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Author Topic: MIDI to USB converter (and some other usb related questions)  (Read 2120 times)

Offline pelgrim

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I have zero experience with musical equipment, so I feel not ashamed to ask stupid questions :)

I have no midi instruments and want to connect the sprout directly to my pc.
Is this what I need to do this ?
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adapter-USB-to-Midi-In-Out/dp/B000XRI3CC

Are there any limits to the length of MIDI cable (or USB cable) I can use to connect my pc with a plant ?

And will the mide sprout tools be able to recognize the usb port where the midi signal comes from ?

Offline sam

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Re: MIDI to USB converter (and some other usb related questions)
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2016, 12:09:31 PM »
Well hello pelgrim!

To begin with, the MIDI Sprout Tools program is in no way necessary for using the MIDI Sprout.  The Tools is a 'novelty' application which I threw together in PureData (pdExtended), and the Tools make no sound it only modifies the MIDI data.  It can be useful, but there is a learning curve to just setting up PD-extended - that's why the self contained osX patch was easier for some folks.

The MIDI - USB interface you linked from Amazon is (sorry to say it) crap, hence the price.  While the cheap MIDI interfaces 'should' work, their non-compliant wiring can and will impact the sensitivity and 'isolation' which makes the MIDI Sprout work well.  These lower cost units tend to result in ground connection issues.

As a portable MIDI-USB connector I use this MOTU

Once you connect your sprout to your computer using a USB MIDI interface, you are then going to need to use a sound generating program.  At Data Garden, we use Ableton Live which is an advanced music production tool.  On Linux there are a plethera of MIDI related instruments, recorders, digital workstations, but it will take some configuration to route your MIDI data between programs.  A few searches and reads through some Linux blogs is a better resource than I am.  Here are some links from a quick search:
http://linux-sound.org/
http://www.tldp.org/HOWTO/MIDI-HOWTO-8.html
http://tedfelix.com/linux/linux-midi.html

As for MIDI cable lengths, legend has it that MIDI cables once could run hundreds of feet in a single run but the best throws i've gotten today are around 25ft.  There are many MIDI extension solutions. 

Also consider, instead of having a long MIDI cable to your plant, extend your electrodes leads with normal headphones extenders!

I see from your other post, that you want to use a PINE 64 as your sound system.  You will need to make sure that whatever USB-MIDI interface you use works with your specific flavour of Linux and the Pine64!!

Offline pelgrim

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Re: MIDI to USB converter (and some other usb related questions)
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2016, 03:31:50 PM »
Thanks a lot Sam for this reply (and the other one about the tools).

I felt unsure of the MIDI-USB connector, so thanks for your advice.
These things seem to be hard to find in my area, I contacted on saturday a rather good local music store,
and they don't have any of this kind on the shelf and needed to search for it with their suppliers.
I can imagine most professional music related equipment stay with MIDI and don't bother with usb.

The http://tedfelix.com/linux/linux-midi.html has really good practical advice,
your "quick search" brings me much better information then what I would find,
because you have a clear idea what to look for.

I know the theory about how these things work: MIDI, sequencers, loops, samples, ...
and that's it, no practical knowledge, and certainly no knowledge of what's "out there" in software.
For me it has to be open source (if not, at least free).

The other 2 links show what I more or less expected: there is just a forest of possibilities to choose from,
and sure each must have their advantages and disavantages.

So, perhaps I try to give a description of what I want to do.
Remember I'm blissed with no practicle knowledge, only ideas.

One thing that I have in mind is make recordings of midi signals from plants and/or just about anything I find interesting enough to get some signal from.
Another thing I like to do is collect sounds. I have a DAT recorder from the times mp3 players only existed as software on pc's and bulky laptops,
and I'm still happy with that thing, it gives me crisp clear recordings. There is also the internet now with sounds I will never hear live in my life.

So what I want is to create sound pieces, from short up to an hour or more in length,
from combining the midi signals that "play" a set of these recordings.
Preferably I like to have no limits on the number of tracks I can combine.
I don't intend to play and stream these live, it will all be cut/paste and experimentation without any kind of time pressure.

I don't expect one answer that fits my needs 100%, that never exists anyway,
but if someone can put me on the right track, what software is worth investigating and what certainly not,
it can eliminate a lot of searching.

