MQ Introduction

MIDI System Exclusive Messages: What's The Connection?

Mention the words "System Exclusive" to most musicians and you'll get a blank stare. Mention them to a hardware engineer and you'll get a complex stream of hexadecimal numbers with many technical explanations. Mention them to a MIDI equipment owner and you'll likely get a combination of these two reactions accompanied by a disclaimer that System Exclusive messages are mainly for masochists with too much time on their hands. Such is the unfortunate reputation of System Exclusive (SysEx) messages.

If you don't know what a SysEx message looks like, we invite you to have a look at this short (by SysEx standards) message that describes the drum instrument settings of the Korg 01/W (a Korg Workstation):


Conceptually, SysEx messages are not that difficult to understand. Rather than describing decisive performance events such as keys being pressed and controllers being manipulated, SysEx messages have the task of describing all the parameters defined in any given instrument along with their current values. Where things start getting complex is that no two models of MIDI hardware have the same parameters, and no two manufacturers use identical message structures to phrase their SysEx information. To make matters even worse, manufacturers often change their SysEx formats between models and sometimes even change them between revisions of the same product!

We conclude this brief introduction to SysEx messages by saying that they are:

1.Complex streams of hexadecimal numbers,
2.very technical, and requiring of many explanations, and
3.mainly for masochists with too much time on their hands.

All kidding aside, this is the reason Midi Quest was designed in the first place: Midi Quest deals with the multitude of system exclusive messages that your gear requires while presenting you with an intuitive and clean interface for sound design. This leaves you free to spend more of your time making music, which is what it's all about, right?

Instrument Modules - Under the Hood

With over 800 different supported products (each with their own specialized form of SysEx message), you might wonder how Midi Quest handles them all without going crazy. The answer is hidden within the instrument module.

Instrument modules are composed of two types of files: Drivers and Panels. The drivers enable the instrument module to speak the native SysEx language of the hardware instrument, while the panels define the layout and configuration of every control you use while editing parameters. Unless you have purchased Midi Quest Pro and plan to create your own Instrument Modules, you will never have to deal with driver and panel files - Midi Quest automatically installs and manages these files for you when instrument modules are added and removed from the studio window.