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Using an iPhone/Android to Store/Play MIDI files
Updated - again - October 25th 2022
Having been persuaded by John Smith to make a 20-note MIDI Busker organ to replace my Topsy - which was becoming too heavy for me to manage - I used a Palm device for music storage, as described on my  MIDI Busker page.  

However, as I recently purchased an all-electric car, and had to get a smart 'phone to talk to it (for turning the heating on from indoors, for example), I investigated using an iPhone in place of the outdated Palm.  

After successfully getting the system to work, I decided to add this page to my website as a possible aid to anyone thinking of going the same route - especially as Palm devices are getting rarer on Ebay.   Also, I must admit that the batteries on Palms can be a pain.

The interface is much more comprehensive and certainly more pleasant to use than the ones I've seen on SD Card Readers.

I had assumed that Android smartphones were alternatives, but I had to purchase a cheap reconditioned Alcatel version to actually find out for myself.  After failing to get reliable results with other apps I did eventually have success using Synthesia.  Unlike on an iPhone,  the Bluetooth pairing has to be done FIRST with another app - MIDI+BTLE - rather than with Synthesia itself or the Android 'phone's own Settings. 

After using the system for a while, I created an Instruction Sheet to remind myself of the procedures needed to get everything working correctly on an iPhone, and this can be downloaded as a pdf here.   I have another version here for restarting an Android setup now that Ian Dickinson has put me onto Synthesia!

As stated in the other article on my site which  was originally written to explain how a Palm Vx can be used to play music on John Smith's Topsy organs, the same setup can be used for any system needing to run MIDI files



After seeing the lovely display on Ian Dickinson's post on the BOGA Facebook page, I decided to try the iPad version of Synthesia - and it is great!    It will be my controller of choice from now on!  I have both Sweet MIDI and Synthesia on my cheapo first generation iPad, so if I want Playlists/Searching/Transposing I use Sweet MIDI, or Synthesia if I want the pretty Piano Roll display (see picture at the bottom of the page).  Its a bonus that once started, switching between the two Apps does NOT  require Bluetooth resetting.

I also looked at using it on a PC and my Microsoft Surface tablet, and there are notes about these - also at the bottom of this page.



Expensive ?

Well, maybe not!   If you have an iPhone or Android phone already, the costs of the player App and the Bluetooth adapter come to less than that for an SD Card Player - the 2Gb cards for which I understand are now less easy to find.   If you don't have a smartphone, you may find that one of your friends/children/grandchildren has an old version - that has been replaced by a more up-to-date model - that they are willing to donate to you.  If you just wish to dedicate this for use with your organ you don't even need a mobile phone account!   Setting up the smartphone, installing Apps, and receiving e-mails is all done using your home wi-fi, so the absence of a SIM card is no problem.   The smartphone I use with my car and organ is actually an iPhone 6s - much older than the current latest version 13 -  and the Android is an Alcatel 5033s, but both do the job perfectly.   Previously I successfully used a SIM-less I Phone 6 with my organ, but I managed to destroy that one!
Again, if you want to go that route, an old, first generation iPad can probably be obtained quite cheaply, or received as a donation from someone who has upgraded to the latest version.

MIDI Player Software

The first consideration was what software - or APP - to use for organising and playing the MIDI music files.   I came across a number of these, but for the iPhone I decided to try the one called Sweet MIDI.    This has the advantage of allowing MIDI files to be loaded into the free version, but with the provision that it would only play the first three quarters of any tune.   To get the whole piece, it is necessary to upgrade to the full version, but at a cost of only £12.99.   Multiple Playlists are very easy to create, and adding to them or changing the playing order at any time is a doddle.  Finding tunes is also simple, using any part of a file name.  The downloadable Instruction Sheet mentioned above includes a guide, although the app does have its own help file.   If you later install Sweet MIDI on other devices, but use the same account when doing so from the App Store, you do NOT have to pay the upgrade cost of £12.99 again.

For the Android I finally ended up with Synthesia, which can also have a nice piano roll type display whilst playing, but no playlists.   It costs about £7.49 to unlock Synthesia to get the tunes to play in full and access all its facilities.

Earlier, I had also found a -
free - app, the version of Chordana Play for the iPhone, which provides a pretty piano roll and keyboard display as well as the other functions like speed and pitch adjustment, but NOT Playlists.  It is also rather erratic, sometimes freezing mid tune or between functions, so I did not pursue its use.

