Source Audio epitomizes the kind of forward thinking encouraged at Guitar Moderne. From the company’s inception it has eschewed the kind of “vintage is better” thinking pervading much (but thankfully not all) of the effect pedal industry. Vintage is great, but Source Audio has taken the challenge to push the world of guitar performance into the future. Their centerpiece product—Hot Hand—is a ring that remotely controls their line of guitar and bass effects, as well as any other effect with a continuous control input. Now, through Hot Hand USB it can also control plug-in and DAW parameters on your computer.
It is a very simple concept: the USB receiver translates motion signal from the wireless Hot Hand ring into MIDI for communication with MIDI compatible software such as Ableton, Reason, Pro Tools, Logic, and many more. The Hot Hand USB can be configured and customized using the software editor. The Hot Hand USB Software Editor allows users to select ring axes, adjust smoothing and depth, assign MIDI control signals, choose MIDI message types and much more. If you don’t work with a laptop you can use the Hot Hand 3 Universal Wireless Effects Controller.
Also check out this video for some other effects and parameters you can control the Hot hand USB.
For the video at the beginning, I attached the Hot Hand ring to the strings of the guitar behind the nut rather than wear it on my right hand. Wearing it on your hand permits dramatic gestures that helps the audience relate your motions to sounds they are hearing—a plus in laptop music, where it can often seem you are merely reading your email while playing a track. Unfortunately, wearing it on your right hand makes it impossible to use with an EBow—a major plus of its own.
I plug the USB stick into my MacBook Pro and its amber LED starts blinking. I turn on the ring, its blue light comes on steady and the amber stick light stops blinking and remains on—connection achieved. I fire up the Hot Hand USB software and see the orange fill in the various sections moving as I move the neck of my guitar up and down, forward and back, and side to side. For simplicity sake I decide to use just the X-axis so I shut off the other two by clicking the green dot in the upper right corner. I could have the ring control three different MIDI channels by switching all of the MIDI windows on the right to Process 1 and changing their MIDI channels, or I could have each different axis sending MIDI on a separate channel. The possibilities are endless and easily implemented, but for my present purposes I only need one axis on one channel.
Opening Ableton Live, I use its easy MIDI mapping to map the Hot hand USB to various parameters. This is the only tricky part—if you are inadvertently clicked on a parameter you don’t want to map, any motion of the neck will map the Hot Hand to it. To avoid this, you might want to shut the axis off by clicking the green button, engage MIDI mapping, chose the parameter, and then turn the axis back on. Alternately you could turn the ring off and on, but this way saves wear and tear on the switch. In no time I was able to map the Hot Hand to the frequency control of Live Auto Filter plug-ins placed before and after the Amp simulator, as well as frequency and LFO rate parameters on a couple of Live soft synths.
There is no hex pickup on the Fender Blacktop Jazzmaster I am using. I am using an amazing plug-in from Jam Origin called MIDI Guitar to play the soft synths in Live. Look for my full review in an upcoming issue of Electronic Musician, but basically you install the plug-in and it reads the audio off your guitar and converts it to full polyphonic MIDI, allowing you to control any synth in your DAW.
Hot Hand can also be used for other functions like turning effects on and off.
I have done a number of gigs with Hot Hand USB and it has never let me down. I particularly love the expressiveness of being able to filter the sustaining EBow notes. I have only begun to explore the possibilities of controlling synth parameters with the Source Audio device. It doesn’t stop with audio: you could also be controlling video simultaneously. The Hot Hand USB is a game changer in the world of laptop guitar.