Lesson 9


We are now going to introduce a MIDI interface into your set-up. Actually, calling it a MIDI interface is redundant, since MIDI means (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), we are really saying “Musical Instrument Digital Interface Interface”! One of life’s quirky moments!

But, I digress! In Pro Tools the M-Box 2, DIGI 001, 002, and 002r have built in MIDI interfaces (there I go again with my redundancy), so you if you have those hardware devices you are good to go.

If you are using Pro Tools with a third party card or audio interface, you are going to need a separate MIDI interface to do your MIDI sequencing. There are many fine MIDI interfaces out there. I won’t recommend any, but if you do want my humble opinion, feel free to email me and I will give you some suggestions.


Pro Tools has just recently added MIDI to its software, but don’t let that stop you from using Pro Tools as your main MIDI Sequencer ( A MIDI sequencer is a software based program that allows you to record, edit, and playback MIDI data).

MIDI is now back in vogue, since the invention of soft samplers that are triggered by MIDI controllers. A MIDI controller is any MIDI instrument or device that can trigger MIDI note and performance data. MIDI controllers include
Instruments, Continuous Controllers and Switches.

MIDI Instruments can be any instrument or device that triggers note and performance data. Some examples include Keyboards, Guitar Controllers, Electronic Wind Instruments, and Drum triggers.

MIDI Continuous Controllers also send MIDI data. Examples include pitch bend wheels, vibrato wheels, breath controllers, and portamento.

MIDI Switches include foot pedals and MIDI on-off devices.

More MIDI Language

There are some terms that we need to understand before we start to enter MIDI information into Pro Tools.

Patch this refers to a MIDI sound. When you change the patch you change the sound. You may change the patch (sound) from flute to trumpet.

Program Change a program change is a message that MIDI sends out to change the patch or sound on a MIDI channel.

Pitch Bend a continuous controller sends a steady stream of data that bends the pitch of a note either up or down.

Sysex (System Exclusive) this is a MIDI message that is exclusive to a particular manufacturer or brand of MIDI instrument. Updating an instrument’s system software would be sent via Sysex.

Controller Data is data that is sent by MIDI Continuous Controllers, MIDI Switches, or Channel Mode Messages.

MIDI Parameters

When using MIDI in Pro Tools, you can edit many MIDI parameters so that your performance can be flawless. Once you have added a MIDI track, these MIDI parameters are available in Pro Tools from the Track View Selector. Click on the arrow located to the left of the track name.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.13.22 AM
The Pro Tools MIDI Parameter window.

These parameters include:

Notes. You can edit out a single wrong note or a group of wrong notes.

Velocity. This refers to how hard you strike a key on a MIDI keyboard. This is measured from 0 (no volume) to 127 (full volume).

Volume. This is the amplitude or loudness of sound.
Pan. This is the virtual placement of MIDI sounds in the stereo spectrum. Panning dead center has a MIDI value of 64.

Pitch Bend. This is triggered by a Continuous Controller. The data value will raise or lower the selected pitch or pitches.

Aftertouch. This often refers to how much pressure you put on the key of a keyboard after the initial strike. The more pressure, the louder the note. Mono Aftertouch affects a single note or key. Polyphonic Aftertouch affects a group of notes or keys, and refers to the overall pressure on all the notes or keys at one time.

Program Change.
This is a MIDI message that allows you to change the patch or sound within a MIDI channel.

Controller Data. Continuous MIDI Controllers or Switched MIDI Controllers create this data. Controller data may also refer to Channel Mode Messages.
MIDI Defines 128 controllers. 0-63 are reserved for continuous controllers. 64-95 are reserved for MIDI Switches. Controllers 122-127 are reserved for Channel Mode Messages.

All of this will start to make more sense as we being to explore the MIDI portion of Pro Tools.

Setting Up MIDI In Pro Tools

NOTE: The following Tutorial is only if you have an external GM MIDI Sound Source connected to your MIDI Interface. If you are using Virtual Instruments or Samples Skip to Lesson 10.

Let’s get some MIDI data flowing into our Pro Tools software!

