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Compatible MIDI sound modules

dan

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Hi, are there specs to look for in a midi keyboard or sound module to make sure it responds well to a MIDI accordion?

I’m considering buying a piano accordion with a MIDI kit installed. I do songwriting with GarageBand and play in bands. I don’t perform solo so probably wouldn’t use an arranger module, just want more sounds at my disposal—especially synths, Electric piano, and organ.

In theory I know an accordion is no different from any other MIDI controller—would be fun to run MIDI in to a Juno or Korg for analog synth bass sounds—but in practice I expect you’d get weird behavior playing chord buttons to control a monophonic synth or one that didn’t support multiple channels. Any other things to watch out for to avoid long nights puzzling over a manual? Is there a good reason to ever put down the accordion and step behind a keyboard? :)
 

Ventura

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partly, it depends on your MIDI

is it simple, just note on note off ?
or does it have Velocity ?

does it have bellows control ?

most all accordion MIDI can transmit on multiple chanels
most all modules can recieve on multiple channels at once
(there are up to 16 channels)

this is so the bass note (on channel 3) is using a bass sound
while the Chords (on channel 2) perhaps comp using a Fender Rhodes
and the Melody (on channel 1) has it's own area to play in
perhaps there is also an alternate or top note priority sound on (channel 4)

this can be a lot of notes at once... 1 bass 5 chord 4 + 4 layered right hand all at once
and using a sound that decays for a moment or two after you release the
notes then hit more notes

that is why we say a module needs to have enough POLYPHONY to handle
all the notes needed at once without cutting the decay of some off in order to
play new ones... 32 note polyphony is minimum i would say... some seriously Piano modules
offer 128 note polyphony

it is also a good reason to have two modules... one for the Bass and Chords
perhaps and one just for the right hand
(MIDI THrough allows this easily)
or
that fat, monophonic stacked oscillator sound for the Bass you like is easily
done if you dedicate one module that has that feature to Channel 3

and how will you control the relative volume of the sections ?

it is also easier with multiple modules and simple Volume pedals
wired in between the modules and the Mixer/Amp
but some MIDI have a digital global volume pedal/function

that should get you started
 

JerryPH

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Hi, are there specs to look for in a midi keyboard or sound module to make sure it responds well to a MIDI accordion?

I’m considering buying a piano accordion with a MIDI kit installed. I do songwriting with GarageBand and play in bands. I don’t perform solo so probably wouldn’t use an arranger module, just want more sounds at my disposal—especially synths, Electric piano, and organ.

In theory I know an accordion is no different from any other MIDI controller—would be fun to run MIDI in to a Juno or Korg for analog synth bass sounds—but in practice I expect you’d get weird behavior playing chord buttons to control a monophonic synth or one that didn’t support multiple channels. Any other things to watch out for to avoid long nights puzzling over a manual? Is there a good reason to ever put down the accordion and step behind a keyboard? :)
Most older accordions with MIDI use the more simpler version, the one with no bellows control. Anything in the up to mid-late 90's I would say is the simpler version.

One of the things you will most need to keep an eye out for is setup. For example most setups use 3 MIDI channels, right hand, left hand bass and left hand chord. So if you want to have the arranger change chords with you will depend on style of playing. Some modules like the BK-7m change chords with you on both the bass and chord buttons, which makes it super easy if you are not very dynamic with the left hand bass runs. If you disable the control from the bass, it means that you will have to hit the chords on the first count of any measure where chord changes happen (or perhaps have the changes happen on the 2nd beat which can sound a bit strange in some cases), and of course change your style of playing to accommodate.

Since you don't play solo, none of this will make a difference and you also likely don't play much on the bass side (which is pretty much the norm for accordionists in bands, to not play any bass as it can clash with instruments like bass guitars, keyboards, etc... who already are). There are many modules out there, however the most important aspect here is your budget. The higher you go up in $$, the more realistic and greater variety of sounds will be available.

