Questions & Answers

MIDI "Direct Input" for Effects Inserts

+40 votes
asked Feb 18, 2018 in Instruments and Plug-Ins by robertgray3 (26,070 points)
edited May 31, 2018 by robertgray3


TLDR: Can we get a way to pass MIDI note data directly to effects inserts that need it without having to create extra duplicate instrument tracks? For compatibility with plugs like Volume Shaper, Kickstart, Pumper, and others.

The long version:

I think it would be beneficial to have a simpler way to route MIDI events to effects inserts on instrument tracks. Possible solutions include effects inserts getting passed MIDI-equivalent data from their tracks, a "Direct Input" equivalent for effects inserts, or a NoteFX MIDI Send module. With the current tools, I have to use two tracks with duplicate MIDI data and I would like to do this with just one track and no duplicating of data.

Current method (for comparison)

Right now, the current solution I've been using is to have multiple instrument tracks with duplicate data. It's a little tedious to quickly setup if you just want to hear how a MIDI-triggered effect would sound. The first one is called "Synth" and has a Virtual instrument, Kickstart as an insert, and a single MIDI event. The second instrument track is called "Trigger" and is assigned to Kickstart (the instance on the other track) and has a shared copy of the MIDI event.

Here's an example with one synth part and two trigger tracks for the effects inserts shown in the mixer:

Current Method, aka Three's a Crowd!

Problems with current methods:

The problem with the current method is I have two tracks with duplicate events every time I want to use an envelope effect. It's not very fast, so there is a whole variety of MIDI-triggered effects that take much longer to audition than other effects. There's also an increased risk of user error because if I forget to share a copy or alter a section without also altering the "trigger track" it can lead to large changes in the arrangement. I'm simply duplicating the MIDI event and re-routing it to an effects plugin, so I would prefer if there was a way to do this all under the hood. A "Direct Input" option for inserts that could select an instrument or a NoteFX "MIDI Send" module would help.

Potential solutions:

  • Effects inserts could be passed MIDI-equivalent data from the track they are on.
  • An option for "Direct Input" on VST effects inserts to listen to MIDI data from other tracks. I say tracks instead of instruments because I often only want my MIDI-triggered plugins to be triggered by one set of MIDI parts. Upside: Simple and keeps in line with the "Direct Input" idea of instruments.
  • Maybe a NoteFX "MIDI Send" Module that would send duplicate MIDI data to any number of other instruments, chosen from a drop-down menu? Potential downside: Sending to Instruments outside of the Multi-Instrument might be odd when saving multi-instruments?

Use cases:

The most common use case I've seen for this type of feature would be using MIDI-triggered amplitude shaping effects such as Nicky Romero Kickstart and AIR Music Tech Pumper, which have varieties of a "listen to Host MIDI" option for retriggering the envelopes.

In most use cases, a user would have one of them as an insert on a instrument track, triggered from the same MIDI data the instrument is playing. In some cases, users may want multiple of these plugins across multiple tracks to react simultaneously to identical MIDI data from one single instrument track.

8 Answers

+1 vote
answered Mar 5, 2018 by stevenicel (3,710 points)
selected Mar 5, 2018 by robertgray3
Best answer
+1.. I see the benefits in this. Good Idea for modern production control.
+2 votes
answered Feb 28, 2018 by robertgray3 (26,070 points)

Cableguys Volume Shaper (great plugin!) is another popular MIDI-triggered plugin that would be much easier to route with this feature.

+1 vote
answered Mar 8, 2018 by nickaa (1,300 points)
edited Mar 8, 2018 by nickaa
when reading your explanation, one realises that it's about feeding midi directly into a plugin. which i absolutely second, by the way. i would suggest, that you add "midi" into the headline description - so people actually understand when they read the headline. that might generate more support. just an idea.
+1 vote
answered Mar 8, 2018 by robertgray3 (26,070 points)
Good point, nickaa. I edited the title to make it a little more clear.

Also thanks for mentioning "modern production control" stevenicel, it is a correct way to describe this type of feature set. Particularly in electronic pop styles, there's a lot of routing configurations in those genres that could be sped up a lot with something like this. Enveloped effects and sequenced (or re-triggered) effects in particular.

A small handful of DAWs make this stuff a little more easy, particularly FL Studio (with the "Patcher") and REAPER. Logic's MIDI Studio is OK but a bit convoluted. I actually prefer how REAPER handled this by just echoing all MIDI data from a track to its effects inserts automatically without adjusting any settings. I didn't realize until working in S1 that this was actually a little out-of-the-ordinary.
+2 votes
answered Mar 17, 2018 by niles (52,270 points)

Yes, I was quite surprised direct MIDI input was not implemented for MIDI capable inserts along the way with Direct Inputs for Instruments. 

However I think Extended & Global Part Automation (automation clips) would even be a stronger. Since then you can really keep musical and control data for inserts along the chain together the way you prefer or you song needs. Together with Control Link it will also work for inserts that don't have a MIDI input. The best part is, you don't chain devices, but instead parts can talk to everything in the song that is relevant for that part. So an insert (or instrument) can be controlled by several parts residing on different tracks.

+1 vote
answered Mar 21, 2018 by alexandergleich (4,390 points)
Good idea, this would further improve the MIDI implementation!
0 votes
answered May 31, 2018 by robertgray3 (26,070 points)
Does anyone know whether or not there's an easier way to do this is v4? I know they added a bunch of little things that they didn't really document but I couldn't find anything.
+2 votes
answered Jan 20 by JimmiG (500 points)
Sadly there are no changes in v4 relating to MIDI routing. You still have to set up a duplicate track for each instance of Kickstart, LFOTool or whatever MIDI-triggered effect you're using, which is a bit of a pain.