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Synthesizer Basics

 

What is a Midi?

These days most film songs and  popular recorded music is written and performed using electronic keyboards and other MIDI-equipped musical instruments.

MIDI is also easy to find in the world of personal computing. If your computer has a sound card, it most likely also has the ability to play MIDI files (using a built-in hardware or software synthesizer that responds to MIDI messages).

Recently MIDI has begun to be used to generate ring tones in mobile phones. MIDI ring tones sound far better because they are polyphonic (play more than one note at one time) and because they use music synthesizers which produce a wider variety of sounds than possible before.

MIDI is all around you

Most film and TV songs, as well as popular recorded music is written and performed using electronic keyboards and other MIDI musical instruments. (Thanks to advances in digital sampling and synthesis technologies, the orchestra playing behind that big-screen block buster is more likely to be the product of MIDI than a real orchestra with dozens of acoustic instruments and musicians)

MIDI is also easy to find in the world of personal computing. If your computer has a sound card, it most likely also has the ability to play MIDI files (using a built-in hardware or software synthesizer that responds to MIDI messages), and with an adapter can also be connected directly to other MIDI-equipped products, allowing you to take advantage of  various computer programs (eg. cakewalk) that can help you learn, play, create and enjoy music.

Recently MIDI has begun to be used to generate ring tones in mobile phones. Individual music notes cannot be heard in MP3 ring tones and mixed sound of music is heard with poor quality. MIDI ring tones sound far better because they are polyphonic (play more than one note at one time) and because they use music synthesizers which produce a wider variety of sounds than possible before. There are over 300 companies around the world making products that support MIDI. Well known companies such as Apple and Microsoft, Roland and Yamaha, Nokia and Sony Ericsson are among others.

Benefits of MIDI

MIDI is a technology that represents music in digital form. Unlike other digital music technologies such as MP3 and CDs, MIDI messages contain individual instructions for playing each individual note of each individual instrument. So with MIDI it is actually possible to change just one note in a song, or to orchestrate and entire song with entirely different instruments. And since each instrument in a MIDI performance is separate from the rest, its easy to "solo" (listen to just one) individual instruments and study them for educational purposes, or to mute individual instruments in a song so that you can play that part yourself. 

Record and edit your performance

A MIDI Sequencer can record your performances for listening at a later time, and even save your performance in Standard MIDI File format for playback on other MIDI systems. A MIDI Sequencer is a great way to evaluate your own progress, or even to study how someone else plays.

Better yet, because all MIDI data is editable, you can edit out any imperfections! If you play a wrong note, you can just change it using the Sequencer's editing tools. And if you find you just can't play fast enough to keep up with the tempo, you can slow it down for recording and speed it back up for playback -- without the "Mickey Mouse" effect that normally comes from speeding up a song. 

General MIDI Level 1 Sound Set

General MIDI's most recognized feature is the defined list of sounds or "patches". However, General MIDI does not actually define the way the sound will be reproduced, only the name of that sound.

Though this can obviously result in wide variations in performance from the same song data on different GM sound sources, the authors of General MIDI felt it important to allow each manufacturer to have their own ideas and express their personal aesthetics when it comes to picking the exact timbres for each sound.

Each manufacturer must insure that their sounds provide an acceptable representation of song data written for General MIDI. Guidelines for developing GM compatible sound sets and song data are available through the MMA.

General MIDI Level 1 Instrument Patch Map

  • The names of the instruments indicate what sort of sound will be heard when that instrument number (MIDI Program Change or "PC#") is selected on the GM1 synthesizer.

  • These sounds are the same for all MIDI Channels except Channel 10, which has only percussion sounds and some sound "effects".

GM1 Instrument Families

The General MIDI Level 1 instrument sounds are grouped by instruments. In each instrument there are 8 specific instruments.

PC#   Instruments                 
1-8         Piano                   
9-16      Chromatic Percussion    
17-24    Organ                  
25-32    Guitar                  
33-40    Bass                    
41-48    Strings                 
49-56    Ensemble                
57-64    Brass                   
65-72    Reed
73-80    Pipe 
81-88    Synth Lead
89-96    Synth Pad
97-104  Synth Effects
105-112 Ethnic
113-120 Percussive
121-128 Sound Effects

GM1 Instrument Patch Map

Note: While GM1 does not define the actual characteristics of any sounds, the names in parentheses after each of the synth leads, pads, and sound effects are, in particular, intended only as guides).

