Kemper midi automation thread

  • After getting a couple of questions on this in the Kemper Facebook group, I thought it would be useful to pool our knowledge and experience with midi automation in a single forum thread.

    Having experimented with it for a while, I now have proper and full midi effects automation working for both guitars in my band. I'm no means an expert on midi, and I may not be the perfect person to explain all this -- I know at least one forum member ( @chamelious from The Sun Explodes) who's been doing this for longer than I have. However, by getting this thread going I hope others will chime in and I'll learn something myself. :D I'll try and cover the basics first, and add stuff as I think of more things to discuss.

    Hardware requirements

    With all of the above said, let's get started on a little overview. If you want to get into midi automation, you essentially need three things (and a couple of midi cables to connect them):

    • your Kemper Profiling Amp (obviously);
    • a device to send midi signals, being either
      a laptop plus audio interface with software and outputs for playing midi and, preferably, at least one audio channel, or
      a dedicated device like the Cymatic LP-16 (more on this later);
    • a foot controller as a backup.

    Having a foot controller is highly recommended to ensure that you can take over manual (well, pedal) control in case anything goes wrong with the midi signal. If you own the Kemper Remote, you're in luck, since it uses its own network connector, leaving the midi IN port free to use for automation. If you use any other type of foot controller, like the popular FCB1010, you will additionally need a midi merger to combine the signals from the foot controller and the external automation source into the Kemper's single midi IN port. I can personally recommend this one because it's cheap and midi powered, so it requires no batteries or external power supply. I used it before I got my Kemper Remote and never had any problems with it. The power output of the FCB1010's midi OUT, for instance, is enough to keep it running.

    Getting started

    The one big hump for getting started on automation is that in order to keep the midi signal synchronized with the live band, it is almost mandatory to play to a click track. This has its advantages and disadvantages, the latter being of course that there is less freedom for improvisation, jamming, spontaneously extending song sections etc.

    Some genres are better suited to this. For a metal band, fast, tight and technical playing means there's often little room for improvisation anyway, and playing to a clicktrack will actually help improve tightness. Another advantage is that once you're playing to a click track, this opens up all kinds of possibilities, including timed sound and light effects, a pre-recorded backing track etc.

    In many cases, it's enough for the drummer to hear the click track through headphones, so that the rest of the band is kept in sync by closely following the drums (this is how my band does it at the moment and it works well). If your music has a lot of passages without drums, it may be better to invest in a wireless in-ear monitoring solution so that every band member can hear the click track individually.

    So -- you will have to put some work in to create tempo maps for all your songs. You can do this in any DAW/multitracking software of your choice; you can go all the way and take the opportunity to record a full demo version of each song (ensuring that you'll be very well prepared when you go into the studio, where the tempo track will prove very useful as well). If you want to have a pre-recorded backing track playing along live, this is where you create it as well. Just make sure that you program the exact time signatures and tempos for each track (and any changes to these during the song).

    The click track

    There are a couple of different ways to approach this. If your live solution is studio software running on a laptop, you could simply use the software's built-in metronome and play it through the headphones/in ear monitors. The metronome faithfully follows the tempo and time signature changes you programmed, usually accents the first beat of each bar, and requires no extra work. A disadvantage of this approach is that with a "blank" metronome, it's quite easy to get "lost" in a song: anytime you get slightly out of sync, you could end up playing along one bar too early or late, and never know it until you notice some programmed event happening at the wrong time.

    A more interesting approach is to program your own click track using a simple midi-driven percussion instrument (like a woodblock) that can output a couple of different sounds/pitches. That way, you can accent the first beat of each bar ("tick tock tock tock"), but also build in your own cues to announce tempo or time signature changes, or simply the chorus (for example, by making the last bar before the change go "tick tick tick tick"). The sky is the limit here: you can use different percussion sounds for each section of the song, announce changes in different ways etc., all to help you (or your drummer) avoid getting lost.

    Depending on the technical solution of your choice (studio software running on a laptop or dedicated device), you can then have this midi instrument playing directly or export it to an audio track beforehand. Either way: if you're also sending a pre-recorded backing track to the FOH, your audio interface and studio software should support independent output of at least two audio channels (because you don't want your audience to hear the click track).

  • Software tools

    Any studio software of your choice should work, as long as it can play audio and midi (if you want to use it live, running on a laptop) or export these reliably (if you want to use another device live, like the Cymatic LP-16).

