Mogees Pro MIDI Sensor + Music Software Suite
By Phil O'Keefe |
Mogees Pro MIDI Sensor + Music Software Suite
MIDI capable contact sensor and software
by Phil O'Keefe
One interesting byproduct of the Internet is how it has allowed people to collaborate and work together. Take crowdfunding: Come up with a good idea or a product that's cool enough to capture the interest of enough people who are willing to buy in, and all sorts of interesting things can come to fruition. The success of Mogees Ltd. in the United Kingdom is a good example. Mogees Pro Vibration Sensors are the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, and now Mogees are available to everyone. So what are Mogees, and what can you do with them?
What You Need To Know
- The Mogees Pro Vibration Sensor is a combination hardware and software product that's designed to transform everyday objects into playable musical instruments. This is accomplished with a stick-on hardware contact sensor, along with some very clever software that analyzes the vibration of the object when struck, and can tell the difference between hits of different types and from different objects - what Mogees refer to as Gestures (types of hits) and Exciters (objects used to do the hitting).
- The software side offers two options - an iOS app and an AU / VST plugin for Mac and Windows computers (VST for PC available Dec. 2016). Mogees requires iOS 8 or later for iOS devices, OS X 10.7 or later for Macs, and Windows 7 or later for PCs.
- The hardware consists of a round contact sensor measuring 1.5" in diameter and 0.75" thick. The sensor's silver colored housing is metal. It's heavier than I thought it would be and it feels quite sturdy. I doubt even an accidental drumstick hit would damage it significantly.
- The sensor's underside is a flat area with a double-sided sticky pad attached to it. It's somewhat rubbery in feel, and if it gets dirty, it can be removed from the sensor and washed off with water and dried to restore the stickiness. This lets you use it multiple times.
- A cloth-covered 40" cable is permanently attached to the sensor.
- The other end of the cable has a rectangular housing with a 1/8" plug at the end. A 1/8" jack is built into the same plug housing, allowing you to plug the Mogees into your iPad, and your earbuds or headphones into the Mogees.
- Mogees includes a few accessories, including two extra sticky pads, a 1/8" female to 1/4" female adapter for connecting the Mogees Pro to the 1/4" input of your computer audio interface (you'll also need a 1/4" guitar cable, which is not included), a plastic cap to cover the sticky pad and bottom of the sensor when you're not using it, and a round, zippered, fancifully-named "flight case" for holding everything.
- The first step in using Mogees is to stick the sensor to something. Just about anything can be used as long as it can transmit vibrations, but objects with multiple surfaces and textures tend to provide the best responsiveness.
- I had good luck with a camera-style microphone case, the metal grille in front of my fireplace, various guitar bodies, a metal folding chair, a plastic trash can and lid, a colander and frying pan (don't tell my wife!) and various other assorted objects. When looking around for things to stick Mogees to, don't overlook the possibilities that attaching them to percussion instruments presents!
- Mogees and its software can recognize up to five different Gestures. For example, hitting a camera case with the heel of your hand can be one Gesture, while scraping the textured surface of the case with your fingernails might be another, and smacking the case with a ring you're wearing might be a third Gesture. Each of these Gestures can be assigned to trigger a different sound from one of the included Sound Engines.
- You need to teach the Mogees software what your different Gestures are by performing Gestures a few times while Mogees analyzes what's going on. The threshold level is adjustable, so you can tailor the software to your own hitting style.
- After saving a Gesture, it's represented on screen by a colored circle, with different circles representing different Gestures. Each time the Gesture is sensed, its circle flashes and the corresponding sound is triggered.
- If a Gesture is too similar to another one, the circles will partially overlap, and you'll need to redo the gesture so that the app can differentiate between them.
- One way to get different Gestures is to excite different parts of an object to produce different vibrations. You can do this by hitting different spots on the object, or hitting it in different ways, such as hitting it with the heel of your hand, striking it with your knuckles or scraping your fingernails across a textured part of the object.
- Another option is to use different "Exciters" such as keys, coins, pens, sticks, mallets, rings and other small objects to strike the item to which the Mogees Pro vibration sensor is mounted. Again, the software is listening for different vibration patterns, so anything that produces a different and distinct sound from the object is a potential candidate for a Gesture or Exciter.
- There are currently four Sound Engines that come with the Mogees software, each offering a variety of different presets that you can trigger. Foxtrot is a retro electro drum synth with 20 presets, Interpol808 emulates classic drum machine sounds, Muon is a physical modeling re-synthesizer and Scope, which has 15 presets, is a natural vibration re-synthesizer. Interpol808 and Muon come ready to go with 19 preset sounds each.
- Most of the sounds are percussive and / or electronic in nature. An on-screen keyboard allows assigning note values to the sounds that are triggered by each Gesture, so it's possible to play melodically. Advanced settings allow a fair degree of adjustment over the sounds too.
- The Mogees iOS app supports Inter-App Audio and Audiobus, allowing it to work and play well with other apps.
- The iOS and AU / VST versions of the Mogees app are similar, but there are a few differences. The plug-in version lets you use Mogees with your audio interface and DAW programs like Logic Ableton Live and Garageband and allows you to send and receive MIDI, use more than one Mogee at a time, as well as save and load sessions.
- Not all items are ideal for use with Mogees. A certain amount of trial-and-error experimentation with various items and surfaces, as well as with different Gestures and Exciters should be expected… and is part of the fun.
- The cloth-covered cable looks cool and feels sturdy, but it's pretty stiff.
- Remote MIDI Input and Output for the iOS app are not available at this time, but are "coming soon" according to the Mogees website.
- There are currently no sampled acoustic drum sounds in any of the Sound Engines, although additional Sound Engines are reportedly in the works.
Mogees is surprisingly useful and quite a bit more fun that I initially expected. Being able to use Mogees to send MIDI commands makes them a useful accessory for musicians, even if they're playing other instruments. You can remap the MIDI commands to perform all kinds of tasks, like controlling lights, DJ controls, or triggering any MIDI-driven funcitonality. Unfortunately this capability is currently only available with the plug-in version until the promised Remote MIDI features are added to the iOS app. Of course, you can also use Mogees to turn non-musical items into musical instruments, and the software's impressive ability to tell the difference between different types of gestures is absolutely crucial to that.
You do have to give some thought to the types of items you're going to attach the sensor to. A pillow and similar soft items won't vibrate enough to work, and items that vibrate too uniformly despite differences in the exciter strikes will be limited in the number of gestures they can support. But given a suitable item to mount it on, you can have a lot of fun with Mogees, and you really can turn everyday items into musically useful tools. I expect to see people coming up with all sorts of interesting ways to put Mogees to use.
How will you use yours? -HC-
Mogees Mogees Pro Vibration Sensor ($129.99 "street")
Mogees Vibration Sensor product web page
You can purchase the Mogees Vibration Sensor from:
Mogees - Creative Possibilities
Mogees for iOS Tutorial
How to use Mogess with GarageBand
How to use Mogees with Ableton Live
How to use Mogees with Logic Pro X
TEDx Talk: Transforming everyday objects into musical instruments: Bruno Zamborlin at TEDx Brussels
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.