For the Macintosh users:

Once you have set up your MIDI set-up, we now need to configure Pro Tools. When you are in Pro Tools, select
MIDI, Input Devices from the Setup pull down menu.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.14.19 AM
My MIDI input device from the Input Devices pull down menu in Pro Tools.

Make sure that all of your Input devices are selected. Remember, any device that is not a MIDI input device does not need to be selected.

For Macintosh and PC users, be sure that
MIDI Thru is checked in the Options Pull Down Menu. This will allow you to monitor your MIDI tracks while you are recording them into Pro Tools.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.14.46 AM
MIDI Thru selected for Mac users

Your Pro Tools MIDI is now set to go. If you have any questions or problems with your MIDI set-up please post a message in WebCT or check the manuals that came with your Digidesign software.

Recording A MIDI Track (Using An External MIDI Device)

Create a new session and title it “your name MIDI session”

(e.g Pfenninger MIDI session).

Make sure that you are in the
Mix Window and create MIDI track by selecting New Track from the File pull down menu.

Label your track

From the middle of the channel strip, top button, select your
MIDI Controller (input device) I usually play it safe and select All. This is how you will be getting MIDI into Pro Tools.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.15.18 AM
MIDI Controller set to All

Now you need to select your MIDI sound source (what device the sound will be coming out of).

From the middle of the channel strip, middle button, select your MIDI sound source and MIDI channel. I have selected my Mbox 2, MIDI channel 1. I have an external GM MIDI device attached to my Mbox 2 for General MIDI sounds. Your setup may be different.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.15.32 AM
Selecting a MIDI sound source and channel.

From your MIDI sound source, find a piano sound and set channel 1 for that sound.

I will talk about inserting patch changes (different sounds) later.

Once you are set up for MIDI input and output, you are ready to record.

Record enable your MIDI track, you can now play your MIDI keyboard input device and you should be able to hear sound through your external MIDI device.

The Recording process for MIDI in Pro Tools is exactly the same as when you recorded onto an audio track.

Pro Tools Project 15: Recording A MIDI Track

Record a single MIDI tack into Pro Tools. I don’t want anything too complex; just get your MIDI signal flow going. Post your MIDI session along with a message on how the process went.

General MIDI
Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.16.02 AM

General MIDI or (GM) is a standardization for the specification of patch (sound) and MIDI channel location on synthesizers and sound modules.

The GM standard allows musicians to share sequences with each other with the hope that when a sequence is played back on another sequencer, or sound module, that it will sound exactly like the original.

General MIDI uses all 16 MIDI channels with a minimum of 24-note polyphony and 16-voice multitimbral (different sounds) output.

Channel 10 is earmarked for percussion sounds and drum sets. To get a better idea on how sounds are mapped according to the GM standard, please go to the WebCT homepage; Course Handouts folder; and open the following PDF documents:

General MIDI Drum Sounds

General MIDI Patches

For more information on General MIDI and MIDI visit

Auditioning MIDI Patches (Sounds)

Auditioning different sounds from your sound module is easy in Pro Tools.

Create a new session and add a MIDI track to your session. Make sure that your select your sound source, and if possible, select a GM sound source.

Open up the
Edit Window and click on the P (for Patch) button located in your MIDI track.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.16.38 AM

You will now see the following window. This is a GM sound mapping. If you are not using a GM sound source, your window may look a little different.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.16.46 AM
GM Patch mapping in Pro Tools.

Locate the sound that you want and select it. Then click on the
Done button. When you play your MIDI keyboard you will now hear your selected sound.

Creating A GM MIDI Drum Loop

Create a new Pro Tools Session and title it MIDI Drum Loop.

For now, add three MIDI tracks. You may want to add more later. You may also want to set up a click track. If you forgot how to do that, please go back and review
Lesson 4-Working with Click Tracks.

In the
Mix Window, set the sound source to channel 10 for all three tracks and label the tracks Kick, Hi Hat, and Snare. When you are done, your tracks should look as follows:

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.18.33 AM
Channel 10 GM output for drums selected for each MIDI track and a click track.

We are going to create a MIDI drum loop using a GM drum set with separate tracks for each drum sound. That way it will be easier to edit each drum sound and mix the drum sounds together by setting the
volume for each drum.

