How to control external MIDI devices with the Nord Stage 3's Extern Section
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How to control external MIDI devices with the Nord Stage 3's Extern Section

The Extern Section of the Nord Stage 3 allows you to select, play and control sounds from external MIDI devices - be that another keyboard, a module, or software such as Apple's Main Stage or plug-ins.  Each internal Program on the Nord can recall volume, program and MIDI control information stored within the Extern Section. This allows you to not only use the Stage 3 as a controller keyboard live, but handy features such as automatically transmitting an external Program Change message when you recall an internal Stage 3 Program allows quick and seamless patch selection in a live setting. In this video and guide we'll look at the options available and how to use them!

How to navigate to the Extern Menu

The Extern Section has its own dedicated menu which you access by holding down the Shift button and pressing the 'External' button. You can navigate through the menu using the 'Page" buttons. 


The first thing to do, on Page 2 of the Extern Menu, is to set the outgoing MIDI channel. This will be the channel that the Extern section is going to transmit MIDI data on. You will need to set this to the same MIDI channel that your external device is going to receive MIDI data on.

As most Nord Stage owners know, each program has 2 independent versions of the front panel that run simultaneously. These are accessed via the 'Panel A' and 'Panel B' buttons. Because you can use these panels independently, you can access to 2 different Extern Sections per program. Each can have independent MIDI channel settings, allowing you to communicate with either two different external devices, or two different MIDI channels on the same external device, simultaneously from within one program. If you have both Panels active by pressing both A and B Panel buttons together, then you have a layer of both those external MIDI sounds.  Of course this is in addition to the internal sounds from the Stage itself.

The Extern Section Controls

At the top of the Extern Section is the dedicated on/off button. Below that is the Octave up/down button which allows you to transpose your external device independently of the internal Stage sounds you are using. At the bottom of the section you have the sustain pedal/pitch stick button. By holding the shift button down and pressing this button, you can decide whether you're going to transmit sustain pedal info, pitch stick info, both, or none to your external device. 

Using Extern Section controller

The dial in the middle of the Extern Section acts as an assignable MIDI Controller. Choose the type of MIDI control using the button below. 

Volume will naturally control the volume of the connected external device. The CC option is a controller number. The CC number is selected on page 7 of the Extern Menu and is used to map the controller to a particular function of your external device. The dial will then send a value out between zero and 127 on whatever controller number you've selected - this might be modulation it might be LFO speed etc, anything you want. The MIDI CC number required will be found in the documentation of the device you are controlling.

If you select Program, then the dial will send out program change messages so you can change sounds on the external device directly from the Stage's front panel. 

This Extern Section controller can itself be controlled via Nord's Morph function. This allows you to assign a connected controller pedal, aftertouch from the Stage's keyboard, or the Stage's Modulation Wheel, to control the Extern Section controller and therefore control your external devices.

Setting up Bank and Program change

Page 7 of the Extern Menu is where you actually set your Bank and Program change messages. MSB, which is control zero, and LSB which is controller 32. These will dictate which Bank you are selecting on your external device and this will vary, depending on the manufacturer of the product that you are hooking up to the Stage. Therefore, you would need to consult the manual of your external device to find out what settings you need to make here to correspond with the correct Bank you wish to select. Once you have set the correct Bank change message, then the Programme Change function will just select the Program within that Bank. 

Saving External section settings

On Page One of the ExternMenu, you have the choice of having your settings 'Shared', which means they will be global and will effect all the Programs on the Stage. Or, if you choose Program instead, then all your settings are saved on a per-Program basis. 

When you store a Program, then any of your settings in the Extern Menu are also stored within that Program. 

Send Extern Section info on Load

An incredibly useful feature of the Extern Section is all of its settings can be automatically sent to your external devices whenever you select any of the Stage's internal Programs. On Page 6 of the Extern Menu, you will find the 'Send On Load' feature and this is where you can decide whether Volume, CC or Prog Change will be transmitted from the Extern section when that particular Program is selected.

In a live situation this means all your internal and external sounds can be selected simultaneously, just by turning the Program dial on the Stage.


Now that you have an understanding of what the External Section can do, you can see how useful it can be when integrated into any of your Programs. It can provide a powerful and flexible way to seamlessly control any of your external devices - ideal when playing live. You can control everything in your set up, directly from the front panel of the Stage.

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