Knowing MIDI for Beginners – Part 2
MIDI for Beginners – It is understandable that in the previous section, MIDI devices are devices that are around you today, and for electronic/digital musicians MIDI even has a very big role. Some sources even mention that in the decade of the 2000s it is projected that there are around 2.6 billion devices that enable MIDI features. No exception in today’s modern recording world, MIDI is an integral part for a musician who works in the realm of popular music such as making music for movies, TV, and even video games. This is actually a good thing because MIDI allows you to do all sorts of music-related things which is of course interesting and a little different. Thus knowing what MIDI is will be a useful source of knowledge for millennial musicians, therefore this article will continue the usefulness of MIDI and its important role in the creation process of a musician.
What is Midi Sequencing?
MIDI Sequencing is the process of recording notes in a system and not converting them directly into audio. This data is usually presented in something known as a ‘piano roll’. Now that’s mostly what you’ll find when using a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) program. That means this MIDI operation must be complemented by our understanding of DAW operation. Most DAW software displays a piano roll exactly like a piano shape with lines where to store notes to be written, for example, the piano roll example in CUBASE below.
With this piano roll, you will have the advantage and allow you to create tracks with incredible accuracy. You can make sure the notes start on time and play as long as you want (down to the 32nd note for example). In other cases, for example, if you play the wrong tone when entering MIDI, that’s also not a problem. Just drag and drop where you want.
MIDI technology has been around for more than 30 years, and first appeared in the form of a special 5-Pin DIN connector on the back of a keyboard that is used to connect to another keyboard or to a computer. Although the 5-pin DIN connection is still used to make connections between hardware standalone digital instruments, over the years computer technology has evolved and advanced so has MIDI.
Of course, MIDI isn’t just for keyboards either, other MIDI-enabled musical instruments include digital drums, guitars, wind instruments, and more. For EDM music and DJs, there are dedicated controllers that use MIDI to produce beats and loops and to control lighting, even new types of digital musical instruments and controllers are being created all the time, all of which integrate seamlessly with existing instruments and devices because of MIDI.
What Gear is Needed to Generating Music Through Midi?
The easiest way to produce sound using MIDI is to use the MIDI sequencer installed in your DAW software. As previously reviewed, you can manually enter notes into your piano roll by simply using your mouse cursor within your DAW software and then adjusting other settings in it afterward. But doing it this way is a long and less complicated process.
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Using Midi Controller
The more common way to get notes into a MIDI sequencer is to use a MIDI instrument. This could be a MIDI keyboard, a MIDI-capable synthesizer, or a drum machine. Below is a picture of Novation Impulse 49 as an example, this type is only capable of sending or receiving MIDI signals, cannot play audio signals. So, if you try to connect it to an amplifier or speaker without going through the sound module or virtual instrument in the DAW first, it will not make a sound.
Using Audio Interface, DAW, and VST
When playing a series of notes on one of these instruments, MIDI data is sent for the note played (a number between 0 and 127) and another set of numbers for speed, pitch, etc. This information will be sent along the cable via the MIDI out or USB port depending on what you are using. If you are using a traditional 5 pin MIDI cable, chances are that you do not have a MIDI port on your computer, therefore you must use an audio interface, here is a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Generation where to attach the MIDI cable and connect to the computer and speakers via a USB connection.
If your MIDI keyboard or other device is more modern, it will likely only use a USB connection and this can be plugged directly into a computer without the need for an audio interface. As I mentioned above, USB works as a mix of MIDI In, Out, and Thru. But now your computer is new