Category Archives: MIDI

Looping setup

The very first post on this blog has been pushed from emacs with org2blog, then I abandoned the idea for a while and posted from within the wordpress interface only.

Now I’d like to get back to the roots, so to say 🙂 so this post will be typed inside emacs

Looping setup

I thought for a while to set up a looping enviroment with my old laptop, a thinkpad t61p which now runs debian jessie. I already used the wonderful sooperlooper application as can be seen in the following video: Some fun with sooperloper | linuxaudiostudio

However, this was only about looping with live played material on a guitar, and I wanted to expand or maybe switch to electronic sounds generated inside the box.


Hardware-wise at the time I used only a MIDI pedalboard (proel-ms16-93562.jpg (JPEG Image, 640 × 329 pixels)) to control sooperlooper, now I want to integrate a couple of other MIDI controllers:

Roland PC 300


this one I bought used for 40 € and it is a wonderful (although discontinued) MIDI keyboard that has all the features I need with a small footprint and a light weight:

  1. four octaves with octave buttons to play on the entire MIDI range
  2. ability to switch MIDI channels from the keyboard itself. This is very important to control different softwares without touching the computer. I used to use the akai lpk 25, which is a wondeful tiny controller, but it lacks this feature (you can use at most 4 different channels by using the presets)
  3. Modulation/pitch wheel
  4. Sustain pedal input
  5. a programmable slider for sending MIDI CC
  6. USB bus powered (no need for yet another power adapter)

Novation remote Zero MKI


this one is a real beast. It’s also discontinued (now they make the MKII) but I found it in great conditions for only 70 €. It has a lot of physical controls with extensive programming options. It is also bus powered and it works as MIDI interface too, so I’m using it to connect the MIDI only ms-16 pedalboard.

Also great about this controller is the fact that it has two screens where you can see the (configurable) name and value of the controller you are sending.

And it has an editor that runs (with some glitches, but usable) under wine.


Here is where things get complicated.. 🙂 I haven’t sorted out yet the full setup for software but here’s a list of the software that I intend to use:

  • sooperlooper (of course)
  • renoise (the best traker ever made, althoug not free)
  • yoshimi (a great soft synth)
  • mididings (neat MIDI router and processor)
  • qjackctl (for JACK connecions and patchbay persistence)
  • wmctrl (for controlling GNOME via MIDI when combined with mididings)

basically sooperlooper and renoise should be connected and sync’d thru JACK transport, renoise providing its wonderful sampler and its powerful effect chains. Yoshimi to produce synth sounds (multitimbrical, say two or three channels), mididings to route all MIDI data to the appropriate program basing on MIDI channel.

I tried with those softwares and the resulting setup is already quite complex… and this whitout external audio sources like real instruments (which I want to integrate at some point).

Other software that I’m considering:

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Ardour 3.0 released !!!

Finally it arrived! The long awaited, award winning DAW for GNU/linux reaches a new historical milestone. The major new feature of this version is the introduction of MIDI track recording and editing, but there are LOTS of new features in other departments too.

Also the website has changed a lot, and for the better:

ardour new website

ardour new website











Check out the announcement and the “what’s new” page:

Big kudos to Paul Davis and all the ardour crew for this wonderful product.


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Some fun with sooperloper

Today I was looking at the new boss rc-30 loopsation and I found its features quite good, in particular I like the portability and the fact that it can run on batteries (good for busking around with a battery powered amplifier), but the cost still kept me away.

In addition I don’t know if all the features related to USB connection with the computer can work with Linux.

So I decided to give a try to my computer-based looping setup, which involves an old MIDI pedal board from proel (model MS-16), a laptop with arch linux and the wonderful sooperlooper from Jesse Chappel, an often overlooked software but very powerful and inspiring.

So I hooked my alhambra classical guitar to a little soundtracs topaz mixer that I use for reharsal with the band, feeding the input of the laptop soundcard with the aux pot of the guitar channel on the mixer.

The audio output of the soundcard was then plugged as well into the mixer that in turn is attached to a small PA.

I find loopers a very creative tool for sketching musical ideas on the fly without having to reach for a big DAW program, creating a new project, and so on. Sooperlooper, once set is an instant gratification tool and today took me to this little latin-american divertissement.

Sorry for the quality of the video, it was taken from a small photocamera and the ligthing was not that good. The audio was captured with the yamaha pocketrak 2G and joined together with the video with avidemux syncing with a little trial and error, so it may be also not perfectly synced.

All in all, I like a lot this setup but I reckon that it is a bit complex to put together compared with the compactness and smallness of the boss pedal. Of course my solution cost me nothing and offers more flexibility (more tracks, more rounting options with JACK) but I’m still looking at the rc-30 with lush desire 🙂

Being an improvisation there are also bad spots so be forgiving… 😀

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New Balafon soundfont

A friend of mine lent me a fantastic african instrument: a Balafon.

I took the opportunity to sample it and make a soundfont to be used in GNU/Linux with qsynth.

The Balfon from which I take the samples for the soundfont


To record it I used my trusty yamaha pockettrack 2G (best buy of 2011), I then cropped the single notes with mhwaveedit and put toghether the soundfont with swami.

I don’t have the latest version of swami and there are some oddities in it, but at least I’ve been able to make it into a usable soundfont (I hope).

Please feel free to use it under the term of the CC BY-SA 3.0 license ( with the following exception:
The “share alike” condition is imperative if you modify the samples themselve or create new sample libraries with this licensed product. However, produced music and other non-sample-library works can be licensed at will).

The instrument itself is gorgeous, too bad I have to gave him back soon… I only sampled one layer for each note, basically there are three octaves of a C scale from G2 to F5 (I don’t know for shure those are the actual pitches, maybe I missed an octave in positioning notes).

The whole process took me about 2 hours to complete.

Hope you enjoy it!!

Click here for the soundfont balafon.sf2

Here’s some fiddling with the soundfont, recorded again into mhwaveedit:

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is MIDI really needed in 2012?

MIDI cableWhy should one use MIDI , the Musical Instrument Digital Interface, an almost 30 year old protocol, in 2012?

Well, you could argue that MIDI isn’t necessary anymore and that you can do everything in audio, and with many software synthesizers and emulators there’s even no need of it to control external gear.

But the thing is, MIDI has one important feature that audio lacks: it is endlessly editable in musical meaningful ways. You can alter tempo, meter, pitch, timbre, intensity and can control lots of other parameters.

I often do this parallel with graphic design: if digital audio is  a photograph, MIDI (midifiles, to be precise) is a vector illustration. Sure, you can do lots of photo retouch, effects and editing, but only vector graphics let you alter at will shapes, colors, and all elements of the illustration.

So, from a composer point of view, MIDI is still an exceptional protocol/file format to create music from scratch.For example MIDI is the cornerstone of any notation program on earth, including our beatuful musescore, the venerand and ever useful abc, and the king of notation systems lilypond, used in the project mutopia to typeset thousands of historical music scores (a terrific resource).

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