Computer-Music.com contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music. Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com

Computer-Music.com  contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music.
Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com



 

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MIDI Sequencers

MIDI sequencers get their name from their ability to record sequences of MIDI messages and play them back. They also allow you to make changes to the sequence of MIDI messages so what plays back is different than what was recorded. Since a song or tune requires lots of notes it is never a single message but is always a sequence of messages. Remember that MIDI data can't be sent in parallel like when you have several lines at the checkout stand at a grocery store. It is more like a train where one car enters the station at a time. A series of MIDI messages is called a sequence so a MIDI tune must be a sequence. That is why a MIDI tune is often called a 'sequence' but since a sequence doesn't have to make a whole song, any string of MIDI data can be called a sequence. Since your job as a MIDI composer is to create MIDI sequences you will do most of your work using a sequencer. A sequencer can be software in a computer or software in a MIDI keyboard that was programmed to be a sequencer and designed with all the necessary buttons and a small screen so you can see the MIDI data in a meaningful way. Any device, or portion of a device, that was designed to sequence MIDI data and can not be converted to another use is called a Hardware Sequencer. These are usually found built into a keyboard type synthesizer. The fact that they are built into the same unit that houses the sound generating device (synthesizer) and MIDI controller (keyboard) makes them very convenient but their permanent configuration makes them very difficult to update and the small screen, lack of keyboard or mouse and printer usually makes them the least desirable choice for MIDI sequencing. They are more often used to play back sequences in piano bar situations or to record an ad-lib doodling session just in case you come up with a new melody. A Software Sequencer is a software package that needs to be installed into a computer to function. They are usually very flexible and are updated on a regular basis so an incremental expense keeps you at the cutting edge as the technology improves. The computer they reside in can also be updated as your needs change. The fact that you can use other sequencer software in that same computer means you get more flexibility from your hardware purchase as well. This all makes Software Sequencers the preferred choice among MIDI professionals with one exception. Computers and software that were designed separately by different companies can often be less than one hundred percent reliable so live performers who need to play back MIDI sequences on stage often will only trust a hardware sequencer which is nearly one hundred percent reliable.

Your train has just entered Sequencer Station and has been unloaded. The MIDI data has been fed into your sequencer and that could reasonably be the end of the trip except that, at this point, you still have not heard a note. That is because MIDI data is not sound, only instructions for a synthesizer to use to make sound. This means your MIDI data, or the new MIDI data you generated when you changed it in your sequencer, must be sent on to the next stop: Synthesizer Station.

At this point I realize that most of you are groaning that this whole train analogy is just too cute to be tolerated but it does help to make MIDI easier to follow and even when you are very familiar with MIDI you will find times when the choo choo analogy or some even cuter substitute will come in real handy in untangling the MIDI mess you eventually get yourself into so bear with me. If it helps to make this theme seem cooler you can think of the Start Trek TNG episode where they are in a train on the holodeck trying to understand the train analogy to take back control of the Enterprise.

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