10.3. Creating your own MIDI files
Although it's easy to select
your favorite MIDI files from the Internet and post
them on your site without the use of a MIDI editor or a sequencer,
there are situations where editing is needed. Downloaded MIDI files
often are too large (50 KB to 90 KB or more) or are crammed with too
many instrument sounds, making the music sound cluttered on
poorer-quality computer systems. For example, you may download a file
that tries to replicate an exact MIDI version of a Top 40 hit down to
the ear-numbing MIDI guitar riff. MIDI files also are uploaded to the
Internet by music aficionados who include every note and subtle
phrase of a piece. This is overkill if you just want 30 seconds of
classical music on your welcome page. Such MIDI files are candidates
for a MIDI editor.
10.3.1. MIDI editors
A MIDI editor
allows you to remove unnecessary sections or notes and tone down
certain instrument sounds. MIDI editors also let you build your own
MIDI file from scratch with your own musical ideas or with sections
borrowed from another MIDI file. The first step is to select a MIDI
file via the Web or from other music-related sources, and build from
Once you have selected a MIDI file, you can alter the sound to fit
your needs or tastes. Most MIDI files are called standard MIDI files,
or SMFs. SMFs come in two basic formats:
single-track (type 0) and multitrack (type 1). In a single-track SMF,
all the musical parts are merged into one track. In a multitrack
file, each part or instrument sound is assigned to a separate track.
Multitrack is the more common MIDI file and is preferable to work
with because it is easier to edit the music when the instrument notes
are on separate tracks.
are often referred to as sequencers and are similar to working with
word processors. The difference is you are working with musical notes
instead of text characters. If you work in time-based animation or
with video programs, your skill sets transfer well to MIDI sequencers
because MIDI sequencers are time-based and have similar functions.
10.3.2. Editing a pre-existing MIDI file
A MIDI editor has certain functions you can apply to alter an
existing MIDI file or to create one of your own, including removing
instruments, pitch shifting, changing notes, inserting regions, and
creating your own tunes.
Precise note editing
If you are using Vision to edit a MIDI file and want to be sure you
have adequate space to make a move and drag with precision, zoom in
on the window, using the + magnifying glass button at the bottom
right of the Sequence window. This is especially helpful when the
is small. If you want to make movements that are specific to a note
duration (1 whole note, 1/2 note, 1/4 note, and so on), use the Grid
function, located at the top right of the Sequence window, just to
the left of the Exactbutton. By clicking this
button and choosing a note value in the Note Value pop-up window next
to the Grid button, you will be assured that any note movements or
note selections will be constrained to this grid value. Similarly,
you may make exact movements by clicking the Exact button. Now, every
time you make a note movement or selection, a dialog box will appear
asking you for the exact numeric coordinates of the move or selection
10.3.2.1. Removing instruments
Most MIDI files you download from the Web
have several separate music tracks. They may have a drum track, a
bass track, a piano track, and several other instruments, including
strings, horns, and guitar, as well as special sounds or sound
effects programmed as part of the file. If you want to use only the
piano or the drum track, you extract only the parts you need and
remove the others.
First, select the track by clicking on the track name, and then
choose the Copy command from the Edit menu. If you want to change the
assignment of a particular track to any of the 16 General MIDI
instruments using a MIDI editor, click and hold on the Instruments
column of the desired track, as shown in Figure 10-2. This changes the output channel of that track
at playback. Each channel has an instrument assigned to it. If you
want to allow the information on track 1 (where the instrument is
piano, for example) to play through track 10 (where the drums are
assigned), you make that alteration here.
Figure 10-2. To change a track so it is played by another channel/instrument, use a MIDI editor and then click and hold on the "Instrument" column.
If the MIDI file
you downloaded is in the wrong musical key, you can change to the
appropriate key and shift the overall pitch up or down using a MIDI
editor or sequencer. You could also select one particular sound such
as a high-pitched flute and lower it an octave, or choose any note
and change its pitch to alter the melody or harmony of the music.