While some people like it, I am one of those that is not a big fan of connecting myself to a keyboard (I am an accordionist, not a keyboard player), preferring to use an arranger/backing module like a Ketron X4 or Roland BK-7m. The top of the line in the current generation is the Ketron SD-90, but I find they are way overpriced for what they offer. A module like the BK-7m has around 900+ sounds, and I am someone that plays mostly alone so the ability to provide a backing is well appreciated.

If all you are looking for are extra sounds, there are plenty of options out there!
 

heymho

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Most older accordions with MIDI use the more simpler version, the one with no bellows control. Anything in the up to mid-late 90's I would say is the simpler version.

One of the things you will most need to keep an eye out for is setup. For example most setups use 3 MIDI channels, right hand, left hand bass and left hand chord. So if you want to have the arranger change chords with you will depend on style of playing. Some modules like the BK-7m change chords with you on both the bass and chord buttons, which makes it super easy if you are not very dynamic with the left hand bass runs. If you disable the control from the bass, it means that you will have to hit the chords on the first count of any measure where chord changes happen (or perhaps have the changes happen on the 2nd beat which can sound a bit strange in some cases), and of course change your style of playing to accommodate.

Since you don't play solo, none of this will make a difference and you also likely don't play much on the bass side (which is pretty much the norm for accordionists in bands, to not play any bass as it can clash with instruments like bass guitars, keyboards, etc... who already are). There are many modules out there, however the most important aspect here is your budget. The higher you go up in $$, the more realistic and greater variety of sounds will be available.

While some people like it, I am one of those that is not a big fan of connecting myself to a keyboard (I am an accordionist, not a keyboard player), preferring to use an arranger/backing module like a Ketron X4 or Roland BK-7m. The top of the line in the current generation is the Ketron SD-90, but I find they are way overpriced for what they offer. A module like the BK-7m has around 900+ sounds, and I am someone that plays mostly alone so the ability to provide a backing is well appreciated.

If all you are looking for are extra sounds, there are plenty of options out there!
I am very frustrated trying to hook up a keytron x4 to my roland FR-8X. I have set midi channels on both units and I don't get anything out. Someone told me that a Roland accordion will not work with a Ketron X4. Am I wasting my time trying to make this work?
 

Glenn

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As you use GarageBand I assume you have a usb sound interface. With your “new” midi enabled accordion you can download VST instruments for free that will keep you busy for years. For example, “Vital” is a free VST that has huge sound possibilities. Check it out on YouTube.
 

JerryPH

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I am very frustrated trying to hook up a keytron x4 to my roland FR-8X. I have set midi channels on both units and I don't get anything out. Someone told me that a Roland accordion will not work with a Ketron X4. Am I wasting my time trying to make this work?
No… I have that working perfectly. I can make a little video on my end to prove it this weekend.
 

JerryPH

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I don't know the settings on top of my head, but I recall my first thoughts were that the arranger had to meet the needs of the accordion, meaning I looked at what channels the accordion was using and that is what I set the arranger to. I'll get to it this weekend and get you what you need. :)

Are you trying to get both the right and the left hands working with the X4? I recall that the one thing that REALLY annoyed me was that the X4 was following the volume that I played the accordion at, and that was disabled on the accordion side. So there are 3 things you need to understand:
1 - Your needs (right hand, left hand, both?)
2 - what features you want to take advantage of on either side (accordion or arranger)
3 - how you want to control the dynamics (do you want the X$ volume controlled by the accordion or not? I definitely do NOT).
 
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heymho

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I don't know the settings on top of my head, but I recall my first thoughts were that the arranger had to meet the needs of the accordion, meaning I looked at what channels the accordion was using and that is what I set the arranger to. I'll get to it this weekend and get you what you need. :)

Are you trying to get both the right and the left hands working with the X4? I recall that the one thing that REALLY annoyed me was that the X4 was following the volume that I played the accordion at, and that was disabled on the accordion side. So there are 3 things you need to understand:
1 - Your needs (right hand, left hand, both?)
2 - what features you want to take advantage of on either side (accordion or arranger)
3 - how you want to control the dynamics (do you want the X$ volume controlled by the accordion or not? I definitely do NOT).
I am mostly interested in getting the bass to work with the x4. Right hand would be nice to have also.
 