     Instruments And Its Numbers

1.      Acoustic Grand Piano            65.     Soprano Sax
2.      Bright Acoustic Piano             66.     Alto Sax
3.      Electric Grand Piano              67.     Tenor Sax
4.      Honky-tonk Piano                   68.     Baritone Sax
5.      Electric Piano 1                       69.     Oboe
6.      Electric Piano 2                       70.     English Horn
7.      Harpsichord                             71.     Bassoon
8.      Clavi                                           72.     Clarinet
9.      Celesta                                     73.     Piccolo
10.     Glockenspiel                          74.     Flute
11.     Music Box                                75.     Recorder
12.     Vibraphone                             76.     Pan Flute
13.     Marimba                                  77.     Blown Bottle
14.     Xylophone                               78.     Shakuhachi
15.     Tubular Bells                         79.      Whistle
16.     Dulcimer                                 80.     Ocarina
17.     Drawbar Organ                      81.     Lead 1 (square)
18.     Percussive Organ                 82.     Lead 2 (sawtooth)
19.     Rock Organ                            83.     Lead 3 (calliope)
20.     Church Organ                        84.     Lead 4 (chiff)
21.     Reed Organ                           85.     Lead 5 (charang)
22.     Accordion                               86.     Lead 6 (voice)
23.     Harmonica                             87.     Lead 7 (fifths)
24.     Tango Accordion                   88.     Lead 8 (bass + lead)
25.     Acoustic Guitar (nylon)         89.     Pad 1 (new age)
26.     Acoustic Guitar (steel)         90.     Pad 2 (warm)
27.     Electric Guitar (jazz)             91.     Pad 3 (polysynth)
28.     Electric Guitar (clean)          92.     Pad 4 (choir)
29.     Electric Guitar (muted)        93.     Pad 5 (bowed)
30.     Overdriven Guitar                 94.     Pad 6 (metallic)
31.     Distortion Guitar                   95.     Pad 7 (halo)
32.     Guitar harmonics                 96.     Pad 8 (sweep)
33.     Acoustic Bass                      97.     FX 1 (rain)
34.     Electric Bass (finger)          98.     FX 2 (soundtrack)
35.     Electric Bass (pick)             99.     FX 3 (crystal)
36.     Fretless Bass                      100.    FX 4 (atmosphere)
37.     Slap Bass 1                         101.    FX 5 (brightness)
38.     Slap Bass 2                         102.    FX 6 (goblins)
39.     Synth Bass 1                        103.    FX 7 (echoes)
40.     Synth Bass 2                        104.    FX 8 (sci-fi)
41.     Violin                                      105.    Sitar
42.     Viola                                       106.    Banjo
43.     Cello                                      107.    Shamisen
44.     Contrabass                          108.    Koto
45.     Tremolo Strings                  109.    Kalimba
46.     Pizzicato Strings                  110.    Bag pipe
47.     Orchestral Harp                   111.    Fiddle
48.     Timpani                                112.    Shanai
49.     String Ensemble 1             113.    Tinkle Bell
50.     String Ensemble 2             114.    Agogo
51.     SynthStrings 1                     115.    Steel Drums
52.     SynthStrings 2                     116.    Woodblock
53.     Choir Aahs                           117.    Taiko Drum
54.     Voice Oohs                          118.    Melodic Tom
55.     Synth Voice                          119.    Synth Drum
56.     Orchestra Hit                       120.    Reverse Cymbal
57.     Trumpet                                121.    Guitar Fret Noise
58.     Trombone                            122.    Breath Noise
59.     Tuba                                      123.    Seashore
60.     Muted Trumpet                    124.    Bird Tweet
61.     French Horn                         125.    Telephone Ring
62.     Brass Section                      126.    Helicopter
63.     SynthBrass 1                       127.    Applause
64.     SynthBrass 2                       128.    Gunshot

General MIDI Level 1 Percussion Key Map

On MIDI Channel 10, each MIDI Note number ("Key#") corresponds to a different drum sound, as shown below. GM-compatible instruments must have the sounds on the keys shown here. While many current instruments also have additional sounds above or below the range show here, and may even have additional "kits" with variations of these sounds, only these sounds are supported by General MIDI Level 1 devices.