10.3.2.3. Changing notes
You may want to change specific notes. It is possible to change the
note's duration, pitch, velocity (e.g., how hard the key of the
piano is struck), vibrato, pan, volume, or a whole host of other
controller functions that control the way each note is recorded and
played back with MIDI. Each one of these controllers can add a
certain amount of expression to a MIDI file that gives it more
10.3.2.4. Inserting regions
You may want to add a new section of your own, such as an intro or an
ending to a pre-existing MIDI file. Or you may want to create a longer bridge in
the middle of the track. With a MIDI editor, you can copy, paste, and
insert entirely new sections of music anywhere in the MIDI file that
10.3.2.5. Creating your own tunes
Finally, you may want to create your very own
jingle or tune to accompany your web
page. Making your own tunes with a sequencer is much like sitting in
front of the word processor and writing a story. You start by typing
in or playing different "notes," and when you have a
section you like, you go back over and edit your work and prepare it
to be played for others. Remember to test any piece of music with
friends or colleagues first before placing it up on the Web.
10.3.3. MIDI file editing tutorial
We used Vision from Opcode Systems (http://www.opcode.com) for this tutorial.
Make certain you take the time to properly
install and set up Vision. The instructions for the 30-day trial
package are available at http://www.designingwebaudio.com.
We will walk through the steps involved in enhancing or altering a
MIDI file using Vision. Vision is a
cross-platform sequencer. Other
sequencers, such as
also achieve the same results since each sequencer has the same basic
functions. Vision offers an easy-to-use interface and many extended
features, such as digital audio recording and editing, audio-to-MIDI
functions, and several effects and capabilities helpful to desktop
musicians and composers.
10.3.3.2. Extracting parts
We decided to use just the piano part, so the first step is to
extract that part from the MIDI file:
Select notes. Select all of the
notes in the piano track by clicking on the bullet to the far left of
the music track and name; the bullet will turn to a triangle and the
track will highlight. Once the track becomes highlighted, as shown in
Figure 10-3, the entire track is selected. This
should give you a selection of all of the track data as well as
individual notes and their duration, attack velocities, and so on,
for the piano track.
Figure 10-3. By selecting the bullet to the far left of a track name, you effectively select all data in that track.
Copy selected notes. Just as in a
word processing document, you want to copy this section of the MIDI
data by selecting Edit Copy.
Create a new file. Now create a new
file by selecting File New.
Select a new track. When the new
file appears on your desktop, select the first track by
double-clicking next to the title in the track 1 (generally
"untitled") or within the first measure of the sequence
where notes already exist.
Paste the selection. Now paste the
data into the new MIDI file by selecting Edit Paste. You now
have a file with just the piano track from the original file.
Repeat this process for each part you want to extract from the
You can use these same steps to extract particular sections,
measures, or notes from a MIDI file. Simply click or shift-click on
the part you select, then copy and paste into a new file. Much like a
text editor, you may cut, copy, paste, and edit MIDI notes and events
to suit your needs. Think of a MIDI file as a template. Simply use
the pieces you want, discard the rest, and build your personalized
file from the pre-existing template.
10.3.3.3. Transposing pitch
To alter a particular instrument track or musical phrase that is too
high or low in pitch, use the transpose command. For example, you may
want to fix a bass guitar sound that is too low in pitch, or lower a
flute that sounds too high. Transpose
is the term used by musicians to change
an entire section of music by a fixed amount, such as a half note
(one semitone), a whole note (two semitones), or an entire octave (12
semitones). To use the transpose command, follow these steps:
Select parts. First select the
part(s) or track(s) that you want to transpose by clicking or
shift-clicking on the part(s) or track(s).
