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SysEx (System Exclusive) is used to send data that is specific to a MIDI device, such as a dump of its patch memory, sequencer data, waveform data, or information that is particular to a device. In other words, SysEx is used to change MIDI device parameters that no other MIDI message can, because it is the only way MIDI can retrieve or send parameter data from and to a device.
When working with Cubase, SysEx can serve two main purposes:
You can save all the parameters of a MIDI device used in a project using a bulk dump procedure.
Because you can't automate the parameters of an external MIDI device using automation tracks, you can use SysEx to record parameter changes on your device's front panel into Cubase and then have Cubase play back these parameter changes through MIDI.
You could say that SysEx controls how sounds are produced, whereas other MIDI events control when sounds are produced. You do have some control over how a note is played with MIDI events, such as the control provided by Control Change messages; however, this does not affect how the sound is produced by your MIDI device in most commonly used situations.
It is important that a direct MIDI connection between the sender and the receiver be made. You can work with SysEx messages even with devices in a daisy chain; however, this requires extra precautions , such as assigning a different device ID number for each device in the chain, making sure that the base MIDI channel in your external MIDI device is also different from one device to the next in this chain. These precautions help make sure that the MIDI device you meant to communicate with only processes the SysEx messages.
There are two reasons you should record SysEx. The first reason is to save all the values that make up one program, or all programs, in the instrument or device, so that when you play a project, it remembers the external device's setup. This includes how the device's parameters are configured, especially when you've made changes to the original sounds provided by the manufacturer. This allows you to recall the device's parameters as they were when you saved the song. The next time you load your project, you won't have to change anything on your device when you load the project because the parameters were stored with the project file using SysEx. This is called a bulk dump .
The second reason is to store codes that instruct the instrument to change one of its settings, such as the cutoff frequency of a filter, or the decay of a reverb during playback or at the beginning of the project. System Exclusive can be used as a last resort for things that can't be done with regular MIDI messages. This is done through SysEx parameter changes.
Usually, you will find a function or utility button on the front panel of your MIDI device, which allows you to send a bulk dump. This means that you will be sending SysEx messages. From that point, you can choose what kind of information you want to send. For example, you might send user patches, performances , or system settings. If there are no such buttons on your device, there are two workaround solutions:
Get an editor/librarian software that identifies your device and initiates a SysEx bulk dump request from this application. This allows your software to receive the appropriate SysEx information from your external MIDI device.
Find out what message to send to the device to make it dump its settings via a MIDI output. Use the List Editor in Cubase to insert that message in a MIDI track. Writing such a SysEx string is fairly complicated, and requires an extensive study of the fine print in the operation manual; so if in doubt, stick with the first method and get an editor/librarianit'll save you lots of headaches .
Because your MIDI device stores values for its parameters in its memory, changing these values results in changing the parameters' settings. Usually, your MIDI device can send all or some of these parameters to Cubase using a bulk dump. This action is performed using SysEx messages.
After your device's SysEx has been dumped into Cubase, you can send it back to the device later to reset all the parameters to the way they were when you saved them. Most hardware MIDI devices have specific functions that allow you to send a bulk dump of all or some of your device's parameters. To find out which function or where this function is, you need to consult your device's documentation.
To record a SysEx bulk dump from an external MIDI device into Cubase:
Make sure the MIDI Out of your device is connected to the MIDI In of your computer or Cubase.
Inside Cubase, select in the File(PC)/Cubase(Mac) menu > Preferences > MIDI > MIDI Filter. This brings up the MIDI-MIDI Filter preferences (see Figure 13.14).
Deselect the SysEx check box under the Record section and leave it checked (default) under the Thru section. This allows you to record it from the MIDI input port, but does not echo the SysEx events through the MIDI output port. Echoing these events back would create a SysEx MIDI loop that could corrupt the transport.
Click Apply and then click OK to close the dialog box.
Create a new MIDI track in your project. This track should be used only for the SysEx events.
Assign the MIDI input port appropriately. This should be the port used by the MIDI device to send SysEx to Cubase.
Position your cursor at the beginning of your project. Make sure the Metronome click and Cycle Recording mode are disabled.
If you already have events recorded in this project, mute all the tracks. When recording a bulk dump of your device's parameters, the SysEx messages require a large portion of your MIDI bandwidth.
Click the Record button on the Transport panel.
Press the appropriate buttons on your MIDI device to initiate the bulk dump. You might notice during the transmission that your device displays a special message on its LCD screen telling you it's currently transmitting SysEx. When the device is finished with its transmission, you should see a message, such as "Done" or "Completed."
When the external MIDI device has completed the bulk dump, you can stop the recording. Depending on the information you transmitted in this bulk dump (if it's just a few parameters or the entire set of parameters in your device), this process might take a few seconds or a few minutes. This creates a single MIDI part, which contains all the SysEx messages.
Save the project.
Mute this track to avoid having the SysEx retransmitted every time you click Play, or select the Not Connected option from the MIDI output port selection field in the Inspector or Track List area for this track.
Here are some tips when recording SysEx bulk dumps:
Just record the parameters you need to record. Usually, you can tell your MIDI device what type of bulk dump you want to perform. This saves space in your sequencer and speeds up the SysEx transfer back to your MIDI device. In a live performance, you don't want to wait too long between projects for SysEx to be uploaded to your MIDI devices, so keeping things to a minimum is useful.
If you only want Cubase to send parameter information and patch information to your external MIDI device before a song starts to play, put the SysEx information before the first bar if possible, or before the occurrence of MIDI events in your song. This prevents you from having lags in MIDI sent to your devices caused by a long SysEx message being sent simultaneously with other MIDI events.
If all you want to do is change the sound settings (program) during playback, you might be better off creating two different programs and using a program change during playback rather than using a SysEx message. Program changes are more efficient in this case and take less time to update your external MIDI device.
Avoid sending SysEx bulk dump from Cubase to several external MIDI devices simultaneously.
Make sure when you record a bulk dump, that you are using the same device ID number as you will use when sending this bulk dump back to the MIDI device. Otherwise, the device might not accept the SysEx bulk dump.
Certain sequencers allow you to send a SysEx bulk dump automatically whenever you load a MIDI file. Use this feature to configure your devices appropriately for each song, however, keep the previous tips in mind.
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