How to change sounds and control plugins from your MIDI controller

How to change sounds and control plugins from your MIDI controller

In this article we’ll show you how to change sounds and control plugins from your MIDI controller.

Gig Performer is an audio plugin host for live performance and your live performance command center. Of course, it can be used as your loyal companion on many other use cases. In this article we’ll cover everything starting from the moment when you connect your MIDI controller to your computer and ending with some bonus tips. Make sure to check all the links in this article for additional explanations.

Let’s get started.

Note: there is also a YouTube video that cover this topic in detail. Check it out here.

Connecting your MIDI controller to your computer

Depending on what physical ports are on your MIDI controller, audio interface and computer, there are several ways to make a working setup.

In this example, the Lenovo Yoga laptop has two USB-C ports and one USB 3.1 port:

Physical ports and connectivity in Lenovo Yoga laptop

To this laptop are connected a Behringer audio interface, an Arturia MiniLab Mk2 and a Behringer FCB1010.

Note: if your MIDI controller has a USB cable, simply connect it directly to a USB port on your computer and it will work — you don’t need any additional audio/MIDI interfaces for your MIDI controller. In this setup, I’m using an audio interface just to connect my guitar.

The Behringer FCB1010 uses standard MIDI 5-pin DIN connectors for MIDI In and Out. If my audio interface had MIDI inputs, I could have simply connected it with a MIDI cable. In my case, my audio interface doesn’t have MIDI inputs, so I use a LogiLink MIDI to USB adapter and it works very well. For the remaining USB-C ports, I use a USB-to-USB-Type-C OTG adapter (OTG adapters are also interesting as they allow you to connect your MIDI keyboard directly to your Android smartphone or tablet).

Alternatively, you can use USB hubs to connect your audio and MIDI devices. If you use USB hubs, we strongly recommend that you use a quality and powered USB hub (we also recommend this in our Windows and macOS optimization guides). An example of such a hub is the Anker 10 Port 60W Data Hub with 7 USB 3.0 Ports (click here to learn more).

Anker powered hub with 10 60W ports

Immediately after you connect your MIDI device to the computer, Gig Performer will display a message that your MIDI device is connected (as shown with the red rectangle):

MIDI device connected Gig Performer

Connected MIDI ports will also be listed in the MIDI Ports options.

In the next section you will learn how to test your connection and how to identify what MIDI events are being sent from your MIDI controller.

Testing the connection

When you have everything set up, open the Global MIDI Monitor in Gig Performer to test the connection:

Global MIDI Monitor in Gig Performer

Press buttons, move sliders or knobs on your MIDI controller to check whether Gig Performer registers the corresponding MIDI events.

The Global MIDI Monitor is also useful to determine what type of message (and on what channel) is being sent when you move hardware controllers on your MIDI device. For example, pressing a footswitch on a Behringer FCB 1010 sends program change (PC) messages by default:

LogiLink MIDI to USB adapter

Note that the name of the adapter will be displayed here if you use one (in this case: “USB20MIDI”).

These footswitches can also be programmed to send CC messages; in general, please check the documentation for your MIDI controller to learn what options are supported.

Note: If your MIDI device sends keystrokes, that’s also no problem for Gig Performer! Check The most flexible MIDI processing blog article to see examples of how Gig Performer responds to keystrokes and also to learn how Gig Performer provides you with the most powerful MIDI capabilities on the market.

How are sounds represented in Gig Performer

Before proceeding with how to change sounds from your MIDI controller, we’ll first explain Gig Performer’s approach to handling sounds.

So, the short answer: sounds are represented through rackspaces.

The long answer: to fully understand how a sound is constructed you have to become familiar with the basic concepts in Gig Performer, particularly: plugins, widgets, rackspaces and variations (click on each link to visit the corresponding user manual pages).

The rackspace approach is fundamental in Gig Performer as it allows you to not only change sounds instantly and glitch-free, but also to take advantage of other features such as Patch Persist and Predictive Loading.

After you have become familiar with the basic concepts in Gig Performer, in the next section we’ll put them into practice in a simple example.

Tip: we have also the Getting Started gig file to get you quickly up and running:

Getting Started Template for Gig Performer by Nemanja Pudar

This gig file provides detailed guidelines created with various elements inside Gig Performer to help you understand basic Gig Performer features. Download it for free here.

Creating sounds in Gig Performer

The user manual includes guidelines with basic setups for keyboardists, guitarists, vocalists, drummers, other musicians and FOH engineers.

Also make sure to check out the templates that are bundled with Gig Performer; since these templates are built using some of those bundled plugins, you can immediately try them out and hear the sound. Click here to learn more about the built-in templates.

Of course, you can install other 64-bit VST, VST3 and AU (Mac only) plugins and use them with Gig Performer. Visit the Top websites for free audio plugins and how to use them in Gig Performer blog article to see detailed guidelines.

