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Introduction to MIDI software


cedar

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As I mentioned in another thread, I am fairly new to music software generally, but increasingly I get the sense that it is only a matter of time before I familiarize myself with the wonderful world of MIDI files. Just looking for some basic guidance on how to get started.

 

My quick background: I am primarily a jazz pianist, and would be happy to live my days playing acoustic piano. But I do like other genres and for various reasons am now involved in or considering playing in different types of groups, including a funk band, progressive rock band, jazz/fusion, etc.

 

I own a Yamaha CP4 and a Hammond XK1-C. The only software I have is a stripped down version of Finale called Songwriter. I have been using Songwriter to create lead sheets and fairly simple arrangements for combos. Ultimately, I expect I will need something more powerful, because I have some ambition for more elaborate arranging.

 

I do not have a DAW (though I can easily anticipate getting one at some point) and have never used MIDI files. In another thread, though, suggestions were made that I use MIDI files to expedite the process of transcribing and printing sheet music. I do find myself transcribing more and more, but I hate the process and would love to take any shortcuts I can.

 

Having said all that, I am asking for: (1) recommendations about MIDI software (or other software); (2) general guidance on how to use the software, particularly for the purpose of transcribing and printing sheet music; (3) any other suggestions for hardware that I might need to purchase. For example, I don't know whether a DAW is necessary to print PDFs of MIDI files, or whether that can be accomplished with just software and a computer.

 

If this is covered in any other thread, please feel free to point me in that direction instead.

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As a start to get familiar with midi files and how to import them and to see the score in notation format download the free Muse Score and then some free midi files, hint search for ' song name midi' and import the midi file into Muse Score.

 

Once you are familiar with this process you can then move on to evaluate a DAW.

MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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Another thing is there's a big difference between actually listening to and manipulating a midi file and simply using it to generate the notation. That one Starship Trooper file I mentioned in the other thread has all the notation just fine but for playing it's got issues because the data track is full of sysex strings. Sysex is instructions for a specific synth that the author used to create the file. I don't know what synth that was and probably don't have it anyway. That means some instrument patches are wrong plus other things like volume, panning etc. There's a couple of tracks that have midi info in them but won't sound even though there's CC 7's (volume) info there and I've changed synths and set up the channel and patch so my first attempt for those muted tracks didn't work. The other tracks are sounding fine. There's ways to strip all those embedded midi instructions out and enter your own information from whatever synth you're using with your setup but it gets tricky and tedious. I can do that but haven't had time yet. This is what you get with unknown downloaded files.

 

But, if all you need is the ability to print out the parts from the keys or melody tracks that doesn't matter. It could sound like a flock of geese soundwise but all the actual note info is still there visually if that makes sense so when I opened the notation window it looks like a standard chart.

 

Bob

Hammond SK1, Mojo 61, Kurzweil PC3, Korg Pa3x, Roland FA06, Band in a Box, Real Band, Studio One, too much stuff...
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Before getting to know the software, it's important to understand the basics of MIDI itself. MIDI was invented, and used by professionals in the early '80s, in the days before personal computers! It's like learning scales; you can still play songs without learning scales, but the results aren't quite the same ;).

 

The first part of this tutorial is a nice intro. For more resources, click here, here, and here.

 

Hope this helps, and welcome to the world of MIDI.

 

- Guru

This is really what MIDI was originally about encouraging cooperation between companies that make the world a more creative place." - Dave Smith
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Just realized that the program I have, Songwriter, does have the ability to import MIDI files, though I have not yet learned how to turn the files into something usable for my purpose, which is basically just to edit, annotate and print out accurate keyboard parts). As Bob suggested, I do not yet care about recreating sounds at the moment.

 

I'm still interested in opinions about best software/tutorials, general advice, though. Thanks.

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Bob you are going to scare the newby off. If the first step is to get the notation for a track then Muse Score will do that. Whether the GM midi or soundfonts used are accurate is of secondary importance - unless he plans to press play live.

 

The world of free midi files is littered with junk put together by folks with cloth ears but there are some highly accurate jems out there also. I would be thankfull that the notation is accurate in the one you found.

 

AG welcome back - have you been busy exploring touch OSC?

MainStage 3 | Axiom 61 2nd Gen | Pianoteq | B5 | XK3c | EV ZLX 12P

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Just realized that the program I have, Songwriter, does have the ability to import MIDI files, though I have not yet learned how to turn the files into something usable for my purpose, which is basically just to edit, annotate and print out accurate keyboard parts).

 

Short answer ... Just use Songwriter. Upgrade when you need to.

 

Long answer ... There are two worlds: DAWs and Notation programs, with some overlap between them. Both allow you to import midi and modify it. For your purposes a notation program is better because a) notation programs typically show the midi information in a more simplified score-like form (they make assumptions about note length, etc to do this). and b) For a person who reads scores, the interface for writing additional notes is typically faster. So you are in the best world.

 

Within that notation world there are 2.5 options I am aware of: Finale, Sibelius, and a (with a half point, because they are a new entrant) Presonus Notion. All of them will import midi and let you add/develop material from there. I've used the full Finale and a couple of Notion products, including the Ipad version, which is great on a train. Since you have a Finale product, you can simply upgrade when you need more features than Songwriter has. I slightly prefer the way the Notion products are laid out, and tend to use them more for quick arrangements, but Finale is extremely feature rich for formal stuff. (My son uses Finale Printmusic for his projects and he loves it.)

 

The next step for you is to get educated on what Songwriter can do for you. Just import a midi file and try it out. There are lots of tutorials on the Finale website. Dive in. Upgrade when you need more.

 

@Guru ... missed you man. Nice to see you here. :2thu:

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Came across the OP's original thread, and now that I know the context, the tutorials I listed above seem like slight overkill. Still, it's always a good idea to get the basics right...

 

(Thanks, guys. Day job projects have been keeping away from music!)

 

- Guru

This is really what MIDI was originally about encouraging cooperation between companies that make the world a more creative place." - Dave Smith
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I use Sibelius for notation, and don't even think about midi while I'm using it.

 

But.

 

Once you start trying to run a bunch of hardware synths, mixed with software synths, connected and controlled through midi, the learning curve is quite steep.

 

Then all this detailed stuff in links will be gold.

 

I'm thinking.

 

Have fun.

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