Over the past few months we’ve looked at ways to troubleshoot MIDI on Mac and Windows workstations. Beyond the computer, it’s also important to make sure your MIDI hardware is set up and functioning properly. Most keyboards, synthesizers, and samplers have some common settings that need to be made to ensure they’re ready to communicate with your sequencer and DAW. We’ll use a few popular keyboard workstations as our examples: the Korg Triton Extreme, the Roland Fantom-X, and the Yamaha Motif ES.
Start by making sure the workstation is set to transmit MIDI notes and other commands when you play its keyboard. Most keyboard workstations are preconfigured to transmit on their MIDI output ports when keys are played. You may want to verify that the MIDI channel on which your keyboard is transmitting will work with your sequencer/DAW. On the Triton Extreme, you’d press the Global button, then Menu, and select MIDI on screen. There, you’d want to check the “MIDI Channel.” You’ll notice a “local control” setting on most keyboards. While it’s normal to keep local control turned on, you may have better luck with MIDI and your DAW while local control is off.
The Motif includes similar settings for transmit channel and local control, found by pressing Utility > Midi > Switch. It also offers the option to send or receive MIDI through the standard MIDI ports or through USB. If you’re not receiving MIDI from the Motif, be sure to check Utility > Midi > Other to verify that MIDI is being transmitted on the cable (USB or MIDI) you’re expecting.
Most keyboard workstations are multitimbral — equipped to receive multiple channels of MIDI simultaneously — so that several sounds can be played from the same keyboard. In the case of all three of our example workstations, this requires that a specific mode be used. Because keyboard workstations are often used as stand-alone sequencers, it’s generally convenient to use the same settings for internal sequencing to receive external MIDI from a computer or other sequencer.
In the Roland Fantom-X, you can simply press “Layer/Split,” then select “USER preset 01 Seq: Template.” In this mode, the Fantom-X will receive on all 16 channels.
The Triton Extreme and Motif ES are similar, in fact nearly the same. In “Song” mode on the Motif, and “Sequencer” mode on the Triton, the keyboard is ready to receive on all 16 channels. It’s advisable to select an empty song or sequence, which ensures that all settings are at their defaults.
A few tips: On all of the example workstations, each track or part is set up to receive on the MIDI channel with the same number. For example: part 1 receives on channel 1, part 2 receives on channel 2, and so on. It’s advisable to keep this setup to avoid confusion. Just select a sound (preset, voice, etc.) for each track or part. If you want to save all the keyboard settings (patch/program selections) for a particular project, you can copy or save that song (sequence) to an empty user setting on the keyboard. Then recall that saved file on the keyboard when you want to use it again with your MIDI system.