How to connect an external synth to Cubase for audio and midi

I’m trying to do something similar as the OP, also with a UR22 mkII. This thread and other info has been very helpful so far but I haven’t been able to resolve how to accomplish my main goal:

I’m using an external Roland XP-30 synthesizer, which is loaded with a lot of great instrument sound patches that I would like to use in my recordings, rather than just VST instruments. How can I successfully make use of the on-board synth sounds? Can I record the synth performance into Cubase via MIDI cable connection through my UR22 interface and have the Roland on-board instrument sound stored into that MIDI data for playback and mixing?? Are the Roland on-board sounds only useful for live performance or audio input recording??

I would like to be able to use MIDI editing in Cubase, so an audio wave recording via audio inputs isn’t what I’m after. So far I have only been able to hear my MIDI track played back using a VST instrument, which doesn’t allow me to make use of the thousand or so great instruments and drum kits on my Roland XP-30.

It seems there’s lots of options on how to go about something, so if it helps I’ll add that I’m looking to produce music closer to orchestral/score style music, and I rely heavily on keyboard performance input as a musician.
I hope I’ve explained what I’m trying to accomplish . . .

Yes, you can hook your external Roland XP’s audio and MIDI outputs into some inputs on your computer’s audio interface and bring these signals into the Cubase Mixer. How to best set things up in your Cubase mixer will depend on which version of Cubase you use. If yours has an ‘instrument’ tab showing after pressing F4, then add the inputs there. You can bring the XR into a project through the VST instrument rack at this point.

You’ll also want a MIDI output connection going from Cubase into the XR. Sometimes this is done over a USB cable, or via traditional DIN MIDI cables (If USB doesn’t exist or work for some reason).

From there you can indeed sequence with Cubase and trigger sounds in the XR using MIDI tracks (or also with Instrument Tracks if you have Cubase Pro/Artist and have assigned the instrument to the Rack as described above), whilst sending the audio through the Cubase mixer.

If your XR is also a workstation with a built in sequencer, it’s also possible to trigger other VST instruments in Cubase via XR sequences/patterns/arps/etc.

Thanks a lot for the reply, I’ve been doing plenty more experimenting since to make this work. Here’s where I’ve got to:

On my setup I have two 5-pin MIDI cables between my interface and my XP (OUT/IN at each side). I don’t have Cubase Pro, so no Instruments option in the Audio Connections window. I did find an Instrument definition XML file for my XP-30 floating around on the internet. I imported this XML in the MIDI Device Manager window using the “import setup” button to add a new “Installed Device”. Now I can see all the patches in my XP-30 show up under the Patch Bank list. I assigned the only output available to assign to my MIDI Device, which is “Steinberg UR22mkII - 1”. The promising thing is that I can now add a MIDI track with my Interface as the input and my newly installed “XP-30 (Roland)” for the output routing. I can also select any patch in my XP under the program selector. I can see the sound bar respond to key presses . . .

I created an instrument track to monitor or play out sound from my XP-30 MIDI track, but the only options for outputs are: No VST instrument, Groove Agent SE, and Halion Sonic SE. None of them will let me hear the XP-30 patch sounds I’m looking to monitor.

Which step am I missing here to be able to hear & mix the MIDI recorded track with the XP patch sounds? I attached screenshot of my setup.

I don’t think you need an instrument track. Maybe you need to click the “input monitor” button on the MIDI track.

Well … Brian let me first thank you for this post and all the time you’ve invested it’s been illuminating. I have two multi-timbral synths that can output different voices on different midi channels. From a method of work prospective; I open a midi channel select a voice and record that midi activity. I then open a new midi channel select a voice and record that midi activity. So far so good. I’ve set up in audio connections an input bus that reads the output from the synth. I can then use that to route to an audio tract and record as an audio file. All this works fine.

Here’s the rub. I’d like to have the multiple midi channels recording audio for each channel. I can work around this by recording each separate midi channel and muting the other channels and changing my audio channel input to a new tract. This works but seems clunky to me.

I’ve set up “external instruments” but still seem limited to one instance. This could be a way it is question or i’m missing something (very likely). In advance thanks for your thoughts.

If I understand correctly…you’re not going to be able to make multiple audio tracks from a single stereo pair (or even two stereo pairs) in a single pass, unless your multi-timberal synth has a LOT of audio outputs, and your computer’s audio device has a LOT of audio inputs.

In my Fantom XR’s case, it only has 4 audio outputs (6 counting the SPDIF, but those mirror 1 & 2). Theoretically, I could get two stereo instruments, or 4 mono instruments recorded to independent audio tracks in a single pass…but no more.

So…your options are to do the external synth mixes internally (in the devices) and not worry about individual ‘audio’ tracks for each MIDI channel (simply get a nice stereo premix), or…Do several passes, soloing a different MIDI channel per pass, and record one track at a time.