Transpose. Select Do
Transpose. When the Transpose window appears, the defaults will be
"up," "0 semitones," and "0
octaves," as shown in Figure 10-4. To
transpose the selection up a half note, enter "1
semitone" or "1 half step." To transpose the
selection up an octave, choose "1 octave." In this case,
try "up," "0 semitones," and "1
octave." This moves your entire selection up one octave. Now
click the Transpose button.
Audition the result. When ready,
audition your results. You should find that the notes are the same,
only one octave (8 whole notes or 12 semitones) higher. If you are
unhappy with the result, simply select Edit Undo and start over.
You can use this method to change any section of a MIDI file, from
one note to the entire track. You can change the selection from one
semitone to several octaves.
Figure 10-4. Select Transpose up, no semitones, and one octave to transpose the entire selection up one octave
10.3.3.4. Changing notes
You may want to do more than just change the
pitch of a note. For example, you may also want to change a
note's duration, velocity, or vibrato -- the functions that
control the way each note sounds, and give the notes a
"human" feel. Using a sequencer, it is easy to select and
change any one note or selection of notes:
Alter the pitch higher or lower. To
change the pitch of one particular note, just click on the center of
the note, and drag the note up or down, thus changing its pitch, as
shown in Figure 10-5.
Alter the time placement. Similarly,
click and drag the far left of the note to move the note forward or
backward in time. For example, if the note currently began at beat 3
of measure 4, and you want to move it so that the beginning was at
beat 4 of measure 4, click the left-hand side of the note and drag
the note until it aligned with beat 4.
Alter the note length. Finally, if
you want to lengthen or shorten the note's duration, click to
the far right of the note and drag to the right to lengthen and to
the left to shorten the duration of the note.
Figure 10-5. Clicking and moving a particular note lets you change pitch, move the note forward or backward in time, and make the note longer or shorter.
10.3.3.5. Using the strip chart
You may want to add vibrato or pitch bend to a group of
notes to imitate a more "life-like" sound. To alter key
velocity or pitch bend values of a MIDI note, selection, or file, use
the strip chart. The strip chart is a chart that contains other MIDI
information, besides note value, pitch, duration, and so on, and is
found in the main Edit window. To use the strip chart:
Access the strip chart. To access
the strip chart, first double-click the colored notation box that
contains the sequence you want to change in the main Edit window (for
example, the colored box on the righthand side of the piano track).
Similarly, to open the track for editing, you may double-click the
bullet to the far left of the track. A window will appear, with the
title "Sequences -- Your file." At the bottom left,
there will be a small box that says "Strip chart," as
shown in Figure 10-6.
Figure 10-6. By clicking and holding the strip chart column, you can effectively select the desired controller in which you want to add or alter information.
Select a strip chart controller.
Click and hold the strip chart button and a pop-up list of the
available controllers will appear.
By clicking and holding on the box that displays the controller value
(the default is No strip chart), you may select any of the controller
values associated with that MIDI file. Examples of a controller
include velocity, pan, pitch bend, breath control, sustain, after
touch, and so on. Each one of these controller names has a particular
function, and you may want to experiment with them. However, for this
tutorial, we need be concerned with only a few. For our purposes, we
want to alter the pitch bend controller, so select pitch bend from
the Strip Chart window. Now, in the box just to the left of the
controller box, click and hold and then select Free from the pop-up
Draw pitch bend values. Now click on
the pencil icon located two boxes to the left, so you can use the
cursor as a pencil to draw in pitch bend changes.
To create a realistic vibrato effect, zoom in until you are looking
at the notes you want to alter, then draw a line up and down in short
patterns as shown in Figure 10-7, just barely
crossing over the center line each time.
Figure 10-7. Using the pencil tool, you can draw any controller information in the strip chart. In this case, we have attempted to simulate a vibrato sound by drawing small up and down pitch bend movements.
Audition the changes. After drawing
pitch bend values for a few notes, select the notes in the main
sequence window. Make this selection by clicking and dragging over
the notes you altered (you must drag over the beginning of each note
you want to select). Audition them by pressing play on the main
controller (the play button to the right of the controller palette,
instead of the "play from beginning" button on the left
of the controller palette). If you have made changes in the strip
chart that you want to erase, drag over the changes and hit Delete.
