I’ve previously written about my own personal midi experiences telling you how they helped me in my newfound solo career and how they helped replace missing musicians. I’ve told you how they’ve helped me “flesh out” my overall sound so that I could do it all myself. Well, that’s the goal I was striving for and that’s where I ended up…doing it all myself. While that’s a good thing in most situations, there are down sides to depending too much on midi for your background music accompaniment.
A few years ago I had a reunion with my first band that I formed while I was still in high school. We were all anxious to get together one more time and have another go at recapturing our teen years, now that we were all in our fifties. I had a complete band outfit set up in my back yard that beautiful summer day. I borrowed a drum set, set up my own keyboard and amps and put out my own three guitars. Everyone was back on their original instrument and we were all nervous, wondering if we’d sound the same in 2001 as we did in 1966.
We struggled through a few songs before we felt comfortable with each other again. Then we fell back into the grove we’d left some thirty years ago. It was great to be playing together once again, even if only for an afternoon. There were times when we couldn’t remember the old songs we used to do and I’d drop a floppy disk into my keyboard and play the midi version. However, when the other musicians joined in, it reminded me of how live musicians interacted with each other. We sped the song up because of our natural anxiety and within a measure or two were out of sync with the midi.
After several years of playing with my midi files and having every song right on the beat at the same tempo each time, I’d almost forgotten about the live experience. While the midi accompaniment was technically more perfect and correct, the live performance yielded something no midi file could—the warm feeling of six musicians in sync with each other. Now it all came back to me. I recall times back then when we played together in public and it was as if we were a single entity with six heads. We could almost anticipate each other’s moves and know where the other guy was going before he got there. That was the up side of interacting with live musicians.
The down side was all the squabbles over song selection, when and where to play, individual volume preferences, egos tripping over each other, billing arguments, band name selection, splitting $125.00 six ways and going home with twenty dollars and change for a night’s work. Sometimes it was worth it and I’d have gladly played for free. Some nights it was a real effort to face the other five guys. All in all, though, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It was a group effort with group results and the feeling of “belonging” to that group couldn’t begin to compare with the feeling I get in my solo career.
Don’t get me wrong. You really can’t go home again and trying to reunite that teen band thirty years later was okay for one afternoon, but I’d have to say that I really prefer the midi experience these days. It really isn’t fair to compare a full band with one guy and his midi files. It’s apples and oranges. As for the band thing—been there, done that. Time to move on.
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