Wireless MIDI – or how to use a wireless network to transmit MIDI data between your iPad and Mac desktop computer

MIDI iconIf you are trying to establish wireless MIDI transmission between your iPad and Mac, the best bet is to establish what’s often referred to as an ‘ad hoc’ wireless network on your Mac itself (as explained below, this is easy to do) rather than use whatever wireless network you may have available that you use for general networking tasks in your building. This ‘ad hoc’ network is likely to have less traffic on it (in essence, it becomes a wireless network shared only by your Mac and iPad) and, as a result, the performance may well be better. Let’s break the whole process down into a number of steps:-

[You can find the iPad to PC ‘how to’ guide here]

Step 1: Ensure that wireless networking is enabled on your Mac (it might not be if your Mac has a wired Ethernet connection). Examine the status bar at the top-right of your display to check the wireless network status. If you right-click on the wireless network icon, a drop down menu will appear with an option allowing you to toggle on/off wireless networking. Make sure it is switched on.

You might need to turn on your Mac's wireless network option.

You might need to turn on your Mac’s wireless network option.

Step 2: From the same drop-down menu as in step 1, select the ‘Create a network’ option. This will open a small dialog with some suitable default settings that you can just leave alone as, in most cases, they will be absolutely fine. Do note the name of the network that you are about to create though (and you can change this if you want it to be something specific). Click on ‘Create’ and this will create a new wireless network with the chosen name and running from your Mac.

Select the 'Create Network' option once Wi-Fi is enabled.

Select the ‘Create Network’ option once Wi-Fi is enabled.

You can enter a name for your new network if you wish...  but the default settings are fine.

You can enter a name for your new network if you wish… but the default settings are fine.

Step 3: Switch to your iPad and go to the Settings app. Open the Wi-Fi options, ensure that Wi-Fi is enabled and then, from the ‘Choose a network’ list, select the new network that you created in step 2. Once your iPad connects to that, both your Mac and iPad should now be on the same wireless network and, with any luck, be the only two devices sharing that connection.

My iPad is now using the  wi-fi network created on my Mac.

My iPad is now using the wi-fi network created on my Mac.

Step 4: On your iPad, start up an app that can either transmit MIDI data (for example, Chordion) or that can receive MIDI data (for example, one of your favourite synth apps; Thor would be good example in my case).

Chordion is a great tool for generating MIDI data.

Chordion is a great tool for generating MIDI data.

Step 5: Open the Audio MIDI Setup on your Mac (you can find it in the Launchpad if you don’t have it permanently available directly from the Dock). You can ignore the Audio Devices window and, instead, open the MIDI Studio window if it doesn’t open automatically.

The MIDI Studio window of the Audio MIDI Setup.

The MIDI Studio window of the Audio MIDI Setup.

Step 6: Amongst the MIDI devices should be one named Network. Click on this and the MIDI Network Setup dialog should appear. A shown in the screen shot, under My Sessions, you should see one session active (with a tick). In the Directory box, select your iPad (it should be listed) and then press the Connect button. This should establish the MIDI connection between the iPad and Mac and the name of the iPad should appear in the Participants box in the dialog.

The MIDI Network Setup dialog.

The MIDI Network Setup dialog.

Step 7: The other settings you might need to look at in this dialog are the Live Routings. This shows which of the available MIDI ports is currently being used to send and receive MIDI data via this connection. In my case, MIDI is being sent to my iPad via the MIDI out of my Scarlett 8i6 (which is currently connected to my iMac) and being received from Network Session 1 (that is, any MIDI out data sent from the iPad to the Network Session – see the next step).

Step 8: You then need to go to back to the iPad and find the MIDI settings of the app you opened in Step 4 and hunt around for the MIDI in or MIDI out (or both) options. You are looking to set these so that the app can receive and/or transmit MIDI data on the ‘network session’. Often, if you have left all the default settings on your Mac when setting the wireless network up, this might simply be called ‘Network Session 1’. The screen shots shown here for Chordion and Thor show the kinds of things you might be looking for. If you use the MIDI Bridge utility on your iPad, you can also find this ‘network session’ as a MIDI source and destination, enabling you to make connections between the various music apps you might be running. Using Chordion as my example, if I then starting tapping the chord ‘hex’ buttons, I should see little red lines appear in the MIDI Network Setup Latency bar. This gives you an indication of the delay (latency) introduced in the transmission of the MIDI data via the wireless network but also confirms that MIDI data is being received my the Mac from the iPad. Providing there is no source of interference on your wireless network, the latency should be very low and of no real consequence – but it’s worth checking if things seem a bit laggy.

Chordion set to transmit MIDI data to the network session.

Chordion set to transmit MIDI data to the network session.

Step 9: Finally, the fun bit. If you now open a suitable synth within your desktop computer system (my screenshot shows Halion Sonic running within Cubase 7) you can select the Network Session 1 as the MIDI input source for the MIDI rack controlling the synth… tap a few hex buttons in Chordion and out come the chords in your desktop synth. How cool is that?

Cubase 7 running on my Mac and set to receive MIDI data from my iPad via the network session.

Cubase 7 running on my Mac and set to receive MIDI data from my iPad via the network session.

But of course…. there is a step 10….

Step 10: Having got the MIDI data going from iPad to desktop, it will equally go in the opposite direction. For example, having configured Thor to receive MIDI data from Network Session 1, if I now play the MIDI master keyboard connected to my desktop computer (mine is connected to my Scarlett 8i6 audio/MIDI interface), that MIDI data will be passed to your iPad and your iPad synth (in this example, Thor), will make some noise. This is useful for those ties when you don’t want to re-patch MIDI cables to play a few iPad-based instruments and, with the audio from my iPad being routed back to my Scarlett 8i6, I can fully integrate my iPad synths into my desktop recording system. Also very cool.

If you want to send MIDI in the other direction, your app - Thor is this case - must be set to receive data via the network session.

If you want to send MIDI in the other direction, your app – Thor is this case – must be set to receive data via the network session.

A couple of final comments. First, this kind of ad hoc ‘wireless MIDI’ can, on occasions, be a bit unpredictable. The main issue I’ve experienced is simply that the connection gets dropped if the iPad goes into ‘sleep’ mode. However, all you need to do is wake the iPad and then re-connect from the desktop via the MIDI Network Setup. Second, while I’ve broken this process down into 10 steps – which kind of sounds like a long-winded process – in fact, once you begin to do it regularly, the whole thing takes just a minute to complete.

And to illustrate this, here is a short video of the procedure. Good luck and happy networking :-)

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