The process of adding, editing, or deleting any other controller
information is the same. Simply select the controller you want to
alter in the strip chart and then perform your edits. Saving your
file will automatically incorporate those changes into the file the
next time you play the file.
Achieving consistent MIDI playback on the Web
Jeff Essex of Audiosyncrasy (http://www.audiosync.com) has spent the past
eight years in the trenches of multimedia sound design, juggling MIDI
and audio to create award-winning projects for clients that include
Disney Online, Nickelodeon Online, Red Sky Interactive, and many
others. Below are some of his tips for creating MIDI for the Web.
(Portions of this section are derived from Jeff Essex's
articles originally written for the Apple
Worldwide Developer Relations Group).
MIDI is great for its small file sizes, but getting
consistent playback, considering the
different sound cards and unique user sound systems, is practically
impossible. Here are some of the strategies used by professionals to
get the best results.
A MIDI file usually plays multiple instruments at the same time. Each
is on a discrete channel, somewhat like a multitrack tape recorder.
Each of these channels must be initialized with the proper settings
for instrument assignment (program changes), volume level (controller
#7 ), placement in the stereo field (pan, or controller #10), and
effects level (reverb depth, controller #91). These instructions must
be placed before any music note data, so that setup is complete
before the music starts.
If your music has to loop, see the "Looping" section below for initialization ideas.
If your music is a linear one-shot piece, insert a blank measure
before the music and place these commands in the blank measure.
Change either the tempo or the meter of the initialization measure to
reduce the length of silence before the music starts. For example,
set the first measure to a tempo of 500, then reset the tempo to the
desired setting in the second measure where the notes start. Or set
the first measure to a meter of 1/4, so it's only one measure,
then change the tempo to 4/4 (or your desired meter) on the second
You never know how long the viewer will remain on a particular page,
so most of the music Jeff created has to loop seamlessly. But
achieving a seamless loop while also initializing the data is quite a
trick. If Jeff tells the synth to play the first note while also
telling it "change from a piano sound to a guitar sound,"
there may be a glitch in the rhythm of the piece while the command is
executed. Jeff offers three solutions to this problem:
Start with just drums
The drum sound is always the same, and
piano is the default
sound that's played if no program change is sent. You can sneak
the initialization info for the other instruments in while the piano
or drums are playing.
Start with any one instrument by itself.
For example, one piece starts with a harp. The program data is placed
just after the first note, so the first time users hear it,
they'll hear one note of piano before the rest of the harp
notes. But on successive passes through the loop, the harp will play
the first note, since its instrument assignment was set on the first
run through the loop.
Start with one tiny section of silence.
This process is a bit more complex and requires taking advantage of
some musical math. Say a piece is in 4/4 time. It's often
possible to go to the last measure of the piece and see if
there's a tiny bit of silence at the end (for example, a 16th
note rest). We can define the last measure as 16/16 instead of 4/4,
then take the silence during the last 16th note rest and stick it at
the beginning of the piece. We end up with a piece that starts with
one measure in 1/16, then lots of 4/4, and a last measure of 15/16.
Now there's a 1/16 measure of silence at the beginning where we
can initialize the file.
- Volume levels
There's a wide variety in velocity response between various
Try "normalizing" your key velocities to get more
consistent results. Jeff scales the velocities so that they fall
between the range of 60-127. Also, set channel volume levels to a
maximum of 100. It's quite possible that distortion will occur
if you have several channels playing notes struck at velocities of
127, while the channel volume is also set to 127.
- Reducing data
Sure, MIDI files are small, but you can make them gigantic if
you're not careful. You may want to strip out after-touch data,
and thin the data on continuous controllers like pitch bend and mod
wheel. If you're tweaking the bender or mod wheel prior to
playing a note (like bending down before the note is struck, then
bending back up to normal), strip out all the pitch bend data except
for the last one that sets the actual value before the note event.