Don’t forget to visit our Gig and Rackspace Files forum to see many great gig files that were created by Gig Performer community members.

How to change sounds from your MIDI controller

When you start building your rackspaces, you’ll notice numbers that are located before the names of the rackspaces. If your MIDI controller sends program change messages (like Behringer FCB-1010), then simply press the desired footswitch to activate the desired rackspace. An example is shown below:

Use Behringer FCB1010 footswitches to activate Gig Performer Rackspaces

Pressing the footswitches 1-5 will activate rackspaces 1-5 respectively.

You can assign explicitly program change numbers to variations in the Variation Properties.

Use Behringer FCB1010 footswitches to activate Gig Performer Variations

Pressing footswitches 1 and 2 will activate variations 1 and 2 from Rackspace A respectively. Similarly, pressing footswitches 3, 4 and 5 will activate variations 3, 4 and 5 from Rackspace B respectively.

The same rackspaces/variations logic applies to the Setlists view to change songs/song parts. Note: visit this blog article to learn how to use the same set of PC messages to select parts in any song.

If your MIDI controller sends CC messages or Note messages, you can add pad button widgets and map them to the desired System Actions parameters and learn CC or Note message. See the bonus section below to learn more.

Alternatively, you can learn the desired MIDI events through the Global MIDI Options and Setlist Options.

How to control plugins from your MIDI controller

Let’s create a simple setup in the Wiring view; insert the bundled HaNonB70 plugin and connect it to your MIDI controller and outputs of your audio interface:

VST3 plugin HaNonB70 in Gig Performer, audio plugin host for live performance

Suppose you want to control Leslie Speed (slow or fast) and Leslie Drive (it ranges between ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’).

We’ll use the host automation feature of this plugin and control its parameters via widgets (learn more about host automation here).

Gig Performer widgets for controlling Leslie parameters (speed, distortion)

It’s easiest to simply learn these parameters. Enter the Panels view, Edit mode (shortcut – just click the Edit button) and add a LED button and a knob (1). Afterwards, in the mapping section select the HaNonB70 plugin (2) and click on the Learn Parameter button (3). The plugin editor window appears, and in that window click on the Leslie Speed button (4). Notice that Gig Performer automatically recognized the parameter (5).

While still in Learn mode, click on the knob and in the plugin editor window, move the Leslie Drive slider. The ‘Leslie Drive’ parameter will be automatically recognized. Turn off the Learn Parameter button.

The next step is to learn the MIDI message from your controller. For a knob, click on the MIDI tab and then click on the Learn button:

Gig Performer widgets for controlling Leslie parameters (speed, distortion) using MIDI controller

Move the physical control on your MIDI controller to learn it. While still in Learn more, click on the button and then learn the desired MIDI event. After you finish, turn of Learn mode.

BONUS: Using your Android device to change sounds

Android applications work great with Gig Performer, and our blog has already covered applications that work via OSC (such as OSCAR) and G-Stomper Rhythm, that synchronizes with Gig Performer via Ableton Link.

In this example I’ll use a Redmi Note 7 smartphone that is connected to a Windows laptop by a USB cable and a free Android application (not bloated with ads) – MIDI Keyboard and switch rackspaces with Note messages.

When you connect the smartphone to the computer, select MIDI:

Enabling MIDI on the Android smartphone via USB

Afterward, Gig Performer will recognize the smartphone as “MIDI Function”. Open MIDI Keyboard and then tap on MIDI output:

MIDI Keyboard, Android application with MIDI support

In the dialog, select “Android USB Peripheral Port”:

Select Android USB Peripheral Port to send MIDI via USB

In this example I’ll use B3 to switch to the previous rackspace and C4 to switch to the next rackspace:

Android application MIDI Keyboard with defined MIDI output port

Insert the System Actions plugin into the Global rackspace, and then add two Blue pads in the Panels view, Edit mode:

Using Android device that sends MIDI via USB with Gig Performer, audio plugin host for live performance

Click on the Learn button and then tap and hold the B3 key on the MIDI keyboard app. Click again on the Learn button and release the key (this way you ensure that the Note ON event is learned). In the Mapping section, select the System Actions plugin and then the PrevRackspace parameter.

Repeat the same procedure for the C4 key, just select the NextRackspace parameter.

Now you’ll be able to switch rackspaces from your Android device by tapping on B3 and C4 keys.

If you have any thoughts or want to share what MIDI controllers and applications you use, visit this Community thread.

If you like this article, please share it to help spread the word! 🙂

Own the Stage® with Gig Performer®

Nemanja Pudar

Related topics
How to control your guitar or keyboard effects using a Web browser on any computer, laptop, smartphone or device
How to automate switching rackspace variations and song parts using the MIDI File Player
How to separate your sustain pedal from your controller
How to send Program Change messages out to hardware devices and other applications
Controlling the RJMT GT Mastermind from Gig Performer
Connecting the keyboard and creating the keyboard and velocity splits

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.