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Thread: Drumming with MIDI

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    Drumming with MIDI

    Thanks to this forum, I got big props from my daughter for sorting out her missing amp. Little did she know that I'm just trying to keep from going broke supporting her art. I got an old computer set up with an internal sound card. From what I've been told, the sound card is DMA capable and plays MIDI so it will have low latency. I don't know exactly what this means but I think it's good. On the computer, the sound card has a MIDI port. Is this port both an input and an output?

    I need to know this because the "right" cable is $50 and has both standard MIDI ins and outs with a 15pin computer MIDI. I don't want to waste money on something that won't work but the huge library of MIDI drum patterns and the ease of working with them makes this look like the way to go. For the same $50, I could probably pick up an SDRUM or similar drum beat maker and lose the computer. Which is the best way to get decent drums without a drummer?

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    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    MIDI or Musical Instrument Digital Interface is a control method. It deals with control information and not the actual signal itself. MIDI is not normally bi-directional. A MIDI jack will normally be an input or an output and not both. There is often also a "thru" for routing to multiple devices. MIDI control will control note information, patch changes, etc. I'm not exactly sure by your question what your intent is. If you could more specifically explain what it is you're after, it might be easier to give you answers. If she just wants to practice with drums, the cheapest/easiest option might be to run the computer as a drum machine using it's own speakers and the guitar rig separately.

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    Site Janitor tboy's Avatar
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    The 15-pin "game port" on an old sound card does carry both MIDI in and out, but Windows support for that port ended with Vista, and $50 is much more than you should have to spend for the MIDI breakout cable. If all you want to do though, is to play MIDI drum patterns on the computer, you don't need a MIDI interface at all unless you have some kind of external MIDI synth or sound module that you intend to use to produce the drum sounds.

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    Supporting Member John_H's Avatar
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    Before spending so much for an obsolete connector, You should consider looking for a used small control surface that interfaces with USB. I see them selling frequently for about the same price as your cable.
    Here's an online drum machine that You can program DIY.
    https://drumbit.app/

    PS- Do a search for free sequencers.

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    Last edited by John_H; 09-05-2018 at 12:56 AM. Reason: additional info

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    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    Oh! That's quick and easy, John. I hadn't seen that before. Thanks for the link!

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Dude View Post
    Oh! That's quick and easy, John. I hadn't seen that before. Thanks for the link!
    i used to get the old rockband drumset and set it up with a computer and the kids would play on it.https://www.wikihow.com/Play-Rock-Band-Drums-on-Your-PC
    nosaj

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    Quote Originally Posted by tboy
    The 15-pin "game port" on an old sound card does carry both MIDI in and out, but Windows support for that port ended with Vista, and $50 is much more than you should have to spend for the MIDI breakout cable. If all you want to do though, is to play MIDI drum patterns on the computer, you don't need a MIDI interface at all unless you have some kind of external MIDI synth or sound module that you intend to use to produce the drum sounds.
    I think Windows 7 still supports the interface in “Compatibility Mode” but Linux is also an option. The way she explained it to me; she will play her strings and sing into the GSP21 which will output MIDI to the computer where she will first store, then compose all the parts. Then she will render the mp3s from the MIDIs and record them.

    Quote Originally Posted by John_H
    Before spending so much for an obsolete connector, You should consider looking for a used small control surface that interfaces with USB.
    Research indicates you need a USB 3.0 port and a current computer to get lower latency than an internal card with DMA. That makes the cost much higher than just the interface for equivalent performance. Thanks for the great link.

    Quote Originally Posted by nosaj
    i used to get the old rockband drumset and set it up with a computer and the kids would play on it.https://www.wikihow.com/Play-Rock-Band-Drums-on-Your-PC
    Oh no, not another instrument! Even the SDRUM would be a better option than that.

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    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by syzygyn View Post
    ......The way she explained it to me; she will play her strings and sing into the GSP21 which will output MIDI to the computer where she will first store, then compose all the parts. Then she will render the mp3s from the MIDIs and record them......
    If I understand your "flow chart", that won't work. MIDI in/out of the GSP21 (as far as I know) is for program changes, etc. You won't get audio from any MIDI jack. There are some older samplers that do send audio files via MIDI when you do a MIDI sample dump, but that it not MIDI's normal configuration and there isn't audio stored in the GSP21 to dump as far as I know. You'll instead need to send analog audio into the computer's sound card and record it with a program that does multi-tracking to achieve what you're looking for. There is a freeware multi-tracking program called Audacity built for this if you're interested in checking it out. There are many others, but this one is freeware and works pretty well, IMO.

    https://www.audacityteam.org/

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    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    MIDI is all digital code. No audio. It tells a sound generator to play whatever notes are assigned. If I plug my MIDI controller into a piano sound module, I get piano sounds. If I plug the exact same MIDI signal into a drum module, I get drum sounds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by syzygyn View Post
    Research indicates you need a USB 3.0 port and a current computer to get lower latency than an internal card with DMA.
    I think you're confusing MIDI latency here with digital audio latency. Even USB 1 has far more speed than is needed for MIDI data.

