How to Use Multiple MIDI Controllers at Once


I’ve been doing quite Googling, watching YouTube videos, and reading through Reddit to figure out how to do this, and for all of the tutorials I have come across, none of them seem to work for what I’m trying to do.

Rather than plugging and unplugging every time I want to change around, is there a solution to make a DAW play nicely with multiple controllers? 

Also, I was looking for a way to assign the keys of the drum pad to communicate directly with the different sounds but then be able to quickly switch over to, say, a piano emulator and have full passage to all of the notes on my piano controller.

You can use two MIDI controllers at once, just as you can record multiple audio performances simultaneously on multiple audio tracks. Each controller draws a different performance and triggers various sounds on multiple instrument tracks. 

This article will explain how to get multiple MIDI controllers used with different DAWs; Ableton, Logic, and FL Studio. You’ll be able to get them all to work simultaneously.

Multiple MIDI controllers in Ableton

To use two MIDI controllers in Ableton, you’ll need to click the “i/o” circle on the right in session view, and a couple of drop-down boxes should display up for each track. For MIDI tracks, you’ll be able to choose the controller you want for each track. You will create one track for each device you want to control. 

Then set the input of each song to the corresponding keyboard you want to control it.

If you want to play both instruments simultaneously, you will need to turn off the exclusive arm in Live’s preferences, then set monitoring to Auto and enable the arm button on both tracks.

  1. Under the MIDI channel for one instrument, I/O (Input/Output) settings in the main view (Arrangement or Session View), change the setting ‘All Ins’ to the specific keyboard you would like to control that instrument with.
  2. Repeat with the other instrument/keyboard.

Now, the keyboard assigned to the device will only trigger that device when the tunes are armed (though you can change the toggle “Auto” to ‘In’ if you want it to capture everything regardless of whether the track is armed or not.

If you don’t see I/O controls:

multiple midi controllers

multiple midi controllers

multiple midi controllers

How to assign multiple midi devices to various tracks? 

If you want to switch between songs just by record arming the track and you’re using a MIDI keyboard and a MIDI controller, you’re probably sending MIDI CC’s to control several synths live on different tracks.

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When you have your VST instruments on various tracks, pop open the IO on those tracks and set the MIDI Forms to No Input.

Then, for each routine you’d like to make, create a MIDI Track and set the MIDI From to “{MyKeyboard}” or your controller, and set the MIDI To to whichever instrument track you like.

You won’t hear anything with no songs armed, but you might see the MIDI meter flashing in the MIDI From section. As soon as you arm a tune (one of the songs you made for routing), you’ll notice your keyboard/controller executing the specified device. Same for the other guy on his keyboard.

What to do if one of the midi controllers stops reacting to your fader?

When using two midi controllers with Ableton, sometimes you’ll assign a knob or fader, and it will seem that parameter is unable to learn anything from any of my controllers no matter what you do.

To solve this, you need to understand the interactions between options in the midi settings in preferences, the overlaps between devices, both MIDI in-out and Ableton control in-out.

Third-party VST mapping is usually an Ableton macro first, then that macro is mapped to the outboard hardware. A two-step string.

Mapping a VST to an Ableton macro, for example, in a rack, must be saved to the project folder. It is not part of the global preferences.

If you can get a handle on your MIDI inputs and outputs on the MIDI preferences, then you may be able to turn off the unwanted ins and outs. This might decrease the unpredictability of countering commands from one device undoing previous commands from another.

How to assign two midi notes on two separate controllers to the same command?

You can easily map your first midi controller to launch the next scene, but it can be an issue when you want to do the same via another midi controller without overwriting the first command.

This way, you’d cause a scene shift from a foot pedal or hit the pad on your midi device.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to map two different notes to the same button/function in Ableton because it can’t accept two different words for the same function. But you have several options:

  1. Edit one of the controllers to send the same note on the same channel as the other. If your controllers are programmable (some are), change them to output the same midi word, and it’ll work!
  2. Use a midi tool (e. g., Bome’s) to catch one of the controllers’ signals and translate the note to another before passing it on to live.
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Bome translator sits between external devices and your laptop (Ableton) and starts life by just passing everything it sees through. You then set up a script (so simple, just click buttons, and it sees/learns what the device sent). The script you make will convert the midi word from a controller to the midi word you want. So, although they output different words, the translator will convert one of them when it sees it to meet the word from the other device that it just passes through.

