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#71313 - 04/27/10 06:30 PM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix?
g-man Offline
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Registered: 04/27/10
Posts: 1
Hi all,
If this has been covered I could not find it in the search engine. I use midi and biab to back me and my wife's jazz duo. I use some midi files I find on the internet. Some of the files seem to play louder than others. It's kind of a hassle having to manually adjust the volume for each song on the sequencer on the fly with a guitar in one hand. Is there a trick to make all the files play at the same volume. I've messed with it for hours and can't seem to find the key. I can adjust the volume in midi as it's playing and when I try to save and then use again it goes back to the original level. Can you tell me if this is a midi thing and how to fix it or does biab have a quick fix for it. Thanks for any help and info you can provide.

G-man

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#71314 - 04/27/10 07:59 PM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: g-man]
Gary Curran Offline
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Registered: 01/07/02
Posts: 10059
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There are quite a few items that would cause differing volume levels on different midi files. Unfortunately, I know of no way to 'normalize' all MIDI files to be the same on the fly. That would involve changing volume levels, velocity levels, expression levels and who knows what else.

I would suggest that the best solution is 'go prepared.' Have all of your files already tweaked and set up so that they are at the same volume level for what you expect to play. That will require opening each file in a sequencer, like Real Band or Power Tracks Pro Audio, and adjusting volume and velocity levels so that everything is the same.

You might consider, instead of using MIDI files, converting each to a high quality .mp3 or .wma file. That way, each is already set at a known volume.

Nothing makes a gigging musician look bad, both in the eyes of customer and the person hiring you, then someone who is jumping all over stage to make changes from when a new song starts.

So, tweak the songs so that they are all the same level, and you'll never be surprised.

Gary
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#71315 - 04/28/10 02:26 AM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: g-man]
Noel96 Offline
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Registered: 10/31/08
Posts: 13312
Loc: Australia
Hi G-Man,

Another possibility that might work for you is the Normalize Midi Velocities to.... This is found under Opt >> Preferences >> Arrange: it's on the upper right side of the pop-up box. I'd set this to, say, 80 or 90. (Velocity controls MIDI volume and having all songs set to the same value should assist.)

Regards,
Noel
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#71316 - 04/28/10 09:15 AM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: Noel96]
Notes Norton Offline
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Registered: 07/06/00
Posts: 4399
Loc: Fort Pierce, Florida, U.S.A.
Unfortunately normalize doesn't work.

It raises the highest peak to the maximum non-distorted level.

So if one song has one loud peak and the rest of the song not so loud AND another song has a soft level with no peaks, after normalizing, the soft level song will sound MUCH louder than the one with the loud peak.

It isn't easy, and there is no instant gratification fix that I know of.

But then, if it were easy, a lot of people would be doing it and my clients wouldn't pay me for having so much fun on the gig.

You will have to "master" your MIDI or mp3 files (whatever you choose for your backing track).

That will involve listening, comparing and adjusting the levels - continuous controller 7 on each MIDI track of each song, or the volume of mp3 tracks. Then when you get on the gig you will find that you will need to go back and readjust a few from time to time.

It often takes me 2 or 3 tries of balancing to get my backing tracks right. For some reason, "mastering" at home is different from the gig. Probably due to the differences between my home system and my PA system (which is too much work to set up in the living room).

Although it's a lot of work, and takes a lot of time, it's worth it in the long run.

Insights and incites by Notes
_________________________
Bob "Notes" Norton smile Norton Music
http://www.nortonmusic.com

100% MIDI Super-Styles recorded by live, pro, studio musicians for a live groove
& Fake Disks for MIDI and/or RealTracks

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#71317 - 04/28/10 02:48 PM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: g-man]
jazzmammal Offline
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Registered: 06/08/05
Posts: 6505
Loc: Redondo Beach, Ca.
Quote:

Hi all,
If this has been covered I could not find it in the search engine. I use midi and biab to back me and my wife's jazz duo. I use some midi files I find on the internet. Some of the files seem to play louder than others. It's kind of a hassle having to manually adjust the volume for each song on the sequencer on the fly with a guitar in one hand. Is there a trick to make all the files play at the same volume. I've messed with it for hours and can't seem to find the key. I can adjust the volume in midi as it's playing and when I try to save and then use again it goes back to the original level. Can you tell me if this is a midi thing and how to fix it or does biab have a quick fix for it. Thanks for any help and info you can provide.

