Friday, September 18, 2009

Midi has come of age

I find that when I talk to people about this site and my music there are many misconceptions. For one thing, 'What's the point of sheet music? How can you play it?' Another one is, 'Classical music? Who cares about that any more?'

Others who are a bit more in tune tell me that they know about Midi. 'That's the electronic music thing, isn't it? It sounds so aweful!'

While early synthesized instruments, especially the FM sounds, left a lot to be desired ... and a lot to the imagination ;) ... few people realize that when they hear music in television ads or in movies, they are usually listening to Midi. High quality software and sampled instruments have made Midi fully mainstream.

The software available today allows anyone with a fairly recent computer to layer many sounds over one another to create a full symphony orchestra. The sampled instrument libraries have made Midi virtually indistinguishable from the real thing, at least in relatively knowledgeable hands.

What are Sampled Instruments? Essentially, a sound designer takes a musician into a studio or concert stage and records the musician playing individual notes and articulations. Then he goes into his engineering studio and makes individual files of each of the notes, tweaking them as he goes to get the best quality and expression. Thousands of hours are spent getting it just right, so that when the Midi musician in his professional or home studio chooses an instrument's expression group and pays attention to the fine details of phrasing, it is like the original musician is playing the part live on the original recording stage.

There are many excellent sound libraries out there. Some are hugely expensive. Some are relatively cheap and geared to the home studio musician. On the high side are libraries like the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra (VSO) and in the mid-to-high range are many libraries from Native Instruments and East West Quantum Leap. These are excellent packages indeed. For the most part, they are well worth the money, but you can spend many thousands of dollars.

For the home recordist, a library I really like and recommend is the Garritan Personal Orchestra (GPO). Now if you listen to most professional and semi-professional musicians, they have some very disparaging remarks to offer about GPO. I personally find some of the sound samples to be at least as good as the big libraries. Its main shortcoming, I will admit, is largely in the brass section. It is a little weak. However, when one uses the Native Instruments Symphonic Orchestra, the strings are recorded with heavy reverb and sound far too distant and Mantovani-ish [and yes, I'm dating myself :)]. GPO is recorded and distributed "dry"; that is, there is no signal processing added, no reverb. You can do that as it suits you. Thus GPO has the advantage of greater immediacy.

IF YOU ARE JUST SKIMMING THROUGH THIS ARTICLE, I want you to hear what can now be done on a home computer using Garritan Personal Orchestra (at a cost of $200 to $300 dollars)... 1/10th and less of what the other libraries cost...

Listen to this:

If you clicked play, what you just heard was an original composition titled "Knights and Magic" by Richard Birdsall. At the time, Richard was 18 years old. He composed and played this piece at home in the Czech Republic using Garritan Personal Orchestra and submitted it to the 2008 Garritan International Composers' Competition. He won first prize. Impressed? Inspired? I hope so. Whatever you think of the composition, you must admit that it sounds very good ... very convincing ...

So where would you like to go from here?

Think about that question and then write a comment on this post. I would welcome the opportunity to not only get your feedback, but to see how I can diversify this site to help you expand your musical horizons. After all, that's the whole point of this site: making music and furthering our knowledge.

As always, it is so very rewarding to have you here. I hope you are continuing to further your music and interests.

Regards to you all,


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.