MIDI Out/Playback

Command Location: Tools Menu / MIDI Options / MIDI Playback Tab

The MIDI Playback tab allows you to choose which MIDI devices are available to MidiIllustrator for playback of scores. Note that the devices available for MIDI Echo are exactly the same as the devices available for MIDI Playback.

If you are using MidiIllustrator for the first time and want to learn more about setting up your soundcard and choosing MIDI devices, then see Configuring Sound and Playing Back Scores in the Getting Started section.

Default MIDI Device

When you run MidiIllustrator for the first time it attempts to select and configure a default MIDI device for playback. MidiIllustrator will try to identify and use the ‘preferred’ MIDI device which Windows uses for all MIDI output (this device is often referred to as the MIDI Mapper).

You can make any or all of the devices on the list available for playback. Select a MIDI device from the list by ticking its check box.

You must have a default device selected in order for MidiIllustrator to playback files.  Set the default device by selecting it from the list and clicking the ‘Set Device As Default’ button.

When opening files, MidiIllustrator will always use the default MIDI device (marked in the list with [DEFAULT]) though you can configure a file to use any of the devices which you have checked in the MIDI Playback device list.  See Staff MIDI Device for more information.

If you want MidiIllustrator to always play songs using the [DEFAULT] device you have selected for playback, then you should ensure that each Staff MIDI Device is set to the "Default Device" entry in the device list.

Testing the selected MIDI Device

If you have selected one of the devices in the list, you can quickly test the device by clicking the ‘Test Device’ button to hear a typical output from that device. A single MIDI note will be played on the selected device (Channel = 0, Patch = 0).

MIDI Device List

If there are no devices listed, then your computer does not have any sound equipment or the sound equipment has not been configured for use with Windows. In either case see the documentation that came with your computer.

What if there is no sound during Playback?

This can be caused by a number of problems. Assuming you have at least one MIDI device in the list and you have set that device as the default for Playback, review the check list below:

MIDI Devices and Scores

You may choose to have different scores use different MIDI devices for playback.  If a device used by one of your scores becomes unavailable to MidiIllustrator (i.e. it does not appear in the device list) then MidiIllustrator will automatically assign the default device to those scores.  This will also happen if you uncheck a device which one of your open scores is using. That score will automatically switch to playback using the default device.

MIDI Device Management Between Sessions

MidiIllustrator remembers and restores your MIDI IN and OUT device preferences every time you start the program.  This means that you can swap MIDI devices (such as USB MIDI ports/adapters) in and out of your system between MidiIllustrator sessions and MidiIllustrator will still be able to play saved songs with the device they were originally configured to use, even if the Windows MIDI device configuration has changed or been reordered.  Furthermore, MidiIllustrator will only reset to the default Windows devices when the system changes if the MidiIllustrator preferred defaults no longer exist in the Windows MIDI device list (visible via Control Panel).

Advanced Settings - Playback Latency (see also MIDI In Latency)

If you find that when playing scores there is a small delay between when you hear notes and when you see them highlighted on the score, or if the cursor appears to move just before the beat, then you can use the MIDI Out device latency to synchronize the sound and screen events.

Note that Playback Latency differs from MIDI In Latency which is for synchronizing connected MIDI devices (usually when recording MidiIllustrator Maestro Only Feature ).  You should try to correct any Playback Latency before adjusting MIDI In Latency.

"Latency" (or "lag") is common to all MIDI software and occurs most often with software synthesizers such as the widely used "Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synth", but your overall system speed is also a factor.  Sometimes it takes a short while for the MIDI instructions to be processed by the MIDI device and so there is a delay between the signal being sent, and the sound being heard.  This is typically around 100 ms (milliseconds) for the "Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synth" on Windows XP SP2.  There is no accurate way for MidiIllustrator to calculate any latency, so you must use trial and error to set a value which synchronizes playback on your system with screen updates.

First things first!  Use your system's best hardware...  Certain MIDI playback devices - especially software synthesizers such as the "Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synth" - are more susceptible to this kind of delay than hardware MIDI devices.  If you have a soundcard installed in your machine (for example: a Creative Labs SoundBlaster) then you will find that that selecting this card's MIDI device for playback over any installed "synth" devices may produce much better synchronization between visual and audio events without needing to set any value for Playback Latency.

When to use Playback Latency:

MidiIllustrator automatically tries to set a value for Playback Latency when the value is left at "Auto".  If in any doubt about your settings, you should leave the value set at "Auto".

You may need to experiment with Playback Latency values to achieve perfect synchronization of note sounds and note highlighting on your system.  Start with a very low value, maybe 20ms.  If the cursor is moving before you hear the beat, increase the latency value.  If it starts to move after the beat, you should reduce the latency value.

Note about recording (MIDI In) latency:  If you have ensured good synchronization between sound output and screen updates (if necessary using a Playback Latency value) and you are still experiencing lag when recording from a MIDI device, you should experiment with MIDI In Latency.