Avoid controlling plugin parameters directly from your MIDI controller

Avoid controlling plugin parameters directly from your MIDI controller

Many Gig Performer users coming from older applications often try to bypass widgets and instead use the plugin’s built-in MIDI learn facility to map a plugin parameter directly to a physical knob or slider on a keyboard or control surface.

There are several small problems with this and several  serious “gotchyas” with which to be concerned.

Small problems

  • Plugins from different manufacturers use different approaches (do you right-click on a parameter, do you go to a separate mapping section, menus are different, etc)
  • Some plugins don’t even support MIDI learn in the first place
  • Functionality such as scaling, constraints (defining min/max values for example), customized resets and control of multiple parameters may be difficult or more likely not available



  • You can’t control the same plugin parameter from different physical controls unless the plugin itself can support responding to multiple different MIDI messages, which is very rare (in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a plugin that does that). For example, suppose you want to control the cutoff filter of your “Moog” from knobs on two different keyboards. You’ll have to arrange for both keyboards to use the same CC value for that knob, which then restricts you because you won’t be able easily distinguish them in other scenarios if you depend on plugin MIDI learn.
  • If your keyboard fails and you have to use a different one, you will not want to be sitting at sound check frantically looking for a manual to figure out how to reconfigure that keyboard to send out the same CC messages as the broken one did (trust me, I’ve been there – that was one of the motivations for our Rig Manager feature)
  • If you’re touring or doing festivals where the controllers are part of a backline, you’re going to have the same problem – you’re either going to have figure out how to reprogram the controller or you’re going to have to visit every plugin and relearn the MIDI messages — AND you have to remember which plugin parameters you’re actually needing to control — all while under pressure of sound check or you have 5 minutes before you start!


Use widgets instead

Widgets are your friend. Really.

Widgets and their advantages and benefits in Gig Performer

Yeah, it takes a little bit of thinking to deal with the slight paradigm shift and indirection but by using widgets as your intermediary, you can avoid all of the problems above because Gig Performer’s Rig Manager lets you reconfigure MIDI associations incredibly quickly, even in the situation where you only have a few minutes.

And of course you also get many other benefits such as individual scaling, customized reset values, grouping to control multiple parameters and so forth.

It’s really worth taking the time to understand how to use widgets and the Rig Manager.


Related topics:
Use host automation rather than MIDI to control plugin parameters
Rackspaces vs. Program Changes
How to rapidly assign plugin parameters to widgets (with video)
Migrating slowly from other audio plugin hosts to Gig Performer

Scaling Curves

Scaling curves allow you to control the shape of the output of a widget or convert an incoming note velocity to a new velocity. Various predefined curves are available and they can be tweaked as necessary. You can also just draw your own curve as well to achieve the effect you require.


MIDI File Player Plugin

You can load up to 128 MIDI song files in a single plugin instance. Switch from one song to another, mute tracks and/or change their channel numbers. Tempo can be controlled by individual songs or you can use the global tempo and tap tempo to control the BPM interactively.


Favorites and Presets

Create a sound by placing and interconnecting your desired plugins, such as a synth, some effects and perhaps a mixer. Select them all and then save the selection as a named favorite. The favorite will subsequently show up in all plugin insert menus, making it easy for you to recreate that configuration whenever you need it again. This feature is also very powerful for creating your needed sounds on your studio computer and then transferring them to your touring laptop.


Probabilistic Sound Designer

Parameters you select in an open plugin are captured into the Probabilistic Sound Designer dialog window. When you click Randomize, you're only adjusting those selected parameters. Each entry in the PSD dialog has a curve but unlike widgets where the curve controls scaling, in the PSD the curves are used to define the probability of particular values being selected. Make sure the filter cutoff never gets too slow so as to block all sound. Perhaps adjust the max range of the VCA attack parameter so that the sound doesn't have too much delay. Constrain the octave ranges of the oscillators, perhaps ensuring that 1/3rd of the time we select 8' and 2/3rds of the time we select 4'. The possibilities are endless.


More Widgets

Numerous new widgets are included in Gig Performer - a new sustain pedal, plastic knobs, drum pads and more colored sliders. Shapes can be colored with different borders and fill colors and morphed from rectangular to circular. Your creativity is now the limit to creating fabulous front panels in Gig Performer.


MIDI Message Helper

Select MIDI devices by name. Choose the MIDI message type and adjust the appropriate parameters for the specific type



Layout management

Gig Performer supports arbitrary resizing. Layout your widgets the way you want - resize the main window and the widgets will grow or shrink as necessary to maintain the same interrelationships. No matter what size screen you have, your front panels will still be neat and usable.


Undo Support

If you move your widgets around and/or resize them, or even delete them by mistake, the Undo facility will correct your mistake. Minor moves to a widget by mistake will no longer spoil your design


Plugin Channel Count

Some plugins support a large number of outputs and they depend on the traditional channel strip to control how many ports should be available.   When you only need a stereo pair, it is convenient not to have a large horizontal block. In Gig Performer, the number of available ports  is controlled by the channel count override, which can be applied to individual plugins and will be remembered when the gigfile is reloaded or if the plugin is saved as a favorite.


Input muting and output fading

Rather than a single audio length tail, Gig Performer 4 gives you the ability to control input muting and output fading separately. Input muting controls how much time it takes for audio input to be silenced when you leave the rackspace. Output fading controls how much time will be taken for audio to fade out when you leave the rackspace.


Faster Plugin Finder

Instead of searching through menus of perhaps hundreds of plugins (you know who you are!), the Quick Plugin Finder makes it easy to find the plugin you need by simply typing partial strings. For example, as shown here, to find the Modartt Pianoteq 7 plugins, it's enough to type pia mod 7 (in any order, by the way)  to restrict the list of available plugins to those matching your query. The Quick Plugin Finder also knows about manufacturers, presets and favorites.



Touch Friendly Input

Any entry field can be changed by either dragging your mouse (or finger) up or down, or by using the large popup touchpad where you can just tap on the squares to enter a value. The large popup keypad also does validation so you can't enter an invalid value. You can also just tap the BPM field to pop up a larger view where you can quickly change tempo, tranpose, trigger Tap Tempo and enable Ableton Link, the last allowing you to synchronize Gig Performer with any other application that also supports Ableton Link.


New Tuner Display

The tuner view makes it easy for guitarists to quickly check and adjust their tuning. You can toggle into the tuner view from any other view and toggle right back as soon as you're done. All output will be silenced automatically while you're in tuning mode. You can adjust the concert reference pitch from its default of 440 Hz to suit your own needs. The tuner view fills the entire screen so you can easily see it from a distance.