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The Morrison Digital Trumpet or "MDT" (the prototype was code named "MDH") is a new brass-style MIDI wind controller invented and designed by Steve Marshall with the great Australian multi-instrumentalist James Morrison. James is an immensely talented virtuoso musician who plays trumpet, wind controller, trombone, saxophone, piano, guitar, among others. Steve Marshall is an extremely talented designer and inventor with extensive knowledge in robotics and software design, and is a trumpet player himself.
Patchman Music's Matt Traum also assisted in the development and optimization of additional OS and MIDI features and enhancements, optimizing the physical design, and overall performance testing. Matt has used the prototype at his live performances and recording sessions and the MDT has proven to be a wonderful MIDI controller.
Owners of the Patchman TURBO VL upgrade chip for the Yamaha VL70-m may be interested to know that the MDT was also used extensively in developing the Patchman TURBO VL70-m Voices.
Overview of Features
The MDT is a wonderful instrument and a pleasure to play- and look at. It truly is the "Rolls-Royce" of wind controllers. It has a beautiful blue glow like an instrument right out of Star Trek. It can use a real trumpet mouthpiece but you simply blow into it- you don't buzz the lips. Although the MDT is completely electronic, its familiar feel will enable an acoustic trumpet player to learn it quickly and start playing with the least amount of change from their trumpet skills. The valves move and feel like valves on an acoustic trumpet- but no valve oil is ever needed. Steve Marshall went to such lengths as to even use real trumpet springs and pads for the most authentic trumpet feel. The valves use high tech optical switches so there are no contacts to wear out or get dirty. There are also two right hand programmable buttons that are used for alternate fingerings, programming, and various performance features. The MDT responds unbelievably fast and precisely to your tonguing and breath, it sends numerous MIDI continuous controllers, can transmit on any MIDI channel (actually it can easily flip between two MIDI channels using the MDT's Breath Sustain mode), can send Program Changes including Bank Select messages, can send MIDI Volume (cc#7) or MIDI Expression (cc#11) for quick remote level adjustment of your synths, and it can instantly be transposed chromatically to any key.
Edit Mode and Expert Mode
Many functions on the MDT such as right hand controller assignments can be configured on-the-fly while playing the instrument. Additionally, the MDT can be completely programmed in Edit Mode using the built-in backlit LCD where parameters can be set and permanently saved to non-volatile internal memory if desired. An additional advanced level of editing is also available called "Expert Mode". Expert Mode is intended for those power users that want to really "trick out" the MDT and get into its inner workings. The level of programmability that Expert Mode provides is far beyond that of any other wind controller.
Holding the MDT
As with an acoustic trumpet, the MDT is mainly supported by the left hand. The MDT rests in the crook of the left hand between the thumb and index finger. You can see a strip of padding at the base of the instrument for added comfort where the horn rests in the left hand.
The MDT has a super wide range! It can be transposed to play the complete range of 128 possible MIDI notes (0 through 127). That's over ten and a half octaves- more than most synths can handle! In normal playing (without transposing) you have immediate access to about five octaves with alternate fingerings. Keep in mind that most acoustic trumpeters are lucky to have a range of even three full octaves. The overall range you are fingering is clearly and conveniently indicated in the "bell" via 11 color coded LEDs.
The Breath Sensor
The MDT's breath sensor is super-responsive and can be programmed to send any combination of the following FOUR MIDI controllers- CC#2 Breath Controller, CC#7 Volume, CC#11 Expression, or Channel Aftertouch. By using special button combinations you can select ANY combination or even all four if you wish! In addition to those four MIDI controllers, the breath sensor also has a special fifth MIDI controller called the "Slope Controller" that can be switched on to transmit as a MIDI continuous controller. The Slope Controller is similar to the Yamaha VL1's "Breath Attack" parameter in that the value sent is a reading of the positive SLOPE of the breath sensor controllers. So if you attack a note hard, this controller will jump up then taper back to 0 as the slope peaks out and stabilizes or turns downward. If desired these and other settings can be edited and saved permanently to the MDT's internal flash RAM so that they will be remembered the next time you turn on the MDT.
The Left Hand
The left hand selects the octave and half-octave in various octaves as well as the overall octave transposition. There are eight switches that the left hand operates to select the octaves and half octaves. You rest your four left hand fingertips on four of these in the lower or upper row. By touching one of these switches (with no valves down) you'll be playing a C or G. The switches are electronically latched so you don't have to hold the switch in. Just tap it and the MDT remembers the last button pressed. The lower row of four switches controls two octaves (C/G/C/G), and you move your fingertips to the upper row for an additional two octaves (C/G/C/G). The two switches nearest to the third valve are for overall Octave transpose Up and Down. As mentioned previously, the MDT can also be easily transposed chromatically to any key either on the fly or within Edit mode using the LCD. This can be saved to the memory if desired.
