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Newbie midi question.


briandadrumma

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I'm new to the forum and new to keys. i'm a drummer in a duo, and i want to add a midi controller and some sounds to my rig. key sounds, not percussion. mainly organ, and synth. i purchased a cheap 25 key usb midi controller. what is the easiest/inexpensive way to get sounds? a sound module, or a laptop with ableton? neither? both? i basically just want some sounds for live performance with no latency. any help would be appreciated!!
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i purchased a cheap 25 key usb midi controller. what is the easiest/inexpensive way to get sounds? a sound module, or a laptop with ableton? neither? both? i basically just want some sounds for live performance with no latency.

Easiest, inexpensive, and lowest latency are probably not going to go together.

 

Least expensive way is usually to use something you already own, which could make a laptop or i-device (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) the winner there. If you have more than one of those, apps are cheaper for i-devices than laptops.

 

Lowest latency would be a dedicated hardware module, followed by a well-equipped, properly configured laptop, with the i-device bringing up the rear.

 

Easiest would probably be an iPad. Dedicated hardware could be easier if you were using a controller that (a) had standard MIDI jacks instead of (just) USB and (b) had controls on it you could use for patch selection (and possibly other sound manipulation), and I'm guessing that your cheap 25 key controller has neither.

 

The laptop will give you the widest range of capabilities, but it will not be easiest (though will probably be easier with a Mac laptop than Windows).

 

In your situation, I'd be inclined to lean toward the iPad. And it's definitely worth at least giving it a shot if you happen to already own one. But if you want less latency and the best apps, the laptop will get you there, though it generally takes some more effort to get it all working the way you want.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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I don't know the particular latency figures, you could probably get some from searching some old threads here, but it may also vary with the particular apps you run and the particular iPad you have. Since you already have the iPad, the investment is minimal, so just try it and see how it feels.

 

The simplest way to start is to get an Apple Camera Connection Kit ($29) and an app like SampleTank that has organ and synth sounds (since those are the two sounds you mentioned). But you can get better organ sounds from Galileo ($10) and better synth sounds from lots of different synth apps (starting at free).

 

If you are going to want to run multiple apps simultaneously, you want to pick apps that (a) have the ability to run in the background, and (b) have the ability to be set to respond to only a single MIDI channel. There are sometimes ways around these requirements, but it's simpler if you just pick apps that have these features, and most of the popular choices now do. It will give you more flexibility and ease in the long run.

 

Especially since your controller probably doesn't have a way to send Program Changes or a way to change MIDI Channels on the fly, you may want to add another app to take the input from your keyboard and route it to the appropriate "virtual sound module" (i.e. your organ app or your synth app) as needed and call up the desired sound on demand. MIDI Breakout Box will do that, and it's only a buck.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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I would have thought your best option would be something like a Casio xwp1 or Korg Microstation rather than a controller and module or laptop or ipad. Otherwise I would say a secondhand module like a Triton Rack or one of the Roland XVs would be a robust solution, but unless you particularly want 'legacy' sounds the newer keyboards are better value. I enjoy my iPad music apps but I'm not sure I could put up with the faff factor of gigging with an iPad. On the other hand it's cheap enough to try it and see.
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Dont overlook Garage Band, which should already be on your iPad.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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I would have thought your best option would be something like a Casio xwp1 or Korg Microstation rather than a controller and module or laptop or ipad.

The question was how to get sound out of a USB controller, I didn't ask why. ;-) I agree that the simplest thing is a self-contained keyboard, and that solves the latency issue as well.

 

OTOH, since he already has the iPad, it is the cheapest solution by far. It's also about the lightest and most compact. Also, since he wants organ and synth, it will arguably give him better organ than the XWP1 or any other board he could get for under a grand or more, and some pretty nice synths, too.

 

Otherwise I would say a secondhand module like a Triton Rack or one of the Roland XVs would be a robust solution

Those would not accept a direct input from his USB controller. Also, front panel control is limiting, especially if you don't have a controller that can do things like call up a patch change.

 

Anyway, he has the controller, he has the iPad, so I think it's a perfectly good way to start. He could add something like an XW-P1 in the future, and still integrate whatever he does with the iPad today.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Dont overlook Garage Band, which should already be on your iPad.

Yes, with a very nice organ. The only issue I have with GB is that it doesn't play well with others. But if you're okay running just one app at a time, that's one that deserves a spot in the rotation.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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MIDI Breakout Box will do that, and it's only a buck.

Updating that... I was playing with MBB some more tonight, and while it works in theory, I got some flakey behavior with it... weird volume jumps and note cutoffs. I need to check into it some more. iMIDIPatchbay might be a better bet. It's $30, but there's a free lite version if you want to check it out.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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iMIDIPatchbay might be a better bet. It's $30, but there's a free lite version if you want to check it out.

