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What exactly is Midi and how do they work?


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Okay please remember this is my first rack system ..Ive always have used the old school way of things my normal rig is this..A JCM 800 stack with a snarling dog blue bawls wah , crybaby wah , vintage analog pearl Chorus , analog pearl delay , big muff PI,TS9 so it has always been real simple plug in and ballet dance on the pedals .So all this rack stuff is totally new ..I'm not dumb just uneducated on the rack stuff...So what exactly is midi what do you gain with it? Is it like a Boss gt 8 processor ? How do you switch effects and so forth ?Do you buy a generic foot control or just leave them on one setting and switch at the rack?Do you have to download your sounds ?Like i said i know nothing about MIDI other then its suppose to be highly versatile..So if anybody can explain in simple terms and old stack guy can understand. It would be great..To quote Spinal Tap does it go to eleven?:)

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Oooh..... Tall order. In your case MIDI ( Musical Instrument Digital Interface) will be used for "program change" commands, of which there are 128. So if you choose #1 on your pedal board, then preset 1 will be selected on your effect. Now, if you use multiple MIDI effects, then chances are that you want #1 on one, and #45 on another. What you have to do then is "map" the program change in the second unit so that program change #1=effect preset #45.

There are also "continuous controller" settings, which you will use for volume changes, effects balance on the fly, and the like.

MIDI is a big and wonderful world, and what I've told you barely scratches the surface. Hell, I haven't even gotten to hexadecimal, yet!

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I'm going to attempt a very simplified response that hopefully still gives you a good idea of what MIDI is for rack use, and how you might use it. Mainly because of the thread title and the hope that others will stumble upon this at a later date.

 

MIDI is just communication between devices. Computers can talk to keyboards and vice versa, controllers can talk to rack mounted gear, and so on. For the interest of what you are talking about, MIDI is a way for 1 device to control many devices.

 

MIDI has 16 channels. I will venture to say in most setups you will want each piece of equipment on a different channel. For example in my setup I have my G-major on channel 1. My rocktron patchmate (switcher) is on channel 2, and my whammy is on channel 3.

 

MIDI commands (for racks) are broken up into 2 main categories. Program changes and Continous controller commands.

 

Program changes are basically what they sound like. On the G-major you can make presets. Each preset is brought up by a program change. Say you have your clean on preset 1. It will respond to a program change of 1 (I realize it might be 0, but no need for confusion right now) from a controller. Also, on my whammy IV, each setting can be picked via a program change instead of turning the knob on the pedal manually.

 

 

Continuous controller commands are a little more complicated. Basically within each midi channel there is another sub channel called a "CC" (continuous control). There are 128 CC "sub channels". Each CC is broken up into 128 different values. (0-127). These values can be used in a few different ways. On the whammy IV for example: Midi CC subchannel 11 is how you send information to the whammy to control the sweep of the pedal via a remote pedal. So, on this midi subchannel CC11, values of 0-127 are used. 0 corresponds to the pedal heel down. 127 corresponds to toe down and the values in between are divided up evenly.

 

So, how do these work together to control all your {censored}? In my rig for example I have preset 1 on my rocktron all access is just a clean. Nothing else.

 

So it does the following.

Sends program change 1 to my G-major (clean preset) on midi channel 1.

Sends program change 1 on my patchmate switcher (no pedals turned on) on channel 2.

Sends no program change on the whammy.

 

 

Another preset on my all access is an overdriven sound with delay.

Sends program change 2 to my g-major (preset 2 is just a delay) on midi channel 1.

sends program change 2 on my patchmate (tubescreamer in a loop is engaged) on midi channel 2.

Sends no program change on whammy.

 

I hope this helped, and didn't further confuse you. If it did help maybe I can add more later.

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Like i said i know nothing about MIDI other then its suppose to be highly versatile..So if anybody can explain in simple terms and old stack guy can understand. It would be great..To quote Spinal Tap does it go to eleven?
:)

 

I guess the take home point here is that MIDI allows you to build a completely automated rig that duplicates a multi-effects unit but uses all analog stomp boxes and really high quality rack gear. It's retardedly easy to use once you're all set up. If you've got a nice enough controller you can save your presets as songs and just program your setlist into the controller so as you progress through your setlist all your presets are ready to go. I generally just program 6 or 7 core tones that I use alot and use them for everything with the occasional weird effect thrown in for good measure.

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I think i'm starting to understand it allows me to preset all my effects chains into one setting correct and each setting is pre programed for that number ..So you actually have a effects chain or a multi effects and a midi controller for ease of use so we no longer have to do the stomp box shuffle dance step ...Am i on the right path?

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Okay i think this is starting to pay off ..So another benefit is i can program for different tones on a set list or something then just hit the number on the controller to activate it instead of having to screw around changing parameters in the middle of a gig so if i wanted a tone like S.RV I program that to say setting 10 then if i wanted to sound like David Gilmour i put that tone on 11 or #1 could be my clean with very small amount of chorus and #2 could be clean with chorus and delay and on and on ..And as long as i got it programed in and set to the controller i have on the fly parameter changes ..Is my understanding what you are saying correct?And Also Thanks for all the help on this subject..

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Designing a rig is exactly like designing a database. You absolutely must know what form the finished product will take before you start.

 

To effectively do this I need to know

 

1) What sounds/tones do you want.

2) What's your budget

3) What do you own now.

4) Can you do the work or do you need to pay someone else to do it.

5) How do you want it to work in the end. (We can help you there)

 

Basically, the sky's the limit as far as what can be done. It all comes down to how much you want to spend.

 

You've got a JCM800 which is a killer amp. Does yours have an effects loop? Does the loop suck tone (not buffered well)

 

I'd say for starters... Pick up an Eventide Time Factor for the loop. Depending on how many pedals you want to run an Axess GRX4 might do the trick. Toss it all in a 6 space rack with a good power supply.

 

You're not going to want to skimp on your MIDI controller. Best deal going on a quality pro level controller is a used Ground Control Pro.

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Also, you will need to take into account room for possible expansion in the future. If you have 4 pieces of rack gear, get a 6 space rack, also if you're base setup uses 8 Midi channels, don't get a controller that can only handle 8.

 

 

You're not going to want to skimp on your MIDI controller. Best deal going on a quality pro level controller is a used Ground Control Pro.

 

This is excellent advice. A good controller will last for ages, and you'll get very accustomed to working with it (as opposed to a lot of pedalboard setups where even simple changes can completely screw up your layout). I'm tearing apart my Midi rig right now but I'll never come off of my controller...just in case.

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