The MIDI Page - Intro

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by Todd Albertson

Welcome to my humble column. Each month, in this section we will explore together the most revolutionary musical/¬production development to come along in many hundreds of years. I am of course, referring to the way computers have begun to assist (and sometimes replace) us.

MIDI is an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. Originally the idea was to allow musicians to "layer" keyboards in order to create more complex sounds, but it quickly took on gigantic proportions to the entire music/production industry! Some astute individuals realized that what had been created was an entire language, and immediately began writing software to allow musicians and producers to "speak" with equipped instruments through both conventional and the newly created "dedicated" computers such as the now popular Roland MC 500 (my favorite) and Yamaha QX series. A new crop of very technically oriented producers has evolved and has nearly displaced the older, business/human relations oriented type. The producer today is very likely a competent keyboard artist himself, and often plays/programs many of the tracks on his artist's records.

To further complicate the whole matter, MIDI has grown so that it is no longer the sole province of keyboard artists. It is now accessible to guitars, basses, clarinets, saxes, drums, and a multitude of other instruments. In addition, we keyboard artists have been blessed with "breath controllers" that allow us to simulate the tongue action of horns, woodwinds, etc.. There are very few musical sounds that cannot be so flawlessly recreated with MIDI, as to fool any TRAINED listener into believing he is hearing an artist playing an acoustic instrument. The vast majority of all sounds heard today on any sound track were made on some sort of MIDI configured instrument or computer.

In my opinion, the human voice, and the guitar have yet to be fully duplicated in their wide ranges of subtleties. It is very likely that the guitar will soon be attainable as new controllers are developed daily, but doubtful that the human voice will be within reach for many years. It's not that we can't sample a performance and play it back digitally. That is amazingly easy to do now. It is much more difficult to come up with the means to allow someone to improvise convincingly. There are just too many factors to control, not to mention lyrics. Singers and air talent, take heart!

There lies the central issue in a raging debate...

You see, while computer assisted production has been wonderful for guys like me (a little bent), it has put thousands of musicians and recording studios out of work. Artists no longer need to hire several musicians and rent studios for dozens of hours. In fact, artists can simply hire a competent MIDI producer for far less money, and usually come up with a better product. And while the impact has not yet been fully felt in radio station production studios, it would be wise to begin training now. In learning all you can, you will make yourself invaluable.

Unless you are a trained musician, you will be hard pressed to create good production music, but there is absolutely no reason for you to ever buy another electronics sound effects package. You can create these little gems yourself, to suit the needs of each promo/ID! Furthermore, with a good sampler, you can drop voice overdubs into music beds ON THE BEATS to create incredible chant like readings (Rusty Ford of WAVA is a master of this). And, for good measure, with a modem, you can send your work to a sister station to be aired the same day!

If you would like to write to me with suggestions or comments (gently), I would like to hear from you. Simply send them to RAP. I'll get them. Tune in next month when we begin to explore basic synthesizers.

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