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A Simple Guide To Setting Up MIDI

Setting up MIDI is more straight forward than it might seem. There seems to be some air of mystery surrounding MIDI. The fact is, it’s very simple. After all, it’s just a messaging system! You tell it what you want to do, and it does it!

Setting Up MIDI
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Table of Contents

Setting Up MIDI

How To Connect Your MIDI Instruments To Your Computer

Nearly all electronic musical devices have MIDI inputs and outputs (I/O) All you need is an appropriate cable to connect them up. Some of the most up to date devices now have usb connections, so all you need is a usb lead plugged straight into the usb port of your computer.

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MIDI Socket

This is a typical MIDI socket.
MIDI Socket
MIDI Socket

This is the back of my own keyboard, which is a just a set of keys. It doesn’t actually make any sounds and is therefore, useless without some form of MIDI connection. As you can see it has just one MIDI socket. MIDI OUT. (This means I can only send information out from my keyboard, and not receive any information back.)

This is connected straight into my soundcard, which has a MIDI connection so the lead I use is a MIDI to MIDI lead. Looks like this.

MIDI Lead
MIDI Lead

Sound Card

I use an Audiophile 2496 soundcard. It has a 9 pin connector on the card with a breakout lead for the MIDI connections.

Sound Card
Sound Card

Some soundcards will have a Game Port or Joystick socket.

This is a 15 pin D socket looks like this.

Game Port
Game Port

If you have one of these, you will need a cable like this.

MIDI Break Out Cable
MIDI Break Out Cable

This plugs into the 15 pin socket and leaves an extention for a Joystick, plus it has the MIDI in & out sockets.

MIDI / USB Cable

The other option is to get a MIDI to USB cable. In it’s most basic form, it will look like this.

MIDI USB Cable
MIDI USB Cable

This plugs straight into an available USB socket on your computer.

Configure The MIDI - USB Connection

Now that you have made the connection, the next thing is to configure your recording software. Now because there are a lot of different applications out there! It would be impossible for me to describe the process for each one. I use Cakewalk SONAR, and in this picture, you can see I have selected the track properties, and in the ‘output’ I have three options of where to send my MIDI signal.

MIDI Output Control Panel
MIDI Output Control Panel

1/ Is the MIDI out on the soundcard. If my keyboard had it’s own sound capabilities, I could use this option to hear anything I had previously played.

2&3/ Are to DXI synths, loaded in at the start of the session. So in this example, whatever I play is going to sound through the ‘Cyclone 1’ DXI synth. Which will play through my speakers connected to my computer.

Testing MIDI Input / MIDI Output In Your DAW

Now the messaging service comes into play.

If I play an Am chord on the keyboard with quite a soft touch, (because my keyboard is touch sensitive,) the message will be sent into the computer. I can either record this event, in which case I will get a perfect replication of what I’ve just played. Or I can choose to just listen to what I’m playing! If I record this event, I can then manipulate what I’ve played in the software application. Here you can see the ‘Piano Roll’ view, and the ‘Staff’ view.

Music Staff View
Music Staff View

Within either of these windows, you can manipulate what you’ve played. You could add further notes, delete notes, extend or reduce the length of any notes, or even adjust the velocity of the notes. You could also go back and change the output to another source: such as a different keyboard, sound module or sampler. Or another Software synth!

Conclusion

I hope you found setting up MIDI pretty straight forward and that this article has been useful in guiding you through the MIDI setup process. Please feel free to ask any questions in the forum. Especially if you have any problems with your particular software application.

Discuss this article in our Music Forum.

Related Articles

If you want to find out more about recording and music production? If so, you can find articles and tutorials on our Recording and Music Production  Articles page.

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