JerryPH

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OK... I'll be sure to discuss that. I personally just turn off the volume on the X4 to the right hand sounds and leave the 8X do the heavy lifting for the chosen sounds on my setup.

Just to get you thinking outside the box a little... here is a trick that is in the 8X manual but still not many people are aware of, or understand how to use correctly...

If you press and hold a register for ~3 seconds on the right hand (any of the 14 buttons) while not producing any sounds, it cuts all sounds on the local accordion and the accordion then sends only the MIDI signal that is sent to the arranger (meaning the sound you chose on the MIDI arranger) can be heard by itself. Hitting any register brings things back. The same trick can be used on the bass registers. It's a cool way to solo the sounds on the arranger for a period of time for either or both the right and left hands.
 

JerryPH

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As promised, a quick video on how to get the FR-8X and X4 to communicate. Of course the connection has to be made by MIDI (cable or wireless MIDI) from the 8X to X4 and they work just fine together. It's quick and dirty video, but shows very clearly that they do work well together.


In the video I mentioned that if you do not want the 8X to send volume info, meaning you want the X4 volume to not be affected by the 8X, just do the following:
In the FR-8X MENU 16.4 – set “Accordion” to OFF
I have set ALL PARTS to OFF to prevent other sections of the V-accordion from sending volume information to the BK-7m or X4.
 
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Giovanni

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Thank you for taking the time and trouble to explain the set up !!! 👏
 

heymho

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As promised, a quick video on how to get the FR-8X and X4 to communicate. Of course the connection has to be made by MIDI (cable or wireless MIDI) from the 8X to X4 and they work just fine together. It's quick and dirty video, but shows very clearly that they do work well together.


In the video I mentioned that if you do not want the 8X to send volume info, meaning you want the X4 volume to not be affected by the 8X, just do the following:
In the FR-8X MENU 16.4 – set “Accordion” to OFF
I have set ALL PARTS to OFF to prevent other sections of the V-accordion from sending volume information to the BK-7m or X4.
So, I guess you need some kind of MIDI controller or mixer between the FR-8X and the Solton X4 to make it work, is that correct?
Will a cheep controller work. I noticed the one you are using is a very expensive unit.
 

JerryPH

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So, I guess you need some kind of MIDI controller or mixer between the FR-8X and the Solton X4 to make it work, is that correct?
Will a cheep controller work. I noticed the one you are using is a very expensive unit.
OK, I think I see the knowledge gap now. Let's start over from the very start. :)

EVERY external MIDI unit, no matter what, in it's most basic explanation, needs 2 things...
- MIDI info going in to the MIDI unit (Ketron X4, BK-7m, external MIDI sound module... whatever!)
- The X4, BK-7m, external sound module (or whatever) assigns your choice of instruments to each channels and sends it out it's OUTPUTS... in short, a way to hear the sound coming out of it. That's all it needs.

To get MIDI info in to the X4, you connect a MIDI cable from the 8x's MIDI OUT on one end and in to the X4's MIDI IN on the other end. The X4 reads the MIDI data, sets an instrument (or many) to it and sends those sounds to it's LEFT and RIGHT outputs. For us to hear that, the LEFT and RIGHT outputs have to be amplified somehow, so it goes in to a MIXER and the MIXER sends the sounds to an amplifier and speakers.

So... in my demo, I used a wireless MIDI transmitter instead of a cable, just for convenience (it works 100% the same as a cable and since these are not professional units, are not all that expensive, and the only real advantage is that there us no wire to trip over), one end in the FR-8X MIDI OUT and the other one in the X4 MIDI IN. I set the channels on the X4 to match the channels that my 8X is transmitting on (Channels 1 for the right hand and channel 3 for the chords, that's it). There is no external MIDI controller used anywhere.