Transferring MIDI files

Having loaded Sweet MIDI or Synthesia onto my smartphone, I considered how to get the MIDI files from my PC onto the phone.   I understand this can be done using iTunes, but I had struggled with that in the past.  Therefore, I simply 'attached' the MIDI files to an email sent from my PC to an account that I could access on the appropriate smartphone, and when I opened that email, I tapped on each attachment in turn. 
Sweet MIDI
Sweet MIDI as a destination appeared as an option, and each time it was selected Sweet MIDI opened automatically, and the file appeared in the Files list.   Then back to the email for the next file, until they were all transferred and ready to play.
Alternatively, instead of selecting Sweet MIDI directly, I tapped 'Save to Files', then 'On My iPhone', picked Sweet MIDI from the list, and then Add.  I was then returned to the email for the next tune, so this was quicker than selecting Sweet MIDI directly.
After transferring the files, when I tapped on a tune, it immediately started to play on the internal systhesizer, as shown by the controls at the top of the screen. 
I did delete all the files other than those that I had transferred as they would not play properly on my organ.

On the Android, when each attachment was tapped it was silently sent to a folder called Download.  To tell Synthesia that this was the folder that contained my songs, I had to go to Settings/Songs and tap the + button next to Help.   I then tapped 'Internal Storage' and selected 'Download' in the list that appeared.   When I tapped 'Add', I returned to the screen that showed 'These locations are searched for songs' and it now contained '/storage/emulated/0/Download/' in the list, with a count of the files contained there.
To confirm that this was a folder I wanted to use, I tapped it and I set both options to ON and returned to Songs.
For the other search locations, I tapped each and set their options to OFF.
So, when returning to Synthesia and Play a Song, only the files I had transferred appeared.   Although the count of files showed immediately, their names were not actually listed until I exited Synthesia and re-started it, but I may have been too impatient to wait for the software to catch up.
I selected one tune and when I tapped the play triangle under its name at the top of the screen, it played on the internal synthesizer.


With Sweet MIDI or Synthesia set up on my smartphone, I considered how to actually transfer MIDI files to the Control Board in my 20-note Busker.   I already had a Lightning to USB adapter and a USB to MIDI connector that I had obtained some time previously when experimenting with using an iPad, but thought that it would be far more sensible and convenient to use Bluetooth to get a wire-free connection. 
When I checked in Sweet MIDI - Settings (which I could only see if I turned the iPhone sideways!) under Output Type I could select Core MIDI, but was warned to select a Core MIDI Device in the previous screen if I chose this option over the internal player. The only option for MIDI Output appeared to be for a Bluetooth device, so it seemed that Bluetooth was going to be the only choice anyway. 
For Synthesia, I discovered that by previously running the app MIDI+BTLE a Bluetooth device was also an option to which to send its output.

Bluetooth Device

Again, there were a number of MIDI/Bluetooth Adapters available on Amazon, but I was drawn to WIDI Master at £34.85.   However, when reading the 'blurb', I discovered that it needed power to be available on the MIDI OUT socket into which the main part of the device was to be plugged.  The connection to MIDI IN would itself be plugged into the main part using its own short cable.  Further reading indicated that not all MIDI OUT sockets were powered, so I thought that I would have to modify the connections to the MIDI OUT socket on the Control Board in my organ.   However, after discussions with Christian Blanchard at Orgautomatech - who had supplied my Midi2Org32 board, - I learned that pin 4 on the MIDI OUT socket was connected to +5V via a 220 ohm resistor, with 0V on pin 2 - exactly as required!    Thus, when I inserted the two parts into the appropriate MIDI sockets and turned on the supply to the Control Board, the adapter powered up as expected - showing a slow blue flashing light.   I have since been informed that the Wale/j-Omega Boards - now marketed by - have the same connections, so WIDI Master will also work with them.



- Bluetooth 5

Wireless MIDI Adapter



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Setting up WIDI Master

The instructions for setting up WIDI Master are very comprehensive, and can be downloaded here.   It may a very good idea to read this document thoroughly before proceeding further, as I didn't, and got myself into a mess as a result.   There is a very, very tiny button on the main part of the adapter, which usually does not need to be touched, and there is a warning about doing so.   Nevertheless, when I could not get the adapter to pair with my iPhone, I pressed the dangerous button, for too long, and ended up with red then green flashes and finally a continuous green indication - showing that I had put the device into firmware update mode.   Frantic reading of the instructions, and with advice given - very quickly I must say - by CME - the suppliers of the adapter - I installed the WIDI App, and used it to update the firmware to get the device back to 'ready to pair'.

