage for Musical Theatre – Pitch Bends in EXS24

February 21, 2013

I programmed keyboards in Apple MainStage for a production of The Wedding Singer two years ago. In “Saturday Night in the City”, the Keyboard 2 book starts off with a huge synth lead pitch bend from to A2 to A5, and then another pitch bend from A5 to D6. EXS24’s standard pitch bend parameters allow bending up one octave, and bending down three octaves. Take a look at this screenshot of the EXS24 interface.

Apple MainStage EXS24 Pitch BendsThe section outlined in red is where you can specify pitch bend parameters. In this screenshot, I have set the up and down parameters to their respective maximums – 12 and -36 semitones. The patch in “Saturday Night in the City” required a much larger pitch bend. Take a look at the section outlined in blue. This section of the EXS24 interface is known as the modulation matrix, and I like to refer to each programmable unit as a module. There are three modules in the outlined section. Here’s what you need to do to program a multi-octave pitch bend in EXS24.

  1. Pick a module in the modulation matrix and select “Pitch” for the destination (Dest) and “Pitch Bend” for the source (Src).
  2. Use the triangle to specify the distance you want to bend. (100 cents = 1 semitone)
  3. Program multiple modules if pitch bends greater than one octave are needed.

In the last module on my patch, you can see I changed the source to “Ctrl #1”. This refers to the modulation wheel on a keyboard which corresponds to MIDI CC#001. Here’s a screenshot of the pitch bend in “Saturday Night in the City”.

MainStage for Musical Theatre Pitch Bend ExampleThe initial pitch bend to A5 is held for twelve beats before bending up to D6. Guessing where A5 is between an A2-D6 bend is impossible. That’s why I terminated the pitch bend with the pitch wheel at 3 octaves (standard pitch bend parameters + two octaves in the modulation matrix). This gives a reliable bend from A2 to A5. The rest of the pitch bend is mapped to the modulation wheel at 500 cents – enabling the bend from A5 to D6. Keep in mind that the modulation wheel might already be mapped to another module. If this is the case, you’ll have to play around with it to find something that works. In my situation, the modulation wheel was mapped to an oscillator creating a vibrato effect. Since the score calls for this, I didn’t have to change anything. If I wanted the vibrato effect and pitch bend to be independent of each other, I would have mapped the A5-D6 pitch bend to a foot controller like the Yamaha FC7.


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