Welcome to Larrie Dee's MIDI page. See his BIO!
But, let's first clear up some misconceptions about the MIDI process. MIDI, which is the acronym for "Musical Instrument Digital Interface" was not primarily invented to play music on personal computers! In fact the small personal computer as we know it had not yet been invented.
Some of the earlier Commodores, TI's and Apples could be used, it was discovered in the late 70's, to manipulate files created on some early sequencers using some very primitive software, but the task was extremely labor intensive and many other problems including limited disk storage and the various system incompatibilities mandated further improvements.
The MIDI system was conceived by musicians to connect various controllers (keyboards for example) to many different sound modules including other keyboards to produce multi-instrument recordings from limited or even singly operated controllers. The concept of playing multiple instruments from a single controller (keyboard) has most likely been around for over 100 years. The old theater pipe organs had real acoustic pianos, marimbas, xylophones, drums and other instruments wired through "stop" tabs ("interfaced") so that they could play at the same time that the pipes were speaking, or even solo if desired. Many other hard wired musical instrument interfaces going back to the late 60's and early 70's were somewhat less than completely "digital" in nature but the concept was alive and well. As microprocessors did improve over time, more and more functions could be added to achieve a true digital interface. Among the most noteable of these functions would be pitch bend, after-touch, (pushing through the note) the ability to add "breath control" which makes our saxophones sound so real and many others. (Just picture a keyboard artist with the breath controller in his mouth as he plays the sax (or trumpet, flute, oboe or any wind instrument or reed or brass). The mouth pieces actually have controllers built in to simulate "reed" functions ("straining" for example) and other types of simulations not available on the keyboard for realism. Unfortunately, most of this information is not available for internet MIDI.
A MIDI keyboard is actually three separate devices. Firstly, it is a controller" which is the actual keyboard part and can also be used to play additional sound modules (with or without the internal "host" module sounding) when connected to those modules using the MIDI "out" port. Secondly, it contains an internal sound module (the "host" module) which can be easily disconnected from the keyboard section and which can also be played from a different or third party "controller" using the MIDI "in" port. Thirdly, it contains an audio amplification section for the output of the various tones produced by the sound module section. This output section may contain a pre-amplifier only with no internal speakers and audio output jacks which can be connected to any sound system.
MIDI was, and still is, the most viable system for music recording production using the minimum involvement of personnel. Almost all CD's, cassettes, DAT's and live performances, concerts, and most television commercials are produced using MIDI to some extent. It is comical to see postings either in the newsgroups or chat areas decrying MIDI as not sounding as good as the "original" CD when most certainly that same CD was a MIDI product.
If the exact sequence as used on a CD was available with the same sound modules that originally produced it, there would be no question as to the superiority of the MIDI file playback over the "second (or third) generation" CD audio playback. Of course, this also assumes that the playback amplification is of equal value to the original audio system used to master the recording. Most sound cards sound like a cat mugging a canary in Central Park.
It is important to note here also that there are two distinct types of "professional" MIDI file producers. Most of the files designed to play on computer sound cards and the Internet are manufactured by companies who specialize in recording in the "General MIDI" type "0" or type "1" format. These include most karioke files and the various software proprietary file producers. Most of them are excellently done and the musicianship is extraordinary.
Commercial recordings, on the other hand, are not always produced in General MIDI because of some limitations imposed by that system. The common file extension of .mid is also a computer type file as opposed to the file extensions produced on a "sequencer". (In the early days of MIDI, a "sequencer" always referred to a machine--not a person! The person who operated the sequencer was called a "sequencer composer" or in some shops just an operator) The first sequencers were very complicated and rarely could the keyboard player operate both the keyboard and the recording device at the same time. Thankfully, Roland (and others) introduced more sophisticated machines that were far easier to operate and additionally greatly simplified the process allowing MIDI to also become a very important "live" performance tool.
The .mid ( or dot-mid) extension is relatively new also and created to help satisfy the General MIDI system. (When I say "relatively new" keep in mind that I have been performing since 1947 and have seen a multitude of changes in the music and recording industry!) General MIDI was an excellent answer to the problem of the various sound modules and keyboards not having instruments in defined locations for easy access on playback.
Between songs during the recordings and sometimes even during "live" performances, we had one person (called a "mapper") who would go from module to module in the MIDI chain reassigning channels and patches by hand. This was of course, prior to the advent of the sys-ex commands. The MIDI process really has been an ever evolving process to bring it to where it is today---and it still is improving!. For our use however, we find that there are some serious drawbacks and limitations in the General MIDI format.
The various sound modules and keyboards used at Lari/Tan Studios for example, allow for "layering" various instruments within a single track using the same channel. A piano could sound followed by a slow-string within the same layer. Simultaneously, a vibraharp, two choir voices (in harmony if desired) and a horn could be programmed to also respond on the same channel and be activated by a single note. Further, with "after touch" or pushing through the key, another voice (a bell possibly) could be added using the same channel. The module is programmed to respond to the transmitted key information such as velocity, touch sensitivity which can activate many MIDI parameters including vibrato, pitch bend and many. many others.
General MIDI does not allow for some of the advanced versatility required by the professional music producer. A considerable effort has to be undertaken to allow the files on this site to be converted to files acceptable for computers. Remember, many were created over 20 years ago and in an entirely different format. The proper term to change a MIDI file is "re-work" (not remix as a MIDI file is not an audio file and truly cannot be "remixed.")
Generally, the term "mixing" in the studio environment was used to refer to the actual audio mixing and balancing done just prior to final mastering. Once the audio is mastered, it cannot be "mixed" again unless you intend to re-master the music. Take for example an orchestra setting. It is possible to move the violins around to a different location and tell the horns on the left to play louder (panning) and the ones on the right to play softer as you can do when reworking a MIDI file. But, until the audio is run through the mixing console and the recording engineer selects the final "mix" is the product ready for recording. Unlike a MIDI file, once the song is recorded it is not subject to such changes regarding instrumentation or little else without a new recording being made. Also, the recipient of the audio version can not now make any major changes to the product regarding the instrumentation. Once a recording is mastered to a CD or tape (with proper audio equalization and balances), it cannot be changed like a MIDI file. That is a "key" difference in "reworking" and "remixing". The term, like so many others, has been "borrowed" to suit other criteria related to some of the computer software programs. (A small point and only a few of us old timers even remember the terminology anymore. I even remember "steel cut" masters from the old 78 RPM days and still have a few here at the studio.)
All of the Larrie Dee files here have been "re-worked" at great length to make them somewhat acceptable for computer playback. As they were not originally mastered for sound card use however, some problems in playback might occur. Most high quality sound modules have extra patches (instruments) not found in General MIDI. The files were reworked to approximate what those extra patches would convey musically, but all sound cards do not have the same default patches for those extra voices. An example would be that we use about 128 separate jazz brush drum kits and none are available in General MIDI. Even after reworking to the closest General MIDI default configuration, some computer sound cards will produce "barking" dogs to replace a "sweep". If this does occur, it is suggested that the file be opened in a program similar to Cakewalk and that the note assignments for channel 10 be raised (or lowered) a few steps until the dogs cease barking.
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