Key#

Drum Sound

Key#

Drum Sound

35

Acoustic Bass Drum

59

Ride Cymbal 2

36

Bass Drum 1

60

Hi Bongo

37

Side Stick

61

Low Bongo

38

Acoustic Snare

62

Mute Hi Conga

39

Hand Clap

63

Open Hi Conga

40

Electric Snare

64

Low Conga

41

Low Floor Tom

65

High Timbale

42

Closed Hi Hat

66

Low Timbale

43

High Floor Tom

67

High Agogo

44

Pedal Hi-Hat

68

Low Agogo

45

Low Tom

69

Cabasa

46

Open Hi-Hat

70

Maracas

47

Low-Mid Tom

71

Short Whistle

48

Hi-Mid Tom

72

Long Whistle

49

Crash Cymbal 1

73

Short Guiro

50

High Tom

74

Long Guiro

51

Ride Cymbal 1

75

Claves

52

Chinese Cymbal

76

Hi Wood Block

53

Ride Bell

77

Low Wood Block

54

Tambourine

78

Mute Cuica

55

Splash Cymbal

79

Open Cuica

56

Cowbell

80

Mute Triangle

57

Crash Cymbal 2

81

Open Triangle

82

Vibraslap

-

-

General MIDI 2 Specification

General MIDI 1 made great strides in the music industry by providing a platform for compatibility between device manufacturers and content providers. Still, many manufacturers felt there needed to be additional functionality. General MIDI 2 (GM2) is a group of extensions made to General MIDI 1, which increases both the number of available sounds and the amount of control available for sound editing and musical performance. All GM2 devices are also fully compatible with General MIDI 1. 

Polyphony

The polyphony of a sound generator refers to its ability to play more than one note at a time. Polyphony is generally measured or specified as a number of notes or voices. Most of the early music synthesizers were monophonic, meaning that they could only play one note at a time. If you pressed five keys simultaneously on the keyboard of a monophonic synthesizer, you would only hear one note. Pressing five keys on the keyboard of a synthesizer which was polyphonic with four voices of polyphony would, in general, produce four notes. If the keyboard had more voices (many modern sound modules have 16, 24, or 32, 64 note polyphony), then you would hear all five of the notes. Yamaha PSR 1000 is 32 note polyphony and Yamaha PSR 2000 is 64 note polyphony. More polyphonic keyboard sounds better.

Midi Connections

The visible MIDI connectors on an instrument are female 5-pin DIN jacks. There are separate jacks for incoming MIDI signals (received from another instrument that is sending MIDI signals), and outgoing MIDI signals (ie, MIDI signals that the instrument creates and sends to another device). The jacks look like these:

 

Midi In

 

Midi Out

 

You use MIDI cables (with male DIN connectors) to connect the MIDI jacks of various instruments together, so that those instruments can pass MIDI signals to each other. You connect the MIDI OUT of one instrument to the MIDI IN of another instrument, and vice versa. For example, the following diagram shows the connection between a computer's MIDI interface and a MIDI keyboard that has built-in sounds.

 

MIDI cables

Keyboard

            

  Computer's MIDI Interface

Midi for Learning Desi Keyboard Lessons

MIDI is a technology that represents music in digital form. Unlike other digital music technologies such as MP3 and CDs, MIDI messages contain individual instructions for playing each individual note of each individual instrument. So with MIDI it is actually possible to change just one note in a song, or to orchestrate and entire song with entirely different instruments. And since each instrument in a MIDI performance is separate from the rest, its easy to "solo" (listen to just one) individual instruments and study them for educational purposes, or to mute individual instruments in a song so that you can play that part yourself. 

Play in a function or in your computer

Learning to play a musical instrument is one of the most rewarding things people can do. But why play by yourself when you can play along with a band? MIDI Files are availablewww.ragatracks.com  for many popular songs, and when used with a personal computer or digital piano make it possible to have an entire backing band play along with you at whatever speed (tempo) and in any pitch (key) you desire. You can use Yamaha XG Player for your midi listening. While listening you can change each instrument voice, rhythm/style in your computer with XG Player. MIDI files are perfect for practicing with, as well as for performing when additional musicians are not available.

Record and edit your performance

A MIDI Sequencer can record your performances for listening at a later time, and even save your performance in Standard MIDI File format for playback on other MIDI systems. A MIDI Sequencer is a great way to evaluate your own progress, or even to study how someone else plays.