    I personally use Ableton Live, which is great both for programming midi and for playing live. We record all our demo tracks in it, and until some time ago, we also used it on a laptop live for playing our pre-recorded backing tracks and sending midi. However, we recently switched to another hardware solution (see below), and this has revealed a disadvantage of Ableton Live: it's bad at exporting midi to a separate midi file -- time signatures and tempos are not exported. So I've started using the free software Anvil to restore these things in the exported midi file.

    Programming the Kemper

    I highly recommend using Performance Mode, simply because of the extra fast switching between the five slots within a performance (especially since FW 3.0). This ensures that you probably won't have to compensate for any switching latency when programming: you can just program all slot switches right where you want them to occur (typically at the first beat of a bar).

    The main midi instructions you need to know are:

    Program Change
    Used to directly select any slot in any performance.

    0--4: slots 1--5 in performance 1
    5--9: slots 1--5 in performance 2
    etc., up to PC 127; check the manual if you want to select higher numbered performances. Note: when a performance slot is active on your Kemper, its PC number is shown on the screen for reference.

    You should use this method at least once at the very beginning of each song to make sure you're in the correct performance for that song.

    Control Change

    • CC#50--54: switch to one of the five slots, respectively, within the currently active performance.

    I recommend using this method for the rest of the song after selecting the correct performance at the beginning. That way, should you ever change the order of performances on your Kemper, all you have to change in your programming is the PC number at the beginning of the song. Once you're in the correct performance, all the slot switches within this performance using these five CC#s will still work.

    • CC#17--20 (A--D), 22 (X), 24 (Mod), 27 (Delay), 29 (Reverb): control the on/off state of the stomps/effects.

    Setting one of these CC#s to a value of 0 switches the respective stomp/effect off; a non-zero value (henceforth '1', but can be any value op to 127) switches it on. Note that you only have to use these if you want to change the on/off state of a stomp/effect; i.e., if a stomp/effect is already on by default in a selected performance slot, you don't have to send a CC# value of 1 if you want it to be on.

    • CC#7: volume, same as using the volume pedal. This is a continuous controller that can take any value from 0 to 127.

    For other CC#s, see the Profiler Reference Manual (from page 97 onward).

    If you want to program several midi devices (more than one Kemper, for instance, or other hardware like synths or stage lighting), just use a different midi channel for each device and connect them in series using the midi THRU ports. The Kemper's midi channel can be selected in the System menu.

  • Advanced -- some best practices

    Slot switching with CC#50--54:

    The Kemper will switch to a given slot the moment the corresponding CC# changes from 0 to 1. If this CC# message were coming from a foot controller, this would mean the relevant button is being pressed by your foot. Shortly after, you would most likely take your foot off again, setting the CC# in question back to 0, but this has no effect on the Kemper.

    Now, when programming, you could take the same approach: the moment you want to switch to a certain slot, you change its CC# to 1; shortly after (e.g., the next bar) you change it back to 0. Every slot change would then be represented by a brief 0>1>0 pulse for the corresponding CC#. The disadvantage to this approach is that if you start a song in the middle of a section (during rehearsal), past the point where the CC# was briefly 1 to make the switch, it will be 0 again and your Kemper has no way to know which slot you wanted to use there.

    So I do this differently. I keep the CC# for the slot want to use in a specific song section at 1 throughout the entire section -- as if you would keep your foot on the button of a foot controller the whole time. Only when I want to switch to a different performance slot, I set the current slot's CC# back to 0 and simultaneously set the CC# for the new slot to 1. The result is that if, during rehearsals, you were to start a song in the middle of a section, the CC# for the slot you want to use will still be 1 at that point, and its value will be re-sent, so the Kemper will be told to switch to the correct slot, regardless of where in the song you start.

    Performance management:

    Even though I mostly use the same basic settings, I've created separate named performances for every song. That way, the name of the next song always automatically appears on the screen of my Remote, so I don't even need a printed setlist anymore! :D

    Volume swells and jumps:

    Changes to a continuous parameter like volume will be automatically smoothed out by the Kemper, so if you want to program a gradual volume swell, you don't have to put in every single value between 0 and 127. On the other hand, if you want an abrupt volume change, it's best to specify this by placing the two extreme values (e.g., CC#7=127 and CC#7=0) in very quick succession.

