Synchronizing a Computer Sequencer and a Synthesizer - dummies

Synchronizing a Computer Sequencer and a Synthesizer

By Jeff Strong

To create any kind of music with MIDI, you need to synchronize your devices to one another. If you’re using a computer or sequencer and want to synchronize it to a sound module or synthesizer, you need to go through some additional steps. These are as follows:

  1. Connect your synthesizer to the MIDI interface, and connect the MIDI interface to your computer.

    Run the appropriate cable from the MIDI interface to the appropriate jack of your computer. For example, this can be a USB cable if you have a USB computer and USB MIDI interface.

  2. Connect the MIDI interface to your synthesizer.

    You do this by connecting a cable from the MIDI out port of your synthesizer to the MIDI in port of the interface. Then connect another cable from the MIDI out port of the interface to the MIDI in port of the synthesizer. This allows the MIDI communication to go both ways.

    A computer sequencer and synthesizer are synchronized using these settings.
    A computer sequencer and synthesizer are synchronized using these settings.
  3. If you’re using a synthesizer to play your MIDI sequences from your computer, you need to set your synthesizer to local off mode. Then enable the thru function in your sequencer program so that the MIDI information that you send from the keyboard to the sequencer is sent back to the keyboard.

    Local off mode disables the keys from the sounds and makes the sequencing process go much smoother. Enabling the thru function in your sequencer program enables you to hear what you’re playing while you record your part.

    If you don’t set your synthesizer on local off, you create a feedback loop. In a feedback loop, both your synthesizer’s keys and the sequencer are sending the same messages to the sound generator in your synthesizer and causing it to play each note twice.

    The best that can happen is that you trigger each note twice and use up your polyphony faster. The worst that can happen is echoed or stuck notes and possibly jammed messages, which may cause your system to lock.

  4. After you connect all the cables, be sure to choose the MIDI channel that you want the track recorded to and set both the sequencer and instrument to that channel.

    You can find the MIDI channel selector within your device’s software. Sometimes, the MIDI channel selector may be a key command, such as repeatedly pressing the System button in a ddrum4 sound module. Other times, the MIDI channel selector is a pull-down menu that you access from the top of your computer screen. In Cubase, the channel selector for the sequencer is located just to the right of the track name.

After you have your channel setup and local off business out of the way, you can play your synthesizer, see it register in the sequencer, and hear it play. If you don’t, check all your settings.