MIDI Pedal Board, the setup
So there it is, the MIDI Pedal Board. Now how to use it?
Sure I had some use cases in mind, and I decided to start by mapping few of the keyboard pedals to control some sound card settings (FireFace 800) and some to transport (or similar) controls in DAWs. The volume pedal should control the master volume of FF800.
The FF800 uses RME’s TotalMix software, which only responds to Mackie Control (MC) messages. The full list of recognized MC messages is in the FF800 manual, so no problem there. However having absolutely no clue which MC message is mapped to which MIDI event, I was totally lost at first. A bit of googling, and Rob Bowers’ page on what Mackie Control messages proved a total lifesaver.
I’m using format similar to the Pedscan manual below. That is, hash sign (#) equals a press of Edit button and numbers 0-9 equal individual keys starting from the lowest note on the keyboard. Just to make sure the settings changes were successful, I monitored the MIDI output of the pedal board using MIDI-OX.
Setting up the volume pedal was straightforward: First key in #2128 to change the pedal to transmit Pitch Bend message. Then move pedal and key in #39 to make it transmit on MIDI channel 9. And that’s your Mackie Control master volume fader right there!
Setting up the keyboard pedals got somewhat trickier though. As I want to use the upper pedals to control RME’s TotalMix and lower pedals to control whatever in whichever DAW, a keyboard split had to be set up. Otherwise the full keyboard will just transmit linear note data over a single channel.
So first key in #5 followed by the chosen highest note on the lower part. This created the split point and assigned MIDI channel 1 to lower halve and 2 to upper halve. Once the split is set the halves can be individually selected for configuring by first pressing any key on the halve-to-be-configured, then followed by #..
I decided to use the upper halve to switch TotalMix snapshots, and the Mackie Control keys for that are MIDI notes F#3 – C#4 on channel 1. Thus; change the channel by first keying in pedal from upper halve followed by #31. Then key in any pedal on upper halve followed by #1 & high C. This sets middle C to the topmost keyboard pedal. Finally, repeatedly key in any pedal on upper halve followed by #10. This transposes the upper halve down by a semitone on each repetition. Once the lowest key of upper halve sent F#3 == ALL GOOD! :)
For the lower halve, it doesn’t really matter which keys the Board transmits just as long as they’re not on channel 1. I decided to go towards the low end and top channel. First key in any pedal the lower halve followed by #316. This sets the transmit channel to 16. Then repeatedly key in any pedal on lower halve followed by #10 until lowest key transmits MIDI note C-1. == ALL GOOD!
Yo DAW(g) Imma Set U Up
This chapter is somewhat unnecessary as the net is loaded with similar instructions. However just for the sake of including all the necessary stuff here, I’ll briefly run through how the DAWs I use, Cockos Reaper & Ableton Live 8, needed to be set up.
With Reaper, the MIDI port the pedal is connected to needs to be enabled & set to receive Control messages and then the pedal actions defined. So first bring up Preferences and check that MIDI Devices tab lists the MIDI input Mode as ‘Enabled + Control’ (right click input to change). Then apply changes, exit Preferences and bring up Actions List. In my case I wanted to control Play, Stop and Record with the pedals. So type in ‘Transport’ to filter the list, look up an action, under it click Add and press the chosed pedal. And that’s it.
For Live 8 the process is somewhat similar but after mapping, you do have to remember to save the current project as default under Preferences if planning to use the same setup on all projects. Once again, first bring up Preferences and under MIDI / Sync tab check that the chosen MIDI input has the Remote option enabled. Then close Preferences, activate ‘Edit MIDI Map’ mode, select Play button you wish to link, press the chosen pedal key and exit MIDI Map mode. Finally, bring up Preferences and under File / Folder tab select ‘Save Current Set as Default’. All done!
All in all this was a very straightforward project with little suprises or detours. Just the way I like it! Especially fine tuning the LED & photo resistor combo through mechanical adjustments was good fun.
What use I’ve gotten out of the pedal so far, I’m really loving it for recording: I can keep my hands ready-to-play on the keyboard and do retakes without fiddling with the mouse or computer keyboard in-between.. The hands-free control of FF800 is pure awesome too! No more need to interrupt the DAW workflow just to fiddle with master volume slider or A/B speaker pairs in TotalMix :)