There are a number of ways of communicating between different musical instruments. Without a doubt, the most common is MIDI, but since this standard was first created in 1983, there have been a number of revisions, and indeed new developments since then. This page on StudyMusicTech.com outlines some of the key information about this for your further study and research.
- MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface.
- It allows different electronic musical instruments and equipment to be connected together
- MIDI was introduced in August 1983
- It was a joint standard across different manufacturers
- It is a language; it doesn’t store audio data. Rather it is a set of commands sent to connected instruments.
- Each instrument has its own MIDI channel. This means that it only responds to messages meant for it.
- General MIDI was a further set of requirements for MIDI devices that was intended to ensure consistent playback between devices (particularly with regard to instrument patches)
- GM requires 24-voice polyphony, standardised controllers & numbers and locations of instruments
- Whilst MIDI files are very small, they are often criticised for sounding unrealistic; this is really a criticism of the equipment playing them back rather than the protocol itself.
Commands and Controllers
- MIDI controllers change a characteristic of the sound or track
- Controllers are either switched or continuous; switched controllers either have a value of 0 or 127, so are on or off. Continuous controller values range between 0 and 127.
- You can view controller data in the MIDI event list in your DAW, or sometimes in the piano roll editor.
|Modulation||1||Adds vibrato (modulates pitch)||Continuous|
|Volume||7||Changes overall track volume||Continuous|
|Pan||10||Moves between L, C and R||Switched|
|Sustain||64||Holds on notes||Switched|
|Portamento||65||Bends between notes (glide)||Switched|
|Reverb Depth||91||Adds reverb (amount)||Continuous|
|Chorus Depth||93||Adds chorus (amount)||Continuous|
|Reset All||121||Stops all controllers||Switched|
MIDI Controllers and Numbers
- Quantise is used to move notes that are poorly timed back onto the beat where they are meant to be. It achieves this through ‘snapping’ each note to a grid, the size of which is determined by the note resolution you choose
- Resolutions are defined by the number of the the notes you could fit in a bar of 4/4 (e.g. 1/1 – 1 semibreve; 1/2 – two minims etc…)
- It has been criticised for removing the musical expression from the music. Thus, some more advanced quantise functions were created:
- Swung quantise
- Groove templates
- Iterative quantise
Articulation and Velocity
- Articulation is how the notes are played; short or long, slurred together or detached.
- This is recreated by altering parameters of the MIDI note, in particular the length and velocity
- You could change the synth’s envelope to mirror the specific articulation of an instrument
- In Logic, ‘Gate Time’ can be used to change the feel of the MIDI data
- When a note on command is sent to a MIDI device, it is sent with a specific velocity value (from 0 to 127). This relates to how hard the note is struck
- Velocity is a useful method of us recreating the sound of real instruments and avoiding MIDI sequences becoming mechanical.
- Synthesisers commonly assign filter envelopes that are dependent on velocity
Other Programming Languages / Control Environments
- DMX stands for Digital Multiplex
- It is faster than MIDI and provides a higher resolution
- It is mostly used to control lighting fixtures and other parts of a show.
- It was originally intended as a protocol for controlling light dimmers (which were not compatible with each other before the introduction of the standard, known in full as DMX512
- It soon became the preferred method for linking a lighting console to dimmers and other stage effects such as smoke machines and for the control of moving head lights.
- It uses a 5 pin XLR cable to connect controllers to peripherals
- OSC stands for Open Sound Control and was designed between 2002 and 2004
- It is becoming increasingly popular and is used by programmes such as MAX/MSP and Reaktor
- Like MIDI, it can be used to connect together musical equipment such as synthesisers and computers
- It was originally intended for sharing music performance data (gestures, parameters and note sequences) between musical instruments (especially electronic musical instruments such as synthesizers), computers, and other multimedia devices.
- It is sometimes used as an alternative to MIDI, and it provides higher resolution and more detailed parameter information
- Connections use computer network protocols such as UDP/IP and Ethernet and is often connected to controllers using USB cables
- This means that it is possible to send OSC messages over a wired or wireless network
- OSC has been used extensively in experimental music controllers