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- Q: What is MIDI?
- A: MIDI stands for Musical Digital Interface. It is a protocal to sending
and receiving data between MIDI devices like a computer and keyboard. It is not sound. MIDI doesn't make a device do any more than the
manufacturer designed it to.
- Q: What does MIDI
send, if it's not sound?
- A: MIDI sends codes that describes what action took place. When you
press a key on a MIDI keyboard, it sends the MIDI channel it is set to,
the MIDI note number and how fast (attack velocity) the key was pressed.
When you release a key it sends the same information except how fast the
key was released (release velocity) There are a lot of MIDI codes that
can be sent. Here's a list of the most common ones and what they do in
plain English not their Hex Codes. For a more indepth study, check out
the Hal Leonard, Music Sales or Katamar MIDI Books in our Catalog. The MIDI GUY likes the MIDI Companion from Hal
Leonard (Good Introduction Book), MIDI for Professionals from Music Sales
(More details for the pro) and How MIDI Works from Katamar (Lots of practical
examples to help understand MIDI and example MIDI Setups). But they're
many others to choose from.
- MIDI Port---This is the hardware that
MIDI uses. There are up to three types of
ports. MIDI IN---MIDI
information is recieved on this port from other MIDI devices. MIDI OUT--MIDI information
is sent on this port to other MIDI devices. MIDI
THRU--MIDI information is passed from the
MIDI IN thru this port to other MIDI devices. This port is sometimes left
off keyboards or is software emulated on the MIDI OUT (Then it is called
a Soft MIDI THRU)
- MIDI Channel--- There are 16 possible
MIDI channels that can go down a MIDI cable. Each channel is unique from
the other in what it is sending. Think of a channel as an instrument, MIDI
can have 16 different instruments playing at once. Want more instruments?
Add more MIDI ports, multiple MIDI ports can be a single device like an
Opcode Studio 64 or several different single port interfaces like a Sound
Blaster, Midiman Winman 1x1 and MidiQuest Note One Plus all working at
once in a single computer.
- MIDI NOTE ON---This
turns on a note on the keyboard (though it could be anything like a switch
to turn on a stage light at a concert--MIDI Lighting!). There are 128 notes
possible covering a range larger than a piano. There is also attack velocity,
how fast the key was played, that is transmitted. There are 128 possible
values for velocity.
- MIDI NOTE OFF---This
turns off a note on the keyboard. There is also release velocity, how fast
the key was released, that is transmitted. There are 128 possible values
- PATCH CHANGE---Also
called program change. This is the location of where a sound is found on
a keyboard. Actually it could be any data that the manufacturer wanted
it to be like a scene (a setup of lights) for a lighting board that is
MIDI controlled. You could think of it as a P O Box, the sound is currently
using the P O Number but isn't the sound, ie #11 is where a piano could
be found on one synth but #1 is where a piano is found on a different synth.
This could be confusing so a few years ago manufacturer's adopted GENERAL MIDI. This standard
established a set list of sounds and their patch numbers so every GENERAL MIDI compatible instrument
would respond with the right sounds for the same patch number or right
drum sound for same note number. General MIDI instruments all have a piano
sound for patch number one, every sound in their proper place!
- CONTINUOUS CONTROLLER---This
is a wheel or pedal that sends a series of continous MIDI values to alter
the sound of synthesizer while the sound is being held. There's a lot of
these. Mod Wheels, Volume, Pan, Breath, Data value are a few of these type
- SWITCH CONTROLLER---This
is a pedal or switch that sends a MIDI value to alter the sound of synthesizer
while the sound is beening held. It has two values - on or off. A sustain
pedal is the most widely used of this type.
- PITCH WHEEL---This
is the first continous controller MIDI defined. It's used to change the
pitch of a sound as you play it.They felt it was so important they gave
it it's only MIDI data type so it's not included with Continous Controllers
even though it's function is as one.
also called Pressure.
It's also a Continous Controller but it unique in that it is a senor under
the keyboard that is activated by pressing down on the key once it has
hit the bottom of its travel. There are two type of AFTERTOUCH:
MONO or CHANNEL which acts just like the Mod
Wheel effecting all the currently held notes with the same single value.
