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Studio One & General MIDI

PreSonus Studio One Tips & Techniques By Robin Vincent
Published August 2022

The free ReaControlMIDI plug‑in includes a General MIDI patch list, which you can use to send Program Change messages to your GM instruments.The free ReaControlMIDI plug‑in includes a General MIDI patch list, which you can use to send Program Change messages to your GM instruments.

We explore some workarounds for getting Studio One to talk General MIDI.

All the best learning experiences are born out of the frustration of being unable to do something. And so this month’s workshop comes with a bit of a personal story involving Studio One and its almost complete disregard of General MIDI, which also fits in nicely with my recent workshops on MIDI basics.

One of my kids is interested in making his own music. He’s had some piano lessons at school and has really taken to it without anything but gentle encouragement from me. I got him a simple Casio home keyboard to use in his room; he loves the range of sounds and plays it all the time.

The next logical step was to wire it up to his computer for a bit of sequencing. I installed Studio One (naturally) and got very excited showing him how to record the piano sound and how simple sequencing worked. Then I suggested adding a second track and giving it a different MIDI channel so we could choose a different sound from the Casio. Could I get that to work? No, well, at least not without a lot of fiddling about, swearing and frustration while my kid wandered off to do something less boring instead.

I had fully expected to open the Inspector, click a GM button and select from the 128 sounds that have been available to us since the dawn of digital synthesis. But no, there’s no such function. I couldn’t even find where to select a bank and program number, and found myself trying to add it in as automation to the track. It turns out the Bank/Program section of the Inspector is hidden away in a fold between other sections. But anyway, numbers are not very friendly when selecting patches, so why can’t I choose them by name? I have definitely done this in other DAWs.

This led me to search the Studio One manual for any kind of General MIDI information or support, or anything to do with creating a patch script for selecting sounds by name from any external synthesizer or sound module. There’s nothing there. Studio One simply doesn’t have the ability to generate patch scripts. Browsing the online forums shows that this has been a requested feature since version 1.

I’ve spent the last few days trying to get to the bottom of this missing functionality, and I wanted to share a couple of ways I found of using General MIDI sound lists, and potentially other patch lists, in Studio One.

Loading GM Files

Believe it or not, people still want to load, play and mix MIDI files. There are millions on the Internet and you’ll find MIDI file versions of pretty much every song ever written. They are a great way of creating cover‑version backing tracks or stealing the groove section of a song to use in your own music.

Studio One can load and play MIDI files; you can drag them onto tracks from the browser just like any other file. It’s largely undocumented, but you can also pull in complete General MIDI multitrack MIDI files. When you do so, Studio One asks you if you want to load GM instruments for the tracks. If you select Yes then an instance of Presence XT will be loaded for each track with an appropriate sound. I had no idea Presence XT could do that, or that it had a bank of GM sounds. (It doesn’t have drum kits, though, so you will have to load something manually to take care of those.) There’s no information in Presence XT to...

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