Separate interface or MIDI to USB cable with built-in interface?


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I have a 35-year-old Yamaha Clavinova CLP-30 MIDI electric piano. I have a MIDI to USB cable with a small inline box as a MIDI interface, and I wonder if a separate MIDI interface would help bridge the gap between the legacy hardware and the Windows 10 laptop.

My Clavinova is not recognized by most of the DAWs and sequencers I have downloaded. I have Finale 2004, which recognizes the Clavinova and works OK, and, out of hundreds of tries, I got NCH Mixpad to work only twice, and as far as I can tell, I did nothing differently the 2 times it actually worked, and could not get it to work again after many additional tries. (Finale 2004 is running on a Windows 7 laptop, as apparently it is not compatible with Windows 10.)

It has been suggested (in another thread on this forum) that I buy a more expensive cable with an in-line interface; however, the Clavinova CLP-30 has a very limited MIDI implementation, which may be why it works with my 16-year-old version of Finale but not with contemporary DAWs and sequencers.

What do you think? Do I need a separate MIDI interface box? Or just a higher-end, Yamaha-branded MIDI to USB cable with an inline interface?

Other relevant info:

-I downloaded Coolsoft MIDI Mapper, as suggested by a YouTube video, and it did not make any difference.

-My MIDI to USB cable/interface is 5 or so years old and I think I paid about $30; I do not know the brand.

-The one file I saved from NCH Mixpad had a lot of timing issues when I played it back in a DAW. How to describe the problem.... Lag? Choppiness? Pausing and then rushing forward? I don't know if it's more likely the laptop's processor, or the cable/interface, or the Clavinova that caused this issue, but one problem at a time: I need to make it work at all, before I worry about the quality (though I'd welcome any suggestions).

-Simply buying a new MIDI keyboard is not financially viable for me, or I never would have bought a 30-year-old Clavinova 5 years ago. I would have preferring one with more built-in features, such as recording! I need to make the one I have work if at all possible.
 
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SeaGtGruff

I meant to play that note!
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To respond to just a small part of your post, the timing issues you experienced when you played back the Mixpad MIDI file in a DAW might have been lag or latency due to the audio drivers on your laptop. If the DAW doesn't have an ASIO driver available, you might want to install the free ASIO4ALL driver to see if it helps. It isn't a "true ASIO" driver, but it sort of imitates an ASIO driver to help reduce latency.

Note that you'll probably need to experiment with different driver settings as well-- in particular, the buffer size. In fact, if you're already using ASIO4ALL or an actual ASIO driver, it might be that you just need to tweak your audio driver settings. I'm not sure how computer-savvy you are, but as you may know a buffer is sort of like a waiting room for incoming or outgoing data, in the sense that the computer lets the buffer fill up with data before the data is allowed to continue on its way.

In some situations-- notably, when you're streaming a video or playing back an audio recording-- you generally get smoother-sounding results by increasing the buffer size, so the data can be released at a steady and continuous rate without the computer needing to occasionally pause the audio or video as it waits to receive more data.

But when using MIDI to play virtual instruments, it's almost always better to decrease the buffer size, such that the audio being triggered by the MIDI events can be played as soon after those MIDI events as possible, rather than having the audio data get held back in an over-large buffer such that it doesn't play in time with the MIDI events.

However, setting the audio output buffer too small can cause problems with the sound, so it's usually necessary to experiment with the buffer size to find the "sweet spot" where the sound plays in a timely fashion but isn't marred by unwanted crackles and pops.

Of course, I don't know if that's actually what was going on when you were playing back the MIDI file in a DAW, but it's definitely something you need to be mindful of.
 
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Thanks for replying!

After I typed this, I tried one more time and managed to create a MIDI file without lag, and, in case it was a fluke, I did another one, and it worked! I have no idea why, my best guess is that I had just rebooted my computer before trying again. Maybe the processor was trying to do too much at once, and closing all other programs and rebooting gave me maximum resources, which I needed in order to create a MIDI file without lag (the laptop is far from latest and greatest).

Another possibility is that, before, I was using a trial version of NCH Mixpad, and this time, the trial had expired and I went to the free version (for non-commercial home use only), which probably requires fewer resources, since it removes most of the bells and whistles. It did not work in the trial of the full version, but did in the free version, so that might pose some difficulties down the line (unless I pay for the full version so I can release MP3s online, but actually use the free version because the paid version doesn't work with my hardware).

