Created an external instrument with my hardware synth

Hello all!
Cubase 12 user here. I have a hardware synth, and created an “external instrument” in Cubase. (Studio > Audio Connections > External Instruments)

Now, I can go to Project > Add Track > Instrument and use my hardware synth almost like a software synth. I play the synth using the actual sounds on the synth, it records it as MIDI, and when I play it back, I’m actually playing back the hardware. If I change a sound on the hardware, the midi simply plays that new sound. That’s awesome!

The problem: I can only do that once, because the hardware synth is already being used, I can’t add it again as a second “instrument.”

To get around this, I rendered out the MIDI file using the sound from my hardware synth, turned it into audio, then deleted the “Instrument” so I can free up the slot again.

I wanted to know if that’s the way it’s supposed to work, or, put another way, how do I add multiple instances of the same hardware synth? I understand that the hardware has already been “committed” to the first instance, but is there a way, perhaps using different midi channels or something, that you can have more than once instance of the same hardware synth in your project?

One other slight nag: After I’ve played my hardware synth and recorded the MIDI, I can’t hear the playback unless I set the Channel to “Any” in the inspector. When I load the instrument, it’s set to channel 1, but can’t playback on that same channel. Switching the channel to “Any” allows playback.

Thank you so very kindly!


Yes, this is the way it’s supposed to work.

If your hardware is multi-timbral, you can add a MIDI Track, route its output to the Instrument Track, and set MIDI Output Channel 2 (to 16).

Ok thank you. I have a Hydrasynth Deluxe. I was able to set the actual keyboard to transmit and receive on Channel 1. So, for the second part of my question, I think I solved that one. I will try your suggestion as well. Thank you!


If you are using the same hardware as a MIDI Keyboard, make sure, the Local Control is set to Off on the hardware, to make sure, you don’t send the MIDI data to Cubase and also to the internal (synth’s) Tone Generator.

Local Control is a setting on the keyboard, correct? (not cubase?) May have to crack open the manual for that setting!

Update: Found that on the keyboard an turned it off…What exactly does Local “off” do?

The Local paramter decides whether the keyboard/faders/knobs information of the synth is sent to both its MIDI Out and the internal sound engine (Local On) or just the MIDI Out (Local Off).

I read it is bi-timbral. So you should be able to have two patches/presets inside the synth at the same time.
In Cubase drag your (external) Instrument track to the bottom of the list. Select it. Now make a double-click into the empty track list underneath. Voila - the new MIDI track should be routed to your synth on channel 2.

Thank you, everyone, for all the feedback and recommendations! @Johnny_Moneto “double click into the empty track list underneath…”

Not sure I follow that one. Underneath what? In which cubase view? I have the mixer and the arranger view open.

Just wanted to point out that in Cubase 13 you can create an Audio Track and set its Input to be any VSTi in the Project. Don’t know if this new capability also exists for External Instruments (I don’t have any to check & see, but someone here must). If so maybe that’s a reason to upgrade.


I just created a dummy test External Instrument. Turns out you cannot select an External Instrument as an Input for an Audio Track.

In Cubase 12 you can still use your External Instrument to Record on multiple Audio Tracks.

  • Create a Group Channel that isn’t Routed anywhere
  • On the External Instrument’s Audio Return Track Disable Record Enable and Enable Monitoring
  • Route the Audio Return to the Group Channel
  • Add an Audio Track and set its Input to be the Group Channel
  • Now the Audio Track should be receiving Audio from the External Instrument
  • Add Audio Tracks as needed
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Wow that’s quite a solution, @raino
I will give that a shot. Thank you so very much for everyone’s input!

Hey @dtownpianoman !

This is how I create multitimbral parts on a single external instrument track, but it’s a little convoluted, so hang in there! Say you’ve got a multitimbral patch configuration - I think for the Hydrasynth it’s Multi mode.

  1. Create the Intrument track and set both MIDI input and output channels to Any.

MultiTimb Ext Inst 09

  1. Enable the Show Lanes button in the track listing and record your first part, typically by setting your keyboard’s global MIDI channel to 1 (though not necessarily, but I have in this example).

  1. Optional: Double-check that MIDI notes are set to Ch 1 in the List Editor.

MultiTimb Ext Inst 07

  1. To record your next part and hear the first, use Render In Place to create an audio track of the part you just created.

  1. Now you can set your keyboard to transmit on the second part’s/patch’s MIDI channel, say Ch 2, so you’re playing the correct sound, highlight Lane 2 and record your new part.

  1. Optional: If you wish, double-check the new part’s notes/events are set to MIDI Ch 2 in the List Editor. If not, select all the events and set them to the correct channel in the first event’s Channel column (all will change their channel accordingly).

  1. Now you can either render this part to audio or, delete the first part’s audio track, unmute the first part with the Mute tool, select both parts and render in place to monitor both parts while creating another new part.

