So, let’s say that you’re getting into music production for the first time, and you’re introduced to “MIDI” as a means of composing music.
If you’ve never heard of it before, it may sound like some weird code or obscure programming language (and it certainly can seem that way), but in reality, it’s actually a standardized protocol for controlling synthesizers, drum machines, and any device that can send and receive MIDI signal.
MIDI stands for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface”, which is relatively self-explanatory.
Sending And Receiving Data
So, what happens when MIDI is sent and received?
MIDI involves transmitting and receiving event messages that specify:
- musical notation
- clock signals that determine the tempo of a song
It remains as the only widely used event message protocol since its inception back in 1982. Every MIDI or MIDI-compatible controller, musical instrument, or software program is designed with the same MIDI specification, and is programmed to interpret any MIDI message in the same way.
This means that all MIDI-compatible devices and programs can understand and communicate with each other.
The Advantages of MIDI
- MIDI files are several times smaller than audio files and therefore much easier to store and share with others.
- MIDI recordings can be easily edited on-the-fly with no need to go back and re-record parts.
- Individual instances of MIDI files can be used to trigger several MIDI-capable devices simultaneously.
- Complex projects and compositions can be realized by using MIDI as opposed to traditional notation and hiring musicians during the pre-production stage.
- Performance-based nuances are easy to modify and enhance in MIDI-based recordings. As opposed to simply editing out mistakes.
- MIDI can also be used to control and synchronize video or lighting parameters with music.
- As many MIDI-compatible devices can be accessed via a MIDI interface simultaneously, this greatly decreases the need to set up and tear down live performance rigs.
In short, MIDI makes your life much easier.
Without it, there’s likely no way producers could record and edit their performances as precisely and accurately. Additionally, there are plenty of DAWs with sophisticated MIDI editors that can do amazing things to a simple MIDI performance.
For example, let’s dive into Logic and take a look at a few different things we can do with the chord progression I-iv-III-V in the key of C Major using Logic’s Transform module:
Basic Audio Sample
Sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it? This is where Logic’s Transform comes in. It may seem a bit daunting to use at first, but there are a bunch of presets included so you can get your hands dirty right away:
If you look closely, you’ll notice that in the top left-hand corner, I’ve selected the “Reverse Position” preset, and set the length end (in which Transform will apply the operation up the end parameter as defined by the bar, beat, division, and tick numbers) to four.
This means that Transform will limit the application of the preset to MIDI notes whose length extends up to 4 bars. After I click “Select and Operate”, this is what happens:
“Transformed” Audio Sample
Seems pretty simple, right?
Of course, there’s much, much more that can be done with Transform to turn this basic chord progression into something really catchy and fun. But this is just a basic example of the flexibility that MIDI can provide you with whenever you want to liven up your melodies or chord progressions.
Blogs, forums, and articles can be great resources to use when you get stuck, but don’t think that you have to memorize all the complex minutiae of MIDI just to get a handle on it. Most MIDI controllers these days are very plug-and-play friendly and the accompanying instruction manuals often contain all the information you need to get it up and running with your preferred DAW of choice, so just plug it in and go for it!
MIDI Products To Get Your Groove On With
Logic contains a lot of nifty MIDI tools (besides Transform) that you can use to really dial in your performances and add a totally different dimension to your sound. But there are a lot of great third-party options as well that you may want to consider if you’re looking to up the ante a bit more.
This is an awesome MIDI plugin that really makes über-complex chord progressions and makes them completely accessible to play using single key strokes. You can also make use of the arpeggiator to turn chord progressions into really catchy arpeggios that can be easily modified and tweaked to your liking.
As anotherchamp in the world of MIDI plugins. This nifty workhorse will allow you to create complete compositions based on simple chord progressions across a wide variety of genres and playing styles.