What I had failed to notice was that Apple has a different approach with Bluetooth to normal devices, and that pairing is NOT done DIRECTLY under Settings/Bluetooth on the iPhone, although the adapter does appear under My Devices after Sweet MIDI  has done its job.

Pairing with Sweet MIDI
So, ignoring the tiny button and doing it the correct way, with the organ switched on and the adapter slowly flashing blue, and with Bluetooth ON on the iPhone, I returned to Sweet MIDI and selected Settings - visible with the iPhone sideways - and scrolled down to SOUND.  For Output Type, I selected Core MIDI, and – after going back to the previous screen - selected MIDI Output.   Under Bluetooth MIDI, I clicked Devices and WIDI Master Bluetooth which showed as an option when it was found - then enabled pairing.   Returning to the previous screen I selected WIDI Master Bluetooth - which became ticked.
The system was now ready for use, and I could select tunes from the Sweet MIDI Files list, to play individually, in sequence, or repeatedly - depending upon what options I chose in the Settings menu - which I still could only access with the iPhone sideways.   The Help function (also only visible with the iPhone sideways) detailed these and lots of other functions available, such as Playlists, tempo changing and transposing.  Everything appeared to be very stable while I experimented with transferring and playing more files over the following couple of hours.

When using the system another time, I found it best to spend a few seconds using the 'Forget this device' routine in the phone's Settings/Bluetooth screen for WIDI Master to clear away any previous pairing.  It then takes only a few more moments to repeat the Pairing sequence described above.

Pairing with Sythesia
I downloaded the app MIDI+BTLE from Google Play, set Bluetooth ON on the Android, and powered up the organ so that WIDI Master was slowly flashing blue.  Running MIDI+BTLE to scan for Bluetooth devices, it found WIDI Master, and I was able to pair with it.   Leaving MIDI+BTLE running, after starting Synthesia, I selected Settings and Music Devices, then scrolled down to Music Output, where WIDI Master was showing.  (I left the Built in MIDI Synthesiser at Everything until later so that I could initially check if files were actually playing).  I selected WIDI Master and picked 'Send output to this device'.   I also scrolled down to MIDI Channel and selected Channel 1.   There is a TEST button at the bottom right of this screen which will play a tune (if one has already been selected?), so after using this I could step back and turn off the Built in synthesiser as the organ solenoids actually did 'rattle'!

Failure to Pair correctly
Occasionally, when starting afresh or some other fiddling with the iPhone - e.g. playing with Cakewalk - I found that although the WIDI Master showed a solid blue indication, signals did NOT get through to the organ.   As detailed in the downloadable Instruction Sheet mentioned previously I worked out that the best solution was to switch off the organ, stop Sweet MIDI, go to Bluetooth in the iPhone's /Settings, turn it OFF for five seconds and then back ON.  Then tap the
p symbol to the right of WIDI Master and 'Forget this Device' & 'Forget Device'.   Switching the organ back on, re-starting Sweet MIDI and running the Pairing sequence above then usually restored correct working.  This takes longer to read than to do!
Similarly, redoing the startup sequence for the Android cleared up and lack of communications between the phone and organ.

If you are starting a new session after running one previously, or if connecting to WIDI Master just will not happen despite it being found, then do be sure to use the 'Forget this device'/'Unpair' routine in the Settings/Bluetooth screen for the device that you are using to connect with Bluetooth to clear away any previous pairing info' that may be causing problems.  In fact, I found that doing this every time I started a playing session was well worth the few seconds involved.

Linking Organs


The WIDI Master device can be set to ‘central’ or ‘peripheral’, so up to seven organs – or other MIDI devices – using WIDI Masters can be linked together without the need for cables.


Tuning Organ Pipes with Synthesia

Synthesia is actually primarily designed to assist people learning the piano.   As spotted by Norman Taylor, this feature can be useful when tuning organ pipes.  Selecting Synthesia/Free Play shows the screen with a piano keyboard at the bottom.  Tapping the musical instrument icon in the top left corner enables a continuously-playing instrument - one of the organs - to be selected.  Then, tapping and holding the appropriate key on the keyboard causes a pipe to sound continuously, enabling its stopper to be adjusted for tuning.   Even with a motorised organ, having more than two hands available at this time would be an asset!
Of course a MIDI file with appropriate continuous notes can be used, but the Synthesia method could be an effective alternative.


