Beginner Question: Using Cantabile to load keyboard states for live performance


Hi all-- I got Cantabile largely to control my 2-keyboard rig for live performance, and I can’t control all the programs that I hope to. With my “A” board (Kurzweil PC88), I can use program changes to access the programs that I want no problem. I can’t quite figure out the “B” board, though (Alesis QS 6.1). The Alesis has a Program mode, and a Mix mode. Program mode is raw sounds, Mix mode lets you combine instrument sounds, effects, multi-timbral, etc. I can use program change commands from Cantabile to switch patches while in Program mode, but the commands won’t change the patch while in Mix mode. In the Alesis manual, the MIDI spec only lists program changes in Program mode–nothing for Mix mode.

Honestly, that’s been fine so far, since most of my parts only need one sound at a time. I’m working on a new tune, though, that will require some multi-timbral work, and it seems like I can only do that in Mix mode. It does seem like that would be limiting down the road if any song using multiple patches will have to be manually switched over to Mix mode (and then back)… Does that sound right, or am I likely missing something? I would have thought that with Cantabile I could send input to different patches through different MIDI channels, but it sounds like I can’t do that in Program mode.

Apologies if this question is too specific to the Alesis board, but this forum seems like a really knowledgeable group, so I thought I’d try here… Thanks!


I pulled up a PDF of the Alesis and I suspect your answer lies on page 44- MIDI Program Select Mode. I won’t copy/paste it all here but take a look and see if that helps. If you don’t have the same manual here’s a link-

Let me know if that works!


I had a quick look at the manual online, and found this, relating to the “MIDI Program Select Mode” parameter, on page 14 of the Global parameters:


This parameter determines how your QS6.1 deals with MIDI Program Change Commands. There are three possible settings:

OFF turns all Program Changes off. With this choice selected, your QS6.1 will neither send Program Changes nor respond to them.

ON makes the QS6.1 respond to incoming MIDI Program Changes, and send them out whenever you change Programs from its front panel. In Program Mode it will send and receive Program Changes over the currently selected MIDI channel. In Mix Mode, Program Changes are received over all active MIDI channels, but sent only from those displayed channels that have had MIDI OUT enabled. Please Note: With this setting, incoming Program Changes will only affect the Programs associated with each specific channel, not the entire Mix.

MIDI MIX SELECTION: CHANNEL 1 through CHANNEL 16 are identical to ON as far as Program Mode is concerned. In Mix mode they work quite differently, however, allowing you to change entire Mixes in response to Program Change
commands. Select CHANNEL 4, for example, and a Program Change 22 command coming in over MIDI Channel 4 would automatically select Mix 22 in the current Bank. The same is true of Bank Select messages which come in on Channel 4 in this scenario; they’ll call up a Mix in another Bank. (Program Changes coming in over other MIDI channels would continue to work as before, changing any Programs associated with those channels within the current Mix.)

This suggests if you set it to MIDI MIX SELECTION, and you’re in Mix mode, then program changes will switch between different pre-programmed Mix setups. So that’s half of a solution - you could simply always use Mix mode, even for songs without layering, and just setup Mix patches accordingly. That’s roughly what I used to do back in the days when I used a workstation synth live.

However, if you’re adamant that you want to switch between Program and Mix modes on the fly, you may need Cantabile to send sysex data to the Alesis, but I can’t find any reference online about whether the QS6.1 allows this to be controlled remotely, or any information on how this might be done via sysex.

Many synths simply designate some banks as Mix (or their equivalent) mode banks, and others as Program mode banks, so you could switch between modes by selecting different banks as well as program numbers. I know the Yamaha Motif series use that approach. It seems the QS6.1 doesn’t, unfortunately.

Another approach harnesses the power of Cantabile, by setting the QS6.1 to local off, and sending your whole keyboard’s range out to Cantabile. You can then use Cantabile’s powerful filtering/zones and song states to send MIDI back out to the QS6.1 to play sounds on your various Mix mode channels. That might give you the best flexibility because you can then also use VST plugins alongside the QS6.1 sounds in layer/split setups.



Well, Neil DID cut and paste it so there you go :smiley: :smiley:


I pasted that, nicely formatted it, typed a load of stuff, posted it, then realised you’d done the sensible thing and posted a link to the PDF :smile:


Thank you both! I had seen that and hoped that was going to be the easy solution, but I haven’t found any Bank Select messages which will toggle from Program to Mix (and MIDI Mix selection is ON). It will change programs within either respective mode, but won’t flip between the two. Neil’s suggestion is what I do with my Kurzweil-- just dump all of the individual programs that I use over to Mix mode. I was hoping to be able to avoid doing that, that may be the simplest answer at this point.

I’m intrigued by Neil’s last suggestion about controlling all from Cantabile, and that seems like what I wanted to go for one particular tune that needs a lot of layering. Let me check one more idea off of you: to do this, I would need one mix which has the individual patches all assigned to unique channels, right? In essence, one mix with strings on Channel 1, Organ on 2, brass on 3, etc. The instructions imply that this can only be done in Mix 00, which seems a little odd to me.

Thanks again for your help!


For each song you’d probably need one mix, which has all of the sounds you use in that song, assigned to unique channels. Then you could let Cantabile route your MIDI back to the QS6.1 on whichever channel(s) correspond to the sound(s) you want for a given part of the song. Use Cantabile song states to advance through the different parts of the song, thus routing the MIDI back on different channels, and applying different splits etc if required.

Then for your other songs, you’d have different mixes set up, incorporating the patches you require for each song in turn. I don’t see why you’d need to stick with Mix 00.

Note: One drawback of doing this is that there’ll be a small latency added, due to the time it takes your MIDI data to go from the QS6.1, into Cantabile, and back out to the QS6.1. Whether this is a problem for you will depend on your MIDI hardware, the sounds you use, and your own personal tastes/expectations.

Another option is to stick with a single Mix, and get Cantabile to send program changes on each channel you’re using for each song. So effectively Cantabile would be building a custom mix for each song on the fly.

Personally if it were me, I’d forget about the QS6.1 sounds, and generate all your sounds inside Cantabile instead. There’d be nothing stopping you sampling any specific QS6.1 sounds you need, and playing them from Cantabile instead. But that’s a whole separate level of re-thinking of your keyboard rig you probably didn’t have in mind :slight_smile:



Now sampling through Cantabile sounds awesome, but the repurposed old laptop that I’m running Cantabile off of has neither the computing power nor sound hardware that I’d want to trust with full sampling playback. 'Of course, a new laptop and some nice VST’s is a whole lot cheaper than a new Nord… :wink:

Out of curiosity, how would you sample the keyboard into Cantabile? Is there an easier process than manually recording each key sound back onto the computer?


Not sure what you mean there, since Cantabile is not a sampler. But it does have a built-in recorder which can be set to auto-start. It can be set to record audio OR MIDI OR both. What exactly are you trying to do?



I use a piece of software called SampleRobot, which sends out MIDI notes in turn (at various velocities) across the whole keyboard, samples the generated audio, provides some support for looping if required, and then generates Kontakt files for sample playback in Kontakt. In fact you can even set it to sequentially go through every patch on your synth using program changes, sampling each one.