You can even have it output a keyboard letter if you’ve set up shortcuts, so both midi instruments AND your keyboard can trigger the scene/function in Ableton. Once you’ve mastered the method, EVERYTHING becomes possible.

  1. Create a dummy clip in Ableton, triggered by the second controller, and send the right note out to a virtual midi port (iac on mac) that comes back into Ableton to trigger the scene.

Logic Pro

By default, all Logic’s recognized MIDI controllers are summed and sent to the sequencer input (in the MIDI Environment). On top of that, if only one software instrument track is enabled for recording, Logic monitors for MIDI data from all channels of all instruments.

For using more than one MIDI instrument at a time with Logic, you can: 

  • make edits in the MIDI environment to cable instruments to tracks, monitors, and the sequencer input,

or

  • have each device configured to use different MIDI channels and assign the MIDI Channel in the track inspector. 

If you have more than one software device enabled for recording, the Logic uses the MIDI Channel configured for the tunes. Of course, you will need to switch each MIDI device to send messages using the same channel as the song you want the instrument to play through.

Whether you’re seeking to use an external sequencer (like an MPC One or another computer running Logic) to trigger the instruments within Logic, or whether you’re only trying to play different instruments using separate MIDI controllers, read on.

  1. Set Logic in Multiplayer Mode

In Logic Pro X, select File > Project Settings > Recording, and in the MIDI section, choose Auto demix by channel when multitrack recording.

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multiple midi controllers

  1. Configure Each Controller Keyboard’s MIDI Channel

Select a MIDI channel for each controller, and connect to each controller’s manual to observe how to change the MIDI channel they transfer on.

You can skip this part if you’re using an MPC or different external MIDI sequencer (where songs already transmit MIDI info on their own channel).

  1. Configure Each Logic Track’s MIDI Channel.

In Logic, configure each instrument track’s MIDI channel parameter to trigger them by the controller sending on that channel.

multiple midi controllers

  1. Record-arm each Logic tune

multiple midi controllers

Using 2 MIDI Controllers with FL Studio

I’ve always found it bizarre that FL identifies two separate MIDI devices but doesn’t have a simple way of granting you use one controller for one synth and separate for a drum machine (just as an example). 

I needed to manually click a separate channel on the instrument rack before playing a different MIDI controller. It’s just dull! 

I found old articles telling you how to do this and that, but they all lead to dead ends.

To use two controllers with FL Studio, you’ll need to go with the FPC plugin. You’d make it a child of the ‘Layer’ layer and map the pads to the midi signals using the dropdown menu and selecting ‘Map notes for the entire bank.’ 

After you’ve pressed this button, push/trigger the buttons on your keyboard you want to use for the pads in order (bottom left to the upper right). 

When you’ve pressed all the buttons you want to use, press ‘Cancel map notes for the entire bank,’ and your midi signals have been linked.

For the mixer parameters, just right-click on the volume sliders and midi map them. Right-click, link to a controller, move desired fader or knob. 

How to give multiple instruments certain ranges in FL Studio? 

For example, you want the lowest octave of your axiom to do bass and the rest to control a lead. 

To do this, you’d go to the bass instrument and use the window that pops to limit its midi input. 

Click on the orange part in this picture to change the range of this instrument and right-click that part to change the root note. (The higher your root note, the lower the instrument will play) 

The same applies to your lead, just make sure they don’t overlap, and you’ve built yourself a multi-instrument keyboard.

Tray Fiddy

Tray has come to terms with the fact he will probably never be a famous DJ.... but that hasn't stopped him from mixing and researching audio equipment. Tray has over 12 years of experience DJing at home and events.

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