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What about Cakewalk?

One thing I noticed when reading the WIDI Master instructions regarding its use with Windows 10 was that the latest issue of Cakewalk by Bandlab (free) now integrates an API that enables it to directly connect to WIDI Master.  My PC did not appear to have suitable Bluetooth available, so I purchased a USB Bluetooth Adapter 5.0, Bluetooth Dongle for £5.99 from Amazon and simply plugged it in (Didn't bother with the CD).  As instructed, I also downloaded and installed the Korg BLE MIDI Windows driver on the PC.  Once installed  it enables  Cakewalk to find the Bluetooth connection to WIDI Master after it has been paired in the normal way in Windows Settings.  So, with the iPhone off, on the PC I clicked on Add a Bluetooth device, and WIDI Master appeared immediately and paired when I clicked.  

Then, in Cakewalk, under Preferences/MIDI/Devices/Outputs I ticked WIDI Master OUT - which was now showing - and unticked Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth.   Then when I played the tune showing on the music roll display, it went straight to my organ, without the need for wires and adapters - simple!   This could be a boon when modifying music using Cakewalk as changes can be tried easily and immediately by switching Preferences between the Synth audio and WIDI Master outputs.   The latest version of Cakewalk is rather overkill for what I am likely to do, but the basic actions of adding or removing notes and transposing are all there like in the old version or in Anvil Studio.  BTW I have an instruction sheet for getting started with the latest version of cakewalk here.  


I must say that I am very happy with the new setup - if only to be able to cock a snook a little at those who disparaged my previous use of the old-fashioned Palm.  The Sweet Midi interface on the iPhone is   clear and easy to use - as shown on the SM sample screen -  and I'm also looking forward to playing with some of those options.   Using this method instead of an SD Card Reader also means that the work involved with installing  and powering it is not needed.   Using Sythesisa on an iPad or Android also gives the option of showing a pretty display of a piano roll and keys to amuse onlookers.

It is certainly easier to select tunes using the hand-held smartphone rather than poking about inside an organ trying to make out the restricted messages on a 24 x 2 LCD screen and using fiddly controls, but what if I had a motorised organ?   How convenient to be able to pick and choose music playing on the organ in my lounge from the comfort of my recliner armchair on the other side of the room.  The WIDI Master has an unrestricted range of 20 metres, but the final touch might be to turn the motor on a motorised organ on and off remotely!  
This could be done using a bistable latching relay that would be cycled by a spare output on the Control board.   This output would be activated by a one-note tune played initially to start the motor via the relay.  It would be played again to stop the motor at the end of the playing of tunes.  A latching relay would save battery power as it would only be energised when it actually changed state.

My thanks go to Ian Dickinson, Christian Blanchard at Orgautomatech, Peter and Rosemarie at Rollcutter,  and Zhao of the support team at CME, who all helped me with this project.  

The details above are concerned with iPhones and Android devices, but as mentioned at the top of this page, I found that using the piano roll display in Synthesia on an iPad is a real bonus for displaying to the public - or one's friends - and that is now my music player of choice.
The version of Synthesia for an iPad has a separate section for Bluetooth under Settings, but I find it quicker in the long run to always start with the 'Forget this device' routine in the iPad's Settings/Bluetooth screen and the re-pair in Synthesia.

To further extend the range of my trials, I also tried Synthesia  on my desktop PC and my Microsoft Surface tablet.   It runs equally well on these devices, but does appear to need the
Korg BLE MIDI Windows driver that was required  when using Cakewalk.    This is simply downloaded and installed on the PC or tablet.  Once installed  it thereafter enables Synthesia to find the Bluetooth connection to WIDI Master after it has been paired in the normal way in Windows Settings.
If the files are already on the PC the folder name is required. When retrieving songs from an email, with Windows, a folder has to be chosen into which they will be stored. In Synthesia, under Settings/Songs, the appropriate folder needs to be added to where songs are searched for - and 'Stop searching this Folder for Songs' clicked for the other existing destinations to reduce clutter.
(see the details under Transferring MIDI Files for Synthesia above).

Synthesia Unlocking costs
As mentioned previously it costs £7.49 to unlock Synthesia for Androids, and I think the same for individual iPhones and iPads.   For PCs, and any number of other devices forever, an lifetime unlock code for all can be purchased for £36.75.





Sweet MIDI Display





Synthesia Piano roll Display




iPad on MIDI Busker

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