    Click track count-ins:

    Be aware that if only your drummer hears the click track, you need to program at least two, and ideally three bars of click track count-in before the start of each song. The first two bars are for the drummer, to give her/him an idea of the tempo and time signature; during the third count-in bar, the drummer hits along as a count-in for the rest of the band. These count-ins also provide ample room for any initial instructions you want to send to your Kemper, like the Program Change for selecting the correct performance.

    Using the FCB1010 with Uno4kemper chip

    Until a recent update to both the Uno4kemper chip and the Kemper firmware, there was an issue that made it impossible to use any other midi channel than channel 1 with the FCB1010.1 This posed a problem for bands using two Kempers and FCB1010's on stage, since you couldn't use different channels to individually control both Kempers (connected in series via midi THRU). If I remember correctly, The Sun Explodes solved this by using two separate audio interfaces.

    1. The problem was that no matter which midi IN channel was selected on the Kemper, outgoing midi was always sent on channel 1, causing the FCB1010 to automatically communicate over channel 1 as well. This has supposedly been solved in recent updates, but I haven't been able to test it myself.

  • Some info on the Cymatic LP-16

    This is a relatively new device; my band have recently started using it live for pre-recorded backing tracks and midi, and I thought it'd be interesting to share some info about it (not meant as an advertisment -- I'm not affiliated to Cymatic in any way :) ).

    The LP-16 can simultaneously play 16 mono .wav audio files (through 16 separate outputs) and one midi file (through midi OUT), all from an external usb memory. There's a PC editor for putting together individual songs (basically placing all the .wav files and the midi file for every song in a separate folder) and for arranging these songs in playlists. A playlist contains a sequence of songs; you can specify for every transition between songs if you want it to start playing the next song immediately, wait a predetermined number of seconds, or pause until you press a button on the device.

    Note that this device doesn't have a built-in metronome or midi sound bank, so you'll have to program your own midi click track and either export it to .wav or use a standalone sound bank to play it.


    • Reliability -- with a dedicated, standalone hardware device, you don't run the risk of software failures and long reboots that come with using a laptop plus an audio interface.
    • Simplicity -- we keep it in a simple flight case with all cables connected, so it's really just a matter of switching it on, connecting it to a PA and pressing play.
    • It's a lot cheaper than a laptop and an audio interface, which also reduces the risk of theft.


    • At the moment, it doesn't send out midi tempo information, which could be useful for synchronizing delays and other timed effects in the Kemper. I'm hoping this feature will be added a future firmware update.
    • You can't rewind or fast-forward within songs, which can be a little cumbersome during rehearsals -- you can only play the whole song from the beginning. Edit (2019): this is no longer the case thanks to firmware updates.

    Final words

    If you want to give this a try, don't hesitate. It takes a little work initially but it's worth it for that very first time when you have that difficult solo coming up in the middle of a song, and instead of worrying about doing the old footswitch tap dance and potentially stepping on the wrong button and messing everything up, you can just concentrate on your playing; and instead of being tied to the spot where your foot controller is, you can have fun interacting with the audience. In short: glorious, magnificent freedom!

  • Excellent posts! Thanks @Robrecht for the effort of writing this all out. I'm familiar with midi automation for live performances, but there were a few tips here that I hadn't thought of before. Good stuff!

    Regarding the LP-16... Could it be used to control the necessary switching for two Kempers (two guitarists)? The midi file having change commands on separate midi channels, and from the LP-16 into a Thru Box, for example?

  • Thanks man. I tried to cover all the basics here; might add some more advanced ideas later!

    Regarding the LP-16... Could it be used to control the necessary switching for two Kempers (two guitarists)? The midi file having change commands on separate midi channels, and from the LP-16 into a Thru Box, for example?

    Sure! We're using it now to control my Kemper and the other guitarist's Boss GT-100. We're just set to different channels, and midi messages for both these channels are in the same midi file. There's a cable going from the LP-16 into my Kemper, and another one from my Kemper's midi THRU into the GT-100's midi IN (although a THRU box would work too of course). That's it! Same thing should work for two Kempers.