The other POLY or KEY is
able to effect each key separately while beening held down. It is the only
controller that has this individual ability.
- See MIDI
Guy's Glossary of Electronic Music Terms for
- Q:I only have one
midi port on my computer, there are 2 or 3 things that I want to control
from my sequencer program, how can I do that?
- A:You have three options:
- 1. By using only 16 MIDI channels on your one MIDI port, you can connect
the modules by using the THRUs. You'd go out of the MIDI port into the
first MIDI IN then from that THRU to the next IN and from that THRU to
tne next IN and so forth. You have to set the modules to respond only to
certain MIDI channels, ie module #1 to channels 1-4, module # 2 to 5-9,
- 2. Buy a MIDI Thru Box such as MIDI Solutions (check our Online Shopping Cart for price, etc.). You would
take the one MIDI Out, connect it to the MIDI IN on the MIDI Thru box,
then connect the MIDI Outs of it to the MIDI INs on your modules. The same
setup of MIDI channels applies as in option #1. The advantage of this is
that you elimate any MIDI delays caused by using the MIDI Thrus of the
- However MIDI delays can still occur because of the serial nature of
MIDI. It's most likey to happen when using more than 8 MIDI channels tho
the number of notes on those channels will determine the amount of delay.
For example eight notes on each of the 8 channels playing on the same beat
will produce an undesireable delay. On the other hand one note on each
of the 8 channels playing on the same beat won't produce any delay. It
doesn't matter if your sending the notes to different modules or all to
the same module if you using the same set of 16 MIDI channels.
- 3. Buy a MultiPort MIDI interface such as MIDIMAN MIDIsport 4x4 (check
Shopping Cart for other models,prices, etc.). It supports 4 MIDI INs
and 4 MIDI Outs for a total MIDI usage of 64 MIDI channels. Each OUT is
it's own 16 MIDI channels. You're not sharing MIDI bandwith like the above
options. You use this new interace instead of your current MIDI interface.
It uses USB to connect to the computer. You hook up the 4 modules to the
MIDI Outs on the interface. The advantage of this is that you have 16 MIDI
channels for each module and the best MIDI timing possible.
- MIDI delays are still possible even with the MIDIsport but if you are
using more modules, each of the modules can now play up to the 8 note/8
channel MIDI delay problem outlined above before you notice the delays.
Since most users use only 4 MIDI channels per module when they have several
modules, they don't have MIDI delay problems.
- Q: How Can I get my
MIDI Songs onto an Audio CD?
- A: Since MIDI isn't sound you have to record
the audio outputs of the MIDI devices into your computer. While there are
programs like CD Recorder from DART (Available in our catalog/Online Shopping
Cart)) which include a GM software synth that will convert a MIDI file
into a Wave File. (It also records Audio CDs, does noise reduction and
more).The resulting Wave file will sound like their software synth not
your sound card, keyboard or sound module. In order to get your keyboard
in to the computer you need to do the following:
- 1. Have a MIDI/Audio program, ie Emagic MicroLogic,
Cakewalk Home Studio, or other program that can record audio while playing
a MIDI file.
- 2. Take the audio output from the keyboard and
plug it into the audio in (line input) of your sound card. Make sure not
to have software monitoring thru the card on. If on then you will get a
feedback loop which sounds very bad!
- 3. Make sure the song sounds the way you what
- 4. Set the software up to record a stereo interleave
audio file (See you software owners manual for details on this.)
- 5. Record the song in to the computer.
- 6. If the audio file is a stereo interleave file
at this point, then you can burn a CD of the file. If not you will need
to make it into one.Also remember that most CD players can only play a
single session CD so burn your CD once you have all the files ready to
be burned. You can't "add" songs to an audio CD even tho your
CD burning software might let you.
- Q:What's the deal with loop tempos?
