Supported plug & play MIDI controllers

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Zynthian can be connected to almost any existing MIDI device and you can use the MIDI learning mechanism, as described in the UI user's guide, to assign parameters to faders and knobs in your MIDI controller, for instance. You could also assign pad trigger to notes, etc. But MIDI learning process takes time, it's limiting and you can't get feedback easily. Sometimes it's a lot better to plug a well-known (supported) MIDI controller and get everything mapped automatically. For having this, zynthian implements a controller driver API that allows developers to create specific drivers for specific devices.

This section contain documentation for some of this controller drivers.


This documentation is valid for the "chain_manager" development branch. It's only partially valid for the current testing branch so you could find some differences.

1 Akai APC Key25 MK2

This device supports two operation modes (and a third is in progress):

  • The "Mixpad" mode (default), which controls the Zynthian's Mixer and ZynPad.
  • The "Device" mode, which handles the Zynthian UI.
  • The "Sequencer" mode, which handles the Zynthian Step Sequencer.

1.1 The Mixpad mode

Akai apc key25 mk2.png

This is the default mode, selected automatically on start. You can also change to it pressing SHIFT + VOLUME or SHIFT + PAN. In this mode you can perform the following actions:

  • Tap a pad to start/stop a sequence. The pad LED will show its status as follows (pad color will always match the sequence color):
    • Dim solid: Stopped sequence without content (no notes in patterns).
    • Bright solid: Stopped sequence with content.
    • Blinking slow: Playing sequence.
    • Blinking fast: Recording sequence.
    • Pulsing: Syncing to play/stop.
  • Change controller's bank. There are two banks (1 and 2), which are used to handle up to 16 chains (with the eight track buttons/knobs). Bank 1 is for chains 1 to 8 and bank 2 manage chains 9 to 16. To show current selected bank, press and hold SHIFT. One of the track buttons LEFT arrow or RIGHT arrow will light up in red, LEFT arrow is bank 1 and RIGHT arrow is bank 2. You can press one of these buttons while holding SHIFT to change the bank.
  • Use track buttons to perform a function on chains. The function is chosen by pressing SHIFT + one of SELECT, MUTE or SOLO soft key buttons. Press and hold SHIFT to see current selected function on soft key buttons (in green). Functions are:
    • SELECT, used to change the selected chain. The key bed (black and white keys) will play on that chain.
    • MUTE, used to mute the corresponding chain.
    • SOLO, used to enable solo in the corresponding chain.
  • Mute main chain, pressing SHIFT + PLAY.
  • Change current scene using the track buttons. You need first to select that function by pressing SHIFT + REC ARM button. This function is affected by bank selection, so you can change up to 16 scenes. When selecting a new scene, the ZynPad will be shown.
  • Start/stop sequences of a row, pressing the corresponding SOFT KEY (without modifiers). If there are any sequence playing, they will stop. If there are no sequences playing, it will start those not empty. The action to be run is shown by the LED status (lit will stop, off will start).
  • Use knobs to modify chains' volume or balance. The function is given by current KNOB CTRL selected: VOLUME or PAN (for balance). To change the function, press SHIFT + VOLUME or SHIFT + PAN. The knobs are also affected by current controller's bank.
  • Use SHIFT + KNOB k1 to change volume or balance for main chain (what changes is selected by the current KNOB CTRL function).
  • Press SHIFT + STOP ALL CLIPS for a 'panic' stop, which stops all sequences, audio and midi playback.
  • Toggle audio playback with PLAY/PAUSE button. If Zynthian's ALT mode is active, it will toggle MIDI playback.
  • Toggle audio record with SHIFT + RECORD button. If Zynthian's ALT mode is active, it will toggle MIDI recording.
  • Stop all sequences of current scene (but not audio/midi playback or recording), doing a short press on STOP ALL CLIPS button; bold press to stop all sequences on all scenes.
  • Open the StepSeq mode for a given sequence, pressing SHIFT + a pad button.
  • Clear a sequence, pressing any track button + the sequence pad.
  • Start recording a pattern. For this, press RECORD + a pad button, which will 1) select the chain associated with the group of the sequence, 2) open the pattern editor for that sequence, 3) start playing the sequence and 4) start recording that sequence. If you press the pad again (without holding any other button), the recording will stop. Press again to stop playback too. You can also control the playback/recording with PLAY/PAUSE and SHIFT + RECORD buttons.
  • If the pattern editor is open, press SHIFT + UP arrow to go back to ZynPad. Press it again to go to mixer screen.
  • Open the ZynPad pressing SHIFT + DOWN arrow.
  • Open the sequence manager (also known as the Seqman sub-mode), pressing SHIFT + CLIP STOP. If this mode is active, the LED of the CLIP STOP button will blink in green, and one of VOLUME, PAN or SEND buttons will also be solid in red, each one related to a specific function:
    • SEND: this is CLEAR mode. It will remove all patterns of the sequence when its pad is pressed (leaving only a single empty pattern).
    • VOLUME: this is COPY mode. Press the pad of a non-empty sequence to mark it as source (it will blink fast). Press another pad to copy the selected source to it. It will CLEAR the destination sequence, and then copy all the patterns of the source sequence. Press the selected source pad to clear selection.
    • PAN: this is MOVE mode. It works like COPY mode, but also CLEARS the source sequence.
    • Use LEFT and RIGHT arrows to move from one scene to another. You can also copy/move patterns between scenes.
    • Press SHIFT + SELECT to exit this sub-mode.

