Hopefully, this article will help start you on your way to music sequencing and electronic music in general. While most modern sequencers support both MIDI sequencing as well as Digital Audio recording, this article will focus only on MIDI.
First, we'll start off with some of the basic terms used in MIDI sequencing. While this is not a comprehensive glossary, it should be enough to get you started, and make you feel more comfortable in your sequencing environment.
Controller (MIDI Controller): A MIDI Controller is a device (usually a keyboard) that you play on to generate MIDI information, while many keyboards provide both the controller and sound source, it is not necessary for these to be contained in the same device.
Controller (Controller Data): This is a type of MIDI event generally used to indicate the position of a knob or slider. These can control volume, pan, pitch bend, effect levels, or other settings available on the MIDI device.
Event (MIDI Event): This is anything that is sent through MIDI. These include notes, controllers, pedals, or anything else that can be transmitted through MIDI.
Local Control / Local Echo: On a keyboard or other MIDI device with built-in sounds, this is the function that allows the instrument to trigger itself. By default, this is usually turned on so the instrument can be played by itself, however it is better to turn this off while working with a sequencer so that the software can route your MIDI signal to whichever sound source is currently active.
Quantize: This is a function that tightens a rhythmic performance. The start and stop times for each note are moved to the closest beat so that the rhythms are more accurate. While this makes the technique sound cleaner, it also makes performances sound more electronic. Most sequencers allow you to adjust the amount of this you wish to apply.
Real-Time Record: This is a method of MIDI recording that is similar to standard recording. The performance will be recorded as accurately as possible based on the TPQ settings.
Step Record: This is a method of MIDI recording in which the rhythmic value is set first, and remains constant regardless of the actual performance. This allows you to concentrate only on the notes.
TPQ (Ticks per Quarter Note): This is the resolution of the sequencer, it measures how many places are available between beats to insert notes or other MIDI events. Larger settings allow for a more natural sounding MIDI performance, but also require more CPU resources.
Transpose: This is a way of changing the key of a MIDI performance by making notes sound higher or lower. This can be used with an existing sequence to hear it in different keys or octaves, or with your MIDI controller to let you play in a more comfortable key, or extend the range of your controller.
Basic Editing Techniques
One of the advantages to recording with MIDI is the vast amount of editing capability available. With a MIDI recording, you are able to manipulate the original performance in ways that are not possible with any other type of recording. Here are some basic editing techniques that are available in most MIDI sequencers.
Copy/Paste: Similar to working with a word processor, MIDI data can be copied and pasted in a variety of ways. This could be useful if you have a repeating part that you only wish to record or sequence once, or if you have a melody played on one instrument, that you'd like repeated or doubled on other instruments on separate tracks. While doing this with an audio clip will produce an exact copy, a pasted MIDI performance will take on characteristics of where it is placed. So, if you paste your flute line into your piano track, you'll hear the flute melody played on a piano instead, or if you paste into a section in a different tempo, the performance will be in the new tempo.
Layering: Having trouble playing both hands at the same time? With a MIDI sequencer it is possible to record each hand separately on the same track, or even have three hands! This is also useful for performing complicated chord changes by performing only one note at a time and then harmonizing yourself, or if you are performing a drum set part on a keyboard controller, you could record only one drum at a time.
Quantizing: As mentioned in the Terms section, this is a method of tightening the rhythmic aspects of a MIDI performance. If you are performing a piano piece with mostly 8th notes, you could quantize to 8th note resolution. The sequencer would then analyze the MIDI data, and move each note start and stop time to the closest 8th note position. However, any 16th notes in the performance with also be turned into 8th notes. Most sequencers allow you to use different types of this method on different parts of a project to keep things sounding natural. Another use would be to apply a 8th note triplet quantize on the same piano part, to hear what it would sound like in a swing time, or apply 8th note quantizing to a jazz piece to hear what it would sound like straight.
Transposing: Transposing changes the "note number" of a "note event" before the note is generated, so the result is the same as if the new note was hit originally. As mentioned in the Terms section, this can be useful when you need to play in an uncomfortable key, or play a line outside the range of your controller. For example, you could transpose by an octave so the bass line fits on your keyboard. This can also be used with copy-and-paste editing to put the same performance in different keys. Some sequencers even provide Diatonic Transposition, in which the transposed part stays in the same key, this is a great way for adding quick harmony parts!
MIDI Sequencing vs. Audio Recording
Which is better, MIDI sequencing or Audio Recording? That's not an easy question to answer, and it really depends on the application. Some obvious advantages to audio recording are that you're capturing the actual sound of the instrument while MIDI only records the performance, you can record any instrument while MIDI requires a MIDI controller, and you can record vocals which simply don't exist yet in the MIDI world. However, when the chance to record a track using MIDI is available, there are several reasons to take advantage of this technology:
Fix those bad takes. Sure, you can probably punch in to fix the bad notes in your piano solo, but with MIDI, you can simply turn that B into a Bb, or adjust the velocity on a couple notes to make the phrase smoother. In addition to quantizing mentioned earlier, note start and stop times can be adjusted manually to get the exact sound you want. When the clock is ticking and the studio costs are building up, this can be a real time saver.
Change Patch. Maybe that string pad you just recorded would sound better on an organ or a synth? No need to do the take again, simply change the patch and hear it as if you'd played it this way the first time. This is also great for those keyboards with several variations of the same sound, you can easily scroll through the patches while listening to the recorded performance to see which one fits best, and you can even change your mind later.
Change Key / Mode. You just recorded a nice track in C, but maybe it would sound better in D? or E? How about E minor? Or E Lydian? With MIDI, it is easy to change the key or mode to hear the same performance in different tonalities to inspire you, or just save time when the song isn't working.
While there is obviously much more that is possible with MIDI sequencing, this should help you scratch the surface and discover new ideas that you might not have thought of.
If you want to dig a little deeper into MIDI sequencing and other methods you can check out my articles .
Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?MIDI-Sequencing-Basics&id=6957170] MIDI Sequencing Basics
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