G-man




There's several different issues going on here and I've been there and done that. Using biab live and using midi files live are two different things. I finally gave up trying to play a midi file live using Power Tracks because messing with the mouse on a gig is just not practical plus as you found out not all midi files were created equal. It's a complete pia trying to remix several hundred Real Book files track by track. Burning the tunes to MP3 also is not practical to me because of the mixing problem. Notes is absolutely correct but he's a long time and full time pro at this and I'm not. After years of experience you can tell even if you're at home if the mix is correct or not but for me, I get on the gig and if the drums are way too loud even though they sounded great at home, then that song is useless because it's a finished stereo mix and you can't simply pull the drums back.
What I wound up doing is using Biab only, no midi's. I use a standard mono PA and I pan the bass and drums right and everything else left and use a stereo out plug that I split to two channels on my mixer. Then I have some control by adjusting one of those mixer channels. Between the gain itself and just turning up or down the bass control I get good enough control over the bass and drums.
Yes, you lose some of the nice individual song specific parts in a well done midi file but it's just not worth it for me to mix all those for the 10 or 12 times a year I might do a Biab gig. The Conductor feature works great live, btw.
If I needed to put together a real professional show like I used to do years ago, then yeah I would put in the time just like Notes does.

Another issue you mentioned involved changing a midi file live and saving it but then later when you play it again, nothing's changed. That's because there are imbedded midi volume changes in the file that you have to strip out before your changes will stick. There can be other control changes in that file too that can bite you that need to be removed. You didn't mention what sequencer you're using but it will have a midi edit window and you have to go in there and remove those cc's. That's more work for you to do before you can use that midi file consistently on a gig and another reason why I gave up on using midi's live. For jazz especially, Biab alone is good enough.

Bob
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#71318 - 04/28/10 03:30 PM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: jazzmammal]
Muzic Trax Offline
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Registered: 01/24/03
Posts: 4941
Loc: California
G-man,

There is a .seq (sequencer) button in Biab. When you have your midi file open in Biab, click the .seq button and select either Melody or Soloist channel there. This opens an edit box. You can select the offending midi channel there and lower the velocities of that track in one global swoop. It will lower that tracks velocity and should be lower in volume. You can do this for each, non Biab midi track there.

If I was gigging and needed a certain riff or midi channel phrase in a song, here is how I would set up my songs in Biab:

1. Load song
2. Select appropriate Biab style
3. Delete any unnecessary midi tracks using .seq button (but keep the "riff/certain song phrase" midi track)
4. rechannel those tracks to something other then the Biab midi channels (using .seq button)
5. Open piano roll and set my volume levels using CC#7 (make sure you have correct midi channel selected)
6. With Piano Roll open: set my patch, chorus & reverb levels for EACH non Biab midi channel.
7. Once satisfied with Biab midi/RT mix, (Save & convert to wav/mp3/wma etc . . .)
8. You could even use a Biab Real Track(s) if mixing to wav/mp3/wma etc . . .

You will need to do this for EACH midi file you intend to use on a gig.

I have found that if I import a midi file into Biab and keep the song's signature midi riff(s), alongside an appropriate Biab style, it is hard to tell the difference between the Biab midi vs the original, usually. You can search for an appropriate style by typing in either the band name or song name in the Biab style picker's "search" box. The "G" button there will continue your search for the next available style that matches your initial search query.

Doing all of this on the "fly" will not work, takes too long. But, take a day or two and edit some files. Once you have them in wav/mp3/wma format, no need to hassle with the mix again.

Trax

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#71319 - 04/28/10 09:33 PM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: Muzic Trax]
Shastastan Offline
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Registered: 10/31/08
Posts: 1252
Loc: CA
What works for us (YMMV) is to use a free pgm called "mp3gain". We use mp3 as our final song file output and then use the mp3 gain pgm to adjust to uniform volumes. I might not be understanding what your goal is. When we are playing we certainly would not have time to adjust volumes for each and every track let alone the song as a whole. I just want to play, keep in contact with the audience, and make sure I'm using the right song on the stand.

I know what you mean about songs acquired via the net. I always make a number of changes to those. I normalize all of my audio files through WavePad, a free program such Audacity before using the mp3 gain pgm. Good luck!

