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Don't know what I don't know

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Don't know what I don't know

Postby nickle15 » Fri Oct 09, 2020 3:20 pm

I have a super basic understanding of MIDI in that I can use a keyboard to play other hardware and software. The only controls I successfully use in a MIDI environment are the damper pedal, pitch bend, and mod wheel. I've wanted to increase my proficiency in controlling software and hardware from a controller keyboard. So here's my current wish list:

I have a controller keyboard with plenty of knobs, sliders, and pads. I want to use those knobs, sliders, and pads to control different parameters in the PolySix VST (just as one example). I want this kind of control when using the VST in standalone mode, or when I'm working in Pro Tools. I think I'm asking the wrong questions when I do internet searches but I'd like to find out the principles behind setting up control like that. Can anyone recommend any decent resource to help me learn more about controlling MIDI in this manner?

And if anyone wants to tell me my line of thinking doesn't make any sense that would be helpful too. As mentioned above I'm beginning to think I'm not asking the right questions...
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Re: Don't know what I don't know

Postby desmond » Fri Oct 09, 2020 3:28 pm

Plugin control via MIDI is actually a lot more complicated than you'd think, because it can be done in a variety of different ways.

However, if you want to control the VST in standalone mode, you have to use the plugin's own MIDI learn feature (if it has one) to map your controls to it's parameters. That's the only option available to you.

In the case of the P6, right click on a control, click "Learn", then move the physical knob you want to assign to that control.

I don't know offhand whether those mappings will stick and continue to work in the plugin inside ProTools, but you can try and let us know. ;)
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Re: Don't know what I don't know

Postby Eddy Deegan » Fri Oct 09, 2020 4:12 pm

Most MIDI controls are done using CC numbers (CC stands for 'Continuous Controller'). Up to 127 different controllers are supported by MIDI (ignoring MIDI 2.0 for now - that's beyond the scope here) and although a number of them are 'reserved' for standard use (for example 1 is modulation wheel, 2 is breath controller, 64 is damper pedal/sustain ...) they can be re-mapped if you know what you're doing (and if your hardware supports it).

Each CC number is also associated with a value from 1 to 127 which determines the physical position of the controller, so for a slider that might be 0 at one end and 127 at the other.

I'm simplifying it a bit here (there are some provisions for greater ranges of numbers in certain cases), but that's the gist.

Fortunately a lot of CCs are 'undefined' and as such can be used for anything you like without problems. The trick is to tell the device (or plugin) that you want to control which CC number to monitor for incoming values and to do that you need to know which CC any given control on your keyboard is transmitting. You should also ensure that the controller keyboard and the plugin are communicating on the same MIDI channel.

Some controller keyboards allow you to specify which CC to transmit on which physical controller. Others don't but you can usually find out from the manual or by poking around in the menus on the keyboard itself.

This is where the 'MIDI learn' feature that many plugins support is very useful as you can set up the association without knowing what the CC number actually is. If you set a parameter on the plugin to 'learn' mode it'll monitor all the CC numbers until it sees one appear. If you then move a physical controller on the keyboard, the keyboard will transmit that information, the plugin will see it and associate the parameter in question with whatever that CC is.

A list of CC numbers can be found here if you're interested (some are all but obsolete these days) but to be honest for the purposes you are describing it should be enough to use the MIDI Learn feature or to consult the manual for your keyboard to determine the CC value emitted by any given controller so that you can then configure the plugin to recognise it.
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Re: Don't know what I don't know

Postby nickle15 » Fri Oct 09, 2020 4:43 pm

Eddy Deegan wrote:Most MIDI controls are done using CC numbers (CC stands for 'Continuous Controller'). Up to 127 different controllers are supported by MIDI (ignoring MIDI 2.0 for now - that's beyond the scope here) and although a number of them are 'reserved' for standard use (for example 1 is modulation wheel, 2 is breath controller, 64 is damper pedal/sustain ...) they can be re-mapped if you know what you're doing (and if your hardware supports it).

Each CC number is also associated with a value from 1 to 127 which determines the physical position of the controller, so for a slider that might be 0 at one end and 127 at the other.

I'm simplifying it a bit here (there are some provisions for greater ranges of numbers in certain cases), but that's the gist.

Fortunately a lot of CCs are 'undefined' and as such can be used for anything you like without problems. The trick is to tell the device (or plugin) that you want to control which CC number to monitor for incoming values and to do that you need to know which CC any given control on your keyboard is transmitting. You should also ensure that the controller keyboard and the plugin are communicating on the same MIDI channel.

Some controller keyboards allow you to specify which CC to transmit on which physical controller. Others don't but you can usually find out from the manual or by poking around in the menus on the keyboard itself.

This is where the 'MIDI learn' feature that many plugins support is very useful as you can set up the association without knowing what the CC number actually is. If you set a parameter on the plugin to 'learn' mode it'll monitor all the CC numbers until it sees one appear. If you then move a physical controller on the keyboard, the keyboard will transmit that information, the plugin will see it and associate the parameter in question with whatever that CC is.

A list of CC numbers can be found here if you're interested (some are all but obsolete these days) but to be honest for the purposes you are describing it should be enough to use the MIDI Learn feature or to consult the manual for your keyboard to determine the CC value emitted by any given controller so that you can then configure the plugin to recognise it.
desmond wrote:Plugin control via MIDI is actually a lot more complicated than you'd think, because it can be done in a variety of different ways.

However, if you want to control the VST in standalone mode, you have to use the plugin's own MIDI learn feature (if it has one) to map your controls to it's parameters. That's the only option available to you.

In the case of the P6, right click on a control, click "Learn", then move the physical knob you want to assign to that control.

I don't know offhand whether those mappings will stick and continue to work in the plugin inside ProTools, but you can try and let us know. ;)


Thanks guys. Those were both extremely helpful posts! I'm looking forward to trying out those tips later this evening.

I appreciate your help - enjoy the weekend!
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