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BIAB Midi for Beginners Lesson 1

By David Snyder

Lesson 1

Using the midi files created by Band in a Box demos may be the best way for beginners to tip toe into the world of midi, which can get exceedingly complex real fast.

Misconceptions

A common misconception of Midi is that it sounds “cheesy.” Midi does not sound cheesy. Midi is just computer code. The software you are playing it back through might sound cheesy, but if these notes are played back through the right instruments and samples hosted by a solid VST, they can sound gorgeous.

The default midi player in Real Band is Coyote, which is not all that bad actually. Real Band also comes with Sample Tank, which has some pretty decent sounds.

Those who become enamored of midi and want to do orchestral scores will eventually want to get a serious VST and Sample library such as Kontakt or Garritan Personal Orchestra, or any of the other Garritan Libraries (such as Jazz and Big Band.) But that is for later.

Getting Started

For now let’s use a simple exercise to see what midi can do, and learn about a few “curveballs” that might drive you made if you won’t know about them.

1.) For the exercise, load Band in a Box and under style picker, search for Dramatic Orchestra, select load demo, play it and listen to it. Pretty cool. In the chorus, a Timpani and snare come in. This is an all purpose good template to use for scoring. These little flourishes are nice.

I have also put this in my BIAB Drop Box.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/y4ujowwpqh5y42t/AABnCcRP8YYL6ydXzoebe2Nza?dl=0

2.) Now save this file to your desktop with a name like “My Orchestra Masterpiece.”

3.) Just listen to it. It is an interesting little piece to study.

Click on preferences Icon wheel, click on channels and look at channels to see what midi channels the parts are playing on. This is an important piece of the puzzle to study.

For the time being just concentrate on this alone.

It may not sound stupendous, just yet, but if you click the link below, you will get a flavor of what it sounds like when you use other midi instruments to play these parts.

https://soundcloud.com/david-snyder-mixing-lab/dramatic-orchestra-demo

MIDI is So Awesome


By now you have probably realized that in addition to Real Tacks BIAB has a gazillion midi styles you can use to generate string parts for your songs.

That is, you don’t have to just rely on the string sections in Real Tracks for your songs, you can create your own beds and entire layered concepts using midi from thousands of midi styles that use strings.

Saving Your BIAB Midi Tracks as a Midi File

To save this entire file as a Midi file, just go to the Midi button on the tool bar and click, then save file to disk. (Desktop or another location.)

If you solo one of the tracks it will only export that part as midi, which comes in handy later. BUT, remember to take note of which CHANNEL this is on, if you export a single track.

That will be important later.

And as we will find in the next lesson (coming soon), it is actually easier to work with midi in Real Band.

That should be enough for the next few days.

Resources

The BIAB File and RB file of this demo are both in drop box.
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/y4ujowwpqh5y42t/AABnCcRP8YYL6ydXzoebe2Nza?dl=0

This DEMO Using Samples in from Garritan Personal Orchestra 5 (Available from PG Music as third party software or from other outlets .)

https://soundcloud.com/david-snyder-mixing-lab/dramatic-orchestra-demo

This lesson is also in drop box.


Attached Files (Click to download or enlarge) (Only available when you are logged in)
Dramatic Orchestra.png (311.04 KB, 157 downloads)
Export as Midi_File on Disk.png (287.36 KB, 157 downloads)
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David, Thank you very much for this. A very noticeable difference in sound quality from your mix. A much fuller sound. If midi is a series of switches, for lack of a better word,are some midi files better than others?

My understanding is midi is good with some instruments, not so good with others. A fallacy?

Sheesh.....so much to learn. But I have got to learn this from the ground floor.

Looking forward to your next lesson..... Thank you for taking your personal time to help us understand.


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Thanks for this undertaking.

While I am quite familiar with MIDI and even developed a tool to generate Serial Compositions in MIDI. Having a BiaB specific tutorial for actually using MIDI is VERY welcome.

Suggestion: Where you say Click on preferences Icon wheel, add in that using Ctrl-E or in the Menu; Options->Preferences will bring up the window. In the 2017 UI that icon isn't there by default.

Cheers,
Tim


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Thanks Tim. Duly noted. Have not received 2017 yet.

smile

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Hmmmm. Ok, switches get into some deep territory.

smile

If someone develops a midi and loads a bunch of keyswitches in there that you don't like, there is not much you can do but erase all the controls which I will talk about in Lesson 2.

So there really are two things to consider:

A.) The midi file itself. Which instruments were chosen? Are there any "hard-wired" volume or velocity controls in there that you don't like?

B.) The SOUND. The final sound will only be as good as the synth plug in and samples you are using.

And yes, regarding B, there are some things that translate well, and others that don't.

A piano can be sampled to sound great. Horns and brass can sound great.

Groups of strings, or "20 violins" can sound okay for film track type stuff even though anyone will know they are sampled strings. But sampled strings are streaming on every movie and t.v. show playing anywhere in the world right now, so people are used to it.

SOLO violin, and SOLO guitar (acoustic or electric) have been almost impossible to use successfully as samples because of velocity and articulation.

That is, when you are playing the violin, there are infinite moves you make where you go softer or louder on each note, or sustain, or do vibrato for very short periods of time. Same thing for guitar. So against that background, it is almost impossible to get a guitar or violin to sound real in a midi-driven sample. In the best scenarios they are passable and in the worst case they are horrible.

However, groups of strings seem to slide by unscathed and are used all the time. They are the bread and butter of film scoring.

