Elka DMP-18 Bass Pedal MIDI Controller
Last Update 09-24-2009
I was trying to get a band together when we fired our bass player
because he could not remember the songs and he was a terrible
player. I took over playing the bass and suddenly we were three
piece - drums, bass, guitar. The guitar player suggested MIDI
foot pedals so I could
play my Alesis Andromeda with my feet. I kinda always wanted a
bass pedal MIDI controller so now I could get one out of
necessity. Well the current pickings
for new MIDI bass pedal controllers on the market were pretty
expensive. And then what to my unbelieving eyes, this set of Elka
pedals shows up on the 'bay.
I landed them for a decent price and these rarely ever show up for
sale. This is no great mystery. Reason may have been that
they were poor sellers and they
didn't make very many. The reason they may have been poor sellers
is because frankly they are not very good MIDI controllers.
Features of this MIDI controller:
Sounds cool, right? So why am I so sour about them?
- MIDI channel selectable from 1 to 16
- 18 velocity sensitive notes (switchable to non-velocity)
- Five foot buttons for MIDI program select
- Octave shift from -2 to +5 octaves
- Volume controller wheel accessable by foot
- Cannot store multiple configurations - cannot store any!
- Transmits MIDI active sensing, cannot be disabled
- The five buttons send MIDI SYSEX by default - you have to
configure it to send MIDI Program Change
- Once you configure for MIDI Progran Change, you can only assign
program "n" to button 1 - then button 2 sends n+1, button 3 sends n+2...
- Does not retain settings on power down
- Because of (5)
Must be good on your feet - if you bump a neighboring note,
neither note sounds (not a problem with Poly=ON but must configure
- the unit resets to default settings (buttons send MIDI SYSEX
- Must re-configure all settings to non-default - octave shift,
MIDI channel, etc
- default settings MIDI Channel=1, Octave=0, Key Velocity=ON,
This specimen arrived non-working due to the mains transformer breaking
plastic (?!?) mounting tabs and in the process breaking one of the
secondary wires from its terminal. I was able to re-connect the
secondary wire and I established a more secure method of mounting the
transformer. The buttons had also physically rubbed against the
clearance holes and the frame had to be shifted to line them up
properly. Between that and the easily cracked plastic shell,
these pedals are NOT sturdy enough for gigging.
From the datecodes on the ICs under the hood these pedals were made in
1985. MIDI was in its infancy then (introduced in 1983) and many
MIDI accessories during
that time were not great products or well thought out. This had
the potential to be a great product but Elka blew it by omitting
important MIDI controller features like patch storage and made some odd
choices in operation. There isn't a RAM IC or backup battery to
be found under the hood. I had no user manual and none could be
found online, so I had to figure out the operation of this thing by
monitoring the MIDI output on my PC.
There's a button marked PLAY/PROGRAM ACCESS.
powers up in PLAY mode. Pressing this button enters PROGRAM
ACCESS which lets you configure the controller and the unit sends
sixteen note off commands at zero velocity and sends zero value
monophonic aftertouch MIDI controller #123. The "MIDI CHANNEL"
LED lights up and using the template on the top of the unit, you press
the associated key to set the MIDI Channel. Press PROGRAM ACCESS
and the next LED lights, allowing you to set the octave shift.
Repeat presses of PROGRAM ACCESS cycles through each setting, then
returns to PLAY mode. When in PROGRAM ACCESS mode you can return
to PLAY mode quickly by pressing the high F key (sort of an "escape"
I'll explain some of the non-obvious configurations. When KEY
VELOCITY is OFF (default is ON), the MIDI note on commands have a fixed
velocity of 64. While velocity sensitive bass pedal
keys sound cool, in practice they simply don't work reliably with
feet. When POLY is OFF (default) the unit responds
monophonically, ON is polyphonic mode. Since the unit defaults to
monophonic mode on power up, if you bump a
neighboring note it sends a note off command for the note you wanted to
play! Elka made a poor choice of operation, they should have
implemented a "low note priority" in monophonic mode instead of a "last
note priority". This forces you to be really accurate with your
isn't easy in a standing position. When HOLD is ON (default
is OFF), MIDI note off commands are inhibited. This lets you
sustain any key without holding it down, which can be useful when
playing with feet. It is recommended that you do NOT use this in
polyphonic mode. You can turn off notes by entering PROGRAM
ACCESS and pressing the high F key.
PROG CHANGE does several things. Press the B note and the
"Performance Registration" buttons send MIDI Program Change, press high
C note and they sent MIDI SYSEX (default, a very poor choice
IMO). Remember that Volume foot wheel
high D note and the wheel sends MIDI Controller #4 (foot controller),
press high E and it sends MIDI Controller #7 (volume). You can
select MIDI program 00 to 99 using a two note entry in which the
first note is the first digit and the second note is the second
Use the template on the top of the unit to find the associated digit
with the pedal note. Ah, but the way it works is say you
select program #34 - button one sends #34, button two sends #35, three
sends #36, four sends #37, five sends #38. Not exactly flexible.
Yeah real intuitive if you don't have a manual.
The lack of configuration retention means you must manually configure
your custom setup every time you power the unit down. Yeah that
will be fun if the band blows a fuse during a gig. And
re-configuring gets old real quick.
The fact that you cannot store multiple configurations and it does not
retain settings after power down severely limits the applications of
this MIDI controller.
So I worked around these
shortcomings by configuring the multitimbral mix programs on the
Andromeda around the power-up default configuration of the
DMP-18. Now I can play bass pedals, strings, pads, etc although
it is restricted to sending MIDI note on/off commands.
That was a decent compromise but if your module or keyboard isn't this
flexible then the DMP-18 may not work for you. Despite these
shortcomings, the DMP-18 does have some useful features that do not
exist on any other bass pedal MIDI controller. Oh, that
band? We never made it out the basement.
I decided that my Moog Taurus II controller is a better feeling
controller. There are MIDI retrofits on the net that I can
install in the Moog, so I sold the Elka pedals.