Know the enemy. Jeff authors on a Mac with a
Sound Canvas, the "Rosetta Stone" of General MIDI
composition. If you're serious about web MIDI, try to get a
real sound canvas. But after a piece is finished, check it on a PC
through a Creative Labs SoundBlaster AWE32, a basic SoundBlaster
16 with FM synthesis, and on a Mac through the
QuickTime Musical Instruments. Most
of Jeff 's pieces go through several revisions to balance the
instrument levels between the different players.
- Pray for deliverance
putting the responsibility for synthesizer performance back into the
composer's hands. Let's hope these technologies are
broadly adopted in the new millennium.
10.3.4. Making your MIDI music from scratch
You may want to compose and record your own MIDI music file. With
almost 1,000 separate MIDI recording tracks and all the editing
features you need to fine-tune every little note, you could become
the next Mozart or at least the next Britney Spears. The Vision
sequencer offers MIDI as well as digital audio recording, editing,
and effects processing for adding audio tracks to your MIDI tracks.
But since you cannot upload a MIDI file with digitized audio, we will
not discuss the range of audio recording options. For more
information about a digital audio editor, read Chapter 4, "Optimizing Your Sound Files".
10.3.4.1. Creating your own MIDI file
Creating your own file from scratch
is a bit complicated. Here's how to do it in
Open a new sequence/MIDI file. To
create your own MIDI file, first choose File New. A window
entitled "Sequence A" will appear and automatically be
record-enabled (the red R will be highlighted at
the far left of the track as shown in Figure 10-8).
You are ready to go.
Figure 10-8. Choosing FileNew creates an untitled sequence window that is record enabled and ready for your new composition.
Connect your MIDI keyboard. If you
have a MIDI keyboard
or other controller like a wind or guitar controller, you may connect
it to Vision via a MIDI interface. Refer to the Vision documentation
or your MIDI sequencer for the exact specification for setting up
your MIDI controller and the accompanying studio setup. For the
setup, all you need is a MIDI interface, a MIDI keyboard, and a few
connections within a secondary program such as
System. (OMS is supplied by Opcode with the Vision package and is
also available for download at http://www.opcode.com.). Once you have your
MIDI keyboard or controller connected and transmitting MIDI
information to your sequencer, you are ready to record.
Expert MIDI files: Twiddly Bits
One promising product for creating music with MIDI is called
from Keyfax Software (http://www.keyfax.com). Twiddly Bits are
collections of MIDI samples recorded by world-class musicians and
stored as MIDI files onto floppy disks. The musicians recorded licks,
runs, motifs, and patterns that are typical of a particular
instrument or style of music. You can load these files into your
sequencer and have access to MIDI parts that can be pasted in any
file or pattern. Because the music was recorded by world-class
musicians (Bill Bruford of King Crimson, Steve Hackett of Genesis,
John Bundrick of The Who, and Bob Marley, to name a few), the MIDI
files sound almost authentic, with good feel and playability.
You can choose from a variety of styles in the
drums and percussion,
MIDI breakbeats, guitar grooves, jazz
piano, bass and drums,
country, funk, world series Brazilian beats, Bill Bruford drums, and
a host of others. The "Twids" come in standard MIDI files
(SMFs) and can be played on Macs or PCs. We have included a group of
10 Twiddly Bits at http://www.designingwebaudio.com for you to
use and experiment with. After you have opened a Twiddly Bit in
Vision, press Play and audition them. Then choose places where you
can use them in your own compositions or in other existing MIDI
files. Try one of the following tips and tricks offered by Twiddly
Bits creator Julian Colbeck:
Most of the Twids are designed to be looped in two-, four-, or
eight-bar patterns. If you want to play four bars and have the fourth
bar change chords, simply copy four bars, then transpose the fourth
bar. For example, transposing +5 half steps or semitones will change
a C minor chord into an F minor chord. Experiment with different
patterns and transpositions.