Please note: Although the MDT has been designed to play as much like a trumpet as possible, the MDT does not use your embouchure to change octaves and partials. All of this is accomplished with the left hand buttons. Since the left hand is part of the MDT's fingering scheme, it takes a moderate amount of practice for brass players to start to become comfortable with the instrument. Acoustic brass players should not expect to pick up the MDT and play it immediately at full speed. The MDT is a real instrument and it requires practice to be mastered like any other real instrument. EVI players will find that some time is required to learn the left hand- though it has some conceptual similarities to the left hand on the EVI. Here are the MDT Fingering Charts in JPG format...
The Right Hand
The valves move and feel like valves on an acoustic trumpet- but no valve oil is ever needed. Designer Steve Marshall went to such lengths as to even use real trumpet springs and pads for the most realistic feel. The valves use a high tech optical switches so there are no contacts to wear out or get dirty.
The large hole is for the right hand thumb. Inside this hole are three continuously variable independent lever sensors. These sensors are usually set to send Bend Up, Bend Down, and Vibrato (pitchbend with realistic damping algorithms modeled after an acoustic instrument). If you desire, these sensors can be INDEPENDENTLY programmed from the horn either on-the-fly or in Edit mode using the LCD to send any one of four MIDI continuous controllers- Pitchbend, CC#1 Mod Wheel, CC#4 Foot pedal, or CC#5 Portamento Time. Actually ANY MIDI continuous controller can be chosen in Expert Mode!
The Thumb Up and Thumb Down sensors utilize opposing "rare earth" magnets to create their "spring" for a super-smooth gliding action. This creates a beautiful feel and linear response that is superior to springs.
The right hand also has two programmable buttons available- one under the pinky finger, the other located below the thumb hole and is accessed with the right hand thumb. These switches are used for various editing functions as well as performance features such as a trill key, sustain key, breath sustain key, a latching or non-latching portamento key, a latching or non-latching MIDI controller switch, looping through your favorite 8 patches, etc. As with the breath sensor MIDI controllers, the right hand settings can be edited and saved permanently to the MDT's internal memory as boot-up defaults if desired.
Controllers, Controllers, Controllers!!!
With three independent right hand thumb controllers and two switches plus five breath sensor controllers, the MDT has the unbelievable expressive capability to send an amazing TEN MIDI controllers as well as variable velocity in response to your tonguing!
In addition to sending and scrolling through MIDI Program Change and Bank Select messages sequentially while playing the horn, you can also edit and save your favorite 8 Program Changes WITH an associated Bank Select message to the MDT's non-volatile memory. If you set the right hand button to do so, you simply hold the right hand button and tap a left hand key to instantly access any patch in any bank on your synth. Or you can loop through your favorite eight patches with a SINGLE button press.
How To Connect
Keep in mind that the MDT is simply a MIDI controller. On its own it makes no sound. It needs to be connected to a MIDI synthesizer which in turn produces the sound. Since a MIDI synthesizer, sampler, or softsynth produces the sound, there are no limits to what sounds you have available. The MDT connected to a synth can sound like ANYTHING. Anything from a trumpet to a sax to an electric guitar to a snare drum to a chirping bird to an entire big band or string orchestra! What you hear completely depends on the synth that is connected to the MDT. Several synths work well. Our favorite sound module to use with the MDT is the amazing Yamaha Motif-Rack XS with the 384 voice wind controller library from Patchman Music installed in the Motif-Rack XS module. Click here for details on these sounds. Of course there are many other synths and samplers will work if you program them to respond properly to the MIDI data the MDT transmits. If you don't want to program your synths yourself, Patchman Music offers a large library of pre-programmed professional quality wind controller soundbanks for various synthesizers and samplers. Click here for a list of available wind controller soundbanks.
The quality of the materials and workmanship of the MDT is top notch. The MDT is hand built from quality components with quality craftsmanship. The MDT was designed for reliable professional use. Also, unlike almost all other wind controllers, the MDT ships with a custom aluminum hardshell case for protection.
"I received my MDT from Patchman Music today and wanted to share my initial impressions. Seeing photos of the MDT is one thing, but holding it and viewing it up close is entirely another! The MDT is an extremely professionally machined musical instrument, exuding quality from top to bottom. Obviously, much thought went into the design of the MDT body, and the well fitted pieces clearly illustrate this. Steve Marshall is to be commended on his fine craftsmanship."