Offline sam

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Re: MIDI to USB converter (and some other usb related questions)
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2016, 11:40:10 PM »
Many computer audio interfaces also include a MIDI connection, which can give some additional audio input and output capabilities.  The costs for MIDI to USB devices increases sharply, there are some great models which offer multiple inputs and outputs(think multiple sprouts in!)

For your intended usage, there are a few ways to go:

1.  Program your own MIDI sample playback engine - Using processing.org or other tools including pure data, you can custom configure your own trigger and playback system.  It is easy to encode MIDI data to files or use the multiple channels of MIDI data for elaborate instrumentation.  This is my approach, and I use microcontrollers (arduino), electronic components, and modified consumer electronics in order to create the results I am looking for.  It takes a considerable amount of research, and I teach electronics and physical computing in university with this ethic.

2.  Use every Linux sound and MIDI program available until you find something worthwhile - this is one of the chronic limitations with using Linux, there is a very large user base and development community and this leads to fractured information and disjointed applications.  While it is true that i can write a script to run my audio programs through a Normalizer, Equalizer, and then and MP3 lame encoder, there is something important about the parsimony of a unified application.  I have found that digging deep into Linux does provide great results, but it is a quite elaborate puzzle.  Its almost easier to roll your own program!

3.  and then there is Ardour - this is it, a thick daw with multichannels, routing, vst/au, midi out the wazoo, full digital audio workstation.  I use Ableton Live on osX, if i was on Linux I'd use Ardour.  Ooops i might have accidentally placed a shady(no promises) link to Live and Linux here.

4.  or just do this:   sudo apt-get install lmms rosegarden

You will need to delve into a significant amount of information related to MIDI to control the data but you should be able to record tons of long channels and easily edit (copy/paste) using Ardour.
 
I don't really specialize in Ubuntu Linux, so I'm sorry that I can't make a more direct recommendation.  I also have been searching for 'easier' midi recording and playback solutions. 


Offline pelgrim

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Re: MIDI to USB converter (and some other usb related questions)
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2016, 02:27:41 AM »
ok, I have enough to start doing my homework.

If other linux users are reading, please let yourself known so we can advice each other with our experiences.

Offline pelgrim

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Re: MIDI to USB converter (and some other usb related questions)
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2016, 01:41:52 PM »
Sam,
can you confirm that this converter will work ?
This is offered by a local music store.

http://www.roland.com/products/um-one_mk2/

Offline sam

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Re: MIDI to USB converter (and some other usb related questions)
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2016, 03:06:36 PM »
I've not tried the um1 but I believe it will work fine.

Offline pelgrim

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Re: MIDI to USB converter (and some other usb related questions)
« Reply #7 on: May 25, 2016, 09:33:30 AM »
got the converter.

Got my pine64 board.

Started to follow the instructions on http://tedfelix.com/linux/linux-midi.html
Then I came to the topic: Installing a Low Latency Kernel
$ grep ^CONFIG_HZ /boot/config-`uname -r`
CONFIG_HZ_1000=y
CONFIG_HZ=1000

It appears, when I asked on the pine64 forum:
"The current value in longsleep builds is CONFIG_HZ=100 and no define for CONFIG_HZ_1000. "
longsleep being the ubuntu image I use for my flash drive on the pine64.

I wouldn't know where to start to create an own kernel image,
and it's my goal to use this stuff, not to be a linux expert.

This is the end of the road for using the pine64 board as a recording device for midi sprout ?

Offline sam

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Re: MIDI to USB converter (and some other usb related questions)
« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2016, 12:05:58 PM »
You shouldn't need a low latency driver for the midi, although it can help speed up response if playing a piano.

Does the device show up as an active USB device on the pine ?


Offline pelgrim

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Re: MIDI to USB converter (and some other usb related questions)
« Reply #9 on: May 25, 2016, 12:14:59 PM »
it doesn't show up, jack is complaining.

It must be something with the kernel they backed for the pine64,
the regular ubuntu just loves the signal.

But good to know I can drop the latency thing, I'll have another go at it tomorrow and see if I can beat JACK/ALSA into submission,
the pine64/sprout combination would still be a nice thing to achieve.