  • Sure! We're using it now to control my Kemper and the other guitarist's Boss GT-100. We're just set to different channels, and midi messages for both these channels are in the same midi file. There's a cable going from the LP-16 into my Kemper, and another one from my Kemper's midi THRU into the GT-100's midi IN. That's it! Same thing should work for two Kempers.

    Ahh, of course. I didn't think of Midi Thru on the KPA... Very cool, I'm really tempted to pick one up now. Could be extremely useful!

  • Hey dude, thanks for the mention. Great work here!

    For clarification our setup is as follows:

    Audio interface to handle the audio from the laptop, none of the midi.

    Midisport 2x2 midi interface for all the midi stuff. One midi out for each Kemper router seperately in the DAW (Reaper). These go into a midi merger before they hit the KPA (We use the one you recommend), as we also have FCB1010's for switching, and the KPA only has one midi "in". The midisports midi "in" receives trigger data from a drum trigger pad (Roland spd-s) which our drummer uses to start the songs.

    The midi through would work...If both guitarists in the band have the same patch changes at the same time, which we don't :)

    Also happy to answer any questions if anyone has any.

    [Blocked Image:]

    I need to get a shot round the back! All the gear mentioned above is in a rack tray round the back. When we turn up at a show, i just plonk the laptop on top and connect up 2 USB cables that live in the rack. Connect up 1 power, 3 cabs and 2 footswitchs via a patch panel on the back and we're good to go!

    The patch panel on the front is an XLR out for the 2 KPA's and the bass head. The rackmount DI above that is the tracks from the laptop, there's a L and R out and a separate channel for sub drops which can be merged into the L+R channels if the engineer requires it.

    ...Might as well finish now i started! The tuner on top is in line with the bass stuff, bassist has nothing on the floor. The rack tray on the front has our 3 wireless's in. That's a behringer epq900 power amp near the bottom of that the 2 guitarists use one channel of for stage sound.

  • Thanks man, I was hoping you'd come in and explain a little about The Rack. :thumbsup: Amazing system, must be great to have it all working.

    So -- to recap -- you're using two separate midi OUTS because
    a) you want to control two Kempers individually (with different patch changes for each), and
    b) both Kempers are hooked up to FCB1010's with Uno4kemper chips, meaning that (at least until the latest firmware revision) they both have to operate on midi channel 1 or omni,
    so that you can't separate the signals by using two different channels on the same out and midi THRU from one Kemper to the other.

    Using a drum pad to start the songs is a great idea. The LP-16 we're using has a fairly simple layout with easy-to-push buttons, so for now our drummer has it within arm's reach and simply pushes the Play button when needed. The click track count-ins give him enough time before the song actually starts.

    Our current setlist has only a couple of real stops where the LP-16 is programmed to wait for a button press; most songs automatically segue into each other with just enough time for the singer to announce the next one. One thing we're thinking about is to give the singer control over the longer pauses by means of a footswitch (the LP-16 takes a TS footswitch jack) so that he can decide when his stage banter is over and kick off the next song. :)

  • Yes you're right on all counts. Cool setup dude!

    Out "set" (or session in Reaper) actually has all our backing tracks in there for any song we might need. After most of them theres a "stop" marker, but on some one song runs into another, or an intro runs into a song. If for any reason the drummer can't use the spd-s i can start stuff manually :)

  • Rob,

    Great post. You have really got me thinking about using MIDI and performance mode to make things easier. Which got me thinking onto not just live but recording applications.

    You see I record songs and sketch them out on guitar. Sometimes I don't go back to a song for weeks. Then when I want to re-record parts, or add extra bits I find it a struggle to re-create the same sounds.

    Therefore I am thinking. Having a different performance for each song and naming it with the song name allows me to sculpt up to five sounds for each song and save them there and then. When I return to the recording I can instantly recall the sound of the solo etc not just with the internal kemper fx but also with my MIDI delay/modulation unit controlled by program changes.

    Not sure why I did not think of this before. But it seems obvious now!


  • Two thoughts:

    If your song does not use recorded parts or midi parts for play back and you use just one sound, you can then just use the song to send program for everyone and that is it. A simple one bar song.

    For more complex songs with program changes or samples, midi playback. You could extend songs by pausing playback and then playing that section live. I have also used a looper in those areas. Some software also allows you to have a section repeat and controlled with a footswitch.

    Another thing we do is using a Keith Mcmillen 12 step, to add more functionality and getting away from complete midi.

