George Cochrane

Like a Creative Octopus, with a Few Fewer Arms

Wiimote MIDI Control for Fun and Profit

One of the most eye-opening new additions to my live performance rig has come from an unlikely source, my entertainment cart. I first heard of people doing this as some sort of murky rumor, and mused on the possibility of pairing the Wiimote via Bluetooth to my laptop, but how to interface it? After catching a few YouTube vids and reading up on a few enthusiast sites, I had my answer and a pretty wicked adrenaline buzz, thinking of all the things I could do with gestural control.

My laptop is a Windows machine, so my intermediary app of choice is a free utility called GlovePIE. It has a fancy scripting interface that allows you to specify what MIDI signals the Wiimote generates, and how. You can also make it output keystrokes, mouse moves, and more.

In my script, the controller's buttons are all mapped to MIDI notes, and the "Wiimote.RelAccX" parameter is set up to trigger another MIDI note when it's whipped downward like a drumstick. These all correlate to a special Drum Rack setup I built in Live. At the moment, I find the CC generation (from movement/tilting) a bit too fiddly to trust onstage, so I'm not using it. The latency and timing are also not perfect, so plan to have your sequencer quantize your input.

While also simply being a lot of fun, this new setup allows me to connect with the crowd in a new way; one that's tough to do when you're squinting at a monitor and trying to find the correct knob in a sea of dozens. I can even walk out into the crowd and keep playing (haven't stagedived while sequencing yet.) Next I'll be adapting it to spice up my DJ sets, and I could even mount a Wiimote to my bass guitar. The mind boggles.

Here's a text file with a tutorial on setting yourself up, and here's my simplified copy of the stock GlovePIE Wii MIDI script- feel free to hack it up and make it your own. (Many thanks are due the GlovePIE dev team and user community)

All Wrong, but so Right.

The Mission: Add a touch of chaos to a solid but sort of vanilla-sounding drum mic configuration. (not to scale)

The Ingredients: A passive speaker cabinet, a Smokey Amp, and your recorder of choice.

On a session a couple of weeks ago, I had a drum set mic'ed just so. It sounded big, spatial, and present, but there was something missing. Grime. A light dusting was all I needed, but another boring plug-in or signal processor just didn't sound dangerous enough.

Using a speaker cabinet in reverse (as a dynamic microphone with a GIANT diaphragm) is an old studio trick. You plug the cabinet's 1/4" jack into a DI input, add gain, and you've got a veritable sub-bass vacuum. It's perfect for beefing up anemic sources, but I didn't just want subs, I wanted something nasty.

Enter the Smokey, a tiny, crunchy plastic guitar amplifier with a 3" speaker. We'll be using it as a preamp, and come out of its line output, which retains all of the enormous gain and fuzz the Smokey normally blasts out into the room.

Position the speaker cabinet somewhere near your source. Plug it into the Smokey, whose output should then be run into a line input on your recorder. You won't believe the results. Record it to its own track, layer with your normal mics, and experiment at your own risk.