Assigning midi channels for External Instruments?


Hopefully somebody could help me out with this. As i have 4 hardware synths and i want to be able to access them as VST-plugins instead of MIDI so my question is that how do i set “External instrument 1” to use only “midi cahnnel 1” and “External Instrument 2” to use only midi channel 2 and so on in Cubase? I run Cubase 5.1.1

I have really looked around but havent found anything :frowning:

Many thanks in advance!


I first asked myself the same question… which actually only applies, if you have MIDI-chained all the snths via MIDI thrugh.
Can be an option, but actually I didn’t find out neither on how to do that…

Instead I have changed now my setup, using a MIDI-Hub (e.g. MAudio or MOTU) to which I can connect 2,4 or 5 Ins and Outs.
With this setup, everyone of my gear has it’s own MIDI In/out and I can assign to each of these channel 1 - xxxx (dependent on how many voices they have)
This was the easiest solution for me. A MIDI Hub is no so expensive and it makes everything easier to have SlotA and Channel1 on every synth.

That was at least my solution which made my life easier.

External instrument definitions are mainly for Audio signals, not for MIDI. by defining external instruments like this, i haven’t found neither a way to assign the instruments individual MIDI-channels.
If you include the instruments as MIDI-tracks though, you can assign to every MIDI-track sits individual MIDI-chanel, but as a price you have to make additional Audio channels to record the outputs of the synths…

Not sure if there’s a better way… I originally got stuck at the same point and found out, that a MIDI Hub makes everything easier.
But e.g. if I use the Virus in MULTI Mode and want to address different voices in it, I need to come back to the MIDI-Track solution, instead of the Instrument-Tracks.

As mentioned: I honestly don’t know neither on how to assign different MIDI-signals to one External Instrument with different Voices/Slots…

But hope that info helped you somehow…

Thanks for the input!

Well, i thought wrong i guess. I will need a MIDI-interface with enough IN’s and OUT’s to cover my external synths. Then i can with multiple MIDI-drivers assign one for each synth. Ok, so now i should have access to all my synths and be able to switch sounds and so on when they appear as VSTi’s in Cubase. The problem now is that i only can use ONE sound from ecah synth. As i have multitimbral synths i would like to use more than just one sound. The thing im looking for is to use my synths as VSTi’s and be able to use several sounds from each VSTi. Im not sure this is possible though. As soon as i put the VSTi for “synth 1” on one channel i cant use it on more channels coz its “used” already. The thing here is to NOT use MIDI channels as i cant put my plugins on them. I know that i can load VSTi’s in the VSTi Rack and then assign MIDI channels for them but the problem remains :frowning:

Any ideas?


Once you have defined the External Instrument, you are free to assign it either to an Instrument Track (which, as you say, only works on MIDI channel #1), but you can, instead, load it into the VSTi rack, just the same as any other VSTi, then, you simply set a “regular” MIDI track to output to that External Instrument, on the MIDI channel of your choice (provided, of course that the “MIDI Device” that you associated/created for it is multi-channel)

edit: vic_france posted while I was composing my response. I guess I’d have to move to Bulgaria to get ahead of him. :laughing:

I’m not sure if this will be accurate since I don’t use external instruments, but it seems from the set up I just did in Cubase 5 that for each midi port you can have 16 channels, so depending on the kind of synth you’re using you can access each channel by setting the midi track channel to the desired channel, (or setting the track to ‘any’ and setting channels for the midi events in the key, score or list editors.)

Is this not what you’re seeing?

Well, ive tried to load one of my VSTi’s fro one of my synth in the VSTi Rack but every MIDI Channel that i connect to this VSTi will share this. So i cant for example EQ “MIDI Channel 2” without it affection the other 15 channels :frowning:

And yes, it would be a whole lot simplier if one could use VST Inserts on MIDI-Channels :slight_smile:

Maybe im missing something?


First off, Just to make sure… are you creating a midi track or an instrument track? This solution requires a midi track.

I am pretty sure Cubase can only EQ the audio from the device. To eq individual patches on channels you would have to use the parameters on that device.

