The legendary sound of the Buchla Music Easel with Sensel’s expressive Morph controller – a perfect pairing!

The innovative, pressure-sensitive Sensel Morph, in tandem with Sensel’s Buchla Thunder Overlay, makes a potent tool for expressive playing when performing on the legendary Buchla Music Easel Command 208.

When Buchla released a refresh of their Music Easel in 2013, the Easel Command 208, modern conveniences were included such as a USB-B port, MIDI input and standard 1/4″ audio outputs. Far beyond mere MIDI Note and PitchBend data, its MIDI implementation allows for external modulation of several parameters via CC data and triggers via Note data. You can even send Note data to the Complex Oscillator and Modulation Oscillator independently thus providing Duophonic playback with alternate tones established.

Top view of the Buchla Easel Command 208

The Buchla Easel Command is now available with an optional USB-A host card. You can attach any Class Compliant USB controllers, such as the Sensel Morph, directly to the unit removing the need for a computer to act as an intermediary host.

For artists who prefer to perform DAWless, or those in the studio seeking a more direct means to play their Easel, this is a very welcome development!

Enter, the Sensel Morph

Recently, Sensel teamed up with Buchla in a collaborative alliance. With the release of the Buchla Thunder Overlay, an accessory product for their Morph controller which mimics the cosmetics of Buchla’s Thunder controller from 1990 whilst extending functionality with comprehensive, user-configurable mapping via the Sensel App.

Buchla’s original Thunder controller
(image sourced from July 1990 Keyboard Magazine Review)
A side by side comparison of the old school Thunder with Sensel’s Morph with the Buchla Thunder Overlay

Now, you can explore the legendary sound of the Music Easel with multi-dimensional control! Check out the video below to see for yourself.

Introduction to Buchla Easel Command and Sensel Morph – a complete tutorial

Getting Started

To get up-and-running, you’ll need the Buchla Easel Command Map File for the Buchla Thunder overlay, and some guides on how it works, so download it today and start making amazing music.

You’ll also want to check out the MIDI implementation and other documents on Buchla’s site.

Within the mapping file, you’ll find three alternative Preset maps. Pick whichever best suits your approach and performance style.

Versatile and Configurable

Far from a One-Trick-Pony, the Sensel Morph is a versatile, highly-configurable MIDI controller. You are entirely free to redefine the mappings to control other instruments or software. You can have several mappings of your bespoke creations loaded in the Sensel App and use the “Send Map to Morph” function to update its internal memory. Once you’ve uploaded maps, the Morph can operate independently of your computer if you desire.

The Sensel Morph can natively transmit MPE data for other hardware/software which supports it. The Buchla Thunder Overlay is ideal to partner with some of the more exotic drone-generator styled instruments found in the Native Instruments Reaktor User Library, Softube Modular, Madrona Labs Aalto, X-Fer Records Serum, and many more!

Strictly speaking, the Buchla Easel Command is a Monophonic instrument (and thus Channel Aftertouch only is supported), however, the Complex Oscillator and Modulation Oscillator modules can receive note data on independent MIDI channels, thus the unit is capable of sublime Duophonic performances.

The Controller Which Keeps Giving

Better still, you can purchase additional Morph Overlays which completely transforms the unit into a new controller. A range of Overlays, dedicated to different usage scenarios and software categories, can be purchased at a fraction of the cost the base Morph unit. The collection keeps expanding in response to user feedback and Sensel have more templates in the pipeline.

If you don’t want to wait for Sensel to release your bespoke Overlay, there’s no need to wait! You can prototype Overlays of your design with the Innovator’s Overlay. Design your layout in your preferred drawing app, print it out, cut it to size, slide it underneath the Overlay and you’re ready to create your mappings.

PICTURED ABOVE: Game Overlay, Music Production Overlay, Buchla Thunder Overlay,
Video Editing Overlay, Drum Pad Overlay, Piano Overlay.
ALSO AVAILABLE: Innovator’s Overlay, Tactile QWERTY Keyboard Overlay

Thanks to each Overlay having a unique pattern of embedded magnets, the Morph uses these magnets to identify which Overlay is on the unit and will swap maps personalities on the fly when you exchange Overlays.

By assigning unique MIDI Channels to each Overlay mapping, you can even switch between instruments by configuring your DAW tracks to receive MIDI Events on specific MIDI Channels. For example, in a DAW project: establish several MIDI tracks; insert virtual instruments in these tracks; configure each to receive input only from a specific MIDI Channel; arm each track so it gets MIDI events from the Morph’s MIDI port simultaneously. There is no doubt inventive artists will exploit this behaviour to add a unique flavour to their performances!

Connection of multiple Morph units, simultaneously, is also supported for those power users seeking the ultimate setup. Why stop at one?

Let’s Hear It!

Check out this rough, unedited clip below to see the range of sonic variety you can pull from a single, simple patch on the Buchla Easel Command 208 thanks to the expressive control the Sensel Morph provides. In this example, the performer is making sounds on-the-fly whilst feeding the audio into the Looper Device within Ableton Live with the resulting passes layering up in realtime.