Make Any VSTi Monosynth (Inc SH-2 Plug-Out | Monark Synth) a Polysynth for Free in Reaper! 2

Monark SynthWhy would arguably the two best recent VST synths, Roland’s SH-2 Plug-Out and NI’s Monark Synth be monophonic? Why would there even be such a thing as a virtual monosynth in 2015 I hear you ask?

Surely, only being able to play one note at a time is a ridiculous limitation for software that could easily be overcome? As usual, the answer is not quite so simple.

In this tutorial we are going to discover how to upgrade any VST monosynth to a polysynth using a free JSFX plugin for Reaper. I will also provide links and additional information on how users of Ableton Live (using the free MaxForLive) can do the same thing.

Why Were Monosynths Monophonic?

Yamaha CS-15

The old monosynths from the 70’s and 80’s could only generate one note at a time because either the technology to play more was not invented yet, or the cost of making the hardware polyphonic was too high. Polysynths are still very expensive to manufacture today. In the world of VST instruments these restrictions don’t apply, so why force the synth to be monophonic?!

To make a 100% authentic emulation then the emulated synth should have the same features as the original, including its limitations. If we add new features like polyphony then we are going to be creating sounds that the original could not make. Another reason not to add polophony is that it will make the emulation more complex to create. If all the subtle interactions in the different analog voices are going to be emulated this will take more CPU and more coding.

Screw Authenticity, I Just Want to Play Chords!

Some people would much rather have the option to be able to play chords, even if it meant the emulation was not being faithful to the original. Some emulations, like the TAL Bassline 101, do let you select a polyphonic mode that the original Roland SH-101 did not have. Some other synths like Roland’s new SH-2 Plug-out and Native Instruments Monark synth do not. This is a real shame as these are two of the best analog emulations available.

A Couple of Workarounds Not Involving Reaper

Workaround 1 – How to Make Monark Synth Polyphonic for Users of the Full Version of Reaktor

There is a workaround for people running Monark inside the full version of Reaktor. I will quote from a KVR thread, all credit for this solution goes to KVR forum users fluxmind and Ingonator.

“This is an updated procedure of how to make a polyphonic version of Monark (many thanks to KVR member fluxmind for finding this out and posting it):

1. Enable editing mode, Go to “Panel/Monark/Monark”, disconnect from “Volt” cell PK, GT

2. Create “Note Pitch” and “Gate” and connect “Note Pitch” to PK and Gate to GT

3. Go into the “Function” tab of the “Gate” module (right-click and “Properties”) and set “Upper Limit (MIDI) to 1 (instead of 127).

4. Still at the same place disconnect “Volt” cell from “Out 1”, create “Out Port” and “Audio Voice Combiner” and Connect “Audio Voice Combiner” output to Out 1 and Out 2 and then Connect “Volt” cell output to Audio Voice Combiner input

5. Now go to “Panel/Monark” disconnect Out 2 and connect that Out 2 to Second free Out

6. Go back to “Panel/Monark/Monark” and disable “Mono” in “Volt” cells properties

7. Go to back to “panel” click on Monark name and in Properties page enable as many voices as you want (or how many your CPU could handle…)

8. Go to file and save ensemble as Monark Poly, because I don’t now how to make a switch for mono/poly yet, so you will have 2 versions, one normal monophonic and one Polyphonic

A few features like e.g. page B settings don’t seem to be available now.

Here are two screenshots showing the modifications: … rk%201.png … rk%202.png

* Please note I do not have this software and can’t answer any questions on it

Workaround 2 – A MaxForLive Script for Ableton Live to Make Any Type of Synth Polyphonic (Including Hardware!)

There is a cool script called PolyMind v2 – Dynamic Voice Allocator that works for hardware synths and VSTi softsynths too. Check it out.

* Please note I do not have this software and can’t answer any questions on it

Tale’s JSFX Midi Router Plugin For Reaper

Reaper users rejoice, there is a workaround that enables you to turn any monophonic instrument into a polyphonic one using multiple copies of the instrument and a special MIDI routing plugin.

Setting it up

Freaper_effects_folderirst you need to download the awesome plugin pack provided by the talented programmer Theo Niessink (AKA Tale) from his website.

The pack has many plugins included, but if you only want to use the MIDI router then locate the file poly_mono_midi_router and place it in your effects folder inside your Reaper installation.

Now we will create a polyphonic version of Monark step by step. You can do the same thing for any virtual instrument that is limited to playing one note at a time.

  1. Create a new track in Reaper and call it ‘splitter’
  2. Select your MIDI keyboard input and channel number
  3. Hit the record and monitor buttons, press a few keys and check you have an input
  4. Press the new tracks FX button, add the poly_mono_midi_router plugin and select your MIDI keyboards input channel
  5. Add another track. We will call the track Monark 1. Press the FX button and add your VST monosynth. Here we will add Monark.
  6. Now lets wire it in. Press the IO button on Monark 1 and click add new receive, select splitter. Choose MIDI 1 => 1. This will route all the MIDI data coming from the track called splitter on MIDI channel 1 into MIDI channel 1 of the Monark 1 track. Play your MIDI keyboard, you should have sound
  7. Monark with the Reaktor player is a bit fussy about remembering its MIDI learn parameters. One workaround is to save it as an FX Chain when it is setup. You may wish to add a saved FX Chain version of the synth with your MIDI controller data entered. If not, and you have a MIDI controller, now is the time to use MIDI learn.
  8. Having many voices at once will overload the mixer, lets turn the track down 10dB.
  9. Now we will duplicate the track as many times as we want voices to play at once.
  10. The final stage is to alter the MIDI routing so Tale’s plugin can do it’s magic. Click the IO button on the splitter channel and make the following changes.

Now we can play Monark polyphonically as well as change the patches via MIDI and use our MIDI controller.

The next stage would be to link every parameter together inside Reaper so we could edit the patches polyphonically, but for now we will have to be content with this powerful new Moog polysynth we have to play with.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. To help support me making more please subscribe to the Learn Digital Audio Youtube channel, check out my blog, and even more importantly have a look at my Udemy courses The Best Free VST Plugins Explained and Nebula Explained!

(Thanks to the following for their generous use of the creative commons license and cool photos from flickr: man pikin – synths out for a clean | BoneDaddy.P7 – Yamaha CS-15 | Frederik Magle Music – Frederik Magle going crazy playing piano – No. 1 )


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2 thoughts on “Make Any VSTi Monosynth (Inc SH-2 Plug-Out | Monark Synth) a Polysynth for Free in Reaper!

  • Rusty Perez

    Thanks for creating this post.
    I am just a little dismayed that you don’t describe, using audible language, what must be done in the i/o routing to play polyphonicly.
    I happen to be blind, so the visuals are lost on me. 🙂
    I’ll figure it out, but just wish you had described it. 🙂

    Thanks again!