Selecting The Drum Kit Sound

We now need select a GM drum kit sound for our drum channel.

Go to the
Edit Window, locate the kick drum track, and click on the P button located at the bottom of the track information.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.18.54 AM

Once you have clicked on the P button, you will now see the following dialog box:

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.19.45 AM
Patch selection dialog box.

From the
Patch Selection dialog box, select Drum Kit and click on Done.

Because all the MIDI tracks were set to channel 10, we now have the drum kit as our default sound for each track.

Selecting The Tempo/Meter

Changing the tempo and meter in a Pro Tools session is easy. From the Event pull down menu select Tempo Operations, Constant.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.20.44 AM

You will now see the following window:

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.21.16 AM
Tempo Operations Dialog box.

This allows you to Change the Tempo in your Pro Tools Project.
Make sure that you input a
Start and End measure in the Selection dialog box. When you are finished, click on Apply and then close out the window by clicking on the button located in the upper left hand side of the dialog box.

Click on the + sign to the right of the
Meter Ruler located in the Edit Window. This will allow you to change the meter.
Input Quantizing

Whenever you put in a drum part into Pro Tools, you usually want your timing to be good. Recoding MIDI drum parts from a keyboard, unless you are an accomplished pianist, is pretty hard. This is where Input Quantizing comes to the rescue!

Input Quantizing (automatically aligning MIDI notes to a rhythmic grid) can really help when you are constructing drum parts.

From the
Event pull down menu, select Event Operations then Input Quantize.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.21.56 AM

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.22.04 AM
Input Quantize dialog box.

From the pull down menu located at the top of the box select
Input Quantize.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.22.43 AM Selecting Input Quantize.

You will now see the Input Quantize dialog box:

Make sure that the
Enable Input Quantize box is checked.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.23.09 AM

For this exercise we are going to put in a kick drum part playing quarter notes, so set your
Quantize Grid to quarter notes.

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.23.23 AM
Quantize grid set to quarter note value.

Let’s input the kick drum first, so
record enable the kick track and find a good kick drum sound on your piano (usually located around C towards the bottom two octaves on your piano). Remember, since we have set our sound source channel to 10, we should be hearing drum sounds from your MIDI keyboard.

If you don’t have a GM output device, just record whatever sounds that you have available for this exercise.

We are now going to use our click track to help us record a kick drum part. Select the
Count-off button in the MIDI Transport Window by clicking on it so that it is highlighted. Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.23.37 AM The default count-off is two bars. If you want to change the count-off just double click on the icon and you will be directed to the Click and Count-off dialog box.

Select the
record button on your Transport Controls. We are now going to record 4 measures of a quarter-note kick drum track.

When you are ready click on the
Play button, wait for your two bar count off, and record 4 bars worth of quarter notes into the kick drum track. Hit stop when you are done.

You should have something that looks like this:

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.24.12 AM
Quarter-note kick drum track.

Play your MIDI sequence back and notice the perfect quarter-note kick track! Our Quantize setting worked!

Now repeat the same process for the Hi Hat track recording 4 bars worth of Hi Hat in an eighth-note pattern. Remember to set your
Quantize Grid to eighth notes.

When you have finished your Hi Hat track it should look something like this:

Screen shot 2012-04-21 at 10.24.29 AM

You now get the idea. The reason we are using separate tracks for each drum sound is because we can now edit each drum track much more quickly. We will be learning how to edit MIDI in the next lesson.

Pro Tools Project 16: Recording A MIDI Drum Groove

Create a 4 bar drum groove. We are going to edit it later, so spend some time writing it. It will also become part of your final Pro Tools MIDI Project so keep that in mind as you are writing it.

Use separate tracks for each drum sound. If you don’t have a GM output device, just choose sounds that emulate drums or come as close as possible. When I listen to your project, I will insert drum sounds so make sure that each track is correctly labeled.

Recap: Lesson 9

You should now be more familiar with:

Configuring MIDI in Pro Tools
MIDI language concepts
MIDI Parameters
Recording a MIDI Track
General MIDI
Auditioning MIDI Patches
Creating a GM MIDI Drum Loop
Selecting Tempo/Meter in MIDI
Input Quantizing

l arrow To Lessons Page