IndexWhat Are They?
Midi Synthi Player and Midi Piano Player are computer programs designed to produce music on your computer. They can be used equally with Windows 3.x, Windows 95, and Windows 98. With an appropriate soundboard inside your computer, these programs are all you need to create music files. You do not need an instrumental keyboard or other hardware. Examples of files created with these programs can be found by clicking here.
The approach to producing the music using these programs resembles the act of writing down the music, rather than playing the music. The big difference between writing the music and using the programs is that as soon as you have completed a portion of the music, you can hear it. The music files you create are called MIDI files, and programs which create MIDI files are called sequencers. This is all explained if you click here. When you enter data in these programs, it goes to edit files which store the musical information - note names or rests, the proper octave, note durations such as quarter, dotted quarter etc., modifications to durations for rubato etc., and dynamics. In Midi Synthi Player, a few extra parameters are needed, such as Channel and Pitchbend. These files can be played, and re-edited with a whole range of special functions, which automatically handle many features such as crescendo and staccato. With a click of the mouse, the programs convert these edit files into Standard MIDI Files.
IndexComparing the Two Programs
Midi Piano Player and Midi Synthi Player are programs which are very similar in many respects. The appearance, the interface, and the operations of the two programs are very similar, so that if you learn to use one, you shouldn't have much trouble in learning to use the other. Midi Piano Player is the simpler of the two programs, so it would be a good idea to start with it. The basic purpose of Midi Piano Player is to 'play' an electronic piano, although it can also be used with a soundboard or external synthesizer. Midi Synthi Player's function is to 'play' a synthesizer (internal or external), and therefore it features many more functions that don't apply to a piano - selection of sounds or instruments, effects, legato, crescendo on a sustained note, pitchbend, etc. The nitty-gritty operational details for both programs are quite thoroughly presented in the Help files within the programs, and will not be duplicated here, except in passing. Most discussion and examples here will refer to Midi Synthi Player.
IndexMidi Piano Player
Although Midi Piano Player was basically intended to create files which would 'play' an electronic piano, these files can also drive a soundboard or an external sound module, automatically defaulting to the patch called Acoustic Grand Piano. And it only requires two controllers - sustaining pedal and soft pedal. These pedals are easily started by selecting F2 at Note Name for sustaining pedal, or F3 at Note Name for soft pedal. If the pedalling is continuous, it is not necessary to indicate Pedal Off until you wish to stop the pedalling altogether. Just indicate Pedal On (using F2 or F3), and put in the appropriate rests required to indicate the length each pedal is to be held. Pedal Off will automatically be handled. To stop a particular pedalling, enter SUSOF to stop sustaining pedal or SOFOF for soft pedal. The two pedals are alloted their own tracks - track 15 for soft pedal, and track 16 for sustaining pedal. The only data appearing on these tracks are the words SUSON and SUSOF on Track 16, and SOFON and SOFOF on Track 15, and rests to indicate the timing. Notice that at Note Name, if you press F7, some of these, as well as other options, can be selected using the mouse.
IndexPreparing the Musical Score
In almost all cases, when using Midi Piano Player or Midi Synthi Player, you should work from a printed or written score. It is essential to pencil in the bar numbers at the beginning of each line, if they do not already exist. Repeated sections can use the same bar numbers, and the programs allow for four repeats of any given section of music. However, in editing (dynamics, for instance), it can sometimes be confusing to repeat the bar numbers in repeated sections, and as a general rule, it is preferable to use unique bar numbers for every bar in the piece. The bar numbers are needed strictly for editing purposes, and the files will play without any bar numbers, but since editing is such an important feature of these programs, bar numbers should always be used, and specified accurately. When entering data, pressing F9 at Item Number will take you to any specified bar. Pickup notes at the beginning of a piece can be incorporated into bar one.
When preparing a piano score (for Midi Piano Player), assign, in general, the highest note to Track 1, the next highest to Track 2 etc. However, there is no hard and fast rule about this, and sometimes it is more desirable to keep certain parts to certain tracks because of their musical function. This can make it easier to edit Dynamics, for example. In any event, it is desirable to pencil in the track numbers next to the notes on the score, where there is any doubt to which tracks the notes belong. Since piano textures change a good deal, new tracks will probably have to be added as you go along. Notice that this can also affect the Tempo of the work file, which will have to be adjusted.