Is this the point at which MainStage for $30 running on a 2nd hand MBP starts to look like a bargain ?

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iMIDIPatchbay might be a better bet. It's $30, but there's a free lite version if you want to check it out.

Is this the point at which MainStage for $30 running on a 2nd hand MBP starts to look like a bargain ?

Mainstage is a bargain.

 

Of course, Mainstage plus a used MBP is a lot more expensive than $30 for an iPad you already own.

 

But more to the point, it's a different tool, for somebody who is taking a different approach. Reasons may vary, but I think it's a safe bet that nobody chooses to use an iPad over a laptop just because they want to save $29!

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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iMIDIPatchbay might be a better bet. It's $30, but there's a free lite version if you want to check it out.

Is this the point at which MainStage for $30 running on a 2nd hand MBP starts to look like a bargain ?

For the sake of the OP, I sincerely hope the MBP looks like a bargain sooner rather than later.

 

I sincerely hope that the OP realises it before he invests several weeks/months learning how to set up a iPad-only rig, uses it for a while and eventually reaches the frustrating glass ceiling where it ceases to be a viable solution ( click here to find out why) . And then has to anyway invest in either a laptop, and again climb the learning curve for a few weeks/months, get used to a completely new workflow, debug things. Or chuck the whole controller thing in frustration and go the hardware route.

 

Either ways, in the long run, with the iPad-only route OP is guaranteed a whole lot of frustration and pain and heartache. And for most professionals, the sheer man hours lost in scaling these different learning curves translates to MUCH more money than a second-hand MBP. Or a new Win tablet/laptop.

 

Those of us who actually have been gigging with a controller + softsynths for years, like me and @Markay, know what a professional host software ought to be capable of, and can see the pitfalls of the iPad-only approach. For all his encyclopedic knowledge and very helpful intentions, I don't think @AnotherScott has ever walked on to a stage with an exclusively controller + softsynth rig. Let alone transitioned complex banks of patches over different setlists and gigging requirements. When I started out a few years ago, I would have considered his armchair perspective sage wisdom. With the benefit of (painful) experience and hindsight, I must respectfully disagree.

 

tl;dr: In the long run, even a first hand MBP/Win laptop/tablet would be a bargain, even if the OP owns an iPad.

 

- Guru

This is really what MIDI was originally about encouraging cooperation between companies that make the world a more creative place." - Dave Smith
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For all his encyclopedic knowledge and very helpful intentions, I don't think @AnotherScott has ever walked on to a stage with an exclusively controller + softsynth rig. Let alone transitioned complex banks of patches over different setlists and gigging requirements.

Very true. But we don't know the OP's requirements in these respects. All he said he wanted to do was trigger organ and synth sounds from a cheap 25-key USB controller. And especially since he already has the iPad, it's an easy and cheap approach. (But thanks for the compliment!)

 

I sincerely hope that the OP realises it before he invests several weeks/months learning how to set up a iPad-only rig

Weeks/months? Geez. If all he wants to do is trigger synth and organ sounds, I can have him doing that in 5 minutes.

 

If he wants to configure a master app that will let him recall presets from a combination of other apps, that would take longer. MIDI Breakout Box is easy, but flakey, which is too bad because that would have made the whole project take maybe 20 minutes. iMIDIPatchbay is much more capable, but also more complicated, might have to dedicate an evening.

 

I am in no way suggesting this will be anywhere near as good as a laptop in flexibility or performance. But if the needs are simple, it's fast and easy.

Maybe this is the best place for a shameless plug! Our now not-so-new new video at https://youtu.be/3ZRC3b4p4EI is a 40 minute adaptation of T. S. Eliot's "Prufrock" - check it out! And hopefully I'll have something new here this year. ;-)

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Yes, I noticed that the OP mentions "just a few sounds". And is it trivially easy to get a few sounds in the iPad? You bet. And that's exactly the seductive trap.

 

Eventually, the other shoe has to drop.

 

Has anyone on this forum ever truly had absolutely static gigging requirements over the years? There's always new songs, new setlists, new gigs, new bandleaders. The iPad setup will leave the OP in a place where he's forced to learn a new workflow/setup on short notice when that change happens, after the painful realization that the iPad is no longer a viable solution. Notice that I kept emphasizing on 'eventually' and 'in the long run' in my last post - that's what I meant. In the short term, the iPad is a great idea. In the long run, it's penny wise, pound foolish.

 

On a side note, you might be quite content being a human substitute for google, but I am not. The capabilities of iPad apps are all available on googling. The OP doesn't really need this forum to find out that he can add a few sounds via an iPad. What is far more valuable, is the experience of gigging keyboardists over the years. That's what this forum can provide, and google can't. As of yet.... ;)

 

- Guru

This is really what MIDI was originally about encouraging cooperation between companies that make the world a more creative place." - Dave Smith
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