Stan
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#71320 - 04/29/10 03:52 AM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: Notes Norton]
Noel96 Offline
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Registered: 10/31/08
Posts: 13312
Loc: Australia
Hi Notes,
Quote:

Unfortunately normalize doesn't work. It raises the highest peak to the maximum non-distorted level. So if one song has one loud peak and the rest of the song not so loud AND another song has a soft level with no peaks, after normalizing, the soft level song will sound MUCH louder than the one with the loud peak.



I'm a little confused. I know that the above is how normalize works with audio files. With MIDI, though, I thought BIAB's "Normalize all velocities to..." option that I mentioned above worked differently. My understanding was that it set the MIDI velocities of all notes to the same value. There's also an option to include Melody and Soloist in this. It's not a feature that I've used - I've only read about it. Is my understanding incorrect?

Regards,
Noel


Edited by Noel96 (04/29/10 06:17 AM)
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#71321 - 04/29/10 07:51 AM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: Noel96]
jford Offline
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Registered: 12/20/00
Posts: 10487
Loc: Pensacola, Florida
Hi, Noel -

My understanding of the BIAB normalize function is that it doesn't set all the MIDI velocities to the same value, but instead normalizes each track "around" the specified value. So, if you tell it to normalize at 90, then instead of doing what a normal normalize does, which is to shove the peak value to the highest level and adjust everything else by that same amount, the BIAB normalize finds the middle and then centers everything around that for each track. So you will still have dynamics, but the overall level of the track will have been reduced (if it was too high to start with) or increased (if it was too low to start with). So, if all your songs are normalized at, say, 90, then they should have a consistent sound from song to song, but still retaining the dynamics within the song. You also have the option to include or exclude the melody/soloist tracks from the normalize option.
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#71322 - 04/29/10 08:26 AM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: jford]
Notes Norton Offline
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Registered: 07/06/00
Posts: 4399
Loc: Fort Pierce, Florida, U.S.A.
The BiaB "Normalize Midi Velocities To" command is an entirely different animal. It does help and I would use it for home practice/jamming, but IMHO it isn't good enough for live performance over a higher gain PA system.

Of course, there is more than one right way to do almost anything and my way is best for me - YMMV

I have a full page on how I make and use backing tracks on stage here: http://www.nortonmusic.com/backing_tracks.html

Feel free to link to it if you find it worthy.

All of the advice might not help everybody, but some of the advice should be good for most people. I've been playing with backing tracks since the mid 1980s. At first I put them on cassette tapes (because 1980s era computers were very unreliable), then MIDI files on a floppy disk hardware sequencer, then MIDI files on a laptop, and now mp3 files on a laptop.

My method gives me the flexibility to call songs on the fly, and go from song to song without any gap between songs when necessary.

It's the sum total of about 25 years experience of being in a duo.

Insights and incites by Notes
_________________________
Bob "Notes" Norton smile Norton Music
http://www.nortonmusic.com

100% MIDI Super-Styles recorded by live, pro, studio musicians for a live groove
& Fake Disks for MIDI and/or RealTracks

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#71323 - 04/30/10 03:59 AM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: jford]
Noel96 Offline
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Registered: 10/31/08
Posts: 13312
Loc: Australia
Hi John and Notes,

Thank you for taking the time to explain about BIAB's normalizing MIDI velocities. I finally understand it.

Regards,
Noel
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#71324 - 04/30/10 09:44 AM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: Noel96]
Mac Offline
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Registered: 05/29/00
Posts: 38502
Loc: Chesapeake, Virginia USA
Think of it as more of a "MIDI Compressor" that uses Velocities to accomplish that task.

This feature was added originally in order to compensate for Style files that had been developed rather early on that are not as loud sounding as later styles. IIRC


--Mac
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#71325 - 04/30/10 07:40 PM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: Mac]
Shastastan Offline
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Registered: 10/31/08
Posts: 1252
Loc: CA
Notes, Mac and others have extensive experience and knowledge of the field of sound. I'm just starting to learn from the very beginning. If you are going to really get into doing backups, it would be advantageous to you to start learning about what some procedures are and do, such as "normalize". I'm discovering that just getting all songs to sound "right", at the same volume, is quite an involved process for a neophyte. FWIW

Stan
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#71326 - 04/30/10 09:45 PM [Band-in-a-Box for Windows] Re: Imported midi files run at different volumes. Is there a fix? [Re: Mac]
Noel96 Offline
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Registered: 10/31/08
Posts: 13312
Loc: Australia
Thanks, Mac. That analogy works for me.

Noel
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