With Midi Synthi Player, when working from an instrumental or orchestral score, assign each instrumental part to a different track number, if possible. However, keep the same Channel numbers for the same instruments (e.g. Trumpet 1, Trumpet 2, and Trumpet 3 are all on the same channel). In this way, only Trumpet 1 has to be set up with not only the Program Change, but also all the Controllers (Expression, Pan, Reverb etc.). Other tracks on the same channel will automatically have the same instrumental sound and effects. There are advantages to giving each part its own Channel Number, if you have enough free channels to do this; these include avoidance of situations where a note doesn't sound (see below), as well as controlling such things as pan or expression for each individual part. Sometimes, a hybrid system can be used, where unused portions of one track can be used to control instruments on another track, or a sparsely used instrument can be squeezed in here and there on different tracks. In general, it is preferable to reserve each track for a particular instrumental part, but many situations arise where it becomes convenient (or even necessary) to have channel changes and/or Program Changes on a single track. As long as the score is marked clearly (Channel Number, Track Number, Program Change etc.), all these things can be done.
IndexSome Anomalous Situations
Theoretically, editing can be done either By Bar Number or By Item Number. In actual practice, when both options are available, By Bar Number will be selected. This allows you to edit any number of tracks at a time, whereas By Item Number can only do one track at a time. When any editing function is called By Bar Number, it is necessary to specify from which Bar Number (or portion thereof - e.g. the first quarter note, the fourth eighth note etc.) to which Bar Number (or portion thereof), which Track or Tracks etc. The programs always try to validate the Bar Numbers before the actual editing takes place. Sometimes, this is difficult; for example, one part may consist of a series of whole notes tied together, and certain Bar Numbers may not exist for that reason (e.g. bar 17 on Track 7 may contain a note with a duration of wwww; Bar Numbers 18,19,20 are therefore not specified). The validation will work as long as the first and last bar numbers are actually present. Otherwise, that portion of Track 7 will have to be edited separately, or manually item by item.
Often, on a particular Track, there may be long stretches when no notes are played. The necessary rests, however, must be put in for all Tracks to be in balance. It is possible to incorporate 10 bars rest in one item (wwwwwwwwww). This can simplify and save time while entering the data, but it is not always the best way, especially if this portion of the music contains speeding up or slowing down (accelerando or ritardando). The editing function of Adjustment is used for this purpose, and must be done for all tracks to keep them in balance. In this situation, each individual bar with its rest should be entered separately. It is not much more work to enter a series of bars containing rests by pressing Home to increment the Bar Number and F12 to move to the next item than it is to enter a string of w's in one bar. The function Vertical Copy can also be very useful in this regard, because once the rests are in place in one track, all the other tracks with the same series of rests can be automatically done with a couple of mouse clicks.
Similarly, a problem can arise when some parts have tied notes over the bar line, and others don't. For example, in Track 5, the last beat of Bar 11 contains a quarter note tied to an eighth note (qe). Other parts, however, end Bar 11 exactly on the last beat. Therefore, if you tried to play up to that section of the music, the program would indicate an 'out of balance' because of the extra eighth note in Bar 11. Similarly, if you tried to balance all the tracks, or you tried to do a duration adjustment on all the tracks, it would also not work out for the same reason. The best way to handle this when entering data, is to stop with all the parts equally on a bar line, even if you have to temporarily change the music (i.e. drop the tied eighth note). This way, you can get a true picture if all the parts are in balance, and the Adjustment function would also work out. Sometimes, when all the notes have been entered, and you wish to put a ritard in a certain spot, and it can't be balanced properly because some tracks have notes tied over beyond this point, do an Adjustment for all the tracks that can balance, then look at the values applied, and manually apply them appropriately to the other tracks.
The program contains another function that can generally simplify input in regard to grace notes. These notes are generally thirtysecond or sixtyfourth notes followed by longer notes (quarters, halves etc.). Usually, in playing the music, the value of the grace notes is subtracted from the longer notes. The program simplifies input by allowing the longer note to be left at full value, but a minus sign(-) has to be entered in the Duration Adjustment field for each of the preceding items representing grace notes. This works fine as long as there is no editing of Adjustment for these particular bars. If there is, an 'out of balance' will occur, and the normal mode of entry will have to be used (e.g. a thirtysecond grace note followed by a quarter note will have to be entered as a thirtysecond note followed by a duration of est (eighth sixteenth thirtysecond).