1.2 The Device mode


This mode allows you to control the Zynthian UI. You can enable it by pressing SHIFT + DEVICE. If this mode is active, the button DEVICE will blink in red.

As you can see in the image, this mode mimics the Zynthian V5 hardware interface. The upper four buttons are OPT/ADMIN, MIX/LEVEL, CTRL/PRESET and ZS3/SHOT. Next row is ALT, METRONOME and PAD/STEP. The four buttons at the right side (in white) are F1 to F4. In this mode, transport is handled by PLAY/PAUSE and RECORD buttons, and the transport pads are only to show playback/recording status. Navigation buttons are UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, (in yellow) BACK/NO (in red) and SEL/YES (in green). For the directional keys, you can also use the track keys labelled as such.

The behaviour and status are similar of those in the hardware interface: there is support for short, bold and long press; screen access buttons are blue when no function is selected, green on it's primary and orange on its secondary function; ALT key changes to violet when active (and F1-F4 also change).

The nearest four knobs has the functions of Knob#1 to Knob#4. They can be used to control volume of selected/main chain, move vertically/horizontally in pattern editor or Zynpad, move selected item in menus, etc. Press SHIFT with a knob for a finer (slower) adjustment. The knob press is activated using the first four soft keys to the left (in green), and also has short/bold press support. The mapping is: Knob#1 = (K1, CLIP STOP); Knob#2 = (K5, SOLO); Knob#3 = (K2, MUTE); Knob#1 = (K6, REC ARM). This scheme is very comfortable in the V4 four-corners layout.

1.3 The Step Sequencer mode

Zynthian - Akai APC Key25 mk2 - StepSeq (alpha) demo I
Zynthian - Akai APC Key25 mk2 - StepSeq (alpha) demo II

This mode allows you to control Zynthian's step sequencer (and also the pattern editor). You can activate it by pressing SHIFT + SEND, or in Mixpad mode pressing SHIFT + a sequence pad. In this mode, the pad matrix is divided in two parts: first four rows (from top to bottom) are the steps of current pattern. The last row is used to assign notes or instruments for easy access (called NotePads in this document). With this mode, you can:

  • Open the pattern editor in Zynthian's UI with the current pattern, pressing SHIFT + DOWN. Press SHIFT + UP to go back.
  • Assign an instrument to a NotePad, by pressing the pad + any key of the key bed (black and white keys). The note will be stored in that pad, with the velocity you used. It will be lit with a brightness proportional to the velocity. If you press again the NotePad, it will play the note.
  • Remove a NotePad assignment, pressing STOP ALL CLIPS + the NotePad. Only the assignment is removed, the steps for that note are kept.
  • Select the active instrument, pressing SHIFT + a NotePad. It will start pulsating in the color of the instrument's page.
  • Change current instruments page, pressing LEFT and RIGHT arrows. There are 4 pages, each with its own color (1: blue, 2: green, 3: yellow, 4: purple). Upon selecting a new page, one of the first four track buttons will be lit for a second, indicating the active page.
  • Toggle a step in the current pattern, pressing a pad in the upper four rows. If the step is on, it will be lit in red (again, the brightness is proportional to the note velocity). Note that for this to work, you will need to first select an active NotePad.
  • Extend a step duration, by pressing an active step, holding it for 0.5 seconds, and then pressing another step (it must be greater in sequence). The source step will increase its duration to fill the space between the two pressed steps (included). The extended duration will be lit in orange. If you press the last pad in orange (while still holding the starting step), it will toggle between full and half step.
  • Play current sequence pressing the PLAY button. You will see the playhead (in white) moving along the steps. Pressing SHIFT + PLAY will start stage-play, which will update the pattern as it moves along the current track (press any pad to stop stage-play). Press PLAY again to stop playing.
  • Panic stop all sounds, pressing SHIFT + STOP ALL CLIPS. Any sound will stop immediately.
  • Adjust the tempo rotating the knob K1. The TEMPO screen will be shown briefly in the UI. Press SHIFT while rotating for a finer adjustment (0.1 BPM).
  • Adjust sequence's chain level rotating the knob K2. Also, the Mixer screen will be shown briefly in the UI while adjusting. Press SHIFT while rotating for a finer control.
  • Change the velocity, duration, stutter count or stutter duration of a step or NotePad, pressing the corresponding pad and rotating one of the following knobs:
    • K1: note duration
    • K2: note velocity
    • K3: stutter count
    • K4: stutter duration
  • You can also change these properties using control levels. With a control level, you will use the columns of the pad matrix to see and change the level of certain property of a step or NotePad. These are the key bindings:
    • Press VOLUME + a step/NotePad to activate the control level for velocity adjustment. VOLUME's track button will be solid lit in red. Press VOLUME again to exit control level mode.
    • Press SEND + a step/NotePad for stutter count adjustment. SEND's track button will be solid lit in red.
    • In stutter count control level, press again SEND to switch to stutter duration adjustment. SEND's track button will blink in red. Press SEND again to exit control level mode.
    • If, instead of pressing a pad, you press VOLUME or SEND + one of the 5 soft keys to the right, it will open the control level for each step or NotePad in that row. Now, just pressing another soft key will switch to the related row.
    • You can switch between different control levels by pressing the function that is not currently active (otherwise, it will exit that control level).
    • Pressing SHIFT + any pad in the active column will set the property value to zero (or 1, in case of stutter duration).
    • Press a pad in any active column to change the related step/NotePad value. Press top lit pad to switch between full and half value (the brightness will also change). The following table shows the relation between rows and values of each function (rows are from bottom to top, values are for Full/Half):
Row Velocity Stutter Count Stutter Duration
1 25 / 12 2 / 1 2 / 1
2 50 / 38 4 / 3 4 / 3
3 76 / 63 8 / 6 8 / 6
4 101 / 88 12 / 10 20 / 10
5 127 / 114 20 / 15 40 / 30
  • Quick change pattern in current track, by pressing SHIFT + LEFT/RIGHT. If next pattern (to the right) does not exist, it will be created (up to 8 patterns). The bottom row of the pad matrix will show current pattern (in red), and also where there exists a pattern (bright white) or not (dim white).
  • Roll current pattern to a side, pressing SHIFT + SELECT + LEFT or RIGHT. This will copy current pattern to the pattern on the left or right.
  • You can also enter the arranger sub-mode, to handle the patterns of current track, pressing SHIFT + SELECT. This mode will also open the arranger in Zynthian's UI. In this sub-mode, you can:
    • Change current pattern, just pressing a pad where there is a pattern (bright white). The selected pattern will be shown in red. You can also move to the left or right using the track buttons.
    • Clear a pattern, pressing MUTE + pattern pad. It will remove all notes on that pattern. The pad will blink briefly in red.
    • Remove a pattern, pressing STOP ALL CLIPS + pattern pad. The pattern will be removed, and all patterns to the right will slide to fill the gap.
    • Create a new empty pattern, if there are no pattern to the right, by pressing SHIFT + RIGHT.
    • Roll current pattern to one side, pressing SHIFT + SELECT + LEFT or RIGHT.
    • Copy a pattern to another pattern, pressing source pattern pad + destination pattern pad. The destination will blink briefly in green.
    • To exit this sub-mode, press SELECT. Zynthian's UI will also go to the previous screen.


2.1 ZynMixer driver


This Akai MIDIMix driver maps the basic mixer's functionality. Chains are numbered from left to right as shown in the zynmixer screen. Note that these numbers are not MIDI channels!

  • Bank Left: Strips assigned to chains 1-8
  • Bank Right: Strips assigned to chains 9-16
  • Master Fader: Main volume
  • Strip 1-8: Chain's mixer control, depending of bank selection
    • Upper Knobs: The 2 upper knobs are available for MIDI learning.
    • Lower Knob: Chain's balance
    • Mute: Chain's solo switch
    • Solo: Push SOLO to see solo status. Push SOLO + MUTE for toggling solo.
    • Rec Arm: Red light indicates active chain. Push to set active chain.
    • Fader: Chain's volume


3.1 ZynPad driver

Novation launchpad mini mk1 zynpad.png


4.1 ZynPad driver

Novation launchpad mini mk3 zynpad.png


5.1 ZynPad driver


6.1 ZynPad driver

7 Novation LAUNCHPAD X

7.1 ZynPad driver


8.1 ZynPad driver

9 Behringer MOTÖR 61 / 49

9.1 ZynPad driver

Behringer motor.jpg

9.2 ZynMixer driver

10 Korg NanoKONTROL

10.1 ZynMixer driver


11 Korg NanoKONTROL 2

11.1 ZynMixer driver


12 Mackie Control

Mackie control.jpg