You don't have to choose between a Twid part and something you
have played yourself. You can mix and match. Do this by loading both
parts next to one another on two separate tracks. Then mute the Twid
part and as you play your part, unmute the Twid part at varying
places until you find a good balance between the two. To complete the
exercise, snip out the section of your part where you want the Twid
and then merge the two. Think of it as sewing a patch onto your
favorite pair of jeans.
Record your MIDI file. Click the
Record button and begin playing notes on the keyboard. The default
recording function in Vision is "Wait for Note," which
means that Vision holds in record mode until you press your first
key, at which time it will begin recording and capture all key,
velocity, and controller data you send to it during the recording.
Select your tempo. The recording
follows at the tempo specified in the tempo box, as shown in Figure 10-9. This value may be changed by clicking in the
box and entering a new tempo. You may either enter the tempo manually
using the numeric keys on your keyboard, or, if you hold the pointer
inside the tempo box, it turns into an up or down arrow. Clicking the
mouse button will move the tempo accordingly, in the direction of the
Figure 10-9. You may change the tempo of your MIDI file by clicking in the tempo box and entering the desired tempo or speed of your file.
Choose a click track. You can
request Vision play a click track while you are recording to indicate
the beat value and relative speed. This allows you to keep proper
time during your recording. The option "Click in Record"
is enabled by default and may be toggled by choosing Options
Click in Record. Also in the Options menu, you may select Click in
Play, which causes the click track to play during playback as well.
If you want to change the notes of the click track, select Options
Metronome Sound and change the values of the notes in the
boxes provided, as shown in Figure 10-10.
Figure 10-10. Choose your own metronome sounds by selecting an instrument (generally Instrument 10 for drums) and then two notes to represent the accented and unaccented beats.
Click the Record and Play buttons.
To record your MIDI music, first click Record, then Play (or hit the
spacebar) to begin recording. Now listen to the metronome count off
and begin playing notes when you are ready. Play as much as you want,
as there are no time limits and disk space is not a factor with MIDI
files. You have approximately 100 hours of recording before you begin
to run out of disk space on the average hard drive.
Click the Stop button. When you are
finished, click the stop button or hit the spacebar. Your newly
created MIDI file will now appear in the "Sequence A"
Audition your recording. You may hit
the Play from Beginning button (the play button to the left of the
stop button on the control palette, shown in Figure 10-11) to audition your recording. When you are
finished auditioning, you may want to make some changes. To do the
entire recording over again, select Undo.
Figure 10-11. There are two Play buttons on the control palette. The Play button to the left of the Stop button is called the Play from Beginning button, and it commences playback from the start of the piece. The Play button to the right of the Stop button continues playback from the point of the time marker.
Minor edits. If you want to fix a
few notes that may have incorrect pitches or may fall at incorrect
times, simply use your mouse to make these edits. Do this by
double-clicking the part of the window where the MIDI notes appear or
the left-most edge of the track, where the track selection bullet
exists (the bullet will appear as a triangle if the track is
currently selected). A new window will appear, in which you may edit
and change the MIDI information, as described earlier in this chapter
in the Section 10.3.3.5, "Using the strip chart". You can change notes by
clicking on them and then altering them to your specifications.
Again, if you want to change the duration of a note, click the right
side of the note and drag. If you want to change the pitch, click the
center and drag the note up or down. If you want to change the space
in time that the note occupies, click the far left side of the note
and drag the note to the new desired location.
10.3.4.2. Adding notes without using a keyboard
Finally, you may want to add notes to your MIDI file without entering
them via the keyboard, or even create an entire file without using a
keyboard at all. You can accomplish this in two ways: by cutting and
pasting or by drawing a note.