- A:The tempo accuracy depends on how the loop was made. If the drum
loop was created with a drum machine or sampler and a sequencer, then the
tempo associated with the loop should be very close. Why not exact? Isn't
116 BPM (Beats per Minute) the same on everything? It's true that all computer
based devices run off a crystal controlled clock. That clock controlls
the rate the computer executes its instuctions. Otherwise nothing would
work at all. That crystal is used because it's very stable but that doesn't
mean all crystals are exactly the same speed. Your 200Mhz computer is more
accurately a 199.59Mhz,201.001Mhz or somewhere in that range.It won't vary
much from it's speed as it runs unless something big happens like a component
failure or electrical brownout. Add on top of that the OS and program your
using which use software timming loops which can be affected by running
multiple programs, locking to MTC or SMPTE, "realtime processing"
of MIDI or audio, etc. Then your tempos can be affected. (You might notice
this as "the feel" of the music changes between internal sync
and MTC lock or playing you files on different similar systems where it
feels like the tempo is slow or fast but the sequencer says it's still
the same tempo.) The end result is the stated tempo of 116 for the loop
may actually need to be slightly faster or slower by .001BMP to 1BMP. It's
trickier with live drum loops. Hopefully the loop has a tempo marking -
if it doesn't- you're in for a tuff time. Even if the drummer is right
on, playing to a click track, the kick or snare can be off the beat by
a small fraction of a second, though not on every beat but still resulting
in a loop that over time may vary from the marked tempo.
- Q:I've got some drum tracks that don't have a
tempo marking but I want to make some loops-HELP!!!!
- A: The good news is that with today's audio sequencers like Logic Audio,
StudioVision, Cubase, etc, it's not to hard to figure out the tempo.
They have included a way to do it. You have to figure what sounds like
a measure or two, tell the program that the meter is whatever you know
or think it is and it will tell you what it thinks the tempo is. This same
feature is also found on most sample editing software so if you have a
computer , it's no problem. If you don't then you've got a problem!
If you have a metronome, you can set it to different tempos until you find
one that works. Some even have a tap tempo feature that will speed
up the process. This trial and error method is painful but it does work.
- If you know the length of the loop in seconds, the number of beats
in a measure then you can try a little math. You do this:
- 60 divided by Loop Length in Seconds = n
- n x 8 or 6 (assuming 2 bars) = BPM
- The 8 is for 2-4 beat measure, the 6 is for 2- 3 beat measures.
- Finally you can have your sequencer play the loop at the desired tempo,
retriggering every two bars or whatever the loop is set for. Then,
in your sampler, tune the loop until it locks up. This will alter the pitch
of the loop which could make it undesirable to use.
- Q: Why doesn't the loop stay in sync with the
sequencer? I've got a "perfect" loop when I play it on the sampler.
- A: TURN OFF THE LOOP! All those little timing differences in the computer,
sampler, software and the loop itself become very apparent if you try to
use the looping feature in the sampler to do the loop. You always retrigger
the loop every two to four bars with a new note on the down beat so that
it stays in sync with your track.
- Q: I really like the loop but the tempo is wrong.
How to change it?
- A:You can adjust the tempo using either one of two methods: time stretching
or pitch shifting.Time stretching is more involved and requires DSP tools.
Some samplers have an on board time stretching function to lengthen or
shorten a loop to correspond with the desired tempo. You can use this formula
to convert BPM to Loop Length in Seconds:
- BPM divided by 8 (2 bars of 4/4 time) or 6 (2 bars of 3/4 time) = n
- 60 divided by n = Loop Length in Seconds
- Use this formula to convert Loop Length in Seconds to BPM:
- 60 divided by Loop Length in Seconds = n
- n x 8 or 6 (assuming 2 bars) = BPM
- There are also software programs like ReCycle from Steinberg, Logic
Audio by Emagic, Sound Forge and Bias which can change the tempo without
changing the pitch unless you want to do that. You can change the pitch
without chaning the tempo if you want as well. The
MIDIGuy likes the way Logic Audio allows you to change the groove
of the audio within the file without having to chop the file into little
pieces to change the feel. Used to the extreme this Logic Audio groove
feature makes some cool effects!