  • Midi automation of Performances in Cubase 7:

    having finally resolved my own problems with automating my performances from within Cubase, I'm happy to share the procedure I followed.
    Most probably there are other ways, but anyway this one works for me.

    (click on pics to see whole picture)

    create a new midi device or select yours if already present in the dropdown list (menu - midi device manager)
    select the individual channels you're gonna use and name your device
    select your midi-out port for the device
    save it

    select your device from the list and open it
    from the command select box (enable edit) create a new bank (which I named "Performances")
    select your bank and choose the command "new preset" or "multiple presets" if you want to assign all 128 programs at once.

    in the screen on the right under "midi message name" choose "program change" and type in the value
    (read Robrecht's info above for details on performances and the corresponding program change value)
    If making preset by preset you manually have to insert each program change for each performance preset
    If choosing "multiple presets" Cubase will create 128 presets (or a lesser number if you select a range) with ascending program change value (as I did)
    So the first preset would be Performance 1 - Slot 1 with midi PC 0
    The second would be Performance 1 - Slot 2 with midi PC 1
    ... and so on
    Now you can save your configuration and probably it's a good idea to export the setup (xml)

    Create a midi track
    In the inspector these are my settings:
    output = your midi out connected to your KPA
    midi channel = the channel you have in your KPA system settings (maybe "omni" will do also, but I am on channel 1)
    in the selection field "program" you can select a preset (a performance in this case) from your newly created midi device

    Finally you can start automating the midi track by double clicking in the track space
    This will open the key editor
    At the bottom left you will see a selection field (dropdown) in which you can choose a parameter for the controller lane (most likely "volume" or "velocity" is active)
    From the dropdown list change the parameter to "program change"

    So now you should be able to draw your program changes in the midi track
    Now activate read enabled for your midi track and you should be all set

  • This is my live setup, it has been working really good so far.

    The drummer controls a laptop running QLab for both clicktrack, backing tracks and midi cues for the Kemper via a Focusrite card.

    The only thing I need on stage is a Mission expression pedal for wah and tuner activation. I made a compartment in the case lid for the pedal, IE receiver and other stuff I need, so I don't need an extra case for that. I like to travel light!

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  • Thanks for the tips! I followed Chilipepper's guide and everything worked out very well with Cubase 5. My band uses backing tracks for orchestrations and drummer of course plays with click, so I thought that maybe I could stop jumping on my FCB1010.

    But, my old laptop doesn't quite have enough horsepower to run smoothly Windows 7 and Cubase, plus my old sound card M-Audio Audiophile USB wasn't nearly stable enough in Win7. So I installed Ubuntu in which my sound card worked out of the box. Then I installed MusE (it's a Linux DAW) and it actually worked straight: I had taken an audio mixdown (only one track) where was all the songs and then corresponding midi file with Kemper automation out of the Cubase and then imported the two tracks into MusE... worked straight without any configuration! :D Including tempo changes, and Markers which help to jump to the song I want to play.

    Only time will tell if this setup is trustworthy enough... but if it ain't, then I will probably get one of these:

  • Hi all,

    I got a lot of question regarding MIDI and all this... Please be patient, it's a new world to me ! Many thanks in advance...

    I recently purchased a Kemper rack (non-amplified). The main goal is to get rid of all pedals, and 80+ kilos of gear. I'm half-way there !

    We use in our live configuration two Kemper (two guitar players), we have samples, so we also have a computer with a soundcard, and our drummer is following the click.

    So. My next step is to program MIDI sequences in order for our patches to be automated.

    And here's my problem: I don't understand. I simply don't. I think there are some notions that I lack and I just spend my whole day trying to understand how to make theses damn MIDI tracks.

    My rig: Kemper => Steinberg UR 22 in MIDI (IN and OUT) => SonarX3

    So far, I have these understanding (feel free to correct me):

    I programmed on the Kemper various patches, both in Browser (in "MIDI PrgChg#", the 5 first presets) and Perform (with some "example song" and 5 patches inside) mode.

    With some help of this video:

    I mapped my MIDI IN and OUT correctly (with the UR22 in both sides), and then tried to work on a MIDI track I added...

    And this is were I'm totally in the dark... my limited understanding of this new world is crippling ;=)

    So there it is. If you need any other info, I'll be glad to answer, and many, many thanks in advance for those who will help !