Help with Midi

Hopefully a midi question is ok to post here. As it involves gear that I think quite a few people have here, I think it’s my best place to ask.

Total newb to Midi, generally used way more euro in my life, but trying to be more productive, so midi it is.

Looking to integrate the following gear
DIY Norns
16n Faderbank

Before needing to add the 16n faderbank to the mix, i had a midi in/out to usb connected to norns and all was well.

Obviously if i want to use the 16n to control Norns, I just plug it into a port and all is good.

But if I want to control the octatrack with it, tats where I’m stuck. I thought if I plugged Norns, octatrack and the 16n into a powered usb hub, all would magically work.It didn’t.

Am i going about this the wrong way? Sometimes its hard to differentiate between improper physical setup and software setup.

Thanks for the help.

I don’t have and Octatrack or a 16n faderbank, but I have read their docs a few times in the past :slight_smile: So…

If I remember correctly, Octatrack does not have USB-MIDI. You need to use the OT’s actual MIDI ports.

The 16n Faderbank should be able to send MIDI over USB and minijack simultaneously (as read here at

Have you tried this setup yet?

  • 16n USB >> Norns USB
  • and also
  • 16n MIDI minjack >> Octatrack MIDI In

According to docs, at least, that should work. You should be sending the same MIDI commands to both Norns and Octatrack at the same time. I do similar things with FaderFox boxes on a DIY Norns and other MIDI gear. Works well for me.

Also: USB hubs are dumb things. They’re like a one-to-many mult in your Euro setup: they connect many client devices to host devices. That’s it. It won’t route messages around between things; that has to be done by your host. (MIDI over USB is exactly that: it is MIDI, a serial protocol, being transmitted over USB ports and hardwrae).

MIDI, as a spec, uses IN/OUT/THRU as ports, and sixteen channels of data across a cable. If your messages are going from a CLIENT to a HOST - eg, from 16n to Norns, to get them from Norns elsewhere (say, an Octatrack), those messages have to be ‘passed on’. That could be through ‘soft thru’ - ie, echo everything back out the OUT port that you don’t care about, very common these days; that could be through a separate OUT - ie, transmit on a different output; that could be a script that reads from 16n (which by default, transmits on channel 1), and echos to, say, channel 2, with an Octatrack set up to receive on channel two.

MIDI as a spec emphatically isn’t hub/spoke; it’s devices in chains, each set up to listen for a subset of messages. This was how it was designed, around DIN cables, long ago. (When we use USB-MIDI devices, we’re essentially puting each device on its own interface, so the sixteen channels going back/forth from 16n to Norns are totally unrelated to, say, the 16 channels going back forth to another USB-MIDI device connected).

If you think this doesn’t sound like USB, you’d be right. The host-client metaphor doesn’t quite match up to the chain-of-devices metaphor. If you think this is complex, well, I’m explaining it quite badly, but it feels like you need to spend a bit more time exploring the difference between channels and interfaces, and how messages move around; it feels like some of the key metaphors haven’t quite landed yet.

The Blokas MidiHub seems to be something that could mitigate a lot of this trouble; allowing for one to decide what kind of midi signals get sent where. I have very little devices with DIN ports, so I didn’t research it all that much, but it seems VERY helpful in light of something like the OT having midi DIN

I’ll take a look at the mini jack. Realized i wasn’t clear, but when i hooked everything up to the usb hub, i used a midi to usb cable for the octatrack, as you are correct it does not do midi over its USB port.

Another option – plug your usb midi adpater and 16n into norns, then add Passthrough to any script you want to use. Then midi din from adapter to OT and you’re good to go.

(good to go based on speculation and not intended to guarantee that you will actually be “good” or “going”)


Thank you, this is exactly what i needed.

Thanks for the reminder about that script. I have avoided modifying existing scripts, but seems like it is time for me to wrap my head around it, this seems like a simple enough entry point.

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Maybe not relevant here, but for the record, quite a lot of devices (that aren’t conventional computers) that can function as a USB MIDI host, don’t support hubs. This is often either because they don’t have the fundamental support for hubs, or because they don’t provide a way to (MIDI) address individual devices on such a hub.