Virtual MIDI is some great stuff, yet it can be tricky to get going. Everyone seems to handle it just a little bit differently, but once you understand the basics you can tackle it in any form. I’ll walk you through setting up Virtual MIDI in MoDrum, NLog Synth Pro, and Sunrizer. All of these have entirely different ways of handling MIDI, but Genome MIDI Sequencer makes it simple. I’ll even show you how to quickly make a song with all 3, using Genome’s Pattern and Song Sequencers.
For this example, launch the apps in this order: Genome, Sunrizer, MoDrum, and finally NLogSynth. By the time you return to Genome it will see the Virtual MIDI ports of the others and attempt to make the connections you want. This is all we really need and the rest is just a matter of cleaning things up!
It may initially seem complicated, but you can do it all in about a minute. Many apps will even remember your settings so you may only need to do this once...
Settings in Genome
To tell Genome what we’re up to, switch back to it and bring up the MIDI Options by clicking on the MIDI Jack button in the top panel. Select the MIDI tab, and then MIDI Outputs. We want it to be sending to Sunrizer , MoDrum and NLog Synth Pro. Make sure that only those three are lit up and checked. While we’re in here let’s make sure we’re not getting any stray inputs. Hit the back button and select MIDI Inputs and just turn everything off, unless you’re planning to use an external keyboard or record MIDI information from other apps. In this example you won’t need to do either.
Go to the Sync tab, next to MIDI in the settings dialog box, and make sure that only SEND CLOCK is selected. We’re going to be sending a continuous MIDI Clock Sync message to everything as a Master Clock. If Genome isn’t sending Clock Sync, then MoDrum won’t know when to Start and Stop.
Finally, tap the Audio tab, next to Sync, and make sure your Audio Latency is set to HIGH. This is telling iOS to give your apps a lot of audio buffer space. If you have this set too low, then the iPad may not be able to keep up with rendering the audio on time, which may result in audio glitches. This can still happen in some apps with poorly implemented audio buffer code, and even in the best of them when too much processing is going on. The best thing to do when this happens is to kill the app causing the problem, from the Task Tray.
This tutorial will be using MoDrum’s internal note sequencer, but we want it to keep the beat with Genome. In MoDrum you can get to the settings by hitting the “…” up in the top-right. From here you can select MIDI Setup. You are presented with a nice list of all of your apps, which are currently running; that have Virutal MIDI ports exposed. Make sure that nothing is selected (highlighted blue) under Input Connections.
This means that the only connection is being made by Genome, and none are coming the other way round. If you’re using MoDrum’s internal sequencer and tell it to also make a connection to Genome, it will get confused because Genome will be sending it BPM information twice, causing it to play at double-speed. To prevent it from doubling-up its BPM we need to specifically tell MoDrum not to listen to any Clock Input.
Confused? It gets even stranger! In a similar app, Molten Drum Machine, the exact opposite is true, and you have to tell it to listen for Input: Genome – Clock and set the External Sync to ON, or it won’t play at all.
NLogSynth Pro has a robust MIDI implementation, but it will often try to connect every app. Let’s tell it to stop doing that.
Select the Sys button on the top menu of NLog. First let’s make sure that it is listening to MIDI Channel 1, under the MIDI tab. This is important because that is the channel we’re going to use for programming it in Genome. Now hit the Devices tab right next to MIDI. Cycle through all of the available connections with the Plus or Minus buttons. You want to make sure that nothing labeled IN: Notes is highlighted for any of the possible Device connections.
Immediately below that you’ll see the Background Mode, make sure this is ON so that you can still hear NLog when it is not the active application on your screen.
If you are going to use NLog’s Arpeggiator you will need to make sure that it is set to Sync On in the Arp menu. This setting is unique to every patch, so you will need to make sure it is set when you need it, and saved when you change it. Once again this clock signal will be automatically sent by Genome, so you do not want to have IN: Clock activated in NLog’s Devices menu.
Sunrizer is easier because it doesn’t let you assign any of the inputs! For Sunrizer all we need to do is tell it to play in the background and listen to a different MIDI Channel from NLog. Each MIDI connection can use up to 16 channels, and with Genome you can use them all. In this case we can send notes to Sunrizer on MIDI Channel 2. Press the UTILS button on the top, and then Settings from the menu that appears. At the bottom of this panel is the MIDI In Channel selector, which we want to be set to 2. Now press the button in the top-left of the screen labeled AUDIO BKG to enable Background Mode.
Unfortunately Sunrizer does not listen for a MIDI clock input, so if you use Arpeggiated patches you will need to make sure they are set to the same BPM you are using in Genome.
Let’s make some music!
Start off by choosing some patches in Sunrizer and NLog, and then making sure they don’t drown each other out. Since we will have 3 apps playing along at once it is a really good idea to lower the volume on each. Then go into MoDrum and set up your drum pattern, once again lowering the volume on some of the louder parts.
