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PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2007 3:45 am 
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Mr. Electonica Dude
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A discussion of all the types of MIDI devices available nowdays is beyond the scope of basic . There is one special device that we need to examine.
There are two good reasons I can think of to investigate sequencers. one , a MIDI sequencer can become the central focus of almost any setup.
Two , the sequencer has special relevance to the musician.

To understand how cool a MIDI sequencer is to have around , we must first have an understanding of audio recording. You set up your mics , fire up the old synth , guitar , etc connect to the old recorder , hit the red button and off you go for that "perfect" take. The performance is captured mistakes or perfect , however it was performed. The down side of this is a perfect "take" is the result of a perfect "performance". Sometimes dozens of takes are required to get it "smeared" on the hard drive just right. There are days you can't count past three , that one note keeps getting you .........we've all been there.

The situation is quite different when you record to a MIDI sequencer. It doesn't record the actual audio , it records the note on/off , pitch bend controller , volume pedal , sustain pedal , and attack/release MIDI (and much more) information provided to the sequencer at the MIDI in port.
The sequence is stored as data and not audio as you are used to. When the sequence is played back , just like the audio recorder , the music is played back exactly as it was recorded. This is where the similarity ends.
In an audio recording , if you screw up , you do a retake until it is right.
On a sequencer "bad" or missed notes or timing is easily fixed. You simply erase the wrong note and replace it with a good one. Bad timing can be corrected manually or as you play (quantizing). You can even set the quantizer to only correct a certain range of timing so the song has a more natural human feel. (swing)

One way to visualize how a sequencer works is to think of a player piano roll. Many computer based sequencers look very similar to a piano roll. What's cool is you can have 16 different instruments (or several per channel) and all play independant parts at once. Now let's take this concept a few steps upward. Great , 16 instruments at once.......In my studio that's not enough. I run several sequencers at once controlled by a master sequencer to keep everything humming together. You can also record any MIDI parmeter you want to a a sequencer. Things like turning on and off external MIDI controlled effects , controlling faders on your fav. MIDI device , the possibilities are endless.

lets sum things up here.........

A sequencer allows instant transposing of a whole song or any part.

You can change the tempo at will.

Shift notes that didn't quite make the timing (quantizing)

Replace one instrument with another without re-recording the passage.

Copy any parts of a song and move them however you want. All you gotta do is nail the part once and yer done. If you don't nail it and get tired of trying , then edit away.

A sequencer allows software upgrades , new synth patch banks installed , via SysEx messages. Also also the operating systems and patch data can be archived into a sequencer and saved as a *.mid file and played back into the device in case of a dead internal battery or corrupted op sys. (more about SysEx later)

In a nutshell a MIDI sequencer equates to total control of your music and is an unrivaled studio tool.

Next......MIDI in actual practice.

msg

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2007 4:46 pm 
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The Reverend
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...no time to read now, but I will later on...thanks for the effort, MSG.. 8)

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2007 6:53 pm 
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Ranch Hand
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I like the "piano roll" analagy. Now, I think I get the basic, underlying principle. Does that mean that you can "move" that "piano roll" to another MIDI "instrument" and try different instruments playing the same part?

If it does, I think I'm beginning to understand. If it doesn't, I'm back to being clueless.

Either way, thanks for the post.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2007 8:04 pm 
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Quote:
"move" that "piano roll"


that's what it means.

good schtuff, msg.
thanks.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2007 9:47 pm 
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The Reverend
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Just waiting for the next installment, master...

Thanks.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2007 8:03 pm 
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No More Coasters!
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I don't want to search google to learn about midi, and for a variety of reasons....I've never taken the time to really learn about Midi, so as to take advantage of what it has to offer.

Some of the info that Geno is providing, may seem very basic to others....but I'm enjoying the 'Midi for Dummies' approach to the topic that Geno is offering up here.

I'm probably one of those in need of a firm foundation in midi-basics, before I ever get to the point in this discussion that involves connecting a midi-cable to anything.

Sure, I might be able to find this info anywhere....but, as a fan of Geno's music and as someone who has great respect for his musicianship and talent....I'm more inclined to pay attention to what 'Geno' has to say....versus, an anonymous Wiki Article written by folks I don't know.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 03, 2007 8:19 pm 
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i taught a MIDI class way back in '92 at the computer college i was working at.
i've printed out google search results.
i appreciate MSGs offering.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2007 11:38 am 
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Harry the Spaceman
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Hi all!