In short, the device does not become a VSTi in fact. (Hope I am getting what you are asking…)

Im creating a MIDI track where i use the VSTi as an output. But the main key here was if i could EQ the induvidial MIDI tracks but i guess that this is not going to happen, unless they sorted that out in C6…

Then “External Instruments” are pretty useless, at least for me.

I thought that an External Instrument had some sort of Midi-cannels inside that i could access or something…It is however tied to the Midi Device in the MidiDeviceManager but i guess this means nothing…

have they changed anything regarding this in C6?

Im starting to understand now why so few people use Cubase in professional Studios :slight_smile:
Or even at home when hardware is concerned for that matter too.


Just to be clear on what you have and what you want to do i am going to restate what i think your saying

1 -you have multiple external synths and not enough midi ports to give each external instrument its own midi post/cable so you are daisy chaining them so get midi to each instrument. And you want to have multiple voices / parts on each of the synths. but access all this through the vsti panel for patch and bank selection

2- you also want to eq/ fx to the audio of individual parts from each synth.

if this is accurate, the ‘old school’ way you can acheive the first part is to map the parts on each synth to a different midi channel from everything else. ie if you have only one midi port and you have 4 synths and you want to use 16 voices .

snyth 1 - midi channel 1-4 assign each voice a specific corresponding midi channel in the synth and midi track in cubase
synth 2 - midi channel 5-8 ditto
synth 3 - etc
synth 4 - etc

but you want to do this from the vsti panel/ inspector. and you have set up a midi device panel for each synth to correspond the the external instruments you choose. correct? but the midi device manager wont let you assign multiple devices to one port ? and/or the external instrument wont allow for multiple (more than 2) audio return channels?

in my above example could you create one midi device panel that reflects each synth and have multiple external instruments

ie synth1 part 1 as its own external intstrument
synth 1 part 2 …

then you could select an external instrument to correspond to each audio return and accomplish part 2 - which of course assumes you have the outputs on each synth and on your audio interface to be able to do that in the first place.

i don’t use my externals this way so sorry if i’m misunderstanding the problem

ok i just had a deeper look at the problem and the issue is you cannot reuse the associate midi device selection with each external instrument … could you achieve this by creating multiple midi devices, one per part, for each synth. inconvenient but could it work for you? one thing that come to mind is how your synths respond to program changes ( patch scripts in this case) in multi mode. will they respond on each channel or will they only change the entire multi when a new selection is work per voice (channel)?

My head is a bit messed up today :slight_smile: But i go through it again…


  1. I want to be able to use my 4 external synths in multitimbral mode in Cubase. I have bought a Midi-Interface now that will install 4 midi-devices so i have one for each synth.

  2. Finally i want to be able to use 16 patches from one synth, 8 from another, 16 from a third and finally 1 from the last synth. And i dont want to use MIDI Tracks as this doesnt allow me to use any plugins.

Thas all really…but i cant figure out how to set it up :frowning:


With all due respect, you need to read up on what MIDI actually is
A MIDI track is really nothing more than a means of recording (or editing) the movements you made on your external keyboard (e;g. "I played this note NOW… I released my finger off the note NOW… I have now moved the modwheel half-way up … etc.) When you look at the MIDI data in, especially, the Key Editor, it looks very much like the “holes” you’d see on a roller card that plays a mechanical piano… because that’s exactly what a roller card does too! :wink:.
When you play back the MIDI track, the receiving instrument receives it exactly as it would if you were playing the instrument live (the instrument itself will never know the difference).
But to actually hear that instrument in Cubase, the audio output from the instrument has to be routed to audio channels (on which you can place plugins if you wish), then record that, just as you would record an incoming guitar or vocal.
Now, Cubase implemented something that they call “Instrument Tracks”, whose purpose was to make all the above simpler and more immediate to set up… but all an “Instrument Track” really is, is a combination of the essential elements of all the above… the track itself (or rather, the Parts on the track), is identical to a “regular” MIDI track, but its MIDI output is hard-wired to the MIDI input of the VST Instrument, and, for simplicity (and some would say… for over-simplicity), is hard-wired to MIDI channel #1 of the instrument.
So, the input to an Instrument track is a MIDI source (same as it would be for a regular MIDI track), but the track’s (accessible) output is the audio output of the instrument (and once again, for simplicity, is hard-wired to outputs 1 and 2… so if the instrument would otherwise offer multiple audio outputs, you couldn’t access them from the Instrument track).
So it’s just “swings and roundabouts”, really… Instrument Tracks give you the immediacy and the simplicity of “MIDI in/audio out”, whereas the combination of VSTinstruments loaded into the VSTi rack, and played from regular MIDI tracks gives you acces to all possible MIDI routing, and total freedom on the instrument’s audio channels.