Another situation to look out for is when some notes don't sound because a note is being turned on before the same note on another track is turned off. This happens when more than one track is using the same channel (Midi Piano Player has all tracks on Channel 1; this can also occur in Midi Synthi Player when several tracks are assigned the same instrument). A common situation to watch out for is when a higher numbered track plays a note, and this is immediately followed by the same note on a lower numbered track. The note won't sound on the lower numbered track, because the note on the higher numbered track has not yet been turned off. These situations can usually be caught by listening, but also by looking at the score. The solution to this problem is to make the note on the higher numbered track shorter by a sixtyfourth value, and followed by a sixtyfourth rest. This will not be noticeable in sound, but will correct the situation.
IndexEntering the data
The best way to enter the data is a few bars at a time. Enter all the parts, and balance them before going on to the next section. When entering data, all the parameters are automatically defaulted from the previous entry. Therefore, only those parameters that have changed need be entered, before the item is accepted. Repeated notes are very simple, only requiring F12 function key for the number of repeated notes required. In any event, only three parameters should generally be entered - Note Name (or Rest), Octave, Note Value. Duration Adjustment, Dynamics, and Pitchbend should normally be handled by Edit functions after the section has been completed for all tracks. When entering, simply let a default value (64 for dynamics,0 for Duration Adjustment and Pitchbend) be carried forward from item to item. At a later point, when a certain amount of the music has been entered, the editing functions for Dynamics, Adjustment, Pitchbend etc. can be used.
Always look in the score for opportunities to copy or transpose material. Even if one bar is immediately repeated by the next bar, just do all the tracks on the one bar, and then use the editing function Edit; Copy a Section (Copy by Bar). In much of Ravel's music, two bar phrases are frequently repeated, and the Copy by Bar function is very useful, and saves a lot of time. Material can also be copied or transposed from one track to another (or to several others). The Vertical Copy function is very convenient for this. There are also situations where, although an exact copy or transposition isn't taking place, because the same rhythm is used in all parts, it may still be expedient to use a copy or transposition, and then go in and edit the differences in the pitches.
When you click Edit;Add/Edit/Scan Notes, to start a session of entering data, the program always starts at the item following the last completed item. I find it useful to reset to the last completed item to verify exactly which bar etc. has been entered last. Also, this will set up the defaults for the next item to be entered. Then just press F12 to carry on with data entry.
Several factors are involved in regard to the timing setup, which governs the speed at which the work file (Play;Play the Music) will sound. Once the work file is playing at the correct speed, the initial creation of the .mid file might involve some adjustment (selecting 'faster' or 'slower') to make it agree in duration with the duration of the work file. Once this is done, all subsequent creations of the .mid file should not require any more adjustment. These factors are:
1) Microprocessor speed.
2) Number of tracks used.
3) Initial Tempo setting (on the main window).
4) Tempo Adjustment, Delay, and Adjustment Factor (under Miscellaneous;Set Parameters).
The initial Tempo setting probably will not equate to the traditional metronome setting, nor does it have to. The values from 1 to 999 are available. If the number to get the proper speed is outside of this range, or too high up or too low down to provide for other tempo changes, it can be calibrated by using Tempo Adjustment. Increasing the value of Tempo Adjustment will allow a lower Tempo setting to be used, and decreasing it will allow a higher Tempo setting to be used. The Delay parameter in the same function should be approximately 10% of the Tempo Adjustment value.
Duration Adjustment (on the main window) is used to speed up or slow down the music. The range of numbers available is
-999 to 9999. Gradually increasing values will slow down the music (ritardando), and decreasing values will speed up the music (accelerando). The function Edit;Edit Adjustment will do all the calculations for you. If the amount of change isn't sufficient within the available range, increasing the value of the Adjustment Factor will increase the amount of change. However, once the value of the Adjustment Factor is established, the same value must be used for the entire piece of music. This is also true for the other parameters. Generally, once the parameters are set to work well for one piece of music, the same parameters will probably work for most other pieces of music.
As stated before, once the settings and the Tempo are established for the work file (Play;Play the Music), the .mid file can be created for the first time. Adjust Tempo (File;Make .MID File) can then be used to make the duration of the .mid file conform to the duration of the work file. Trial and error will have to be used for this. Create the .mid file at any given setting, then go to Play;Play .MID File and check if it's the right length (this can be done with just a few bars of music). If the duration is too long, go back to File;Make .MID File and select 'faster' at Adjust Tempo, hold down the Spin button, and test again. If the duration is too short, click on 'slower'. Continue this process until the files are the same length.
