Nightmare live experience - with interesting learnings on connecting keyboards via USB vs. MIDI cable

Just a quick one after the first live gig with my new project “Mind The Gap” last night.

I built my setup fully on Cantabile - well, what’d you expect from me… - and two keyboards, connected via a USB MIDI interface (iConnect Mio2). Nice and clean setup - with the obligatory Cantabile sticker prominently displayed!

I came to the gig fully prepared and backed up (two laptops, two audio interfaces, two LivePrompter tablets), but during the first set my main master keyboard (AKAI MPK88) went completely crazy - started turning on the arpeggiator by itself, transposed itself three octaves down, went into “save preset” mode all on its own, and all other kinds of nastiness. Seems something gave out in its motherboard.

Having this in the middle of a song is a nightmare in itself, but without a backup master keyboard, the fun really starts. So we sent a family member of one of my bandmates who lives nearby to get his studio masterkeyboard from his home, and in the meantime, I unplugged the MIDI cable from my AKAI and plugged it into my upper Alesis VI49 to have it act as my new main keyboard. A bit difficult to play piano parts on a super-lightweight plastic keyboard with 49 keys; lots of octave shifts necessary when doing boogie piano soloing in the upper registers, but at least we somehow survived the first set.

In the break between the first and second set, the studio keyboard arrived, we plugged in the MIDI connector and the sustain pedal (unfortunately no expression or second pedal port, so still a bit of improvisation necessary) and the next two sets were back to business as (almost) usual.

So my learnings from this:

  • No matter what spares you carry, there will always be something else that can go wrong. Next gig, I’ll probably carry a spare master keyboard, but maybe it will be the mixing desk that goes up in smoke…

  • My decision to move to a full laptop setup paid off big time. If I had been in a traditional workstation setup and my main board had failed, I would have been dead in the water - no way to find a replacement with my exact sounds and configurations. With my Cantabile setup, any decent MIDI keyboard was good enough to play the rest of the gig as planned.

  • Using MIDI cables to connect my keyboards instead of going USB was extremely helpful. First, it allowed me to use my upper keyboard as main (by simply switching MIDI cables) to save the first set, then it was easy to simply plug in the replacement keyboard and go on. No change to my Cantabile input ports configuration necessary at all!

Tomorrow we have our next gig with the band - this time in a circus tent! Wonder what excitements await us there…




Sounds like a rough night. Just to point something out: had you been using USB MIDI it would still have been a simple fix. Selecting different drivers for your main keyboard input isn’t that hard.

Anyway, glad you were able to pull it off. My hat is off to you, sir.

I have 2 rehearsal keyboards that have no USB connections. In both, I simply use MIDI cables and C3 recognizes them as “main keyboard”, or whatever I assign them. I have been able to just walk into rehearsal, with laptop, and plug and play for the last 2 yrs. In one of the keyboards, the volume controller (for some reason) is not MIDI assignable, so I assigned volume to mod wheel, but eventually to my foot pedal. C3 has really changed the game on performance.

Agree that it’s not that big a deal, but the ease of switching back and forth between two keyboards simply by switching cables (without needing to do anything in my Cantabile config) was great for my nerves last night. And just imagine that the replacement keyboard isn’t class-compliant (not sure if it was) - finding a driver and installing it while the gig is rolling on sounds like another nightmare.

So I’m definitely sticking with my MIDI connections.



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I use 3 different keyboards (Motif XF, 2x studiologic) at rehearsal and gigs - all with MIDI connections; no problems so far. I also have 2 2in1-Convertibles and 2 audio interfaces but if not necessary I don’t like to carry 2 keyboards around.
Some weeks ago I had a crackling noise occassionally and identified Blue3 that wanted me to type in the serial number again. AFAIR there was a windows update before. I hope this will not occur at a gig with some of my other instruments and effects.

Yeah, the Blue3 re-authorization happens after every Windows version update (new release number; latest is 1803). Same with Cantabile, BTW. Also, XLN Audio (Addictive Drums, Addictive Keys) need re-authorization after major updates - seems that the system ID that these programs use gets changed during the update process.

Just one more thing to be aware of - I try to go through all of this well in advance of a gig - or after it…

Crikey! We’re a long way from an upright and a spare stool.

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Hi Torsten;

good to know. I disable WLAN, BT and virus scanner anyway when I prepare for a gig and I can switch fast to the MOTIFs internal sounds. For pianos I prefer pianoteq and AAS.

Nightmare!! The thing is, when something bad like that happens, your nerves can be shot to pieces and you can lose the ability to think straight (let alone put on a good performance). So the simpler things are the better - and swapping MIDI cables has the glorious benefit of not requiring any reconfiguration or dependency on drivers whatsoever. I always use MIDI cables to my MOTU Microlite MIDI interface (and a spare one of those in my rack), and would never use USB MIDI. Apart from anything, I find USB type B plugs terribly unreliable.

