Saturday, May 11, 2013

My escapades in the wonderful world of midi - connection problem in Win7 finally solved!

I finally cracked the hard nut and I'm somehow very very satisfied with my achievements. And I want to share what I learned.

I have been fiddling with the possibility to control GrandMaOnPC with midi fader-extension for a long long time. First attempts were about a year ago with BCF2000 by Behringer. I didn't get very far with this since the Windows 7 Pro refused to recognize my gadget. I managed to establish the fact that the problem lays, not within the gadget itself or the software I wanted to connect it with, but with Win7. At that point I didn't find a solution to overcome the obstacle. I had all the necessary drivers and the device management claimed that the thing is working properly. Nonetheless, the controller was useless because none of my programs could see it. It was just not enough to install the manufacturer's driver. So, I gave up.

But now I'm back again since I really need the function for the show I'm working with and bought myself a nice and slick Korg nanoKontrol2 for that. So I looked into it again. And did some serious googling. It seems that the problem is a common one. I found (again) loads of discussion threads complaining about the exact same problem, but no obvious solution. -Until I stumbled upon this video clip on Youtube (below). It explains how to connect a midi controller to Pro Tools and Reaper in Win 7. I wanted to use the midi for another application but nevertheless the magic trick is the same.

The thing is that Win 7, or basically any version of Windows above XP, can only handle up to 10 midi devices. I thought that this couldn't possibly be a problem for me, since I never tried with midi before. So how on earth all the seats could be taken if I only once plugged in the Behringer??? Anyhow. What this brilliant guy, coolconvertible999, suggests is that one should open Regedit and navigate down to Microsoft driver32 folder to see what's cooking there. When I did that, I realized that actually all the positions were filled with the generic Windows audio drivers and my actual Korg driver did not show at all even though the device management informed that everything is installed and working properly. So I went ahead and deleted all the entries except the the initial "midi" entry. After that I installed the driver for Korg again and BUM! -There it was. This was the most important thing to fix. WhooooaYippeeHooray!!!

This was a start. At least I now had the gadget connected to my laptop, but I still was far away from being able to use it.

I already had MidiOx, which is a free midi-mapper utility, installed on my computer so the next step was to open it to see if the gadget is sending something. Everything checked out, but still GrandMA didn't connect with my controller. At this point I cross-referenced with a little light controlling program called "Acidlight" and there it worked just fine after assigning some notes. So further study was required. By doing this I learned that GrandMA can somehow only process midi notes and not the control change messages which Korg sends natively. I needed to translate the messages. The MidiOx can do this quite easily and the transmission can be monitored over the program.

MidiOx port configuration

Still nothing on Mama. Hmmmm... Back to Google. I need virtual midi ports GrandMA can listen to. In MidiOx there should be inbuilt MidiYoke which is supposed to create exactly this, but somehow I didn't manage to get it running. So I looked for an alternative and decided to go with LoopBe1 which is a free virtual midi driver. I configured MidiOx to get midi signal in from Korg and send it out to LoopBe which I set GrandMA to listen. Then it was down to write some notes to mama's midi remotes and again BUM! -There it was. For overview and quick editing the "Kontrol Editor" program provided by Korg is very easy to use.

Below some screenshots of  my set up:

MidiOx data mapping

GrandMA options for midi in/output

Console controls

Some notes

It was a long road but I finally arrived to the finishing line and can't wait to give the set-up a real test drive in few days. But as it seems, everything should work just fine. Maybe my configuration is not the most intelligent one, but at least it is finally up and running. And maybe this post might help someone else solve similar problem.

Now I'm going to look into the original idea of using Behringer again and see if I get that operational. It would have motorized faders... luxurious. Albeit for me the NanoKontrol2 was more appealing alternative because of it's very light weight and compact size. I-I'm trying to keep my system as portable as possible. Now it all still fits into a normal backpack with two days' change of clothes =) =).

I'll keep you posted about my findings =)

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