Right now, it doesn't matter because I'm not trying to sell anything. With all the free DAWs and sequencers out there, hopefully I can find another one that works with my Clavinova.

I guess the problem isn't the MIDI interface, or I couldn't have gotten it to work at all. Most of the software I tried could not even recognize that I had a MIDI keyboard plugged in, and, out of a dozen DAWs and sequencers, so far only NCH Mixpad has been able to find and use my Clavinova.

At least I can perfect my technique using NCH Mixpad to educate myself, and when I get good enough to try to release MP3's online, I can worry about finding another program/app to create my MIDI files, or buy the full version of Mixpad so I can use the stripped-down version without being a pirate. If it turns out NCH Mixpad is the only one that's compatible, it's certainly more economically feasible to buy $70 software than to buy a new MIDI keyboard with 88 weighted keys and a sustain pedal!
 

SeaGtGruff

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I doubt that Mixpad is the only software that's compatible, but I don't know why other programs haven't worked for you. Aside from Mixpad and Finale, which programs have you tried? Have you tried the free DAW by Tracktion?
 
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Thanks for your help. The only other DAW I've found that recognizes my MIDI keyboard and actually works is Cakewalk by Bandlab, and it only works immediately after I have rebooted my computer. I have come to believe that the main problem with the lag is that my laptop is 13 years old, and struggles to run Windows 10. I don't know why other DAWs and sequencers fail to recognize my keyboard, but as long as Cakewalk doesn't release a new update that renders me incapable of using it, I'll be OK with Cakewalk. (I did try Tracktion, it was the first DAW I ever downloaded. I couldn't get it to work, I finally deleted it last month. I normally edit MIDI in LMMS, because it's not such a resource hog on this old PC of mine.)
 

SeaGtGruff

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Yes, the age of the laptop might be part of the problem. It's a pain that computers seem to go "out of spec" so soon after we buy them-- and 13 years should be a reasonable length of time to expect an appliance to work correctly (and a computer is a kind of appliance)-- but that is the price we must pay to keep up with the advances that seem to occur at an ever-increasing pace.
 
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I'm considering whether to test this by borrowing a newer laptop or by buying a better MIDI interface. I have only had my laptop for 2 years, I bought it as a refurb and only recently found out just how outdated it is. As much as people say that any modern computer can handle a modern DAW and MIDI keyboard...some specs are certainly better than others!
 

SeaGtGruff

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I think that with older computers, the thing that can cause problems is not simply the speed of the processor, but all of the components that make up the computer, such as the hard drive, the monitor or display (in the case of a laptop or tablet with a built-in display), the sound card, etc.

If the original operating system gets updated or even completely replaced, there can be issues due to device drivers which no longer work, or due to components that can no longer handle the expectations or requirements of the newer operating system.

And there can be similar problems with running applications that have been updated to comply with the requirements of newer operating systems or to take advantage of bigger/faster/better components.

So with older computers it can often be best to stop updating the operating system and applications when they reach the point where they're starting to have issues with the older components.

That means you'll be running older versions of the operating system and all of your applications, but as long as everything is still working satisfactorily and you don't mind not having all of the "latest/greatest" improvements that were made in the operating system and applications, then that's okay.

Of course, another part of the problem with using an older computer is that it can become nearly impossible to find replacement parts if any of the components need to be replaced, as well as older versions of the operating system, drivers, and applications if they need to be reinstalled.
 
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Your Yamaha is old enough that it probably always sends out "active sensing" which can cause problems with newer stuff. Maybe you could find an interface or alternate DAW that can easily filter it out.
 
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I just ordered a new laptop yesterday, so hopefully that will solve some of my problems. I made sure it has the right specs for home music production, which is what I'm trying to do. I'll certainly take the advise on buffers if I still have the same problems!

I'm trying to find out if there are any interfaces that filter out active sensing. I did confirm that my keyboard does active sensing. I'm going to ask about this in a separate thread.

New laptop specs:
8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor (8M Cache, up to 4.6 GHz)
8GB RAM
512 GB SSD hard drive
Windows 10

A great step up from my 13-year-old refurb, with a dual-core 2.0 GHz processor, 4 GB of RAM, and a hard drive half the size, struggling to run Windows 10! This might solve a lot of my problems.
 

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