[Tutorial] Troubleshooting MIDI issues

Trust me, we’ve heard almost everything related to MIDI issues in pedalboard setups.

Whether it’s

My MCx is faulty

or

I know what a MIDI bug looks like. My pedals are acting strangely. Your controller is faulty. I want a refund.

99% of the time, it’s just user error.

We’ll go through how to troubleshoot the MIDI issues in your setup.

Just FYI, besides our blog, we’ve got tons of useful information in our knowledge base.

Overview

As MIDI devices and controllers are technical features, it is not possible to have a plug and play functionality. We do, however, try to make it as easy for the user as possible.

If you are new to MIDI, you might find yourself getting frustrated over not being able to control your MIDI devices in your pedal-board, after spending time wiring everything up. If you find yourself in such a situation, I really recommend just setting things up one at a time for a start.

Likely causes for MIDI connection issues

There could be a host of reasons why all your MIDI devices in your MIDI signal chain are not working. Some reasons could be:

Your Preset setting is wrong in your MC3/6/8.

You might have programmed your preset wrongly, and hence the MIDI messages are not being set as per what you expect. To troubleshoot this, you can refer to the MIDI Monitor to see what MIDI messages are being sent when you engage a preset, and whether the expected MIDI messages are appearing in the MIDI Monitor.

MIDI Thru setting on MIDI devices are wrong

Your MIDI Thru setting might not be turned on in certain MIDI devices, and hence they are not passing MIDI messages through to your other MIDI devices

MIDI Channel wrong

MIDI channel is set wrongly and hence the device is not responding to the incoming MIDI messages

MIDI settings wrong

Specific MIDI features in your MIDI device are not set properly, and hence they are not responding to incoming MIDI messages

For example

  • On the HX Stomp, you need to enable the MIDI PC Rx feature in order for it to respond to incoming MIDI PC messages
  • On MIDI devices without any visual display for feedback, setting the device to the correct settings for MIDI might be tricky. Most of the times, these MIDI devices use LED lights to indicate certain settings, and some might be quite cryptic. It is very important that you read the MIDI section in the manuals for the MIDI Devices you are trying to control properly, to ensure that you understand how to set it up correctly.
  • MIDI Clock usually have a dedicated setting in the MIDI device, so if you want to control your MIDI device with MIDI clock, you might need to check if the MIDI Clock setting in the MIDI device is enabled.

Wrong Omniport Setting

You might be using the wrong Omniport MIDI TRS setting which does not match the MIDI device you are controlling

MIDI TRS has multiple implementations - Type A, Type B, Ring Active, Tip Active - and requires the Omniport to be set to the correct setting that matches your MIDI device

Wrong 5 PIN to TRS Cable

5 Pin to TRS cables needs to be specified as Type A cables. If you buy a generic one or one made for Audio and you are having trouble controlling your devices, it is likely that they are wired wrongly and are not meant for MIDI use.

Faulty MIDI Cables

This happens more often than you might expect. It is best to have some backup cables just to test, whether 5 PIN MIDI or TRS cables. If your connection is intermittent, this is very likely the issue.

Where to start

Connect one MIDI device first

Connect your MIDI controller directly to one device first. Be sure that you are using the correct MIDI ports (MIDI OUT in the controller to the MIDI IN in the device).

Check your MIDI channel

Make sure that the MIDI channel is set correctly on both your MIDI Device as well as the preset in your MIDI controller.

Check your MIDI messages

Check the MIDI Monitor to ensure that what you have (or think you have) programmed is appearing as expected in the MIDI Monitor. If the MIDI messages are appearing as expected, that means you have programmed the controller correctly, and you can move on to troubleshoot the connection.

Start simple

Send something simple like a PC message first, so you can see if your device responds to the message. If it does, then you can be sure the connection is “established” and you can move on to the next device, or program more specific functions.

Besides sending PC messages to test, I prefer to send CC messages to engage/disengage the device as the visual feedback is better (I can see if the device is engaging or getting bypassed when I send the CC messages ).

For example, sending CC#102 Value 127 to engage the Strymon Timeline, and CC#102 Value 0 to Bypass it.

Troubleshoot

If at any point you are facing issues with the downstream devices, just follow the steps above to troubleshoot what might be wrong.

Connect your next device

Once you have your first device set up, connect your next MIDI device and continue from there. Be sure to check the MIDI Thru setting on your upstream MIDI device to make sure that MIDI messages are being passed through.

How to verify that 5 PIN MIDI Output is working

So, MIDI messages are appearing in the MIDI Monitor, but your MIDI devices are not responding. Usually, when there is an issue, it’s easy to conclude that your MIDI Output is faulty. (This is super super rare. I think we have had only 1-2 faulty outputs).

What you can do, if you have the MC6 or MC8, is connect the 5 pin MIDI OUTPUT to the 5 pin MIDI INPUT in the controller, and then program a PC message between 0-29 (to recall Banks 1-30) on the MC6/8 MIDI channel, and then engage the preset. When the PC message is sent, the MCx receives the same message and then changes bank. If your MIDI Thru is on, the controller will just continuously receive the PC message and continuously respond by changing banks (It might look like it is in a stuck state. You can just disconnect the MIDI Input to resolve this). If the MCx responds, the MIDI Input and Output are working just fine.

Connection works, but getting weird behaviour

If you have verified that your connection works, but you are getting weird behaviour from all your MIDI devices when you send a single MIDI message, please check that there is no MIDI loop happening in your MIDI setup.

A MIDI Loop occurs when you join the MIDI connection back to the controller, and if MIDI Thru is turned on in the MIDI Controller, the message will get sent out again, resulting in an infinite loop.

There are very specific reasons why you might want to connect the MIDI connection back to the controller. 99% of the time, you do not need to. So, if you are experiencing strange behaviour in your MIDI devices, check that there is no MIDI loop happening.

If you are still facing issues

Feel free to drop us an email at help@morningstarfx.com anytime, or just post your problem here, and we’ll do our best to help.

When posting about your MIDI issues, it is best that you share screenshots of your preset in the editor, so we can see how you have programmed it, and also share your MIDI signal chain setup so we can help you better

For example:

MC6 MIDI OUT >> Timeline >> Bigsky >> H9 >> MC6 MIDI IN

Ah ha! Potential MIDI Loop right there.

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