Tips for my new Cantabile rig

Very happy Cantabile user here!

I’m about to being building my Catabile rigs for concerts later this year. I’ve learned a lot since my first attempts, which did work, but proved to be quite cumbersome.

The two best lessons I’ve learned so far are:
Use Symbolic Links to permit mutiple identical of instruments within one song - huge problem solver for me, this one!
Name MIDI inputs by a generic logical name, then allocate physical keyboards to the logical inputs - allows me to swap keyboards without a lot of re-work.

I know many of you guys are much further along the Cantabile curve than me, so I’m throwing out a cry for help to help me learn what I don’t know.

Essentially I’m running a number of keyboards (up to 6 this year) - some just controllers, some playing their own internal sounds, and I need to fire off backing tracks, spot effects and other one-offs. I need a couple of volume and sustain pedals for fades/cross-fades and to hold chords over gaps while I move to another keyboard.

Last time I ended up with a few inconsistencies and conflicts, due my naivity. I often ended up with keyboard splits playing the wrong synth, or at the wrong transposition, for instance. I had quite a time trying to make sustain pedals act on one synth, but not others (took some head-scratching, this one). All fixable, of course, but it took a lot of effort and re-work, re-work, re-work.

Over to you guys - any advice to help me to make my next rig slicker than my last?

How about splitting performance data (notes, pitch/mod, etc) from control data (state/song select up/down buttons etc)? I’m thinking this would simplify the rig?

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I wish I could give you some insight, but my rig is not as complicated as yours. I have been 100% VI for quite some time now. Most of my changes are made in song states, and footswitches. I mostly use 2 keyboard controllers and foot controls. I get all the sounds I need, where I need them without problem. I have found, for my own personal experience, less is much better for my particular needs. I have been slowly progressing toward one controller keyboard for everything, more splits and changes are involved. C3 can do so many wonderful things, but I rarely have time to explore other options. The less complicated I get, the easier my gigs flow, and less chance of pilot error. Again, this is my personal experience, but, as you well know, the amazing C3 wizards here can take you on an amazing journey of extreme setups.




Hi The_Elf,

I’m with Corky on this, I have a simple setup for most of my performances so I can only theorize and experiment with larger Song setups as a side education thing. I have helped some people who had more complicated stuff than me going on but only to advise on a nut on a bolt sort of level, not the bigger setup picture they had in mind. I know @Torsten wrote some great articles on the abstraction method he is creating/using and it dealt with the possibility of large Song technical requirements with multiple controllers, song states and VSTI instrument changes and all. It brought as many elements as possible to the Routing tab view where they could be viewed in context and then worked on if needed. I personally started as a young lad playing keyboard stacks but have switched to an 88 note wide keyboard I can split if I need to do 2 things at once and use the Cantabile input routing and Song states to make the more demanding changes in a complex song using just the one keyboard.



Ahhh…wizard #1 has chimed in. Hi Dave.


Back at ya Corky, just so i don’t highjack the thread I wanted to include how great that The _Elf’s video that he posted in the showcase area was! Excellent art and entertainment combined.



Total agreement on that!

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I’ve separated my input/control into a number of separate sections:

  • everything having to do with control outside song level sits in the background rack with a number of bindings for next song, previous song, next state, previous state, first state, plus remote control of LivePrompter. I have different states of my background rack for different keyboard setups (single keyboard, two keyboards, on-site keyboard plus USB Midi controller)

  • My keyboards all are encapsulated into individual racks with separate MIDI outputs for notes, aftertouch, modulation, pitch. So for my dual keyboard setups, there are two such racks (main, second). Keyboard splits and layers are far more manageable this way - simply look at all the routes out of the “notes” outputs of each keyboard rack and their settings.

  • pedals are a separate rack, independent of what keyboard they are attached to, because I may use sustain for the lower keyboard in one song, for the upper in another - or even for both… So one rack “pedals” with different MIDI outputs for sustain, sustenuto, expression

  • Faders / control knobs are another separate rack, with individual outputs named for what they are used for (main sound volume, solo volume, string layer volume, reverb level main, reverb level solo, …). All “level” faders output CC7 on their respective outputs, others (e.g. solo parameter 1) feed CC11. These then get converted via filters in the route to their target when needed.

  • numerous “level” racks (main volume, solo volume, extra volume) to be controlled via faders from the “fader” rack. These simply contain a route from audio in to audio out, with a binding that controls rack output level via CC7

  • effects usually come in separate racks (main delay, solo delay, main reverb, solo reverb) and get fed by separate audio routes from the instrument. This way, I can control and automate send levels via route gain. Effects are routed to level racks, so that e.g. all instruments routed to “main level” and their effects can be controlled with one fader.

