Hi Notes:

Part of me is saying, "why are you going further down this rabbit hole?". But let me proceed, because it's interesting to talk about. And I can see by your website that you know what you're talking about. But I think we're slicing this too fine, so we're arguing semantics.

On one level (again) you are correct - the only standard in GM is what type of sound is called up, for consistency. A piano track in one file should be a piano track in another, and so on. And no more. But the devil is in the details. Look here at the overview of the spec:

GM Soundset

Specifically this section:

"Each manufacturer must insure that their sounds provide an acceptable representation of song data written for General MIDI. Guidelines for developing GM compatible sound sets and song data are available."

What is "acceptable"? There's the rub. Over time the market pushed manufacturers to sound more alike than different. So often their hands were tied to sound close enough to each other... Sure some varied, but it became a bit of a yolk around their necks. GS/GM 2 and XG all were developed to provide more and more sound variety, while staying within the general confines of the specification. So it doesn't matter what the spec defined and didn't define, the marketplace implementation and user reaction did.

Now, I completely agree that by definition, being in the GM Bank doesn't mean a sound is good or bad. It either works for what you're doing or it doesn't. And often in a mix a simpler sound will serve the part better than something that too XX (whatever the characteristic is). So often I had artists tell me how great a sound was for the tune they were working on, which when solo-ed seemed rather simple, or plain. But that's not important. It did what it needed to do.

Moving on to the MT-32 - yes it was not GM, but it absolutely became the standard to which all GM soundsets were based on, and/or compared to. Because it was very popular for computer music/desktop music etc. and had so many song files written for it back in the day that needed to play back right on the newer devices that supported GM. The Roland Sound Canvas was the first to actually "be" GM-compatible, but it was not that different-sounding than the MT-32. So I could have used that model as well.That is the history. I know.... I was there.



Originally Posted by Notes_Norton
Originally Posted by jerrythek
Originally Posted by Notes_Norton
General MIDI sounds suck.

General MIDI has no sound, just suggested patch numbers for a set of common patch names.

Literally this is true, but I think we all know what they are referring to. The Roland MT-32 pretty much defined the sounds for each of the 128 choices, and so for a company to create a GM soundset that customers thought "sounded good" playing back MIDI files, the new company had to pretty closely match the MT-32. So we ended up with a sea of products with a GM mode that were all trying to sound as close to the MT-32 without being sued...

Perhaps another reason for this perception was the fact that for GM you could only have Chorus and Reverb, so when compared to "regular" sounds that could have insert effects and more diversity in general, the GM sounds were plainer.

Oops, see, I just did it. Because what else are you going to call those 128 sounds? The sounds found in the GM sound bank?


That's what I mean. (The MT32 is not GM BTW)

General MIDI simply designates the names of 128 patches. It doesn't even say what the voice is supposed to sound like. Atmosphere (100) on one synth can sound completely different on another. It's up to the synth manufacturer to determine what atmosphere sounds like.

I have GM patches that take plenty of continuous controllers, chorus, reverb, LFO, Sustain, Pan, Breath controller, Portamento, Brightness, Volume, Expression, Mod wheel, and so on. And I have others that are more limited. It depends on the synth maker, not the GM specifications.

I have a GM synth that by manipulating the MSB and LSB I can get 12 different 'clean guitar. sounds like Tele (front or back pup), Strat, 335, LP, and more, all with GM patch 28.

Both my Edirol SD90 and my Ketron SD2 have some fantastic General MIDI sounds (and some lesser ones as well).

MIDI has no sound. MIDI is the electronic fingers that play a synthesizer, and the synthesizer has sound. A good synth patch is good whether it is a GM patch number or not, and a bad patch sounds bad whether it is a GM patch number or not. Besides for that good or bad is actually in the ear of the listener. A lot of people like that DX7 extra bright Rhodes sound.

I still occasionally use a few TX81z and MT32 sounds because for the song I'm working on they sound perfect. Neither one is GM. I still use SC55 sounds that are GM. Plus I use other synths as well.

General MIDI sounds don't suck, because General MIDI has no sound - none - zero - zilch - nada. MIDI synthesizers have sounds, some good, some bad and it doesn't matter if the patch number coincides with the GM set or not.

Insights and incites by Notes