With the patches selected, return to Genome. We have set up NLog on MIDI Channel 1, and Sunrizer on MIDI Channel 2, so to start sending them notes we need to create patterns on their respective Track lanes. To make one for NLog, hit the Plus Sign on the right of the Track 1 lane. A new square will appear. Press Edit, also in the Track 1 lane, and Genome will take you into the Piano Roll.
Note input is as simple as pressing anywhere on the Piano Roll. You should hear NLog playing back your notes as you press. To make notes longer, hold your finger down and drag to the right. If you need to delete notes simply tap on the ones you want to get rid of. To scroll around, place two fingers on the screen and move around: up, down, left or right. To zoom in or out you also use two fingers and either pinch in or stretch out. If you screw something up, just use the Undo or Redo buttons in the top right panel.
Once you have a basic little groove going on you’ll probably want to expand it beyond the default 1 bar length. To make your pattern longer, press the Info button in the top right of the Piano Roll. You will be presented with the Pattern Info pop-up. Highlighting any of the numbers will make that the new pattern length.
Now that you have a lot more room to work with you can copy what you’ve already done and either paste it, as is, or move it around to find new notes that sound good using the same note intervals. To Copy or Cut notes you first need to highlight them with the Selector tool, on the left panel of the Piano Roll. With that active you can drag your finger across the screen to select the desired notes. You’ll notice that there are now 3 buttons that appear at the bottom of the screen. The one on the left will Delete the selected notes. The middle button will let you Move the notes around for as long as you hold your finger down. The right button will allow you to change the Length of notes by dragging your finger left to shrink them and right to increase them.
To Copy or Cut notes, use the appropriate buttons on the left. Now when you press the Paste button, below the Cut button, your new notes will appear. You will see the movement display because they are already selected and ready to be moved into place. You might not see your notes if they are not in the visible portion of the pattern, such as a higher or lower octave. Just tap the screen anywhere in the Piano Roll to deselect the notes, and then you will be able to zoom and scroll around as usual.
Once you have finished your first pattern you are ready to start a new one. If this new pattern is going to be a variation on the first you can save a lot of time by saving this pattern to be loaded into the new one. Hit the Save Pattern button in the top right panel of the Piano Roll to save the pattern.
To create a new pattern, return to the Sequencer Page with the Back button in the top left of the Piano Roll. Now tap the Plus Sign in the same Track lane. A new grayed out box will appear. Make that new pattern the active pattern by tapping on it. When you press the Edit button you will be taken into the Piano Roll of the blank pattern.
The Load Pattern button will bring up a dialog to select your desired pattern. When you load up a new pattern it will automatically set the correct pattern length, so you won’t need to worry about that!
Put it all together!
Now that you have a bunch of patterns, making a song is easy. A song is just patterns of patterns!
At the very bottom of the Sequencer Page is a square with 16 little squares. Each of the larger Song Squares represents 1 measure, or bar, of your song. Each of the 16 little squares represents the pattern selected for each of the 16 MIDI tracks. To begin building up your song simply highlight a few of your patterns in the top view. You’ll see that their colors are now showing up in the little squares for the active Song Square. This is really helpful for keeping track of what patterns you have active, at a glance!
Song Mode is OFF by default, and all of these Song Squares represent snapshots of different pattern selections. This is a good mode for testing out a lot of different patterns with one another. When you find something you like hit the Plus Sign on the right of the Song Sequencer to add a new Song Square and find a new pattern of patterns. Change your active Song Square, by tapping to highlight a new one.
When you turn Song Mode ON you will be looping through your Song Squares, playing them left to right, but only within the Loop Start and Loop Stop positions. These are indicated by gray lines that border your Song Squares. To increase the length, or change your start position, use the relevant buttons located directly above the Song Sequencer.
In this example we made our bass patterns 4 bars long, but each Song Square only plays for 1 bar. When the song is playing, it will only play the first bar of the 4 bar bass pattern, before moving on to the next Song Square. To play the subsequent bars you need to make sure that the pattern remains active through all of the Song Squares that you want it to play in. If you leave a gap, or switch to a different bass pattern, it will start over from bar 1. This can be played with for rhythmic variations, but to just play the bass normally remember to keep the pattern active in the following 3 Song Squares.
When you have a section of a song that you’d like to repeat you can copy the whole section using Loop Selection. First set the Loop Start and Loop End to include the section that you want to copy. Now just tap the Selector Tool in the Song Sequencer panel. Your selection will now be highlighted for you to Copy or Cut. The Paste function will insert your copied selection before the currently selected Song Square, pushing the selected Song Square to behind the pasted loop. If you screw up, just use the Undo and Redo buttons, which will only effect changes made to the Song Sequencer.
Copying loops can be a good way to quickly build up a song. You can copy individual Song Squares as well by tapping to select the Square you want and then using the Copy or Cut buttons. If you want to add a blank Song Square somewhere in the middle of your song you can use the Insert button.
Here’s a song I made while writing this tutorial, using nothing but these steps and the factory presets available in all of these apps!