Mike Slinn

Pro Tools MIDI

Published 2020-03-01. Last modified 2023-01-01.
Time to read: 5 minutes.

This page is part of the av_studio collection.

MIDI Drums Plugins

All drum plugins work with MIDI data. EZDrummer 3 is my favorite drum plugin. I also discuss GrooveCell and Xpand!2 because they were part of my Pro Tools learning process. I recommend skipping them and just using EZDrummer 3.

MIDI Setup

  1. Create or open an existing Pro Tools session.
  2. Open the Pro Tools Preferences window by selecting the Pro Tools / Preferences menu item.
  3. Select the MIDI tab. It has four areas for configuring various aspects of Pro Tools MIDI operation:
    1. Basics: This area lets you configure the following:
      1. Automatically creating a click track on all new sessions.
      2. Using MIDI to tap the tempo.
      3. Selecting the default MIDI through instrument.
      4. Setting the pencil tool resolution for drawing.
      5. Defining MIDI merge mode.
    2. Note Display: This area lets you select the middle C pitch for MIDI purposes. The options offered are: using the standard C3 as middle C; using C4 as middle C; and using MIDI note #60 as middle C.
    3. Delay Compensation for External Devices: This panel lets you enable the delay compensation for external devices on parameters such as MIDI timecode, MIDI notes and controllers, and MIDI Beat Clock.
    4. MIDI/Score Editor Display: This area lets you assign the number of additional empty bars in the score editor. This setting has no effect when using some MIDI plugins, for example, GrooveCell and EZDrummer 3.
    5. Press OK to apply the settings.

MIDI Input Display

The MIDI Input Display will show you the current chord you are playing on the Toolbar in the Edit Window. You must enable this option to see the input.

The MIDI Editor in Pro Tools also has a MIDI Input Display and that display will show you single notes, multiple notes, and chords.

 – From See What Notes and Chords You are Playing in Pro Tools - MIDI Input Display

I do not currently see the MIDI Input Display in the MIDI Editor. It used to be visible; now it is not. Unsure why.

Define An External MIDI Device

This is not necessary for EZDrummer 3 because it interfaces directly with external MIDI devices.

MIDI tracks can accept inputs from virtual and physical MIDI channels, or they can accept inputs from predefined Pro Tools MIDI devices. It is probably better to define MIDI devices. To achieve that, use the menu Setup / MIDI / MIDI Studio Setup, shown to the right.

Below, you can see that I defined a MIDI instrument called Roland Handsonic HPD-15.

When defining MIDI channel inputs, the new MIDI instrument will appear as a choice.

NOTE: Defining a Pro Tools MIDI device causes that MIDI input / output to be removed from the list of predefined inputs and outputs.

I saved the definition into E:\media\proTools\ProTools MIDI Studio Setup.dms.

MIDI Latency

This is not necessary for EZDrummer 3 because it interfaces directly with external MIDI devices.

For some reason, Pro Tools introduced about 200 ms of latency only for MIDI inputs from external MIDI devices.

Disabling Options / Delay Compensation was required to eliminate latency for external MIDI devices.

To make extra sure, I also disabled all 3 Delay Compensation for External Devices settings under Setup / Preferences / MIDI.

Pro Tools Virtual MIDI Keyboard

Shift-K brings up a virtual MIDI keyboard mapped to computer keyboard letters:

  w e t y u
a s d f g h j k
  z x c v

Keys z and x transpose the keyboard by one octave.
Keys c and v affect the velocity.

Audio to MIDI

The Celemony Melodyne plugin (included with Pro Tools subscriptions) can obtain MIDI notes from audio tracks. Melodyne provides five algorithms. Depending on the material being played, and how it is being played, you will find that some audio passages are processed differently than others. You can thereby choose the algorithm you require for each passage. Selecting several algorithms allows you to assemble a composite track.

The Setup / Preferences / Processing / Celemony ARA / Audio to MIDI plugin-in should already be set to Melodyne. Right-click the audio track, select Copy Audio as MIDI, and then try various conversion algorithms. Save them as a playlist, where each clip is suitably named.

Right-click the audio track, select Copy Audio as MIDI, and then try various conversion algorithms. Save them as a playlist, where each clip is suitably named.

I paraphrased the Celemony documentation about their algorithms and settings:

To obtain the most suitable and detailed editing possibilities for the following sound sources, the following algorithms are generally used:

  • Melodic: Singing, speech, saxophone, flute, monophonic bass, etc. (monophonic sources only)
  • Percussive: Drum and percussion sounds or loops, and other percussive sounds with no significant pitched components.
  • Percussive Pitched: 808-kicks and toms, tabla and similar percussive sounds with a pitched component.
  • Two Polyphonic algorithms: Both algorithms yield scores where simultaneous individual notes are required. They are well suited to pianos, strings, organs, guitars and other instruments capable of sounding more than one note at a time. The differences between the Polyphonic Decay and the Polyphonic Sustain algorithms are their sound and the playing techniques employed (pizzicato, legato, etc.).
    • Polyphonic Sustain is suitable for a wide range of polyphonic audio material in which the start of each note does not differ significantly from the rest, as is the case with string instruments played legato and organ music.
    • Polyphonic Decay is a variation of that algorithm designed for instruments or playing techniques where the start of each note is markedly different from what follows; examples are string instruments played pizzicato, the entire guitar family, and pianos.
  • Universal: (probably not useful when Melodyne is invoked from Pro Tools):
    • Rhythm guitars (funky guitars or distorted riffs and similar sounds), where you only wish to time-stretch or transpose them and no access to individual notes is required.
    • Loops featuring multiple instruments or complete mixes that you wish to time-stretch, quantize or transpose.

The Sound-on-Sound review of Melodyne 4 says, “The Polyphonic Decay [algorithm] is similar to the original polyphonic algorithm, whereas Polyphonic Sustain is designed to work with sounds such as legato strings that do not contain clear note attacks… The Universal algorithm allows the user to perform very high-quality time-stretching and time correction.”

I found that Polyphonic Decay worked reasonably well for picking and strumming a guitar. Significant cleanup was required, and several MIDI editors were tried. Pro Tools offers the best options. Polyphonic Sustain was almost the same, maybe not quite as good.

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