Den Ben’s Blog

December 6, 2009

Using a KORG M50 together with Reaper (DAW)

Filed under: Music Production, Reaper — Tags: , , , , , — benpittoors @ 21:32

A little background info

About a week ago I bought myself a shiny new synth! Well, it’s actually more of a workstation than just a plain synth. I thought it was time for 88 weighted keys backed up by some seriously good synth capabilities. After googling around a bit I decided to go for a brand new KORG M50 88. I almost bought a second hand M3 88 but the seller wouldn’t bend for my maximum bid… can’t really blame him, it would have been a great deal for me. The only sad thing is that he did a final counter offer AFTER I bought the M50… too bad: I already had my gear, and in the end it still may be better for me to have a brand new M50 instead of second hand M3. Although I will be missing out on the M3’s sampling capabilities and built in KARMA.

Still, I’m really happy with the M50. I don’t really need a sampler anyway and for the KARMA… well, I can still upgrade to software KARMA (running on a PC/Mac) in the near or distant future.

After playing around with the keyboard in standalone mode I quickly noticed that the built-in sequencer is just not my cup of tea. It’s way too tedious to perform even the simplest of operations (think select, cut, copy, paste kind of stuff). Frankly, I expected it to be like this and to be honest it is still better than the built-in sequencer of my MC505…  but since the main usage of the synth will be as a controller / sound module inside my home set up I am not planning to pre-program combi’s, sequences, arpeggiators and other stuff for any live gigs.

Introducing Reaper

As you may know, Reaper is a pretty complete, solid, full-featured digital audio workstation (DAW) that has had some pretty good reviews. It has been a while since I used this kind of software (I have an ancient Sonar version laying around here somewhere) but coming in at a price point for home usage you can’t beat I thought I’d give Reaper a spin and see where it takes me. The evaluation license gives you a fully operational environment that you are allowed to use for 30 days (not enforced) with the only ‘annoyance’ being a 5 second start-up delay.

After fiddling around for a while I finally managed to get the KORG M50 MIDI-integrated into Reaper and I thought I’d share this process through the means of this blog post.


You need to install the KORG M50 USB MIDI driver, and the M50 Plug-In Editor VSTi from the supplied CD-ROM (or alternatively, download them from the KORG website).  Hook up your M50 with your PC using an USB cable (or alternatively hook it up using plain MIDI cables… I can’t vouch for this 100% since I haven’t tried that out myself but that should also work).  You can test the connectivity by launching the Standalone M50 Plug-In Editor and seeing if it synchronizes with your M50.  After you’ve tested it, close the standalone editor again since it will prevent the VSTi from loading otherwise.

You’ll also need to install Reaper of course :)

This blog post is about getting the M50 Plug-In Editor operational inside Reaper.  Which means you will have perfect MIDI integration.  I won’t explain how t0 record the M50’s audio inside Reaper… I may do so in a future post (and on a side note, you will need to hook up the M50’s audio out with your PC’s audio in in order to do so since the USB connection does not carry any audio signals; only midi).

Configuring Reaper

In order to make Reaper find the VSTi you’ll need to configure it’s location.  The default installation folder is %program files%VstpluginsKORG which on my Vista 64 system translates into “C:Program Files (x86)VstpluginsKORG”.  You can do this by opening the menu ‘Options – Preferences’ and navigating to Plug-ins / VST.  Fill in the correct location and click the ‘Rescan directory’ button to let Reaper find the VSTi and add it to its repository.

Also important: The Plug-In will take control over your M50 so make sure it is disabled in Reapers’ MIDI configuration.  In the same screen choose Audio / MIDI devices and disable M50 input and output if that is not the case.

Add a VSTi instrument track

Choose the menu ‘Track – Insert virtual instrument on new track…’.  Choose All Plugins/Instruments and if you’ve configured Reaper correctly it should list VSTi: M50 Plug-In Editor (x86) (KORG).  When you choose the plug-in and click ‘OK’ it should start synchronizing with your M50 (this can take a minute so be patient) eventually showing the plug-in UI.

Configure the M50 VSTi

Some additional settings need to be done on the M50 to be able to use it both as a midi input controller and as a midi playback device.  You can do this on the M50 itself, or by using the Plug-In Editor VSTi.  I believe I can best explain this using the VSTi:  Click the ‘Global’ button and press the MIDI tab.

Check the Basic ‘Local control on’.  This will allow the M50 to listen to its own MIDI commands while recording them in Reaper.

