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Which MIDI learn system do you prefer?

Host MIDI learn system (like Control Link in Studio One, or Remote Control Editor in Cubase)
9
29%
Manufacturer specific MIDI learn for your device (like Automap, DirectLink, VIP, Komplete Kontrol and likes)
3
10%
The MIDI learn system the VST(i) provides
13
42%
I don't use or need MIDI learn at all
6
19%
 
Total votes : 31
User avatar
beely
KVRAF
 
1556 posts since 6 Jul, 2013

Postby beely; Tue Jul 31, 2018 3:18 am Re: MIDI keyboards - Which MIDI learn system do you use/prefer?

I've used the Mackie Control (MCU) with Logic since Logic 5.x, and love them - they offer basically total control over Logic (and plugins), are designed really well, and can do more or less everything with no mapping involved at all.

Manual mapping is imo a terrible solution in almost all cases (let's not get into the why on this, for now, for brevity :wink: ).

So MCU's are great, but they basically have two downsides:

A) 8 physical channels per unit (meaning 8 plugin parameters per display page)
B) They are quite big (and require power supplies, two MIDI cables per unit etc)

Now, you can get extra extenders to add sets of 8 channels, which gives you more parameters per page (which helps with A, but makes B worse). You can also get a C4 unit, which gives you 4 sets of 8 pages in one unit, so you can control up to 32 parameters at once, but still B.

I was looking for a smaller, more portable solution for a long time. I used to use LC Xmu, an MCU emulation software, which lets you use a different controller but still pretends to be an MCU to Logic (I used a little Korg microKontrol for this) and this solution was far better than the native Logic handling of the microKontrol - but still, the 8 parameters per page limitation was a pain, as I really wanted more than this under direct control.

I then went to a manual mapping solution, using bespoke controller assignments per plugin, to get me 16 parameters to control per plugin (ie, filter and oscillator stuff on the 8 knobs, envelope on the 8 sliders) but this involved many hundreds or even thousands of parameter mappings, and didn't let me control audio plugins, much less different instances of the same plugin on a channel. And it would randomly break in Logic for years (until LPX finally fixed that) as the controller assignments were flaky.

It was far from an optimal solution, but was the best I had to (sort of) achieve what I wanted for a long time - which is musical control over my plugins.

Aside from a real synth controller (which I've talked about to death in other threads), I now have close to my idealised controller setup for Logic. I picked up a Novation Launch Control XL, a simple, cheap controller, which has 32 knobs/sliders, arranged in 8 channels, plus a few other buttons.

In Factory mode, it behaves as a HUI (ie, a mini MCU for mixer), so I can use those 8 channels for faders/pans/sends/track selection/mute/solo/rec.enable and bank up and down to control the mixer. It's really nice.

Then I press the User template button, and I'm into my custom controller setup, which pretends to be a Mackie C4 to Logic (which can control 32 parameters on one "page").

(My custom setup is evolving as I develop it, but I've already implemented the core stuff I need.)

I can be in Instrument Edit mode, in which case all my 32 controls target the instrument plugin on the currently selected track. Or I can flip to Plugin Edit mode, in which case all the controls target the audio plugins (and I can choose which insert I'm controlling).

So, I hit the Instrument Edit button, and up comes my synth on screen, and the knobs control it. Hit the Plugin Edit mode button, and I'm controlling the audio plugins on that channel. I can choose which insert to control with the 1-8 buttons along the button, so I can call up eg EchoBoy on insert 3 which opens it's gui, control that, press insert 5 which calls up the plugin on that insert, flip back to Instrument Edit mode to continue to control the synth, instantly and seamlessly.

I also have a few custom things set up - eg, one knob is always the volume on the selected channel, so I can always grab a physical volume knob (important!). I have patch up/down buttons so I can flip presets. I can also turn instrument/plugins on/off directly, and some other things, like track selection, and track lock so I can select different track in Logic but leave the controls targeting the plugin on the original track, etc.

For instruments, I have a more or less consistent setup for all plugins (important) - the first row of knobs is Oscillator controls (usually four for Osc1, four for Osc2), the second row is filter controls (so cutoff, resonance, env amount etc are always in the same place), row three is a random grab bag of plugin specific stuff, whatever makes sense to have under my fingers, but usually I've got stuff here like macro controls, portamento, and so on, plus my important channel volume knob at the end, and the sliders are always amp ADSR and filter ADSR.

So, I have a reasonably consistent setup of all the controls I want under my fingers to make musical changes to sounds (oscillator waveshapes, pitches, levels, filter controls and envelopes are the main things), and I have 32 parameters under my fingers in a small, portable controller.

And I can flip to editing plugins, which will be laid out across the controls in a way that makes sense per plugin - for instance, reverb plugins with slider controls (eg Lexicon) will be controlled by the sliders, compressor plugins will typically have the same layout for the common parameters like threshold, ratio, atack, release, make up gain etc. EQ's are laid out with the frequency bands running across the controls, one row alway being freq, one for Q, and the sliders for gain, etc. I can control multiple instances of the same plugin on different inserts on the same channel.

Any controls I don't want in my layout will be left empty (ie ordered above the first 32 parameters) so I only have what I need assigned.

