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There's something basic I'm just not getting about Cakewalk by Bandlab. I've been recording on computer for 20 years or more. But I can't get started with CW.

I simply want to import a midi file I've done and assign soft synths and plug-ins to the tracks and play the song. I just can't figure out how to do it, Is there something about Cakewalk that's fundamentally different from other daw's?  Any advice would be deeply appreciated.

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To create a new project from a MIDI file, open the file using File > Open from the main menu. If the MIDI output section in preferences has nothing enabled, CbB will automatically add TTS-1 assigning the appropriate instruments to the MIDI file.

It is possible to add a MIDI file to an existing MIDI track using File > Import > MIDI but import strips out the MIDI tempo data.

 

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Thanks,  scook. My soundcard is enabled in the midi output section. If I try to import a soft synth on the first midi track, it creates a new track at the bottom?  What am I not getting?

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Unless you need to send MIDI to the soundcard, disable it. Even if you do use the MIDI output, for now it may be a good idea to temporary disable it and see how CbB sets up TTS-1.

Adding soft synths to a project may be done in a variety of ways. Different methods have different ways to add (or in this case not add) tracks to the project.

Several use the insert soft synth options dialog. This dialog has check boxes to control which track types are added for the synth.

The add track menu has its own option settings. Midway down the page is the To create Instrument tracks section.

Regardless, it is easy enough to point an existing MIDI track to a synth and delete the newly created track(s) using the MIDI track output drop down.

A complete synth routing includes at least one MIDI track and one audio track (or an instrument track which is a hybrid track consisting of a MIDI track and an audio track).

 

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Thanks again. I guess what's confusing me is the fact that assigning a soft synth to track one creates a new track. I expected the synth to show up on track one and the editing to be done on track one. Maybe my addled brain will sort it out. Thanks.

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As scook tried to point out, adding a synth to a project in CbB can be done several ways. Each way has options that you must choose. To choose the correct options you want requires you know what those options do. That takes you reading the description for each one. 

One thing to understand is when you insert/create a syth Track, CbB will create an audio trk for that synth. This is for the soft synth output to be heard. It's input is determined by you when you create the synth track. 

 

HTH

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It sounds like you have "Create MIDI Source Track" enabled in the insert options. If you already have a MIDI track, you can disable this setting and route your MIDI to the soft synth you inserted without it creating a redundant track.

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This is potentially confusing for someone new to this. You have received some great answers here. In an attempt to explain a few things from a different vantage point I'll throw in my .00002 worth.

All DAWS are just a little bit different. Even older versions of Cakewalk aren't the same as the latest release, so don't feel as though this should be easy when it really isn't easy if you've never done it. All DAWS have to take recorded midi and send it to something that can play it. If you import the midi from something else obviously recording isn't needed. It seems that you have gotten this far since you have midi on a midi track. All Cakewalk tracks both audio and midi have two little boxes at the bottom of the track in console view. The top is the input. Bottom is where the signal is going. Clicking on the boxes lets you select.

Probably easier initially is to load a soft synth first. Now drag the midi right into it. No need to be concerned about input since the midi is in there already. Provided your audio interface or sound card is correctly hooked up you should be able to hear audio. It's that easy.

Plugins are drag and drop. Bit the "B" key and you should see an explorer with the available synths/media and plugins available. Just drag one onto the fx area of the track. You may also right click on a midi file and you will see FX in the list. Clicking on that will open a drop down of all midi effects.

 

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Following on Starise' post, The fundamental thing to understand is that there are four types of tracks in Cakewalk, MIDI, Audio, Synth, and Instrument (also called a 'Simple Instrument'.

- A MIDI track only records, echoes and plays back MIDI events.

- An Audio track only records, echoes and plays back audio.

- A Synth track is just an Audio track with a soft synth assigned as Input; it records , echoes and plays back audio from a synth.

- An Instrument track combines MIDI and Synth track functions into a single track; the Input is MIDI, the Ouput is Audio, and connections to a synth in the rack are more or less hidden.

It is possible to place a synth VSTi in the FX bin of an Audio track rather than using the Input assignment, but this is not the typical or ideal way to use soft synths.

In Cakewalk, it's preferred to insert the synth in the virtual Synth Rack (Views > Synth Rack), and assign the Output of a MIDI track and the Input of an Audio track to it. 

You can do this all manually, but the Insert > Soft Synth dialog gives you options for having the necessary tracks created automatically along with inserting the synth in the rack.

If the synth uses a single, stereo output, MIDI channel and patch/sound (i.e. 'monotimbral' as opposed to multitimbral), the easiest option is to choose to create a Simple Instrument track. Cakewalk calls this 'Simple' because it was the last type of track to be added to the program, and was considered 'simple' compared to managing separate MIDI and audio tracks. A lot of 'old-skoolers' don't like them because they obscure the signal routing somewhat, and make it slightly more awkward to use some features (e.g. MIDI Controller Envelopes), but they can be very handy, and this is probably what you're used to other DAWs.

For a multitimbral or drum synth that uses multiple MIDI channels and/or audio outputs, you will usually want to insert it with a separate MIDI and Audio tracks.

In your case, where you already have the MIDI tracks, you would typically choose to just create the audio ouput tracks, and then assign the outputs of your existing MIDI tracks to the synth. If TTS-1 isn't loaded automatically when you opened the MIDI file because your DAW has hardware MIDI Outs available or you brought the MIDI tracks in by File > Import, you can easily assign all the tracks to a multitimbral synth that you've inserted in the rack by selecting them all (Ctrl+A, or left-click and sweep through the track numbers), and then holding Ctrl while you change the Output assignment of one of them to the synth.  In that case, you would also need to assign an output Channel to each MIDI track to ensure eac MIDI track drives a single channel of the multitimbral synth.

Hope that helps clarify some things.

 

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Hey, thanks to all. I'm finally getting a little bit of a grasp of what to do regarding instrument plug-ins. Apologies for being so dense. I'm sure as I progress in learning Cakewalk, I'll hit more roadblocks and have more questions. I thank  everyone for their patience and willingness to help,

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It's the opposite of Reaper.

Reaper expects the track first and everything else inserted into the same track.

Cakewalk is more everything on its own track. Instruments first and tracks second.

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