  • there is a master rack in all of my songs that has two inputs (guitar in, keys in) and contains master limiters, eqs and level meters for both outputs, then routes them to the appropriate physical outputs. All instruments and effects route through level racks, which in turn get routed to the master rack.

I used to package a lot of effects into my instrument racks and my guitar rack, but this “fat rack” approach was too unwieldy after a time, so nowadays I take a more granular approach. Only the most essential effects are wrapped into instrument racks (mostly an EQ only), everything else is assembled at song level. Song templates (e.g. "Piano and organ) make this easier to manage. I have even detached my stompboxes from my guitar amp rack, so a song only contains the stompbox racks that are really needed. That makes my guitar rack far cleaner without all the unused stompboxes to bypass and stompbox states to manage.




And…wizard #2 has chimed in. Hi Torsten…great info.


@Torsten: I am setting up something a bit similar to yours. Can I ask a question: how do you get Cantabile to detect e.g; more than 1 MIDI input device? Or more than one output device?

Cantabile configured itself 3 weeks ago when I purchased it, detected the audio out and midi in that were connected to my computer - but when I try to connect a new audio device I cannot figure out how Cantabile can detect is - even though it’s there - I can see it as a windows device - and it works - outside of Cantabile… Any clues would be appreciated!

@Tom_Tollenaere: You need to explicitly set up your MIDI ports inside Cantabile. Important: Cantabile uses “virtual” MIDI ports, which are then connected to physical MIDI ports. So your “Main Keyboard” port can be connected to whatever MIDI interface you are using at the time, but when you change your MIDI interface, you don’t need to change all your songs - simply re-assign your “Main Keyboard” once.

Go to Tools->Options->MIDI and you’ll see the list of current virtual MIDI ports:

Now simply create additional input channels for your devices via the “Add” button and assign it to a physical MIDI input port.


Done - now you have another MIDI input. Same for MIDI output devices.

For audio devices, you use Tools->Options->Audio Engine. This is where you select the ASIO (preferrable) or WASAPI audio device you want to use with Cantabile.

Next, you create and assign virtual audio ports and assign them to physical ports of your audio interface: Tools->Options->Audio Ports.

Very similar to MIDI ports, but you need to

  • decide on creation if you want to make it a stereo or mono port
  • assign physical inputs / outputs in a separate step by clicking the individual channels and selecting the “Edit” button.

Note: you can assign multiple physical outputs to one logical outputs (send the same signal to multiple destinations) or select the same physical output for multiple logical outputs (input will be mixed).

Note also: you can only use ONE audio device in Cantabile (selected in “Audio Engine”) - multiple audio devices can’t be used at the same time. Multiple MIDI devices can.




Tx Torsten - I was mixing up physical and virtual devices in my head - got it sorted out!

Some wonderful advice here. Thank you all! (and also thanks for the kind words…)

I’m all for keeping things simple, but it does seem that adding a few more sophistications at ground level can actually make things simpler higher up the chain. The idea of splitting out controllers. pedals, and such really does make sense. I’m certainly going to head that way this time around. Get the foundations (and background rack) sorted out early and the rest will be much easier.

I could do the same as I did before (and it would work), but I’m wiser now - I can make my life much simpler.

Cantabile really is such a flexible environment that you need to allow yourself to make a few mistakes before you begin to work out a way of setting things up to suit your own way of working. I think that’s actually a great strength of the software.

Thanks again, friends.


Special shout out to @Torsten here.

Finally, the penny has dropped for me with your ‘Devices as Racks’ approach!

I’ve created a ‘Device Hub 01’ Linked Rack (with Symbolic Links to ‘Device Hub 02’, Device Hub 03’, etc) that splits off every element of my devices - notes, aftertouch, modulation, sustain, etc. I rename the ‘hub’ Racks in the Song to make things clear (eg ‘Left Upper’, ‘Mid Lower’).

Now all I need to do is point those filtered outputs to wherever they are needed in my racks and the job becomes so much easier than before. If I swap a physical keyboard I can do that once in the Options MIDI Ports panel and everything keeps working! Brilliant! I can share sustain pedal duties, no matter where it is plugged in, or apply aftertouch to a synth I’m not even playing with that hand! The possibilities this opens up are amazing. It’s easy, and it’s clear on screen - nothing hiding away to trip me up.

I’m sending all the controller outputs to the Background Rack for switching Songs, States, Media Players and such, but I can also route the controllers per Song if I have the need - use a slider for filter cut-off or something.

Thank you so much. I’m glad that I finally understand what you were saying, and I’m so glad that you took the time to explain once again. I feel as if I finally have proper control of Cantabile!