Set the MIDI Clock to ‘External USB’ (or alternatively ‘External MIDI’ if you hooked up your M50 using MIDI cables instead).  This will give Reaper the control over the MIDI clock (tempo and transport controls…)

Any changes you make inside this configuration are not immediately synchronized with your M50.  In order to apply the changes press the ‘DUMP’ button to send these settings to your M50.

And… also an important setting (which took me a while to find out about) is on the Global – Software Setup tab. Make sure the option ‘Send M50’s MIDI Out data to the host application (VST Plug-In only)’ is checked! This is a plug-in configuration setting so you do not need to synchronize this with your M50.

Keep it simple: for the moment I suggest you choose a simple program instead of a combi.  Experiment with the use of combi’s and drum tracks after you’ve accomplished this first.

Almost there…

Reaper can record lots of different types of input.  The track with the M50 VSTi needs to be set up to record the output of the VSTi (yep, the VSTi takes the input from the M50 and routes it to its own output).  Click the ‘Select Recording Mode’ button of the track (it should be defaulted to ‘in’ and is the second button on the lowest row of the track).

Choose ‘Record: output’ – ‘Record: output (MIDI)’.  When you’ve selected that, the small button ‘in’ should be changed into ‘out’.


That’s right.  Now you can record, edit and play back MIDI from within Reaper using your M50!  You still have only a single track for now, but you can easily add more in the same way. Do make sure however that the midi channels between the different plug-in instances do not overlap (unless you want them to…).  Start experimenting with combi’s and drum tracks… I’ve pointed out most of the important settings, but there are many many more :)


You cannot run multiple instances of the VSTi.  However, you won’t need to since the VSTi controls all the M50’s midi channels when you put it in Sequence mode (or half of them in Combi mode).



  1. “complete 16 channel set up” would be usefull to me. so far i have only one track…

    Comment by mn — January 30, 2010 @ 16:22

  2. Never mind. I solved the problem… i realized that i can record different sounds in diffent tracks when i record midi via korg´s sequencer. i dont know is that the “right” way but it works.

    ps. i sorry about my bad english but im from finland… that should explain it :)

    Comment by mn — January 30, 2010 @ 19:34

  3. Can you suggest to me how to make Korg PA-60 and reaper working together. I would like to record my playing ( style arrangenets ) from krog and make Reaper to record it as I have played it ( with all style sounds etc etc ) So far I did not have any success.
    I you have any ideas, what must be done, I would be very greatfull !!

    best regards

    Josip 2

    Comment by JOSIP2 — February 15, 2010 @ 12:34

  4. This was fu–ing brilliant. I love you! Big Up from Sweden.

    Comment by Fredrik — March 29, 2010 @ 21:54

  5. How to set up the 16 channel mode? Would be nice to get an idea…

    Comment by Peter — April 14, 2010 @ 08:46

  6. @JOSIP2

    Don’t know about that since I don’t have a PA-60.


    You have to put the M50 in Sequencer mode for that. You can configure the channels, what programs you put on them, and effects routing using the VSTi.

    In Reaper you can add sub tracks (say, 16? ;) to your VSTi’s main track and further constrain the midi-in and out of each of those tracks (i.e. instead of “MIDI: All Channels”, only a single channel)

    That should get you going…

    Comment by benpittoors — April 14, 2010 @ 09:26

  7. Ok, got it! Thanks for sharing. Sometimes things are so easy… was somehow blinded by opportunities.

    Comment by Peter — April 15, 2010 @ 16:19

  8. How to render midi tracks to wav?
    When i try to render all i hear is silence.

    Comment by mn — April 27, 2010 @ 16:38

  9. You can’t ‘render’ to audio. The VSTi doesn’t route audio signals (neither does the USB connection). You’ll need to hook up the M50’s audio out ports with an audio interface on your pc (preferably a dedicated one, although you can use the line-in of an on-board one too).

    Add an audio track, arm it for recording and record it :)

    You can mute midi channels you don’t want to record in a single take if you want…

    Comment by benpittoors — April 27, 2010 @ 18:44

  10. Before m50 i used played synths for my songs with reason and i was able to render midi tracks.
    I cant´t believe that i cant do the same with m50 editor. I suppose i have to record only audio tracks.

    Comment by mn — April 27, 2010 @ 19:44

  11. I think you mean rendering audio tracks from midi input data (midi tracks) and a software synth (reason).

    The M50 is not a software synth, it’s hardware. You can tell it what to play through midi. If you want audio from it, you’ll need to record it while it’s playing.

