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

MIDI iconIf you are trying to establish wireless MIDI transmission between your iPad and PC, there are a couple of ‘one-time-only’ tasks you need to do before you can get started. Both of these require you to install some software that is freely available via the internet – Apple’s Bonjour and Tobias Erichsen’s rather wonderful rtpMIDI – but, once you have done these installations, the setup process each time you want to use the wireless MIDI arrangement takes just a minute and, in many respects, if very similar to the process required when using a Mac. Do note, however, that both iPad and PC need to be on the same local network for this to work, although it doesn’t matter if the PC is using a wired or wireless connection.

Let’s break the whole process down into a number of steps and I’ll start with those first two steps that are only required the very first time to try to establish this wireless MIDI link:-

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

Step 1: For this process to work you need to have Apple’s Bonjour software installed on your PC. If you have iTunes installed on your PC, then you might have Bonjour installed already, However, if not, a quick Google for ‘Apple Bonjour download for PC’ will soon find the appropriate download from Apple’s website (it’s location does change so I’m not going to give an actual link here). The download is tiny so it doesn’t take long. Once downloaded, run the installer in the usual way. Again, this will take just a few seconds to complete.

Once you have downloaded Bonjour, the installation follows standard Windows practice.

Once you have downloaded Bonjour, the installation follows standard Windows practice.

Step 2: Now you need to visit Tobais Erichsen’s rtpMIDI website. The rtpMIDI software is free and you can download it from the website. Again, this is a small file and takes just a few seconds to install once the download is complete. The installation process checks to see if Bonjour is correctly installed before it does anything else so this provides a useful warning if anything in step 1 has not quite gone to plan.

Step 3: Once steps 1 and 2 are completed, unless your PC goes through a re-build at some stage, whenever you need to use a wireless MIDI link between your iPad and PC, then you can start here, at step 3. Run rtpMIDI and the main dialog window will open. Click on the ‘+’ button under the My Sessions box and this will add an entry with a suitable name for your system (you can change this name in the right-hand side of the window if you want to).

The rtpMIDI main dialog with a new session created.

The rtpMIDI main dialog with a new session created.

Step 4: You can then also adjust the ‘Live Routings’ settings (for example, in the example screenshots, I’ve set rtpMIDI to send MIDI data out of my PC from my Scarlett 816 audio/MIDI interface to the wireless MIDI connection) but you may need to experiment a bit with these settings depending upon your own MIDI hardware.

Step 5: Having set your routings, you then place a tick beside the entry in the My Sessions box and in the Enabled box. This makes the wireless MIDI communications ‘live’.

The new session has now been enabled

The new session has now been enabled

Step 6: Now you can move to your iPad and start up an app that can either transmit MIDI data (for example, Chordion, although there are other apps that can usefully transmit MIDI data to your PC such as V-Control Pro) 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 7: Launching a suitable app in step 6 will trigger your iPad to appear in rtpMIDI’s Directory box. Select it in that list and then press the Connect button. The iPad should then appear in the Participants list.

My iPad now in the participants list within rtpMIDI.

My iPad now in the participants list within rtpMIDI.

Step 6: 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. Usefully, the Latency value in rtpMIDI gives you an indication of the delay (latency) introduced in the transmission of the MIDI data via the wireless network. 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.

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.

Step 7: Finally, the fun bit. If you now open a suitable synth within your desktop computer system (my screenshot shows Mystic running within Cubase 7) you can select the network session (in my case, ‘John-PC’ 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?

Here, Cubase is set to recieve MIDI data on a Mystic synth track from 'John-PC' - the wireless network MIDI being sent from my iPad.

Here, Cubase is set to recieve MIDI data on a Mystic synth track from ‘John-PC’ – the wireless network MIDI being sent from my iPad.

But of course….  there is a step 8…

Step 8: 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 (see the screen shot in Step 6), 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 times 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.

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 in rtpMIDI. Second, while I’ve broken this process down into a number of steps – and it 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. I’ve added a little video here to illustrate how easy the whole procedure is.

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

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