vic_france has it right about what MIDI is and does. Of coarse when using a MIDI track, you can assign ANY MIDI channel to ANY of your external synths (providing you have your external MIDI controls on each synth set to recieve on whatever channels you decide, usually OMNI to receive all channels). You can then set any number of MIDI tracks to play any synth (or patch within that synth) that your heart desires. The bottleneck, it appears, seems to be that you are limited by the AUDIO outputs of your synths. If your synths only provide a physical stereo out, (some provide more) then your mix from that synth is limited to those channels. You would have to “isolate” or “solo” any individual MIDI track(s) you wanted to apply a plug in to and record them on an audio track first by routing it’s signal to an assigned audio track… then apply your plugs-ins to that audio track after recording. Of coarse you’ll then no longer need to hear the original MIDI track (don’t delete it, just “mute” it, so you"ll have it as a “backup” in case something goes wrong.) My apologies to vic_france if it seems I just parroted his explination but I thought I’d throw my 2cents in to further explain the “audio” problem you might encounter a bit further. :slight_smile:

(on the contrary, Bob… very useful info added there! :wink: )

well, i havent been using MIDi for years so im a bit rusty when it comes to that :slight_smile: I used it a lot in Cubase VST 5 with my Roland JV1080 when they had Studio Modues. Wonder why they ditched that though…

So basically an “Extrnal Instrument” is just an esier way to use MIDI channels if im correct?
So i would need to have 16 Stereo Outputs going from one synth into my soundcard to take fully advantage of the 16 part Multitimbral?

I was hoping that Cubase had evolved in this matter but maybe its impossible to do.

They only way as i see it is to record each MIDI track into an Audio track and then use my Plugins. Like i had to do 100 years ago :slight_smile:

Is this correct or is there any other way?


replaced by “MIDI Device Manager” (but not very user-friendly to create your own).

So basically an “Extrnal Instrument” is just an esier way to use MIDI channels if im correct?
So i would need to have 16 Stereo Outputs going from one synth into my soundcard to take fully advantage of the 16 part Multitimbral?

The first part of your assumption is correct. The second part depends upon what you mean by “full advantage” :slight_smile:
Yes, as Bob wrote above, you’d need 16 separate audio feeds into Cubase if you wanted to apply a different effect on each of them… but that is hardly Cubase’s fault! :wink:… with a single stereo feed, you have already mixed all the audio together before it even arrives into Cubase.

Ok, so when i only will use one sound from each synth, then im fine using my “external instrument” as an VSTi i guess. But is there a way to choose what MIDI Channel that VSTi will use? Or will it always use “MIDI Channel 1”?

And thanks for all the great advices here m8’s!


Even if you are using several sounds, so long as they don’t need processing separately (in which case, you just record them in separate passes)

But is there a way to choose what MIDI Channel that VSTi will use? Or will it always use “MIDI Channel 1”?

Yes, as stated above, so long as you load the External Instrument into the VSTi rack, then pilot it from a regular MIDI track (one MIDI track per sound), it will play on whatever channel you have set the MIDI track.

But if i dont want to use any MIDi tracks at all, i.e. not load the VSTi in my rack, but to use it directly on a track, can i then chose what MIDI-Channel it will use? The VSTi for my External Instrument is tied to my MIDi-Device but i cant figure out how to change this to the MIDI-Channel of my choice :frowning:


No, as we have said, if you use a simple Instrument Track, it will access only MIDI channel #1.
(In fact, that’s a lie! :mrgreen: There is a way… insert a Transformer Insert FX into one of the Instrument Track’s MIDI Insert slots, and transform the MIDI channel from there… but you’d probably find it simpler just to use the VSTi rack :wink: ).

Wouldn’t work, all devices would have to be set to ch.1 and thus would be transformed by each Inst. track. It’d be chaos.