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Magenta MIDI Interface

This interface allows you to connect to a model generator via a MIDI controller and synthesizer. These can be either "hard" or "soft" components.

Note that you can only interface with a trained models that have a SequenceGenerator defined for them.

Sequence Diagram for the MIDI interface

Example Demo

The simplest way to try this interface is using the AI Jam demo. The instructions below provide a more basic customizable interaction that is more difficult to set up.

Installing Dependencies

Before using the interface, you will need to install some dependencies. We have provided instructions for both Macintosh OS X and Ubuntu Linux.

For users of Macintosh OS X, the instructions below assume that you have installed Homebrew.

First, install Magenta. The rest of this document assumes you have installed the Magenta pip package. Before continuing, make sure your magenta conda environment is active:

source activate magenta

Install QjackCtl (Ubuntu Only)

QjackCtl is a tool that provides a graphical interface for the JACK hub on Ubuntu to allow you to easily route signals between MIDI components. You can install it using sudo apt-get install qjackctl.

Connect/Install MIDI Controller

If you are using a hardware controller, attach it to the machine. If you do not have one, you can install a software controller such as VMPK by doing the following.

Ubuntu: Use the command sudo apt-get install vmpk.
Mac: Download and install from the VMPK website.

Connect/Install MIDI Synthesizer

If you are using a hardware synthesizer, attach it to the machine. If you do not have one, you can install a software synthesizer such as [FluidSynth] ( using the following commands:

Ubuntu: sudo apt-get install fluidsynth
Mac: brew install fluidsynth

If using FluidSynth, you will also want to install a decent soundfont. You can install one by doing the following:

Ubuntu: Use the command sudo apt-get install fluid-soundfont-gm.
Mac: Download the soundfont from and unpack the SF2 file.

Set Up


Launch qjackctl. You'll probably want to do it in its own screen/tab since it will print status messages to the terminal. Once the GUI appears, click the "Start" button.

If using a software controller, you can launch it in the background or in its own screen/tab. Use vmpk to launch VMPK.

If using a software synth, you can launch it in the background or in its own screen/tab. Launch FluidSynth with the recommended soundfont installed above using:

fluidsynth /usr/share/sounds/sf2/FluidR3_GM.sf2

In the QjackCtl GUI, click the "Connect" button. In the "Audio" tab, select your synthesizer from the list on the left (e.g., "fluidsynth") and select "system" from the list on the right. Then click the "Connect" button at the bottom.


If using a software controller (e.g., VMPK), launch it.

If using a software synth, launch it. Launch FluidSynth with the recommended soundfont downloaded above using:

fluidsynth /path/to/sf2

Launching the Interface

After completing the installation and set up steps above have the interface list the available MIDI ports:

magenta_midi --list_ports

You should see a list of available input and output ports, including both the controller (e.g., "VMPK Output") and synthesizer (e.g., "FluidSynth virtual port"). Set the environment variables based on the ports you want to use. For example:

SYNTH_PORT="FluidSynth virtual port 1"

To use the midi interface, you must supply one or more trained model bundles (.mag files). You can either download them from the links on our model pages (e.g., Melody RNN) or create bundle files from your training checkpoints using the instructions on the model page. Once you're picked out the bundle files you wish to use, set the magenta_midi --help environment variable with a comma-separated list of paths to to the bundles. For example:


In summary, you should first define these variables:

CONTROLLER_PORT=<controller midi port name>
SYNTH_PORT=<synth midi port name>
BUNDLE_PATHS=<comma-separated paths to bundle files>

You may now start the interface with this command:

magenta_midi \
  --input_port=${CONTROLLER_PORT} \
  --output_port=${SYNTH_PORT} \

There are many other options you can set to customize your interaction. To see a full list, you can enter:

magenta_midi --help

Assigning Control Signals

You can assign control change numbers to different "knobs" for controlling the interface in two ways.

  • Assign the values on the command line using the appropriate flags (e.g., --temperature_control_number=1).
  • Assign the values after startup by dynamically associating control changes from your MIDI controller with different control signals. You can enter the UI for doing this assignment by including the --learn_controls flag on the command-line at launch.

Using the "Call and Response" Interaction

"Call and response" is a type of interaction where one participant (you) produce a "call" phrase and the other participant (Magenta) produces a "response" phrase based upon that "call".

When you start the interface, "call" phrase capture will begin immediately. You will hear a metronome ticking and the keys will now produce sounds through your audio output.

When you would like to hear a response, you should stop playing and a wait a bar, at which point the response will be played. Once the response completes, call phrase capture will begin again, and the process repeats.

If you used the --end_call_control_number flag, you can signal with that control number and a value of 127 to end the call phrase instead of waiting for a bar of silence. At the end of the current bar, a generated response will be played that is the same length as your call phrase. After the response completes, call phrase capture will begin again, and the process repeats.

Assuming you're using the Attention RNN bundle file and are using VPMK and FluidSynth, your command might look like this:

magenta_midi \
  --input_port="VMPK Output" \
  --output_port="FluidSynth virtual port" \