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    Last edited by tboy; 09-05-2018 at 06:52 AM.
    -tb

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    I might be confused but if I'm recording and editing in MIDI, there has to be a digital to analog conversion. If the D/A conversion is handled inside the computer box then the latency matters but I don't really know. MIDI is really efficient and small but it can pack lots of information when all its commands are fully supported. Unless I'm misunderstanding what I'm reading, the Digitech processor MIDI is fully implemented and not just a control I/O. If you look in the manual, all the sound parameters have hexidecimal equivalents. From what I've read, the GSP21 will deliver everything about its sound over MIDI when the input is guitar so why wouldn't it be able to do the same thing with a bass or a voice input?

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    Last edited by syzygyn; 09-05-2018 at 06:51 PM.

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    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    The best analogy I have is MIDI is like the rolls of paper on a player piano. If I invent a player tuba and stick the piano roll into it, it will play the tuba. MIDI is completely digital, it does not send audio. When you have a MIDI keyboard or other controller and press a key, MIDI then transmits: a "note on" signal, the particular note, or really the note number, the velocity. The note itself is not sent, just the instruction to play some note number when it gets to a sound module. And that note over there will continue to sound until a "note off" signal is sent. In other words, if I press a key to get the sound, then as I hold the key down, I unplug the MIDI cord, then at the sound module, it continues to sound even as I release the key. Because the sound module never saw a note off signal.

    MIDI is a communication protocol between units.

    If I record a MIDI stream, I can play it back through any MIDI device. I may play on a MIDI piano, and it comes out as piano through a MIDI sound box. But if I play the same MIDI stream into a drum box, it comes out as drum hits. Think of it as sheet music rather than tape recordings.

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    Supporting Member Jazz P Bass's Avatar
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    "If I invent a player tuba"

    You may be on to something there Enzo.

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    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    (Aside)
    My wife gives out rubber duckies everywhere she goes. Mainly to little kids, and always through their parent. One practical advantage to this is the kid then has a toy and we get a more peaceful meal in a restaurant. But some kids get a rubber duck and they sit there bouncing the duck on the table repeating "duck, duck, duck, duck,..." for a half hour. We snicker. The parents actually 99.9% of the time appreciate the gift, but sometimes the kid chanting "duck" gets old. I often tell them as they pass by, "Hey, we used to hand out tubas."

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    Supporting Member John_H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by syzygyn View Post
    I might be confused but if I'm recording and editing in MIDI, there has to be a digital to analog conversion. If the D/A conversion is handled inside the computer box then the latency matters but I don't really know. MIDI is really efficient and small but it can pack lots of information when all its commands are fully supported. Unless I'm misunderstanding what I'm reading, the Digitech processor MIDI is fully implemented and not just a control I/O. If you look in the manual, all the sound parameters have hexidecimal equivalents. From what I've read, the GSP21 will deliver everything about its sound over MIDI when the input is guitar so why wouldn't it be able to do the same thing with a bass or a voice input?
    What software are you using for recording, and editing? If you're recording guitar somewhere along the signal chain there has to be a A/D converter with an interface to your computer. From there the converted audio can be input into a Digital Audio Workshop, or DAW. The same goes for recording vocals. Neither of these can be converted to midi. However that same DAW can record a midi track that has been processed through a software synthesizer as an audio track into your mix. This can be anything. Whatever instrument/sound you want... I'm not sure where the midi function fits in on the digitech GSP21. GSP stands for guitar signal processor I think. Perhaps you can plug a keyboard into it, or patch a midi track in, and that it acts as a guitar synth that you can plug into an amp while utilizing all of the features of the multi effects board. I'll look for a manual and d/l it.


