MIDI Controller pedals! For some of us in the guitar community, they are an indispensable performing tool. And to many of us, it sounds like fanciful jargon out of a late eighties space opera. To get the lowdown on what MIDI Controller pedals are all about, we decided to have a chat with our friends over at Morningstar Engineering.
As bonafide pedals whizzes, these guys are currently making some of the most foremost MIDI contraptions out there – so who better to get us acquainted with this mysterious MIDI-um than the latest brand on our shelves. If you’re curious about learning how MIDI can up your game or what Morningstar Engineering is all about you’d best read on!
Tell us about Morningstar Engineering.
We create MIDI and effects controllers for musicians worldwide.
How did you come up with your brand’s name?
We just thought it sounds good. Do you like it? Haha.
Guitarists are mainly divided into two general groups: the modern ones who seem to have a handle on the latest guitar gadgets and the old school ones who aren’t so tech-savvy. For the latter demographic, could you explain what MIDI is and what your controllers do?
In a nutshell, MIDI allows you to control all your pedals at once without having to touch any of them. You just need to press a switch on your Morningstar controller and all your pedals will be set to your desired settings.
When performing, the benefits of MIDI control become even more obvious. It’s not possible to step on all your pedals to change your tone in the middle of a song. Even in between songs, that would create an unnecessarily long gap and distract you from your audience.
Maybe an illustration of a scenario might help our readers see the merits of MIDI. Could you give examples of what MIDI can do for studio and stage situations?
This gif is a great illustration of what MIDI can do for you when used on a pedalboard.
There are many applications for MIDI because it can be used to control various types of music equipment. As long as a device accepts MIDI, a Morningstar controller will be able to control it. That means you can control your MIDI-capable pedals, rack units, synths, computer (DAW) and plugins all with MIDI.
In a studio setting, MIDI really helps by allowing you to save the tone you have created and easily recall it in future. Once you’ve tweaked your effects and arrived at your final sound, you can just save all your pedal settings as a MIDI preset and recreate that exact same sound with just one switch press. This really helps with songwriting and the creative process because the sounds that we hear are a strong driving force for inspiration.
When performing, the benefits of MIDI control become even more obvious. It’s not possible to step on all your pedals to change your tone in the middle of a song. Even in between songs, that would create an unnecessarily long gap and distract you from your audience. With Morningstar controllers, you are able to name all your switches so you know exactly what each switch does before you step on it. With just a quick glance and a switch press, you have your desired tone locked and loaded.
In your own words, what makes your MIDI controllers unique in the pedal world?
Our MIDI controllers are fully programmable by the user. That means every switch can be programmed to do anything the user wants. We believe strongly in this level of customisability because every setup is different and every musician has different needs. That’s the beauty of it, and what allows musicians to push boundaries to create new things. Your MIDI controller should not limit your creativity, but open doors to more possibilities.
When it comes to connectivity, our controllers also give users a vast array of options. Today, MIDI connections are no longer made only through traditional 5-pin ports. More space-efficient 1/4 inch and 3.5mm MIDI ports are now also commonly found on newer pedals. Morningstar controllers offer you direct connectivity to them with their vast array of MIDI output types – 5-pin, 1/4 inch, 3.5mm and USB.
That’s the beauty of it, and what allows musicians to push boundaries to create new things. Your MIDI controller should not limit your creativity, but open doors to more possibilities.
We are also very focused on product design and user experience. By doing that, every product we create is greater than the sum of its parts. Our MIDI controllers offer a high level of customisability. And if not thoughtfully designed, they could have become complex, with steeper learning curves. We are glad we have successfully made our controllers really simple to use, with our powerful and intuitive Editor software that allows users to quickly and easily program their presets.
Could you give us a breakdown of your product line? What do they do and who are they for?
In our MIDI controller line up, we have the MC3, MC6 and MC8. All our MIDI controllers offer the same capabilities. You will not be missing out on any features by purchasing one over another. Where they differ is in the number of switches and presets they have, their I/Os (inputs and outputs) and of course size. We do have a product comparison chart on our website if you want to compare each of them spec by spec.
Other than MIDI controllers, we also have the ML5, which is a compact MIDI-controlled loop switcher that allows you to control your non-MIDI pedals with MIDI.
Can you use analog pedals with MIDI controllers or are they a purely digital affair?
Today, there are great companies that build analog pedals that are digitally controllable. So it wouldn’t be right to say that only digital effects can be controlled by MIDI. But yes, your receiving device must be able to accept MIDI to be directly controlled by a MIDi controller.
For pedals that don’t have MIDI capabilities (including many great overdrives, fuzzes and distortions), we have the ML5 Loop Switcher we mentioned above. The ML5 allows you to control your non-MIDI pedals with your MIDI controller, allowing you to switch them together with your MIDI presets.
How would one go about picking up learning more about the programming side of the MIDI controllers?
We have made using our controllers as simple and flexible as possible. There are lots of useful resources to help you get started:
- Read our blog articles
- Watch our YouTube tutorials
- Join the Morningstar User Group. They are a super helpful and friendly bunch.
- Join the Morningstar User Forum
What are common myths about MIDI controllers that you’ve heard before?
They make you a better player and your partner would be happy that you spent money on one.
What are things we can expect from Morningstar Engineering in the near future?
We have a few very exciting products in the pipeline that we are really looking forward to releasing. We’ve shared a bit about some of them on our social media pages and user group before but are not able to reveal any more information for now. Follow us on our socials for all the latest updates and news! We’d love to see you there.
Well, that’s been a mighty interesting episode in getting clued in to what MIDI and Morningstar Engineering can do for your guitar shenanigans. As we’ve learned, MIDI controlling isn’t a dark art for the pros – you might just benefit from having one on your pedalboard! Think of all the possibilities!
Are you ready to start harness the power of MIDI control? Swee Lee is proud to be an official distributor for Morningstar Engineering gear. Experience them for yourself by heading down to our Swee Lee stores and we’ll be happy to show them to you. Alternatively, head on over to our Swee Lee online store if you’re already convinced and would like them sent straight over to your home. Now excuse as we scoot on out – we’ve got a date with a few Morningstar pedals ourselves…
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