Torsten’s conclusion about having spares is so important if you can’t tolerate having to bail out of a show due to technical problems. I carry either spares or suitable “adequate” alternatives for everything in my entire rig, including a duplicated Cantabile machine, spare cables for everything, audio interfaces, pedals, fuses, keyboards. I’ve been carrying around a full 88-note weighted Kurzweil PC3x entirely as a spare to all gigs (so I take two), ever since I had one fail the day before a major show 5-6 years ago, and was lucky to be able to hire another in time. And I hadn’t needed that backup ever since, until we were playing in Norway earlier this year, when my PC3x failed to boot up. And as bad luck would have it, that was the ONE gig I didn’t have my backup keyboard with me - we’d had to leave it at the previous night’s venue in Sweden due to legal weight limit issues for our van. So it just goes to show, no matter how long it has been since you last needed a backup keyboard, your next gig might be the one!! Fortunately that night in Norway the venue was very close to one of Scandinavia’s largest backline hire companies, who managed to get the exact same keyboard to me within an hour (in plenty of time for the show)…and its flight case had “Bowie Tour” printed on the name plate :slight_smile:



I feel with you - and yes, my nerves were definitely a bit frayed :scream:

But the relaxation that came in Set 2, when the replacement keyboard came in, was like getting into a nice and cosy jacuzzi :wink:

Problem with having that failure happen at 8:30 on Saturday night: what backline hire company or music store will even answer the phone at that time? So I’ll definitely travel with the full backup set from now on - got myself a nice Studiologic SL88 Grand now to replace the AKAI - plays like a dream! But I’ll definitely carry both the SL and my Kurzweil to future gigs - easy on the nerves to know the replacement sits ready in my car…



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I haven’t allowed windows to update for almost two years. With all the music gear, drivers, software, etc., if windows updates, it simply either destroys or mangles my computer’s stability. For the most part, (I am a MS Certified Engineer with a 30-year career behind me…), windows updates are anything but ‘critical’ or ‘crucial’ or even so much as important, especially for what we do with our computers and music production/performance. If you are an unfortunate victim, er… ‘customer’ of Microsoft with Windows 10, I completely empathize with you! WIN 10 does not allow the computer’s owner to turn updates off. They can be ‘thwarted’ by designating a ‘slow network connection,’ (Windows won’t allow itself to update as long as this is the ONLY active network; once you make the mistake of connecting to another WiFi network, the madness begins!)
Windows 8.1 Pro is the best OS for everything. I will not purchase a computer without it!


I just played my first solo gig at a local bar and had several problems right off the bat that I’ve never seen before. First off, C3 can’t see my SL88 Studio USB driver. It’s get power from the USB hub, all other USB devices on the hub are fine, but no SL88. Easy enough… MIDI cable to Babyface Pro.

Middle of my first song, my BF randomly turns the main output volume to zero. Got sound in my in-ears but nothing in the mains. Took me a few seconds to figure out what happened and had to restart the song. Joked with the crowd about it, but it was damned embarrassing.

Second song, playing clav to a backing track for Use Me, and Kontact says screw you, I do what I want. Tried for the rest of the song to bring my clav back while singing… nothing. Switched songs, and all instances of Kontact have MIDI going in but no audio leaving. Restarted C3 and had no more issues for the night.

Thank God for a forgiving crowd. They loved the rest of the night enough I got more dollars in tips than there were people in the bar, and I’m booked for 3 more gigs there. Real head scratcher there though.

@Torsten, I owe you man. Thanks to your post I had MIDI cables on hand.

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Ah, the old story- if something’s gonna screw up it’s gonna do it in front of an audience. Glad you recovered and it went well after that!

I have experienced that a few times. We call that “pity pay” :laughing:


Whatever works. I’m not proud :smiley:

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Come on, now… leave me to my illusions… lol!


@BigTwisty We had that happen over the weekend. We were playing a show, and our main backing track/C3 laptop decided to cut out (thanks for the warning, it cut but stayed in time when it came back). The audience wondered what the hell was going on. We have rehearsed a breakdown during practice, and it payed off. Our front man decided to do a couple of “unplugged” tunes. I disconnected the problem laptop, plugged in the backup, and, within 2 acoustic songs we were 100%. As we were playing, the venue canceled the band he hired for his next gig and hired us on the spot (what???). Amazing. Very few pity tips, but they loved us. Of course our band was inaccessible, as we were on a stage off of the bank of a large pond (that they called a man made lake) accessible by a dock. Crowds are usually forgiving if it seems you were prepared but had technical difficulties. If you had problems because of a failure to prepare, that is another story.


@Torsten I have an MPK261 connected and powered by USB. My SL88 connects to the MPK via 5 pin DIN. I believe that one USB connection can service all midi if you have the right hardware with extra DIN ports (Like both the SL88 and MPK261). I parked my Yamaha Motif (it was heavy) and went 100% C3 for the last 2 gigs. I try to avoid using USB to power stuff (planning to power the MPK261 with 12v dc). Folks at Soundcraft (since I use a UI24R) stated that usage of USB powered devices with wifi taking power, as well, may reduce performance of audio interfaces. My only fear is that when I used the Motif, my CPU rarely went above 50%. Now, running all sounds (Addictive Keys, O2, H6, FM8, Sylenth, NI Classic Keys, LL) keeps my usage at 45-85% and CPU with occasional 115% (i7 8550) at 52 degrees C. I am using states to disable unused VST instruments that are hogs. Still, a lot of button pushing etc. to disable VST’s to avoid clicks/pops from overuse of CPU. I believe that an SL88 Studio and MPK261 can do literally everything (even launching tracks in Ableton on the same computer as C3).

Hi John

I could never be Torsten, but thought I would make a comment. I use a POWERED USB hub and had zero problems. If you do not use a powered hub, there may not be enough memory address space to support many devices all at the same time. Have you used Brad’s new profiler to see what is taxing your system? There are also some things you can try within engine.

I haven’t updated my subscription. The profiler would be the reason for subscribing. Does the profiler offer significant information? Yes, I need a powered USB hub. At this point I have 3 USB inputs 1 is audio interface, 2 is MPK261 USB powered and 3 is USB dongles for ILOK and eLicenser.

This may be the tipping point for subscribing again.