    The M50 Editor VSTi just makes it easier to integrate the M50 with a DAW (in this case, Reaper). It doesn’t magically convert your M50 hardware synth into a software synth :)

    Comment by benpittoors — April 27, 2010 @ 20:38

  12. Got it! Thanks

    Comment by mn — April 28, 2010 @ 05:48

  13. Thanks, these same instructions work for the M3 and Reaper.

    Comment by jm — November 15, 2010 @ 18:57

  14. Den: great instructions – thanks for posting these
    the “Send M50′s MIDI Out data to the host application (VST Plug-In only)” button on my M50 editor is greyed-out. Any ideas what would cause this?

    Comment by JP — February 27, 2011 @ 08:26

  15. @JP: If that button is grayed-out it probably means you didn’t start the plug-in from within Reaper but it’s running in standalone mode instead.

    If you close Reaper, does the plug-in keep running? (because it should also close).

    Don’t start the M50 editor from the windows menu. Close everything, start Reaper and use ‘Track – Insert virtual instrument on new track…’ to choose and start the M50 plug-in from within Reaper.

    Comment by benpittoors — February 27, 2011 @ 10:44

  16. Den: thanks again, was able to toggle when opening the M50 editor within Reaper

    Comment by JP — February 27, 2011 @ 20:11

  17. hi guys,

    i’m a M50’s dino, just checking… is there a way i can record a midi/ compose a song directly to the SD?

    thanks for helping & advise

    jane hon

    Comment by jane hon — March 12, 2011 @ 15:16

  18. Den:

    Using your instructions I can record MIDI with the M50 but haven’t been able to play back. Seems that Reaper isn’t sending the midi events to the VSTi. How do you have your routing set up?

    Comment by JP — March 20, 2011 @ 01:10

  19. this was really helpful, thanks for publishing! I’m having difficulty with the creation of “subtracks” in reaper – can you elaborate on the process to record additional tracks whilst still being able to hear the “first track” recorded in the background? I’ve only been able to record over the same track – not sure how to get the 2nd one going. thanks again!

    Comment by JP — April 9, 2011 @ 23:56

  20. I solved the problem that I posted here in March 2011. Thought I’d share what I found —
    problem: using Den’s set up, I could record midi in Reaper using the M50 and M50 vsti plugin, but I couldn’t hear anything during play back. That is, I couldn’t hear the events through my recording interface (MBox2). If I assigned one of Reaper’s built-in virtual instruments to the midi events instead, then I could hear them, but not with the M50 vsti. What’s more, if I plugged my earphones into the M50 and played back, yes I could hear the events that way also. But my end goal was to compose using the m50’s sound module, and exporting what I played to mp3 format.

    The answer to the problem was to hookup the audio outs on the M50 to Line Inputs 1 and 2 on the MBox2. Finally I realized that the M50 plugin editor isn’t creating sound itself, it is sending the midi signals to the M50, which is rendering them. So that sound from the M50 needs to be then rerouted back to Reaper.

    To actually record the M50 in Reaper, I needed to create an audio track and send the midi track to that audio track. I set the io on the midi track to output to the new audio track. Then enabled the audio track to record and then hit record. The audio track recorded the midi events playing through the M50. From there I was able to export to mp3.

    Thanks again Den for your instructions. Seems like a lot of forum posts point here when folks are trying to use the M50 with Reaper.


    Comment by JP — April 10, 2011 @ 01:12

  21. JP – thanks for posting this; this gave me enough information to record my first MP3! Couple of things I had to do also –

    need to copy an MP3 encoder (can use the LAME MP3 encoder) into the same folder as reaper.exe

    only issue I have is related to my earlier post – I can’t get multiple tracks going. I can create a 2nd track and have the primary (VSTi) track “send” to that one, but it relays the instrument with a short (but noticable) delay, and the tracks get out of sync.

    I’ve also tried removing the VSTi from an already recorded track and applying it to a different track (as it can only work with one at a time apparently); this could work but then I can’t hear the recording from the first VSTi track.

    any thoughts on how to get the multiple tracks recordable in reaper receiving data from the Korg? I’m guessing it has something to do with the different channels but I can’t quite figure it out. Thanks for the help!