I took the liberty of pruning this topic. There's some great stuff coming out of the Midi Corner! Keep it up guys! :thumbleft:


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 3:47 am 
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Boot Polisher
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Great information for a dummy like me, please keep this series coming.

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:46 am 
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OK guys.........

Tonight is my forum dedicated night so I'll continue with sequencer basics.

First off , most of you have used a form of sequencing and didn't really realize it. If you have edited , deleted , moved audio tracks around on yer projects , then you have actually performed audio sequencing.

My first sequencer was homemade from a Radio Shack project book 30 years ago. It consisted of ten variable tone oscillators each controlled by a single pitch (frequency) knob. These were "stepped" in sequence by an old school 7490 decade counter (like the kind used in ancient frequency counters) and each step was controlled in turn by a master LFO by another knob. Although quite crude , I used it on stage with my synths (before midi sequencers were invented) to generate random or preprogrammed notes consisting of a 10 note "song" before it repeated itself. The only other control was a reset button that started the sequence from the beginning upon each press no matter where in the sequence it was playing. Nobody else had one to my knowledge at the time and it seemed to entertain the drunks at the bar OK. :lol:

Modern sequencers come in many forms. They can be hardware , software or even a combination of both.

Most people think MIDI when sequencers are mentioned and rightfully so, I will cover these first.

If you are a MIDI challenged then read up on MIDI messages if things aftermentioned are cloudy. The most common use of a sequencer is the note on/off MIDI message sequencer. It can record your MIDI keyboard as faithfully as any audio recorder. The neat thing is that the resultant sequence (here meaning the recording of midi note messages) can be played back on any other instrument with a midi in jack. This sequence of notes can be changed in pitch , time , quantized , and even played back thru special midi effects. It can be merged with other midi instruments (to play more than one at time. ) When you download a midi song and play it back , Windows media player takes the midi sequence bitstream and feeds it to the general midi soft synth hosted in the player or sound card. The first mid message of the sequence tells the synth which wavetable (voice) to use and then the note number (pitch) , note on/off , velocity and aftertouch messages follow describing the nuances of the performer.

So far we have described sequences that only describe a small spectrum of what midi is able to do. There are 128 different messages that can sent. Not only can note messages be sent but also messages can be recorded to the sequencer of pedal changes , synth bank or patch changes, tempo , volume , tone , device on /off commands , filters , external effects (with midi jacks) or even other sequencers can be controlled.

Software sequencers are most commonly used in the piano roll view format. (PRV) This is pretty much standard for most all note sequencers. With editing tools provided it is actually possible to hand program a symphony and not be able to play a single actual instrument. However it will take even the most seasoned programmer years to so so. Is your keyboard playing a little sloppy ? You can use midi quantizing tools to tighten it up to unrealistic mechanical to a loose style. Wrong note ?
Just go back to the PRV and erase or move the bad note to it's correct timing or pitch without disturbing the rest of the sequence. Try that with audio editing. Once the sequence sounds good then simply either play the synths audio outs to your recorder or use a program like Sonar to bounce midi tracks direct to audio. ( This is so powerful)

Hardware sequencers work the same as the software brethren with some interesting differences. If you have ever heard a step sequencer (remember my homemade one?) from the 80's then almost all of these were hardware based. They almost exclusively had 16 steps in which pitch info was "stepped" from one note to the next then repeated after step 16. They could also be programmed to one shot then stop until the note was repressed. Dave Smith still uses this old technology in his Evolver series synths. He takes it a little deeper in that there are actually 4 - 16 step sequencers that can be programmed to produce a 64 note "song". Even deeper is the Poly Evolver which is actually 4 Evolvers in one. Now we get up to 256 notes. Pretty cool for a hardware step sequencer. What makes Dave Smith's Evolvers evolve is not so much the note sequencers but that some of the sequencers are changing filter settings , patches etc. in the background as the note sequencer plays. Very powerful.

Hope this sparks some interest. I'll be glad to answer any questions that I have the answer to.

msg

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