MIDI data goes out the 8X, in to the X4. SOUND goes out the X4 in to my mixer that has a cheap 3-way $100 computer speaker setup connected and I hear everything nicely.

Does that make sense now? :)
 
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heymho

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OK, I think I see the knowledge gap now. Let's start over from the very start. :)

EVERY external MIDI unit, no matter what, in it's most basic explanation, needs 2 things...
- MIDI info going in to the MIDI unit (Ketron X4, BK-7m, external MIDI sound module... whatever!)
- The X4, BK-7m, external sound module (or whatever) assigns your choice of instruments to each channels and sends it out it's OUTPUTS... in short, a way to hear the sound coming out of it. That's all it needs.

To get MIDI info in to the X4, you connect a MIDI cable from the 8x's MIDI OUT on one end and in to the X4's MIDI IN on the other end. The X4 reads the MIDI data, sets an instrument (or many) to it and sends those sounds to it's LEFT and RIGHT outputs. For us to hear that, the LEFT and RIGHT outputs have to be amplified somehow, so it goes in to a MIXER and the MIXER sends the sounds to an amplifier and speakers.

So... in my demo, I used a wireless MIDI transmitter instead of a cable, just for convenience (it works 100% the same as a cable and since these are not professional units, are not all that expensive, and the only real advantage is that there us no wire to trip over), one end in the FR-8X MIDI OUT and the other one in the X4 MIDI IN. I set the channels on the X4 to match the channels that my 8X is transmitting on (Channels 1 for the right hand and channel 3 for the chords, that's it). There is no external MIDI controller used anywhere.

MIDI data goes out the 8X, in to the X4. SOUND goes out the X4 in to my mixer that has a cheap 3-way $100 computer speaker setup connected and I hear everything nicely.

Does that make sense now? :)
That makes a lot of sense. I've hooked it up that way but I still don't get any sound out of the X4. The X4 works fine when I hook it up to a midi keyboard. I just bought the Roland FR-8X Accordion and I'm not sure if the midi port is working or not.
Thanks again for all of your help. I really appreciate it!
 

JerryPH

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Barring any physical damage to cable or MIDI plugs, likely your 8X and the X4 are not talking on the same MIDI channels. If your 8X is set up from the factory with the MIDI channels unchanged, change the settings in the X4 as I have displayed (channels 1 and 3).

Changing the default MIDI channels on the X4 is not hard... refer to page 52-56 of the Ketron manual... which you can download free from here:
 
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Ben-jammin

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I have been pretty happy with an irig and iPad combo for my midi accordion. The irig takes the midi data and the iPad runs an app called sample tank that lets you assign sound patches to each channel and build multiple instrument configurations that can be saved. There is a cost for additional patches but they sound pretty good. I assign “configs” for different kinds of music and save them so I can quickly recall them. Some of the instrument patches aren’t well suited for a midi accordion but after some experimentation I found the ones that work well. Each sound patch has variables for adjustment including pitch, i use this to put the sounds in an appropriate octave to mix with the acoustic accordion. I often layer multiple instruments on the same channel to fill out the sound, especially for the channels assigned to the bass and chord buttons. I bought the refurbished iPad for this and with the irig and extra sound patches I probably have about $500 into the setup. It might not be the best solution for everybody.

The pros
-fairly compact
-easy to customize the multi instrument configs
-each sound can be adjusted many ways
-decent selection of different instrument types

The cons
-synth sounds don’t have enough variables to adjust
- sound envelope for some instruments doesn’t work well on accordion
- won’t sound as accurate as dedicated sample based VST instruments.

For my purposes it’s been pretty ideal. I imagine there are other software/hardware packages that could be used that may have better options.
 
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