    Comment by Jon — April 10, 2011 @ 17:36

  22. Jon. Long latency may have something to do with your audio drivers. Make sure you use ASIO drivers. If your audio card/interface doesn’t have ASIO drivers then have a look at asio4all. You’ll probably have to tweak some settings to get it all within a decent range (latency < 10ms) on your system but it should be doable.

    Comment by benpittoors — April 10, 2011 @ 18:04

  23. Thanks – I’ve installed and am now using the asio drivers. However i still have the same issue; i think it is because I cannot get multiple MIDI tracks set up to record to audio simultaneously. i have been recording one MIDI track, then transfering to audio; then trying to play another midi track. can you provide details on how to work around the limit of one VSTi for the Korg applied to one track? Specifically how to take advantage of this: You cannot run multiple instances of the VSTi. However, you won’t need to since the VSTi controls all the M50′s midi channels when you put it in Sequence mode (or half of them in Combi mode).

    If I could get multiple MIDI tracks and apply them to an audio track simultaneously, i think it would resolve the latency issue. Sorry if this is a simple issue, i’m pretty new to all this. thanks for the help!

    Comment by Jon — April 10, 2011 @ 21:11

  24. You have to put the M50 in Sequencer mode for that. You can configure the channels, what programs you put on them, and effects routing using the VSTi.

    In Reaper you can add sub tracks (say, 16? ;) to your VSTi’s main track and further constrain the midi-in and out of each of those tracks (i.e. instead of “MIDI: All Channels”, only a single channel)

    That should get you going…

    Do mind that there is only a limited set of FX loops so a program in ‘Program mode’ may sound less rich than in ‘Sequencer mode’.

    Comment by benpittoors — April 10, 2011 @ 21:42

  25. This looks excellent… but I’ve followed everything to the letter several times and still Reaper can’t ‘see’ the M50 editor OR the keyboard itself. I’ve uninstalled/reinstalled everything but still no joy.

    I’ve tried starting with the M50 turned on, turned off… nothing.

    Any ideas?

    I usually use Sonar Cakewalk but that can’t see the M50 editor either (it does see the keyboard though). I do have to say I’m new to Reaper (and aged!) so I’ve probably missed something simple. Any help will be much appreciated!


    Comment by Terence Watts — May 1, 2011 @ 12:42

  26. Terence, I’m not sure… If neither Sonar nor Reaper can load the VSTi then I’m guessing it’s not installed or configured properly. What OS are you on? 32-bit vs 64-bit can be an issue here. The VSTi is 32-bit and I’m not convinced that a 64-bit DAW (Reaper or Sonar) can host 32-bit VSTis -> try installing the 32-bit version of Reaper.

    Comment by benpittoors — May 1, 2011 @ 14:30

  27. Hmm I’m on windows 7 64 bit. I’ll give the 32 bit version of Reaper a try perhaps…

    Thanks for your help

    Comment by Terence Watts — May 1, 2011 @ 15:28

  28. INstalled the 32 bit version of Reaper, which CAN see the Korg – but if I disable the input/output as suggested, I’m not sure how to play anything! I suspect I’m missing something here…

    Comment by Terence Watts — May 1, 2011 @ 15:44

  29. yep, you probably missed something ;-)

    – is local control on?
    – is the midi clock set to external?

    but my guess is:
    is the ‘Send M50′s MIDI Out data to the host application (VST Plug-In only)’ option checked in the Global / Software setup tab of the VSTi?

    imo, it’s also best to put the M50 in ‘seq’ (sequencer mode)

    Comment by benpittoors — May 1, 2011 @ 16:06

  30. Ah! That got it, though I’m not too sure what I did differently this time! The only problem was that when I exited Reaper, the Korg settings had change somewhat (Drum tracks were not associated with voices) and I had to do a reset.

    It seems I’m a bit of dunce with this new kit :( (all to do with advancing years making it difficult to learn new stuff, I think!). I’m used to working with multiple tracks in Cakewalk but it just doesn’t work that way with the Korg! I’m going to try experimetning with sub tracks as mentioned in an earlier post.

    Thanks for your help!


    Comment by Terence Watts — May 1, 2011 @ 18:18

  31. OK… I’ve ‘sort of’ got to grips with this a bit but I have questions:

    1. how to I add subtracks as mentioned in a post here? I’ve tried all ways…
    2. having created them, would I be abble to hear what’s recorded on one while I play on the next – if not, how do I do that?
    3. is there any way to avoid having to reset the M50 whenever I disconnect from Reaper? Loads of thins just aren’t working as they’re supposed to.

