More control for your keyboard

The Casio keyboard I bought a few months ago to learn piano is working great, but it does not give me a lot of control over the sound, since it’s relatively inexpensive. For instance, it has no native way to quiet down a layered instrument so it doesn’t overpower the base sound. This is has been reported by many owners. I found a simple solution that likely is valid for most modern keyboards from most brands.

Unless yours is a very cheap keyboard, it has a connector on the back for MIDI in and out. These days, most of these are USB, A type, like those found in printers. It may also have wireless MIDI over Bluetooth (mine doesn’t). Plug a cable in, and add an adaptor to connect to an iPad or iPhone. I’m sure you can do the same with an Android device, but I have not tried.

Then load the following two apps from the iOS app store:

  1. MidiWrench, free in the App Store. This is just to do a loopback, so I guess any program that achieves this will be fine (MidiFlow, for instance).
  2. WIDI – MIDI Studio, $1.99 in the App Store after upgrade. This is a customizable control surface.

After connecting your device to the keyboard and turning everything on, load MidiWrench and turn on the Setting that makes it echo back to the keyboard, as in the picture. You also want to turn off Local MIDI on the keyboard. Different keyboards do this differently, but they all have this setting somewhere. With the loopback set up through MidiWrench, the keyboard will still play even though Local control is turned off. It will stop working the moment you unplug the cable connecting it to the iPad or iPhone, or if you unload MidiWrench. Make sure MidiWrench stays active in the Background (there is a setting for that).

Now load WIDI – MIDI Studio, which will let you add two controls for free before it asks you for two bucks. Make sure it is connected to your keyboard (click upper right icon). Then go ahead and add a single vertical slider, connect it to channel 1, and make it output CC number 7, which is almost always used for Volume. If all goes well, moving the slider up and down will change the volume.

That’s it! Now it’s just a matter of adding more sliders for other things you want to control, each of which responds to a MIDI Continuous Controller (CC) message. You will need the MIDI Implementation document for your keyboard. Since mine is a Casio, I got the document from this website:

The picture above shows the WIDI screen after I added 12 sliders for 3 different channels. In my keyboard, the main sound is channel 1 (top row), layered sound is channel 2 (middle row), left-hand split sound is channel 3 (bottom row). Now I can change the relative volume of those three, as well as their respective Release time, Chorus, and a whole bunch of things, all in real time.

If you cannot use an iPad or iPhone, there’s still something you can do to gain more control without any extra equipment, on a keyboard compatible with the Casio CDP-S350 (for instance, the CDP-S360, and any in the CT-X700 series). Developer Chandler Holloway has put out a software utility that allows users to edit part volumes stored in registration files. Using this software, I have made two files that you can put on a USB stick and then load on your compatible keyboard in order to alter the balance of the sound layers, which is a feature Casio forgot to add.

This file loads the default instruments, sets accompaniment volume to 80% (you can change it later) and, most importantly, changes registration slots 1 (left) to 4 (right) this way:

  1. U1 and L at 100%, U2 at 100%  (reset to default)
  2. U1 and L at 100%, U2 at 75%
  3. U1 and L at 75%, U2 at 50%
  4. U1 and L at 50%, U2 at 25%

This way, as you go left to right on the registration buttons, the second layer gets progressively softer. Great if your layered strings or pads are too loud.

This other file loads the default instruments, sets accompaniment volume to 80% (you can change it later), and changes registration slots 1 (left) to 4 (right) this way:

  1. U1 and U2 50%, L 100%
  2. U1 and U2 75%, L 100%
  3. U1 and U2 100%, L 75%
  4. U1 and U2 100%, L 50%

As you go left to right on the buttons, the split left-hand keyboard gets progressively weaker, starting from a big relative boost on setting 1. A must for the default Acoustic Bass patch, which is too soft.

One thought to “More control for your keyboard”

  1. Good work, Paco Ruiz! BTW, just FYI, the MIDI Input to a keyboard is an inverted signal. That is, it expects input to always be HIGH (+5V), except when receiving data in the temporary form of LOW (0V).

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