Because I'm always using the first 32 parameters the plugin reports to the host, I do need to change which parameters appear in that first 32, and Logic let you reorder the parameters for control surfaces per plugin for just this purpose - there are a few custom utilities people have made to help with this, but I find it just as quick to use a text editor. So I can quickly put the filter cutoff parameter on the knob I want to be the filter cutoff, and lay out the parameters I want - it generally takes a minute or two for each plugin - a bit longer if the plugin doesn't necessarily nicely map to a simple layout, as you have to make decisions about what you want to control and where, but in practice, it's really quick and easy to do, and you don't even have to have Logic open to do it.

A side benefit is all this will work exactly the same if I do get a real C4 as well. :tu:

So - I have a little controller that will be a mixer controller, and a synth controller, and a plugin controller, set up exactly how I like it, that can control up to 32 parameters on a given plugin in a consistent way, lets me choose which plugins to control (and calls up those plugins on screen), and it's ace!

And there is still room to develop this more - things I may also do include supporting smart controls, user modes for custom assignments/key commands, better controller feedback, on screen parameter displays, page flipping to control more sets of 32 parameters and so on.

Other notes: The HUI mode has two rows of knobs left unused for manual mapping should I choose to do something interesting with those. And I also have Logic's automation quick access mode to instantly control any single parameter with a MIDI control (eg knob, or mod wheel etc).

For such a little controller, I have it working really nicely, and am really maximising the possibilities in a useful way.

It's really putting plugins back under my fingers, in a consistent manner, which is the point. :tu:
Lotuzia
KVRAF
 
9654 posts since 19 Feb, 2004, from Paris

Postby Lotuzia; Tue Jul 31, 2018 9:15 am Re: MIDI keyboards - Which MIDI learn system do you use/prefer?

The MIDI learn system the VST(i) provides : i.e no wrappers (no possibility to compromise projects in the future), and independant from your hardware midi controllers/daw/anything.
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Dee.P.Tree
KVRist
 
236 posts since 25 Aug, 2015

Postby Dee.P.Tree; Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:01 am Re: MIDI keyboards - Which MIDI learn system do you use/prefer?

beely wrote:
I was looking for a smaller, more portable solution for a long time.

.....

I picked up a Novation Launch Control XL, a simple, cheap controller, which has 32 knobs/

Then I press the User template button, and I'm into my custom controller setup, which pretends to be a Mackie C4 to Logic (which can control 32 parameters on one "page").

.......
.....

A side benefit is all this will work exactly the same if I do get a real C4 as well. :tu:

So - I have a little controller that will be a mixer controller, and a synth controller, and a plugin controller, set up exactly how I like it, that can control up to 32 parameters on a given plugin in a consistent way, lets me choose which plugins to control (and calls up those plugins on screen), and it's ace!


For such a little controller, I have it working really nicely, and am really maximising the possibilities in a useful way.

It's really putting plugins back under my fingers, in a consistent manner, which is the point. :tu:


This set up really questions... If sound is not preference, do we really need a hardware synth? Lol. :wink:

This is very interesting post for me. You have bridged the gap between software and hardware using available tools. Great work, indeed! :clap:

Thanks, beely sir for sharing knowledge... ! :hail:
low_low
KVRist
 
369 posts since 19 Jul, 2018

Postby low_low; Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:09 am Re: MIDI keyboards - Which MIDI learn system do you use/prefer?

Two different things for me ...

1) The keyboard, I just bring that in on a midi track and send it to whatever instrument I want to have it.

2) Controller. The controller I use is simply dials that I map to specific controls of VST instruments as I am using them. I don't use a "learn" function for this, I use the DAW's mapping system and directly map to exactly the dials I want to control. For me the purpose of this is to make synths sound more natural and to dial the sound in that I want on a patch as I'm designing it, so I map filter cutoffs, detuning knobs, LFO rates, etc, to knobs and then "play" until I find what I want. I do the same thing as I'm playing and recording, because again I prefer to do a "performance" and record the midi notes and controls, then tweak them, rather than trying to edit them in by hand because I think the performance sounds more natural and gets a better sound than editing them in directly.

For things like mixing, transport, etc, I just use the mouse.
low_low
KVRist
 
369 posts since 19 Jul, 2018

Postby low_low; Fri Aug 10, 2018 5:23 am Re: MIDI keyboards - Which MIDI learn system do you use/prefer?

beely wrote:Manual mapping is imo a terrible solution in almost all cases (let's not get into the why on this, for now, for brevity :wink: ).


I prefer manual mapping because I'm usually trying to use the hardware knobs to dial in a specific sound where I've essentially built a synth in the DAW using various synths and effects and I'm trying to get a certain sound out of it, almost like you might with a modular synth. So I want to map the controls I'm actually using so I can get all of the variables right with exhaustive tweaking of the knobs. It DOES take time to set this up, and it's really only good for that setup, and I'm constantly changing it depending on what I'm doing and it's never the same thing twice. Today it might be a couple of synth oscillator parameters and some knobs in a reverb and delay, and on a tape emulation, so that I can tweak all of them at once to get a certain sound. Tomorrow it might be an oscillator in each of three different synths, the oscillator effects in those synths, and some controls in a filter VST. To my way of thinking this is like building an instrument out of smaller instruments and effects and then mapping the variables you want to hardware to create a tangible instrument to serve a specific purpose.

Other than that I couldn't give a flip whether the rest of the controls are mapped. I'd rather use the mouse for transport buttons, etc.
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