Here is where BIAB and Real Band come in REAL HANDY.

If you check out most of the examples of "film score" sound track stuff people are posting on You Tube in tutorials they are using something like Ableton and stitching together the same old A minor audio samples everyone else is using. The first millionth time was cool, but after a while it gets really old. It all sounds the same.

Using BIAB, you can find numerous Midi styles in all genres (though techno samples and classical samples usually work best for film in the midi world) in which you can generate robust string sections (or other sections) with interesting chords and notes and tons of musical contrast.

Bear in mind: for creating musical backdrops less is more, so you are only look for those sounds that give you a warm, rich, uncomplicated sound.

If you want a melody, keep it very simple and choice the right instrument. Simple piano parts almost never fail.

I of course have been speaking of orchestral stuff up until this point.

For electronica, like Moog emulators, bass, synth pads, funky stuff--you can't beat midi.

There is a whole world of funky out there.

Well, I will try and address this more in Lesson 2.

If you can learn the basics of what drives the orchestral samples and scores, then everything else is a piece of cake.


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Hi props2,

Like David I have been using MIDI for a long time, probably longer. He has offered some extremely good advice in these columns, so good that I had nothing to add, until now.

Adding to his synths, string ensembles and pianos sounding great I will add drums and percussion. These two are one hit samples thus they can sound realistic. Even some of the GM drums can sound ok, not great like some of the dedicated drum patches but some can be passable.

Horns and brass can sound great if one uses a wind controller, breath controller, or samples that use the mod wheel for breath, i.e. volume.

Solo violins and solo acoustic guitars can sound great but the patches are very expensive and you must learn about MIDI CC numbers. Electric guitars, especially with distortion, not so good.

One thing to remember is that good MIDI sound sources cost money and getting realistic results from them require learning MIDI and learning how to emulate the real instrument. This is especially true for horns, brass, solo instruments. In other words think and play like a trumpet player and not a keyboard, guitarist or whatever your MIDI controller is player.

But don't fret as all of us started with inexpensive sounds and collected better ones over the years. My advice would be to learn MIDI first, apply the knowledge to the sounds you have now before purchasing more costly patches. A typical BiaB MIDI track can sound static and not realistic on any sound source without learning MIDI.

YMMV

You might want to listen to some of my music in the showcase forum as I use virtually all MIDI in my songs.


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Thanks Mario!!

Great insights!!

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Also, Mario, we are going to put you on call as our midi expert.

Be prepared to wrote some columns now!

smile

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The other aspect of midi that often gets overlooked is it's power as a way of controlling various patches and cc commands on external units. For example, I control my guitar effects, both patches and settings, on my guitar multi effects unit and my vocal unit in real time (live). No leaping about looking like a madman doing a Polka. You do need midi connections on your effects boxes so that is something to check for or increasingly USB connections that can channel midi. Midi is just a programming language. It also gets used for real time light systems and mixers. For these reasons alone it's invaluable and will be around for a while.


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Great points!


My goal this weekend is to move just enough each day so that no one pokes me to see if I'm dead or not.

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Hi David and others, I have asked a few questions on Midi recently and have got all the answers but maybe I haven't been asking the right questions as I am still confused.
I am looking to make backing tracks for acoustic guitar/vocal (various genres) which when I receive my upgrade from 2016 pro to much more, hopefully realtracks/styles will fulfill most of the requirements, but...obviously BiaB offers a huge option with Midi.
I am happy to invest in something to get the sound acceptable from Midi (Kontakt etc).
I am looking to take the track, convert it to MP3 and load it into my gig program "OnSong". I am guessing if I have your suggested plugins to create the "real" sound, won't that just apply to the sound coming from BiaB and my PC and the actual file remains midi and won't change even if I convert it to an MP3.
Can I somehow save the actual acceptable "sound" of the midi track, convert it to MP3. Somehow you have done that with the sample above in soundcloud.
You are probably more confused with the way I've worded this but hope you can work with me here.


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Hi Wish. I would take your time with midi. You may, like me, find that Realtracks provides all your needs in the short to medium term. I only use midi to control things like external effects units. Later, you can indulge in a good quality midi sound source or software if you need it. I do live shows with nothing but BIAB running Realtracks or running rendered mp3 copies of my BIAB songs from my mobile phone / tablet. Just some thoughts... By all means come back with more questions.

Last edited by lambada; 12/13/16 06:27 PM.

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Thanks Lambada, nice to know you get most out of real tracks. The Pro version is very limiting so will see what happens when the upgrade arrives- Ultra plus pak with extra 2 styles pak.
Keep in touch, interested in what you do.
Cheers


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Hi Wish,

Yes, there is a very simple answer to your question. The answer is "yes."

smile

If you go to Midi Lesson 2 now posted and read all the way through it will show you how to do it.

Once I have selected a soft synth and a good sample library (Aria Player and Garritan Personal Orchestra 5 in my example) I simply export the file or files (i.e., track or tracks) as audio in Real Band or any other DAW. I can export as individual tracks or save as one stereo track, just like a "Real Tracks" song export from Real Band. Same process.

Once I have the midi files/tracks exported with those sounds converted as audio, I can now use those audio files in my DAW the same way I would use any other audio file.

That is why I say you are not limited, for example to the piano and strings generated with Real Tracks, you can make your own using the EXACT notes you choose if you are using midi and good samples.

I hope that answer the question!

smile

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On the track, thanks David


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