- Pitch shifting the loop will also change
the tempo.To change the tempo by one beat per minute, use your sampler's
tuning function to tune the loop up or down approximately 22 cents. Or,
have your sequencer play the loop at the desired tempo, retriggering every
two bars ro whatever the loop is set for. Then, in your sampler, tune the
loop until it locks up. This will alter the pitch of the loop which could
make it undesirable to use.
- Q: Got any tips to expand the possiblities of
the loops I have without spending more money?
- A: Try triggering your drum loops on "up" or "off"
beats. If you layer different loops of the same tempo it can be very interesting.
You can easily turn a straight "one-two" groove into a wild,
jazzy shuffle by offsetting two loops by two triplet eighth notes. Make
sure to use differnet MIDI channels for the loops as this makes it easy
to slide the loops in time. Also chop up different loops into single
drum notes, ie kick , snare, etc. and layer them on top of a loop's kick
or snare to get that "huge" drum sound using different MIDI channels
so you can mix them easily. If you have the time get a sample editor or
experiment with the audio features you already in your programs. Do things
like silence the loops kick or snar so you can use a different sound and
place it where you want to put it. Just remember this: Try anything you
can think of!
FAQ General Questions
- Q: What is the best computer for MIDI/Digital
- A: The answer is there
isn't a best computer. Rather it's
finding the right software for the job. Software
is a tool to do a job you need to have done. Computers are universal machines
that only work as well as the software they use. The
software and how well it works on the computer is what's important. The
match of both defines the right computer. Never use the minimum computer
requirements for software, while it will work
to some degree, best performance is always obtained by using the best hardware
for the job.
- There are many elements that make up computers and software. Simply
stated they are: Hardware components like motherboards, hard drives, etc;
Basic operating systems like BIOS in PC; Main operationg Systems like Mac
OS, Windows 95; Additions to the operatings systems for special hardware
or software purposes such as Device Drivers or Extensions for video cards,
modems, printers, etc and finally the software itself. You can see that
with all the many parts that make up a computer and the software, it is
amazing that we can get it to work at all! But then a bee according to
physics can't fly!
- The Mac System of hardware and operating system offers
the user a simple to use and maintain system
to operate the software that's right for the job the user has selected.
Since the hardware and software comes from a single source (which includes
the clone manufacturer UMAX, their designs are based on Macs and operate
as 100% compatible to 6400 or 9500 series Macs), the user has no need to
learn all the ins and outs of how to make the computer work. This explains
why you don't see many
Mac Consultants, THEY ARE NOT NEEDED. The computer
either works or is broken which explains why there are service centers
for repair. You do see Mac Tutors, a lot of people have either a hard time
understanding their user manuals or don't want to spend the time finding
how to do only the tasks they need to know, not everything the software
can do (which is why there is a lot of training manuals and videos). In
The MIDIGUY'S experience, the Mac OS is more
problem free from setup and maintenance troubles. This is why more Audio and Music Professionals use the Mac OS than Windows.
If you can't afford the expense of consultants and downtime then you should
use the Mac OS if the Audio/MIDI software/hardware you want to use is available
on both platforms.
- The Windows Operating Systems (3.1, 95, NT,2000, ME
and XP) offers the user a simple to use system to
operate the software that's right for the job the user has selected. The
variety of hardware options available for the user require expert
advice to select the proper mix of hardware to work with the software.
This is where all the PC consultants come in. Their job is to help select and maintain the hardware/software balance for
the user. If the user doesn't use the services of a consultant then
he/she has to become their own consultant. Bad advice is costly in both
time and money. When choosing to use the Windows Operationg systems, The MIDIGUY recommends dedicating
the computer to just MIDI/Digital Audio but include a modem sans
fax options enabled for best performance. Also don't use "Preconfigured"
systems that can be purchased at chain stores or by mail order. A BUILT
FROM SCRATCH computer with the proper parts will ensure satisfaction. We build PC computers that are designed for MIDI/Digital
Audio users and have lots of happy customers.
We also have disappointed users who have bought "Preconfigured"
computers or are trying to make the computer do everything which results
in a Jack of all Trades but MASTER of NONE. We do the best we can for these
users in helping them but sometimes you can't rework these computers into
providing the performance they should be capable of due to design, multiple
use or cost problems.
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