Because there needs to be a direct wire connection between MIDI devices, it actually makes this much easier, but you just need to plan ahead a little.  For simple systems, setting up will be a quick foundation for more complex and growing systems.  In the most basic systems, you will have a controller or device that will transmit MIDI to another receiving device that will be able to respond to the MIDI data.  If you only have one controller, trigger or MIDI device, there is nothing to set up.

So we have examples of MIDI-equipped devices that will be the Master in our set up.  Words like ‘Controller,’ ‘Keyboard’, ‘Triggers’, ‘Percussion Pads’, ‘Lighting Boards’ can be translated into the devices we will play or perform on.  Keyboards can be used to trigger drum or trumpet sounds or even light boards……..  Drum Triggers can be used to play loops or sampled sounds.  Keep in mind MIDI will transmit (and/or record) the physical performance to other devices.

To make sure each device ignores the data going to other devices – yes, remember the 16 channels traveling through each MIDI cable?  Here they come in handy.

If we go back to the basic setup, the Master can be set to transmit MIDI to those possible channels in a number of ways including;

  1. Send No Signal at all (OFF)
  2. Send to any one of the 16 channels
  3. Send to more than one channel

So first, we want the Master to talk to one external MIDI device.  As long as the Master and the receiving device are set to the same channel, the device will respond to information from the selected channel(s).  It is easy to start with channel 1, and many manufacturers will set their default to transmit on channel 1.

There are always exceptions and some become standard features by popularity.  Drum machines were commonly used on channel 10.  So connecting a drum machine or percussion triggers to a ‘drum module‘, use channel 10.

Most MIDI receiver devices will be able to respond to signals in a number of ways including;

  1. No channels (OFF)
  2. Listen to any one channel at a time
  3. Omni – listen to all 16 channels at once

If you have problems getting receiving device to respond, try #3 above.

As we add devices we can +1 on the Master out channel to send to other devices now in the chain of MIDI cables connecting each device as described briefly earlier.  Set each new receiving device to listen to that channel only (in common and standard systems).

Next series let’s go over recording and playing MIDI performances.

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