Better yet, because all MIDI data is editable, you can edit out any imperfections! If you play a wrong note, you can just change it using the Sequencer's editing tools. And if you find you just can't play fast enough to keep up with the tempo, you can slow it down for recording and speed it back up for playback. Cakewalk is a sequencer software and you can edit midi with it.

Arrange and Orchestrate

Many people enjoy arranging and orchestrating music as much as performing it. There are MIDI files available in our website along with many Indian Styles/Rhythm - that you can use to create your own arrangements and orchestrations. Many people download MIDI files from the Internet and rearrange them to fit their own needs.

Karaoke

Karaoke originated in Japan, and the term means "empty orchestra" in Japanese. Today, almost everybody knows that karaoke refers to a system of playing music and displaying lyrics, so that anyone can become a singer.

You can spend a lot of money on a special karaoke system, but you don't have to. Any computer can play MIDI files and can also play MIDI karaoke files, with the lyrics displayed on the screen as the music plays.

Most MIDI Karaoke files end with .kar, and in order to play them properly you will need a special player. Mac owners can use QuickTime, and Windows karaoke players can be downloaded from the Net. Most are free!

One of the best is available in CD if you purchase Keyboard in Desi Style. This player play both MIDI and .kar files. It correctly interprets MIDI controller messages, so karaoke files sound better.

Useful Tips

First of all, of course, these midi files are not meant to replace the original songs sold on CD or cassettes. A midi file can only be an imitation of an audio music recorded in a professional studio (and, what's more, without any vocals) ! It's just an interesting challenge to try to get as close as you can to the original song by creating a midi file.

I use a Creative Audigy 2NX sound card which include sound fonts. The files won't sound exactly the same when played on a different sound card. For that reason, if you feel like the drums play too loud, or the guitar plays too low, you can open any file with a sequencing software, and edit levels.

Anyway, the midi-files will always sound bad if you use a bad sound card - cards without a wave table, for instance. A wave-table sound card uses its own quality samples, instead of cheap computer-generated sounds.

If you'd like to sing karaoke then open the file and disable the lead vocal track in the midi  player or in keyboard or simply use the karaoke midi file and record your own CD in your computer with the help of audio-midi recorder like jet audio. I recommend Creative Audigy sound card which cost Rs.7500/- in Pakistan. You can prepare your own CD with vocal and music now.


PROBLEMS

  • The MIDI file may not play.

  • The program you use to play the MIDI file may stop responding (hang).

  • Your computer may become unstable after you use the End Task feature to quit the program you used to play the MIDI file.

WORK AROUND

To work around this problem:

  1. Click Start, point to Settings, click Control Panel, and then double-click Multimedia.

  2. Click the MIDI tab.

  3. Under Single Instrument, click a device other than the Microsoft GS Synthesizer, and then click OK

  4. Yahama XG Driver (or your sound card driver) will also appear here and you have to click it for listening  midi. If you will install Yamaha XG Player then the Yahama SXG Driver will appear in multimedia.

  5. With Yamaha SXG Driver you will listen midi music in your computer like real keyboard. So, try now. Or purchase Yamaha XG sound card.

How do I convert MIDI to Audio?

You obtain the best sounding synthesizer you can find, perform the MIDI file via a sequencer or MIDI player, and record the output in a sound recording application.   You can then save the result as a .WAV file.  In addition, there are software synthesizers available that will generate a .WAV file directly from a MIDI file.   Check the midi to wav software as an example.

 

What Equipment Works Best With Raga Tracks Midi Files?

Raga Tracks midis are very sophisticated sequences and require professional quality equipment to play.  We strongly recommend a sound module with a minimum of 64 notes of polyphony.  Raga Tracks feature GS programming code (an advanced GM).. so a module that also contains GS will be a bonus.  With improper equipment, you may not always get good results.

Additionally, equipment that plays less than 16 channels won't do.  If you have an older keyboard, for example, that can only play 8 channels.. what will happen to the rest of the channels on the backing track?  The results will not be nice...!

Some equipment claims to be General Midi, but actually does not include the "Full GM" specs.  For example, the GM specs call for 8 drum kits.  Some "so-called" GM keyboards only include 1 to 3 Drum Kits. Read specifications before purchasing music equipments and only purchase 64 polyphony keyboard which will deliver full sound.

Note:- The above article is extracted from different resources and rearranged to our local requirements of Indian and Pakistani instruments and music.

 

 

 

 

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