feature of the week

MIDI: Shortcuts

| feature of the week

MIDI, the ubiquitous musical language, has been around for decades. It has proven to be remarkably resilient despite numerous attempts to replace it with more modern alternatives. While MIDI may be almost everywhere, it’s not very approachable and most people only understand part of what it can do. For years, we got requests from our customers to add MIDI features to forScore. The problem was that every customer wanted something different, so finding ways to weave MIDI functions into forScore required balancing technical capability with practical usability.

Instead of creating a single MIDI panel that would duplicate a lot of forScore’s existing functions, we chose to reverse it and supplement some of our existing features with advanced MIDI functionality. Today, we’ll be looking at just one of those cases, with more to follow in the coming weeks.

As we discussed in our previous Devices Feature of the Week, the “Page turners & shortcuts” section of the Settings panel lets you trigger many of forScore’s functions with an external device. If you tap on a function, forScore listens for incoming signals from a variety of sources and can associate anything it hears with the selected function. When you’re using a keyboard or a keyboard-based page turner, it works just like shortcuts on a computer complete with support for modifiers like shift, alt, command, or control. If you’re using a Bluetooth Smart stylus like FiftyThree’s Pencil or an accessory like the iRig Blueboard, you can either press or press and hold a button to set up two different functions per physical control.

The process is similar for a MIDI device: tap your function, then use your device to send a signal (press a button, flip a switch—it depends on your device). If forScore recognizes and can use that signal, you should see your MIDI command appear to the right of the selected function. Now, any time you send that exact same signal, forScore will respond by initiating the corresponding feature.

There is one caveat to watch out for, however. Since forScore listens for the exact same signal, some kinds of MIDI controls won’t work reliably. Anything that senses levels of pressure, like a piano key for instance, will include a velocity value. Unless you hit that key with exactly the same amount of force each time, forScore won’t react. Other switches use a range of values, like a volume knob, and will have the same problem. Otherwise, any simple on/off control should work fine. If you’re not sure how a specific control works, consult your device’s manual.

That’s just the start, though, so be sure to check back over the next few weeks as we explore the entirety of forScore’s MIDI functionality.