"The MDT is truly awesome."
"Despite a drastically different octave and fourth system from the EVI, I was off playing passable blues licks in about 20 minutes, and running scales up and down octaves in little time, though it will take some time on the horn before proficiency kicks in. All-in-all, the octave/fourth system is fairly intuitive. The breath response is finely tuned and the bending levers and vibrato lever are comfortable and effortless to actuate. The 'valves' feel just like a trumpet, maybe easier and faster. The stainless mouthpiece fits like a glove in the receiver, making the MDT feel like a real, substantial horn, which it is."
"The MDT is chock full of features just waiting to be explored. New wind synthesists coming straight from trumpet will appreciate the horn like feel, while EVI players will enjoy the high degree of programmability, more attractive appearance, high quality components, and awesome breath response. I have to admit - I am extremely impressed with what has been accomplished here. It was well worth the wait and price paid."
"Hello. I'm using my MDT with a Roland VX-2020 / Patchman patches and I love it. I used to play an EVI some years ago (bought it in 1985) and never 'warmed up to it'. It didn't feel like a trumpet to me. This MDT is a fantastic instrument and will allow me to play more tunes with my band. My sax player has a Synthophone/VL70-m set up and it will be interesting to see what we both can do together."
"Well, I have had my MDT for five days now and thought I would share some notes with fellow brass style controller users who may be interested. First off, let me again state that the laminate style construction of the MDT makes for an extremely solid, tightly put together controller. Nothing rattles or shakes and the controller feels extremely sturdy. You really have to hold one of these to appreciate this as the pictures, as good as they are, do not do it justice. The breath response of the MDT is the best I have ever played. It is extremely sensitive and accurate. You can do growls and flutters with ease. The Up/Down bend levers are silky smooth and you can do full bends in either direction with almost no effort. Likewise, the vibrato lever is quite easily actuated. This is a pretty damn cool horn and I definitely look forward to playing it live."
"Thanks for the great 'MIDI-wind-controller' MDT. I have a lot of fun and I really use it like an instrument in my work as a professional trumpet player. I only use my own samplings, so the 'MDT' have really become a 'SDT'' (Salomon Digital Trumpet). Regards." - Salomon Helperin
"Hi Matt, just wanted to let you know that I received my MDT with all the supplies that came with it. I really love it. I like the books that came with it to explain how to use it. Thank you so much!"
"All is well here and playing the MDT is a BLAST and I look forward to it every day!! I'm continuing with my recording and I've been integrating the MDT with my trumpet/flugel sessions. But, as time goes by, I tend to gravitate more to the MDT and I have to continually work at keeping my motivation up for the trumpet/flugel. I'll bet that this is a common phenomenon! Anyway, my very best regards to you, as always." - Bart Brady Ciampa
"A year ago I learned about the MDT and dove right in. I'm a rather conservative person financially who really doesn't buy much but somehow I knew that this was right for me. Although it took a couple of months before the 2 hands approach was fully second nature, I was playing expressive passages the first evening. I spent two months practicing then joined a blues band and a church band where I contribute all kinds of musical ideas. Maybe because I started playing at 6, when I think musically, it's in trumpet fingering and the MDT method just really isn't all that different. Of course, the VL-70 Turbo and XV-2020 are essential. The MDT is an awesome, expressive instrument that has brought music back into my life in a big way and for this I am very thankful."
"I purchased a new MDT from Matt Traum at Patchman in late December of last year. I have since mastered your wonderful instrument and used it to perform swing music at senior retirement and nursing homes in the Denver Colorado area. I now make my living playing these gigs and have had over 100 performances in the past seven months (which is when I began performing). If all goes well, I hope to double my performances next year. Sincerely, Gary" - Gary Sattazahn, Music By Gary Lee
"Dear Matt, My father and I split the expense and ordered an MDT from you a while back. He had experienced difficulty playing his regular horn after dental surgery a few years ago, and found himself unable to play as he used to after over 60 years of playing professionally. The plan was to 'share' the MDT and see if 1) we liked it and 2) if it helped him to play again. I thought that if he could learn to play the MDT it might rekindle his desire to play. Well, in a few months he was playing the MDT nearly as well as he had played his acoustic trumpet. Needless to say he likes it! He likes it so much in fact, that the only time I even get to see the MDT is when I go to his house to visit... Anyway, I am now considering ordering another MDT/VL70m combo for myself."
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