Mike Slinn
Mike Slinn

Pro Tools MIDI & Virtual Instruments

Published 2020-03-01. Last modified 2022-08-20.
Time to read: 6 minutes.

This site is categorized under Pro Tools.

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

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 (more on this later).

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

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

Disabling Options / Delay Compensation was required in order 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 virtual MIDI keyboard, mapped to computer keyboard asdfghk, wetyu, and zxcv. Z and X transpose the keyboard 1 octave. C and V affect the velocity.


The new Pro Tools GrooveCell plugin is useful when used within an Edit/Mix Group. PDF

Adding GrooveCell to a Track

The Pro Tools docs do not mention how to add a GrooveCell track to a project.

  1. Create a new track by selecting Track / New Track (Ctrl-Shift-N). Do not select MIDI Track or Instrument Track. Instead, notice that the bottom choice is Track Presets.
  2. Select Track Presets / Avid / Virtual Instruments. From the next pull-down, which is currently displaying 808 Bass, select GrooveCell.
  3. Click Create.

Interesting Presets

Preset / Flatpack Kits / Classic 5

External MIDI Controller

The drum pads can be performed with an external MIDI controller, clicking on the drum pads within the GrooveCell window, or by programming notes into the sequencer window.

The MIDI note used to perform the pad’s sample can be changed at the bottom left [of each pad].

 – From How To Use GrooveCell Pro Tools Drum Plugin, by ProTools Training

MIDI Percussion Track Using Xpand!2

Xpand!2 needs a MIDI track per input (maximum of four, on MIDI channels 1-4), plus an instrument track. These 2 videos showed me how:


  1. Make a new stereo instrument track (Ctrl-Shift-N); this track will accept MIDI input data and output an audio signal. I called this track Beats.
  1. Click on an empty insert slot for the new track, select multichannel plug-in / Instrument / Xpand!2 (stereo). Refer to the Xpand!2 User Guide.
  2. From the Preset pull-down menu at the top of the Expand!2 dialog, select 29 Multitimbral / 03 Soundtracker:
  3. Turn off Xpand!2 instruments B, C and D.
  4. Click on the displayed instrument for channel A and select 025 Percussion / Djembe+
  5. Make a new MIDI track (Ctrl-Shift-N)
    By default, MIDI tracks accept input from all MIDI sources. This means all MIDI devices transmitting on any channel should be ‘heard’ by this MIDI track.
    1. Assign the new MIDI track’s output to channel 1 of the instrument track that has Xpand!2 loaded.
    2. Once an input device works, you can assign the new MIDI track input to a specific hardware or software device, so other MIDI inputs do not accidentally get routed to this track. The following setting causes the VMPK to work, and disables all other MIDI devices, such as the Roland HPD-15.
      The following setting disables the VMPK and enables the Roland HPD-15 because the drum pad is connected to the MIDIPLUS 8x8 input 1:
      If Pro Tool MIDI devices were defined, they would appear before the predefined choices:

Audio to MIDI

The Celemony Melodyne plugin (included with Pro Tools subscriptions) does the conversion from audio to MIDI. Melodyne provides five algorithms for doing the conversion. Depending on the material being played, how it is being played, you will find that some passages convert differently than others. Thus, some clips might need different conversion algorithms than others. Having a selection of 3-4 algorithmic outputs means you can assemble a composite track from sections of the various clips. You can thereby choose the algorithm you require for each passage.

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, 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, then try various conversion algorithms. Save them as a playlist, where each clip is suitably named.

Mike 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 being 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”

Mike 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.

Recording MIDI

You should already have set up a click track and set the tempo (beats per minute) and meter (4/4, 3/4, etc.)

  1. Record arm the MIDI track(s) (not the instrument track)
  2. Press Enter to rewind the play head
  3. Press Ctrl-space to start recording
  4. Play the MIDI devices
  5. Press space to stop recording

The MIDI data will remain in the MIDI track. When that track is played, the data is sent to its assigned instrument track, which makes sound. Control the volume of the sound, and apply effects, by adjusting the instrument track.

Editing MIDI

  1. Ensure that the smart selector is set
  2. Double-click on the lower half of the MIDI track recording (the instrument track will not show any data). The MIDI editor will appear, and all the MIDI data will be selected. You can move all of it left and right to adjust when the notes sound, or up and down to reassign notes to the data. Each note might correspond to a different sound.