    Check out this BB It's a great place to start. They treat noob's nicely. http://homerecording.com/bbs/

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    MIDI is more than just sheet music. The amplitude and dynamic qualities of the music can be precisely defined along with its timbral qualities. We haven't decided yet on the software but I'm experimenting with Linux (Audacity, Timidity, etc.). I found the manual in the link below:

    http://www.tube-tester.com/sites/gsp...p21-legend.pdf

    Thanks again for your link. It looks like I was wrong about the GSP21 being a fully implemented MIDI. It doesn't have the necessary encoding parameters for any input. Does anyone know of a processor that can do what she wants to do?

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    Last edited by syzygyn; 09-06-2018 at 08:59 PM.

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    Supporting Member John_H's Avatar
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    I use REAPER. It's free to try. https://www.reaper.fm/download.php

    Did you check out the home recording forum?

    ...The amplitude and dynamic qualities of the music can be precisely defined along with its timbral qualities.
    Yes Absolutely.

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    Yes, I've been on the homerecording site. I'm hearing lots of good things about Reaper but its hard to beat the cost of Audacity. It seems like a pretty competent tool. What will I miss not having Reaper?

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    Quote Originally Posted by syzygyn View Post
    MIDI is more than just sheet music. The amplitude and dynamic qualities of the music can be precisely defined along with its timbrel qualities.
    MIDI actually is a lot like an electronic form of sheet music. It might be a bit more "precise" in conveying the exact parameters of a particular musical performance, but I wouldn't cut written music short in it's ability to communicate "the amplitude and dynamic qualities of the music" - it just does it in a different way.

    If you're willing to explore the capabilities of Linux for music/audio production, there's a lot of really good software out there now. and even some entire distributions that are packaged specifically for the purpose. You might even find something that can do a fairly good conversion of singing into MIDI data.

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    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    MIDI is more than just sheet music.
    yes, of course it is, but I was trying to draw the distinction between MIDI and audio. As precise as it may be, there is zero audio in the MIDI signal. I seemed to me there might be some confusion about that. I could be wrong.

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    Supporting Member John_H's Avatar
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    This thread made me think of this song. It helps that I'm a timbuk 3 fan.



    ...If you're willing to explore the capabilities of Linux for music/audio production, there's a lot of really good software out there now.
    I noticed that there was a Linux beta version of reaper when I went after the link.

    ...What will I miss not having Reaper?
    I really don't know. I tried a couple of others before it, but it's all I've used for about 15 years. I'm not very good at this, but hanging out at the HR forums really upped my game.

    My daughter's boyfriend owns an well established studio here in Vegas. He's an incredible engineer, and a mastering wizard. http://www.digitalinsightrecording.com/ He really needs to update his website. They just completely remodeled the 'B' room.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Enzo
    As precise as it may be, there is zero audio in the MIDI signal.
    I understand you now, sorry. Too many people still think MIDI is just a command and control thing. They don't realize how close to music it really is. Ideally, my daughter wants a processor pre-amp that can take an input signal (voice, bass and guitar) add effects to it and send that MIDI to her computer. This means the processor pre-amp has to be able to completely encode the processed signal to MIDI by itself. I thought the GSP21 could do this, it can't. Is there any processor pre-amp that can?

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    Supporting Member John_H's Avatar
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    ...Ideally, my daughter wants a processor pre-amp that can take an input signal (voice, bass and guitar) add effects to it and send that MIDI to her computer. This means the processor pre-amp has to be able to completely encode the processed signal to MIDI by itself. I thought the GSP21 could do this, it can't. Is there any processor pre-amp that can?
    Nope. It has to be a combination of tools. tboy says that there are all-in-one packages, but they're only "fairly good".

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    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    I'm not sure why you're insisting on doing this. MIDI was never intended for audio transmission. It's a control format. Just put the sounds in the computer via the sound card analog input and record them. That will convert the sounds to a digital format. Do all the editing in software. You can add your effects there and do multiple other things to the waveforms and mix the different instruments. If your existing sound card doesn't have all the inputs and outputs you need, get something like this:

    https://www.amazon.com/Behringer-UM2.../dp/B00EK1OTZC

    There are tons of others. I linked that one because it's a low cost option. I'm not endorsing any particular brand or model.

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    Supporting Member John_H's Avatar
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    I've got these. Nothing special. The best feature IMO is that you can monitor with zero latency through the headphone jack on the unit. https://www.alesis.com/products/view/m1active-320-usb

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    Site Janitor tboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by syzygyn View Post
    Too many people still think MIDI is just a command and control thing.
    I don't really want to sound the back-skipping record on your turntable, but MIDI really is "just a command and control thing."