  1. Repeat the process of setting your keyboard to the next part/patch/MIDI channel, selecting the next available lane, recording your new part, double-checking your new part’s events are set to the correct MIDI channel in the List Editor if you wish, and rendering the part’s audio for monitoring if you’re creating another part, as many times as required.

  2. Once you’ve created all your parts, delete the rendered audio track(s) and, using the Mute tool, unmute all of the muted lanes.

  1. Now you can hit play and hear all the parts and edit them as you please.

I really do hope that makes sense! It may seem a little arduous at first, but it quickly becomes second-nature if you continually use this technique.

@ScottStick wow this is amazing! yes! This will take me a couple days to wrap my head around but I will absolutely give this a try. What a great community and thank you again, Scott. This looks very exciting and will absolutely work great with the Hydra!

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Here is my JV-2080 set up as an external instrument, I created the instrument track for it. MIDI is routed to channel 1.

Now I double-click in the empty space of the track list area, underneath my instrument track…

That creates a new MIDI track that is routed to my JV-2080 and the MIDI channel set to 2.

You can ignore @raino 's reply as he talks about audio routing, which was not your question. You can, IMO, also ignore @ScottStick 's reply as it seems overly complicated, at least to me.
raino, Scott: Sorry for being so blunt.

It’s all good, Johnny! :+1:

I use this forum to ask for advice and share my experience and workflow with other users, for what it’s worth - if it works for me, it may work for someone else. Ultimately though, if someone follows or ignores my suggestions, it really is beside the point; I’m just happy to hopefully contribute to the forum’s collective knowledge in some small way. I certainly don’t presume to tell anyone what they should do with my advice.

Nevertheless, it does seem apparent to me that if you feel compelled to apologise for the tone of your writing, perhaps consider changing your tone. I imagine there’s some people who could, in all likelihood, take offense.


@Johnny_Moneto ok i see what you’re doing. And I assume the next instance would just be on channel 3, 4, etc?

There is no next instance. It is just a MIDI track that is routed to your synth. Your synth will probably want to receive midi input for its first patch on channel 1 and for its second patch on channel 2. Consult the synth’s manual to confirm.

I assume your initial question was that you have 2 patches in your synth and you want to address them independently of each other?
If you use what the maker of your synth calls the Single Mode then there really is no point of making a second track on another midi channel as your synth is only capable to play back one sound. In that case you’d have to do what you described initially - record the audio output of your synth, then change the patch, then start all over again.

Read the manual of your synth in order to learn how to set up the midi channel for receiving data.

Ultimately, what I was trying to do was use my hardware synth to perform MIDI (instead of straight audio) using the actual sounds from the synth. Now that I think about, I suppose I can assign any midi information to the output of my synth (the obvious problem being the sound that will be played from the synth can only be the sound I happen to be using). From there, per an earlier post in this same thread, I can render that MIDI out to audio, go to a different MIDI track, dial up a different sound, send that to the synth, then render that out…basically I want midi information to play the hardware rather than using VSTs.

Yes, this is what old farts like me were doing all the time before virtual instruments existed. Recording each voice one after another.
The advantage of a defined external instrument over a simple midi track is that the audio connection os already defined and this way Cubase can make it look like the external synth is a plugin (ease of use). But the main difference remains: Plugins can be bought once and used many times simultaneously in a project. A hardware synth can only be used once at the same time. Your synth can act like two synths and can be addressed via two different midi channels. You’ll have to set it up accordingly. If you want to do that, use one Instrument track and one MIDI track as I explained above.

Hey @Johnny_Moneto I’m a fellow old fart LOL! I have a boatload of soft synths, and yes, there are some fantastic advantages. As someone who has chosen to recently explore hardware synths, I’m trying to learn a hardware synth workflow that will allow me to use my own sounds. I’m sure I’ll end up in some hybrid environment using a mix of hardware and software synths. Meanwhile, this is all really great information and thank you for taking the time to provide it!

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I would like to take this opportunity to ask another question on this subject.

I’ve created an external instrument for my Nord Piano 4.

It works well but I have always the same problem : when I play the piano, the sound is “phasing” (sent twice). It’s only when I’m playing, the recorded audio (or midi) track is ok.

Midi local control on the Nord Piano is off.
The only way I found to solve the problem is to mute the piano audio inputs on my audio interface (Scarlett 8i6).

But in this case I have to reactivate it every time when I want to play the piano outside of Cubase…

Is there another way to resolve this problem of sound being sent twice when playing the piano on Cubase ?

From your description, I would have thought Local Off would be the solution.
If you play the Nord without having a MIDI/Instrument Track Record Enabled or Monitor turned on, there shouldn’t be any sound coming from it if Local Off is enabled.
You could also disable MIDI Through in the Preferences.