The MIDI Mixer is interesting at one level, and a powerful tool at another.
The only snag is crossing the bridge between these two levels. But let me explain
what the MIDI Mixer can do if you have the MIDI programming ability to get the
best out of it (or if you have been able to acquire mixer maps, as they are
called, specific to your own instruments and effects units). It’s well
known that the functionality of most synths, samplers and effects units is well
hidden behind a small LCD display and a few small buttons. How would it be if
you could have the controls on the screen of your computer and automate these
controls in real time as part of a sequence? Well here it is. Figure 3 shows
part of the mixer map for the Roland JX8P synth with controls displayed as moving
faders and knobs. You can have buttons too if you want them.
It’s not clear how we are to obtain maps other than by learning how to
hack into the System Exclusive MIDI codes for our instruments, which most users
probably don’t want to get involved with, so this ultimate level of control
may not be of much use. But it is actually very easy to make up a map using
the generic MIDI commands such as control change messages, which could cover
all MIDI channels and provide a means to automate many aspects of your mix.
Let’s suppose you want to create a sixteen MIDI channel mixer to control
MIDI volumes. Under the right button of the mouse there is a toolbox which contains
a Create tool. Click and drag this anywhere in the MIDI mixer window and a dialogue
box will appear for you to define the appearance and function of a mixer device.
The first thing you will probably want to do is name it. ‘Volume 1’
should do for starters, then select the type of device you want from the alternatives
of vertical fader, horizontal fader, dial, button, numerical display or text.
Let’s try the vertical fader. Now we need to set the type of MIDI message
it will control, which could be Note, Polyphonic Pressure, Control Change, Program
Change, After Touch, Pitch Bend or SysEx. We need Control Change, which we must
further select to be Controller 7 which is Main Volume. One last thing is to
set the MIDI channel to 1. When we exit this screen we find that there is a
vertical fader which can be operated from the mouse to control the volume of
MIDI channel 1. This can easily be duplicated and modified so that all the other
channels can be controlled too.
The simplest way to operate the MIDI mixer is to set up ‘snapshots’.
This is done with the camera tool and ‘photographs’ appear at the
top of the screen, one for each shot. To record a mix using snapshots, put the
MIDI Mixer in Write mode and play the sequence. Clicking the snapshots will
activate each one as you require and record the times of the clicks. If you
play back now the faders will jump to the positions recorded in each snapshot
and the snapshots will change as the music plays. If snapshot automation isn’t
enough, then dynamic automation is available too, just move the faders with
the mouse as the sequence is playing, with the MIDI Mixer in Write mode, and
the moves you make will be stored in real time. What you do with the MIDI mixer
is up to your creativity and MIDI knowledge, but even if you don’t want
to get involved with the heavy stuff, it’s a good way of controlling your
MIDI sequenced music, and in many ways it’s a lot easier and quicker than
conventional sequence editing. Well worth a try I’d say.