    Hope you can help…


    Comment by Terence Watts — May 2, 2011 @ 17:08

  32. Make sure the M50 is in ‘SEQ’ mode. Adding subtracks was pretty easy but I can’t remember the exact series of actions you need to take. Constrain each subtrack so that it only listens to a single midi channel.

    If you do not mute a subtrack, it will play while you record another one.

    About the reset -> You’ll need to undo some of the settings again for it to operate on its own (like put the Midi Clock back to internal for example)

    I’m sorry I can’t help you out further with that. I’m not using Reaper anymore in my latest setup.

    Comment by benpittoors — May 3, 2011 @ 10:15

  33. Thank you very much for your time – I’m sure I’ll be able to manage now. Your assistance has been invaluable!

    Comment by Terence Watts — May 3, 2011 @ 13:31

  34. No problem, glad to help out if it’s within my ability :) Have fun and don’t let technology stop you from exploring your creativity…

    Comment by benpittoors — May 5, 2011 @ 18:01

  35. one update and one question:

    update – here is how i resolved the multi-track issue (likely not the best way, but it works as a workaround). I bought a 2gb SD card (make sure you don’t get HCSD as the Korg won’t read it). I use the Korg synthesizer and record my multiple tracks on the keyboard itself. I then save the output as a multi-track, single .midi file on the SD card. Then I plug the Korg into my PC and use the recommended setup from this blog to get the VSTI working. At that point I load the .midi file into Reaper, play it back through the VSTI and then can use the VSTI to edit the tracks (or midi editor, or just save to .wav or .mp3 format).

    question – i’m having issues when I save to audio output. When I play the audio back on the PC speakers for example, parts of the music with heavier bass are getting all garbled (like the speakers can’t handle it). Any idea what settings could control/mitigate this when recording an audio track?

    Also, am not the happiest with the audio output when I play back on PC; huge difference in quality between my recordings and for example a professional mp3 recording. When comparing, mine sounds just flat/suppressed. Any ideas how to improve the audio output? I am just using the Korg, L/R audio outputs to an Mbox which is hooked to PC via USB.

    To record, when the track/song is finalized I create a 2nd track, arm it for recording, and have it record while the .midi track plays.

    Thoughts welcome, thanks!

    Comment by Jon — May 7, 2011 @ 22:25

  36. Thanks for posting this !!!!!!!!!!! I was haveing all kinds of issues with the M50 editor recording midi and on play back it was all out of time and had double notes on every one !!!!

    I thought there was no hope till I found this, THANK YOU !!!

    Comment by Rick — February 11, 2012 @ 17:42

  37. Thanks for the great tutorial. It is very helpful, though…. I’ve done everything you said and it worked very well until I pressed something. Now when I want to load plugins, it says: The following effect plug-in could not be loaded: VSTi: M50 Plug-in editor (effect configuration is preserved) What does it mean? Now when I record, it doesn’t do anything :/

    Comment by Gaga — August 13, 2012 @ 22:28

  38. ur a lifesaver

    Comment by nik — November 13, 2012 @ 16:23

  39. The inability to add multiple instances of the M50 editor across tracks makes editing by channel within the single track a snarling beast. Sorry if this is a basic question somehow answered above, but what’s the best work around for this? Great and helpful article!

    Comment by Will — March 7, 2013 @ 15:56

  40. Will, you can add sub-tracks and then limit the midi channel of the sub-track to a corresponding one on the M50 (if I recall this correctly, it’s been a while ;-))

    Comment by benpittoors — March 7, 2013 @ 16:02

  41. Den,

    This was written just for me!! Well, maybe others too, but I am in the same boat wanting to hook up an M50, although I also want to see if I can hook up an Akai Q80 and K4 as well as an old Atari running Notator. One step at a time though. I haven’t looked at the sequencer in the M50. I have always liked doing the midi stuff in Notator and figure that I should be able to just record that into the M50 when completed. From there hopefully I can get it into Reaper one way or another.

    Thanks for taking the time to do this. I had forgotten about the disc that arrived with the M50 when it was shiny and new.. The last recording I did was anologue so getting back into this on a PC is taking me a while.. I want to use Linux and bought an interface that was supposed to work and it doesn’t.. Although it could if I compiled the drivers.. Happily Reaper will runin Linux so if I can get it working I will be twice as happy!

    Thanks again for this..


    Comment by Mack — February 2, 2016 @ 18:30

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