First, you could copy and paste notes from another file. Simply
select a note or group of notes by clicking and dragging over the
desired selection area. Then choose Edit Copy, from one file,
perhaps a previously existing file of a piece of music you like. Now,
use the cursor to select an insert point of where you want the new
notes to enter. Then choose Edit Paste, and the new notes will
become part of the new track.
Figure 10-12 shows a MIDI file before and after an
edit insertion of notes. You may even choose to copy notes from other
MIDI files such as the Twiddly Bits files. These files, described in the sidebar "Expert MIDI files: Twiddly Bits", are collections of
professionally recorded MIDI files that are made to be copied and
pasted into your own MIDI files. This sort of resource can add extra
complexity and depth to your existing MIDI files.
Figure 10-12. A MIDI file before pasting in new notes (top), and after pasting in new notes (bottom)
The second way to add notes without using a keyboard or other
controller is simply to draw them into the file. Heres how to draw
new notes into the file:
Select the file track that you want to draw the
notes into. Double-click the bullet to the far left of the
track name to open the edit window for that track as shown in Figure 10-13.
Figure 10-13. To open a track for editing, double-click the small bullet to the far left of the Track name.
Select the pencil tool. After the
file is open, click on the pencil tool located at the top left of the
Edit window. With the pencil tool selected, begin clicking anywhere
in the Edit window. Anywhere you click, a new note will appear, as
shown in Figure 10-14. The note will have a specific
value and have the pitch associated with the exact place you clicked
in the window. To see which pitch it corresponds to, look at the list
at the far right of the window. You will see note names and numbers,
indicting the octave of that note. C3 corresponds to middle C on the
piano or keyboard. The default duration of the note is set to 1/4
note. You can also change this by clicking the pencil tool again,
until the Settings window appears. When it does, you may click and
hold on the icon of the 1/4 note; simply select the note value you
desire, ranging from a dotted whole note to a triplet 32nd note.
Figure 10-14. After you select the pencil tool, the cursor turns into a note. A new note appears anywhere you click in the Edit window.
Draw more notes. After you draw your
first note, start drawing away until you have a section that you are
relatively pleased with.
Audition the new notes. Select the
newly drawn notes and choose Play from the controller.
Edit the new notes. Click back onto
the cursor tool and begin editing the pitch values and duration of
the notes to meet your needs.
Clearly, these techniques would be too cumbersome to create 100
measures or several minutes worth of music, but they are ideal for
creating small, specific sections where you need pinpoint accuracy
and don't have time or access to a keyboard controller. Try
creating two-, four-, or eight-bar patterns this way. Then, use the
copy and paste commands to make longer sections. If you go in and
alter the pitch of few notes in every other section, you will achieve
enough variation so that listeners won't know that you simply
cut and pasted the same section multiple times, and they will be more
likely to stay interested in the music. This is a great technique for
creating looped sequences that repeat a certain section over and
over, while giving a relative appearance of never repeating exactly
or at least not boring the listening audience.
DLS: The future of MIDI
So if the big problem with MIDI is the lack of a standardized web
sound engine, when are they going to settle on one format that will
sound good on every machine? Fortunately a solution is near. Seeing
the need for a web standard, the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) has
adopted a specification for synthesis and instrument sound storage.
They called it downloadable sounds, or DLS.
DLS is a common language or set of
instructions that MIDI synthesizer hardware manufacturers have agreed
to incorporate into future devices in order to standardize sound
synthesis. Where MIDI was a standard for note information such as
pitch, duration, and volume, DLS is a standard for describing and
reproducing specific instrument sounds. In other words, DLS will
ensure that the MIDI composition you created in your home studio will
sound roughly the same when it is downloaded from the Web and played
back in a listener's home.
With the implementation of DLS, web sound design with MIDI should
become a lot more compelling. Since DLS has already been adopted by
Microsoft and Apple as the foundation of their next generation of
built-in MIDI sound engines, the format should become available for
practical use fairly soon.
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