Some synths have pretty darn good internal effects for reverb, compression, etc…so it’s possible to get a great MIDI mix straight from the synth and not have to do a lot of audio track bouncing.

If you do want to isolate channels of audio coming out of your external synth for special VST effect processing…well…

It’s pretty common once you have things locked down arrangement wise, to solo and record each part on multiple passes to individual audio tracks in the DAW. THEN you can run those through audio tracks your VST effects and such.

Another example is something I sometimes do with my XR. I’ll mix most things through outputs 1&2, while isolating one or two instruments to outputs 3&4 for access to a different VST effect chain (actually I do this pretty often for the drums…will send everything BUT the drums to 1&2, and process those with the synth’s built in effects…while piping the drums out 3&4 and using DAW effects there).

Personally I’ll do as much as I can internally in the synth through a simple stereo pair. If there’s something in there I really want to isolate and process on its own, I’ll solo the track, record just that instrument to an audio track, then mute the MIDI version, and go to work with processing/sample editing/etc. If it’s a project that I really want or need it, I might even solo each instrument on its own in several passes into audio tracks to work with that way.

Really awesome posts; got a ton of things to try now :slight_smile:

@Brian Roland

Do you think adding a SysEx to Device manager can help Cubase force my Synth Yamaha PSR recall the patches? I learned that I cannot record SysEx dump to Cubase from Yamaha PSR. It just doesn’t export it and doesn’t have the feature.

Another thing is that I used to use the Instrument track and not rack. I guess your method of using rack will save my time.

Thanks again.

Sorry, I don’t know anything about the PSR. I’m betting you can call up sounds using program change and bank change events though.

From there, there is likely to be all sorts of things you can control about the sound on a given MIDI channel using CC events.

There are also RPN and NRPN abilities common in many instruments out there. Examples are using a pair of CC events (or sometimes more than a pair if you need really high resolution for the application) to control things like pitch bend range, the theoretical key signature, the tuning of each note in an octave, and more. Some instruments also give you the option of doing these things via sysex packets or dumps.

To get that sort of information, you’ll have to study the owner’s manual for the instrument…it’s pretty common to have a huge appendix section that lists any and all events the instrument(s) can accept.

Some instruments, anything done remotely can be quite different from patch/program to patch…as in, they have a very flexible matrix where YOU the user decides what can control what.

Others, might have it set up as more of a ‘standard’ thing where remote control of various parameters are always the same, for every channel in the XR. I.E. My Roland Fantom XR has some hard set controllers assigned to do a number of things to a sound, and it remains pretty universal no matter what patches are loaded. In addition, the XR provides a little matrix section as well, where one can customize remote events (perhaps even making groups of events behave interactively), or even opt for using things like LFO, or time envelopes and such instead of hard controller events.


Back to selecting instruments for each MIDI channel remotely…

I think Cubase ships with a General MIDI instrument profile with Yamaha XM extensions. You could start with that and probably get a GM list of instruments right way, and using your PSR manual, add on, rename, etc. as required.

What do we mean by banks?
General MIDI only has a resolution of 7 bits, or 128 program changes, but many instruments have several ‘banks’ of 128 instruments.
Bank change events are what you’d use to flip through the banks.

Some instruments might not have banks, but instead might have configurable ‘instrument maps’. I remember my old Peavey DPM stuff only having a single bank, despite having thousands of patches on board. What they did give us though, was a way to map/remap which 128 instruments in memory could be accessed via Program Change. It seems like they also had a mode that could call up entire ‘performance sets’, where a single program change could call up a saved preset that I’d done on the DPM for all 16 MIDI channels.

It’s pretty common for the big workstation style keyboards to do BOTH…as in, have ways to sore a global setup and call it via program change, AND/OR do individual bank/program changes on a channel by channel basis. My XR has the option the option to pull up entire multi-timberal presets with the right combination of bank and program change events.

Typically there are two parts to a bank change. A MSB from 1 - 128, and an LSB from 1 - 128.

Some DAWS will also let you enter bank changes in a 14 bit format. Cubase actually has a place in the track inspector for entering 14bit bank changes IF there is no MIDI instrument profile selected for the track.

One can convert the old MSB/LSB values to 14bit like so:
MSB * 128 + LSB

Hello Brian and all who contributed to this thread. Thank you… Lot’s of great info / processes here… :v:

Hi there,

Very interesting post !
I’ve got a question regarding the latency with a midi hardware connected as an external instrument.
If I connect my Nord piano like this (external instrument) it will work like a virtual instrument.

So if I play the piano now with an instrument track, I should have latency like others virtual instruments ?
Unless it works like a midi track with 0 latency ?

Sorry for my bad english !