Keyboard latency and computer performance issues

Keyboard latency is a delay that can occur between when you play a note on your MIDI keyboard and when you hear the sound from your speakers/headphones, particularly on older computers, computers with low specifications or computers with performance issues.

Computers that experience latency are also quite likely to experience sync issues — this is when Musiah's baton / the cursor point to things on the sheet music at times that are out of sync with the click track/backing track.

Keyboard latency / sync issues generally do not arise if your computer meets the minimum system requirements.

Also, latency is more common on Windows computers than Mac computers because Macs have comparatively superior audio drivers.

Currently, the Musiah software uses the default WIndows / Mac audio drivers. Where we tend to receive reports / perceptions of latency is when the latency increases beyond normal levels and this is typically due to computer performance issues but may also be caused by audio driver settings.

Windows audio driver settings:

For example, a customer using Windows 11 recently reported that he solved a latency issue on his computer by going into the audio driver dialog, Advanced tab and turned off everything in that tab including "acceleration", "effects", and "exclusive use" (i.e, he unchecked the boxes). He applied the changes, exited the dialog and this dramatically cut the audio latency and improved his Musiah experience.

Just to be clear, when the app is running as intended, there should be no significant latency. If you are experiencing latency, it is not a fault of the software, but rather an external issue which is beyond our direct control. That said, it is usually possible to make some adjustments to your computer that will improve latency (assuming your computer meets the minimum system requirements) and is otherwise in good working order.

To check your computer for factors that could be causing / contributing to latency, please go through each point/suggestion below.

Checking Your Computer For Performance Issues

Before you start, please note that Musiah is not designed to be used with external audio hardware (e.g. an mbox) as this can contribute to latency issues.

Also, please do NOT use bluetooth headphones as these are prone to significant latency when used with Musiah.

Be sure to connect your (wired) speakers / headphones directly to your computer.

First, check your CPU usage as follows:

Windows users:

Mac users:

Go to: Finder>Applications>Utilities>Activity Monitor (double click Activity Monitor)

All customers:

If your CPU usage is more than 20%, this suggests a performance issue on your computer. For example, if your computer when idling is running at 50-100% CPU usage, this will definitely cause latency and/or sync issues. The higher the CPU usage, the more severe the issues will be.

So the first, and very important step is to exit / disable all non-essential programs that are running in the background chewing up resources, especially those that start up automatically as soon as you boot up your computer even if you are not using them.

Common culprits are listed below, though I'm sure you'll find a few other equally unnecessary programs / services if you look carefully for them;

Any of these applications will run fine even if they are not enabled at start-up — you can simply open them when you want to use them. There is absolutely no need for them to be running all the time, i.e. just because you turn on your computer. So as you find them, please disable them so that they do not run on 'start-up'.

If you need help doing this, please ask a friend, relative or computer technician. We are more than happy to provide support that relates to the Musiah software, but we do not have the resouces to provide general computer support.

Other MIDI programs running in the background can also contribute to latency, e.g. piano marvel and playground sessions are examples of MIDI programs that both run services in the background from the moment you boot up your computer even if you are not running those programs, and each of these is known to cause latency in Musiah. Please disable these and services associated with any other MIDI applications / DAWs.

Next make sure the hard drive on which your operating system is installed has at least 15% free space. If Musiah is installed on a different hard drive, please also make sure that drive has at least 15% free space.

Also make sure your computer has all the latest Operating System updates.

If the issue is still persisting, run a virus / spyware scan to make sure your computer is not underperforming due to a virus.

Windows users:

If your main hard drive(s) are not SSD and have not been defragmented recently, please defragment them.

You may also wish to run a registry cleaner. A good free one is CCleaner. (Google "ccleaner").

To further tweak your computer's settings, right-click 'Computer' and select 'Properties, then 'Advanced system settings.

Under the 'Advanced' tab, next to 'Performance', click 'Settings'. Under the 'Visual Effects' tab, select 'Adjust for best performance' and click OK.

Under the 'Advanced' tab, next to 'Performance', click 'Settings' again.This time, under the 'Advanced' tab, next to 'Adjust for bet performance of', make sure 'Programs' is selected. If it is not, select 'Programs' and click OK.

After you have made these changes, restart your computer and see if the latency has improved.

If not, there are a couple of further settings you can tweak.

Right-click 'Computer' and select 'Properties, then 'Advanced system settings'.

Under the 'Advanced' tab, next to 'Performance', click 'Settings' once again. Under the 'Advanced' tab, next to 'Virtual memory', click 'Change'.

Note: You only need to change the settings here if the 'Currently allocated' paging file size is significantly less than the 'Recommended' size. If yes, follow the steps below...

To change the settings;

In case you're wondering, it's perfectly safe to make these changes to the paging file size, and if you don't find them beneficial, you can always undo them by returning here and selecting 'Automatically manage paging file size for all drives'. 

All customers:

As far as computer performance goes, now that you reached this point, there is not much else you can do in terms of computer tweaking / tidying up without going to extremes.

That said, one slight possibility that remains is a MIDI keyboard / MIDI-to-usb cable driver issue.

Generally, MIDI keyboards and MIDI-to-usb cables either work (with no latency) or they don't work at all. However, if you have tried all of the above and you still have latency, it is worth checking that you have the latest driver for your MIDI keyboard or (if applicable) your MIDI-to-usb cable as this may make a difference.

Note: If you are using a MIDI-to-usb cable, you only need to check the driver for the cable, i.e. you do not need to check your MIDI keyboard driver. This is because the MIDI-to-usb cable is a MIDI device in its own right. When connected to your computer, the computer only sees your MIDI-to-usb cable. It doesn't know or care what MIDI keyboard (if any) is at the other end of the cable. As far as the computer is concerned, the MIDI-to-usb cable is effectively your keyboard. In other words, you only need to check the driver for the device that is connected directly to your computer.

Most of the time, you can find drivers for your keyboard or MIDI-to-usb cable simply by googling the make and model of your keyboard / cable followed by the word "driver", e.g.  "Roland RD64 driver".

When the search results are displayed, always choose one from the keyboard / cable manufacturer's website in preference to other websites claiming to offer the same driver(s).

If you happen to be using a Yamaha MIDI keyboard OR a Yamaha MIDI-to-usb cable, you may find that a page on the Yamaha web site that is supposed to bring you to the relevant driver is broken (this happens a lot with Yamaha).

If you need a Yamaha usb-MIDI driver, here is a page that contains some generic Yamaha drivers that should work with all their keyboards / cables.

Alternatively, Windows 10 users can get a suitable Yamaha driver here:

Once you have done all of the above, you have pretty much done everything that can be done to improve the latency on your computer, i.e. it is now as good as it is going to get.

As an alternative to testing your MIDI keyboard with the Musiah software, it might be useful to test your keyboard with MIDI-OX (Windows users) or with MIDI Monitor (Mac users)

At the end of the day, if the latency is still significant in Musiah Unity (or in MIDI-OX / MIDI Monitor), the best option may be to upgrade the computer.

I hope the above suggestions have been helpful. If, after trying the all of the above, you would like further assistance or advice, please feel free to contact us directly.