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Using an iPhone to Store/Play MIDI files
February 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to talk to it (for turning the heating on from indoors, for example), I investigated using an iPhone in place of the outdated Palm.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 also assume that Android and other smartphones are alternatives, but I have no experience with those, although all my references to iPhones probably apply to these as well.

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

Expensive ?


Well, maybe not!   If you have an iPhone 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you don't have a smartphone, you may find that one of your friends/children/grandchildren has an old version - that has been replaced by a more up-to-date model - that they are willing to donate to you.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 organ is actually a SIM-less iPhone 6, much older than the current latest version 13, but it does the job perfectly.  I do have a version 6s Plus for my car!

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 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.   I also heard about Synthesia, which does have a nice piano roll type display whilst playing, but was told that the free version doesn't allow you to load your own MIDI files. It costs about £7, but stops playing if you switch the screen off.  

Transferring MIDI files


Having loaded Sweet MIDI onto my iPhone 6, I considered how to get the MIDI files from my PC onto the iPhone.   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 I could access on the iPhone, and when I opened that email, I clicked on each file in turn and sent it to the Sweet MIDI destination that appeared as an option.   Each time 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!

Interfacing


With Sweet MIDI set up on my iPhone 6, 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 iPad 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.

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 Rollcutter.com - have the same connections, so WIDI Master will also work with them.

 

CME WIDI Master

- Bluetooth 5

Wireless MIDI Adapter

 


Setting up WIDI Master

The instructions for setting up WIDI Master are very comprehensive, and can be downloaded here.   It is 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
Doing it the correct way, with 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.
  
The system was now ready for use, and I could select tunes from the Sweet MIDI App, 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, it takes only a few moments to repeat the Pairing sequence described above, although WIDI Master Bluetooth will already be paired and shown under Devices, ready for selection.

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.

 

 


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).  With the iPhone off, on the PC I clicked on Add a Bluetooth device, and WIDI Master appeared immediately and paired when I clicked.   As instructed, I downloaded and installed the Korg BLE MIDI Windows driver. 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.


Conclusions

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 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.

It is certainly easier to select tunes using the hand-held iPhone 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 add a Bluetooth remote switch module to turn the Control Board and motor on and off!


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.