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    Supporting Member eschertron's Avatar
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    As far as Guitar-to-MIDI for note sequencing, Roland had it in the bag for many years. Graphtech also has a converter too, I think. None of this is A/D conversion, it is like as was said, a "piano roll" abstraction of the guitar notes. More sophisticated converters can capture pitch bend, etc., and send it out as a continuous controller. It's been many years since I sat down with a MIDI-equipped guitar, and don't know how much the tech has progressed since. Check out Roland's guitar-to-MIDI pickup. This could feed the signal into the PC (the piano roll making machine) for later editing and playback. If your daughter is not interested in real-time virtual instrument performance - where latency becomes an issue - then the Roland, or any other, guitar MIDI pickup would work stand alone feeding the PC.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tboy
    I don't really want to sound the back-skipping record on your turntable, but MIDI really is "just a command and control thing."
    Perhaps my assessment of MIDI was a bit optimistic. I thought the entire waveform could be encoded into that command and control language. It may be in our future but it doesn't look like it's here yet. I suppose the next closest thing is a digital capture with a MIDI drum overlay. The guitar MIDI converters seem pretty good but they are too specific and expensive for what we were planning. You would need one for voice and bass too. Thanks all for your guidance.

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    Lifetime Member Enzo's Avatar
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    Look up the ABCs of MIDI. I may be wrong, but I think you have in mind it is a digital recording platform, when it is not.It really is like a player piano roll or a sheet music in that all it contains is what note to play, how loud to play it, when to let go of the note, and other things like patch change commands. Nowhere in it is the sound that is to come out. That is up to the sound module receiving the MIDI. I might have a piano voiced sound module, and notes 1 through 8 are assigned to the scale from C1. SO on any MIDI controller if I play note 1 on the keyboard, note 1 from the sound module plays, in this case C1. Note 2 D1 and so on. But if I plug the exact same MIDI signal into a drum module it plays notes 1, 2, 3, etc, but in that case note 1 might be the snare, note 2 a floor tom, note 3 a hi hat...

    Of all the stuff, the actual sound is not encoded in the MIDI stream. The sound you hear is totally determined by the sound module the MIDI signal controls.


    Keyboards tend to have key numbers assigned similarly, so my Casio MIDI controller/synth will play the same notes of the scale when I am MIDI'd to a Yamaha synth or a Korg. But I can easily reprogram my MIDI stuff to transpose or partition my keys to play other things.

    There are plenty of "MIDI controllers" which are keyboards that have no sound generation at all, they are strictly a MIDI controller. Like the venerable Yamaha KX88.

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    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    Sorry. You're not listening. MIDI is a control language. Even the guitar MIDI converters do not sample the guitar and output audio. They take guitar note information and convert it to note control for controlling keyboard sounds, etc. Even if you had one, you wouldn't get the original guitar sound out of it.

    "It may be in our future but it doesn't look like it's here yet."

    Nope. It's not in the future. There are actual tools readily available for sampling audio. MIDI is not one of those tools. You are trying to make coffee with a toaster.

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    Last edited by The Dude; 09-12-2018 at 01:10 AM.
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    Supporting Member Jazz P Bass's Avatar
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    "I thought the entire waveform could be encoded into that command and control language".

    Audio can be converted to MIDI.
    Where you really hit the snags is when you expect the conversion to be perfect.

    Imagine trying to convert a full symphony to MIDI.
    Yes it can be done.
    But you will 'lose' an awful lot of the information.

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    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazz P Bass View Post
    ......Audio can be converted to MIDI......
    For clarification. Audio itself is not converted to MIDI. Note #, Note On, Note Off, etc. information is converted to MIDI information. The audio is not sampled.


    For instance, let's say I play a 'C' note on guitar into a MIDI converter. MIDI knows that I played a 'C'. It knows when I started to play the note and when I stopped. It may also know the velocity or how hard I played the note (depending on the converter). It has no idea what the sound is. It could have been a piano, tuba (thanks Enzo), guitar, voice, or anything else. There is no way for MIDI to recreate exactly the sound played into the converter. The recreated sound is determined by the device triggered by that MIDI information.

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    Last edited by The Dude; 09-11-2018 at 11:48 PM.
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    Gentlemen, MIDI is only a descriptor of the music. We all agree on this. The difference is in how detailed the descriptor result is. Anyone that has been in the graphic arts field understands a postscript file is a descriptor of the image. In its earliest incarnations, it was unable to describe real life images and shading. As it evolved, those capabilities came. I see MIDI the same way. I think Jazz P Bass has the clearest picture of MIDI in its current state. I'll continue to watch this thread but I won't post unless someone posts something to change that opinion. Thanks to all for the help.

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