Converting Cakewalk Instrument Definition Files

A user suggested that AMac and SVO[1] would be easier to use if they could read INS[2] files. In this way, the full set of voices for particular keyboard synthesizers would be immediately available for styles and melodies. I analyzed the content of INS files for over 40 keyboards available at My conclusion was that it would be more effective to translate the files to the MIDI Voice File (MDV) format rather than to input them directly into our programs. Here are my reasons:

  • The programs already reads MDV files.
  • INS files contain only a subset of the MIDI control information that may be included in MDV files.
  • INS files are proprietary and incompletely documented. I found the organization of information was quirky and varied between the examples I checked. In contrast, the MDV file format is simple and well-documented. The format faithfully adheres to MIDI conventions.

INS files are hardware specific. The useful information is a list of all combinations of the MIDI parameters BankMSB, BankLSB and GMProgram that result in a unique voice on the keyboard. The list is located between the markers .Patch Names and .Note Names. Is consists of a list of voice names organized by the bank number

128*BankMSB + BankLSB

and GMProgram number. We wrote a translation utility INStoMDV that reads the INS information and creates an MDV file with all voices and drum sets included. For each voice, the MDV file includes BankMSB, BankLSB, GMProgram and default values for the Volume and Pan. The user can add additional MIDI controls (reverb, chorus, brightness, timbre,…) in SVO or the AMac Voice Laboratory to tune the voices or to create new variants (Fig. 1).  The translation utility also creates a formatted list of settings:

Program INStoMDV
KBD-Infinity, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Input file: Test.ins
Output file: Test.MDV
Bank MSB  Bank LSB  GM Prog  Name
       0     113      25     12String Guitar
       0     118      16     16'+2' Organ
       0     119      16     16'+4' Organ
       0     117      27     60's Clean Guitar
       0     112      32     Acoustic Bass
       0     112      54     Air Choir
       0     112      65     Alto Sax
       0     115      81     Analogon
       0     113      23     Bandoneon
       0     112      67     Baritone Sax

We will include 43 MDV files for popular keyboards with AMac and SVO.

AMac voice laboratory with Tyros voice set loaded

Figure 1. AMac voice laboratory with Tyros voice set loaded.


[1] The Accompaniment Machine and the Style Voice Optimizer.

[2] Instrument definition files developed for the Cakewalk program.


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