Everyone’s seen Synthesia, on YouTube. It’s the Guitar Hero-style “falling notes” thing, usually in blue/green colors (blue for left hand, green for right hand). My favorite tutorials featuring Synthesia are ones that DON’T have the singing/vocal, played with the right hand. If I want to learn something, I want to learn EXACTLY what the song is doing, instrument-wise (such as this superb tutorial by “Tutorials by Hugo”, of Birdy’s magnificent Bon Iver cover “Skinny Love”). I don’t want to learn the vocal melody on piano… that’s great if you’re an absolute virtuoso and can literally play “classical-style”, with a complex left hand AND a complex right hand, but again… it’s not the original song. The original piano arrangement of most songs feature the root notes in the left hand (or a left-hand accompaniment pattern), and chords/embellishments in the right. But hey, that’s for another time. Let’s get back to Synthesia.

I bought this software years ago, and finally figured out an easier method for making piano tutorial videos (with custom sounds that aren’t general midi crap sounds, like a lot of Synthesia tutorials on YouTube). Here’s how you do it (for Windows people):

Use the free LoopMIDI virtual MIDI port program. Create a single virtual port, such as “Synthesia”. Go into Synthesia’s settings, and then Music OUTPUT. Set the virtual port to “Synthesia” and the settings to “Notes” (My Notes, Background Instruments, but not Percussion or the Metronome). If you’re recording or playing live, set Synthesia’s Music INPUT to whatever MIDI keyboard you have connected to your computer.

Now go into your DAW (in my case, Reaper 5, as always)… enable “Synthesia” as a MIDI Input… and create a track with your favorite piano sound on it. For me, Kontakt and Sampletekk’s various pianos, including 7CG MKII, SSG MKII, and others (White Grand MKII / Blue Grand MKII, to name a small few). As long as the MIDI input for the Reaper track is set to “Synthesia”, and then All Channels (since the right hand is usually on Channel 1, and left hand on Channel 2, by default, with Synthesia MIDI playback), you should hear sound, both live into Synthesia (and thus, Reaper), and playback from any MIDI file. And you’re not limited to the crappy general midi soundbank, that’s built-in to Windows.

As far as making video tutorials goes… instead of the Synthesia Video Creator, which isn’t publicly available on the Synthesia website anymore (you have to click around for “Older Versions”, as the Video Creator is a bit flaky and doesn’t work with a lot of people’s setups– and what’s worse, it only generates a useless video type which has to be converted before you can edit anything!), I use Bandicam. I get the audio from Reaper (as long as I’m using WASAPI and not ASIO), as well as the video from Synthesia. I set Bandicam to 60fps instead of the default 30fps. Looks and sounds great, and it’s really easy to edit in your favorite video editor software without the need to convert anything, like using the “Synthesia Video Creator”.

Hard to find a complete walkthrough about this… hope it helps some people out there!

 

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