IndexBalancing the Tracks
The best way to check if a portion of the music (or all of it) is in balance, is to click Play,Play the Music. This will immediately tell you if it is 'out of balance'. If it is 'out of balance', look at the tracks (durations) on the right side of the screen to determine which tracks are out of balance. Make sure a File;Recalc is done after each Edit; Add/Edit Scan Notes. No harm is done in running it at any time, but it is especially important if there are Tempo changes in the music. If a File,Recalc was done, and there is still an 'out of balance', then click on Play;Balance Tracks to locate the faulty bar or bars. Always start at bar 1, and pick an appropriate bar to end at. To check if those bars are in balance or not, just look at the numbers on the right side of the screen. If all the tracks have the same value, then run the function again to a further point. When you have pinpointed the faulty bar and track, then go in manually and check it item by item. Sometimes it it simpler and more useful to compare the out of balance track to just one of the in balance tracks. To do this, click Play,Suppress Tracks and select All, then click Play;Reinstate Tracks, and select only those two tracks.
You may notice that no 'out of balance' may occur when you click Play,Play the Music, but minor descrepancies appear to exist in some tracks. In those cases, where the descrepancies are very minor, the program automatically balances the tracks.
IndexSome Helpful Hints
No matter how small the amount of work completed on any given day, always back up your work to another medium. I simply use floppy disks, and most Titles will fit on either one or two floppies. This is very important, since a considerable amount of work can be lost if your hard disk or your system becomes non-functional, your files become corrupted, or you make a mistake which would take a considerable amount of time to correct. I simply copy the folder containing all the files for a given Title direct (using Send To in Windows). Then, if any of the above problems occur, it's a simple matter to delete or rename the folder on your Hard Drive, and restore the folder from the floppy. If a problem occurs on a single track, only that track has to be restored (inside the folder you will find all the track files plus the .awe file and the .mid file).
Testing the Sound
Always create the .mid file, and play it to test the final result. Playing the work file will give a general idea of the final result, but will not be as precise as creating and playing the .mid file. This is particularly true with Midi Synthi Player where if many tracks are in use, the tempo may slow slightly or the synchronization of tracks may be slightly affected. Also, Play,Play .mid File is not as forgiving if a pedal, which was turned on is not turned off, or if a LEGON is not followed by a LEGOF. If a SUSOF or a SOFOF is left off at the end of tracks 15 or 16 in Midi Piano Player, the .mid file won't play (a message will state that the file is corrupted). Simply add the missing instruction at the end of the appropriate track, and re-create the .mid file. If, when playing the .mid file in Midi Synthi Player, a note does not turn off, go to Item # on any track and press F7. This will check all tracks to see if the LEGON's and LEGOF's are in balance. It will stop at any point where they are missing or duplicated. Simply go in at these points and make the correction. Also, when playing the work file (Play,Play the Music), sometimes an incorrect instrument sounds on the first note in Midi Synthi Player; this won't happen on the .mid file. However, playing the work file is useful for rough testing, and for establishing the tempos and overall duration. File,Create .mid File is usually adjusted (Slower or Faster) to agree with the overall duration of Time as indicated following the playing of the work file.
Transposing InstrumentsIf you are sequencing an orchestral score, you will notice that the actual sounds produced by some instruments differ from the sounds indicated by the notes on the page. The following is a list of the most common transposing instruments and the actual transpositions for each of these instruments:
When to use Vertical Copy, Copy a Section (Horizontal Copy), and Copy by Item
Vertical Copy copies (or transposes) a portion of the music from one track to another, or to several other tracks. It is useful when a number of tracks all contain rests, or when there is doubling at unison or in octaves of a number of orchestral parts. It can also be used when parts are in the same rhythm, but are separated primarily by certain intervals (thirds, fourths etc.). Rarely are parts separated by exactly the same interval, but it is still easier to do the transposition for one particular interval, and then go in and change the notes that need to be changed. Please note that Vertical Copy will pick up the Channel Number previously in use on the 'Copy To' track. This may have to be changed, and this can easily be done using the Edit; Revise Parameters function.
Copy a Section (Horizontal Copy) will copy (or transpose) a particular selection of tracks to the same tracks further along. The most obvious usage is when whole sections (or even one or two bars) of the music are repeated. Don't forget to specify the correct Bar Number Offset. It can also be used for transposing instruments (see above).
Copy by Item (F8) is available in-line as data is being entered on a given track. It references specific items on any track (even in another file). This is useful when you wish to copy (or transpose) within a given bar, or when it is difficult to pinpoint the exact 'From' location without specifying the Item Number.
Clearing all items on a single track from one point to the end of the track
In the process of entering data, if you wish to erase everything (whether a single item, or many items) from a particular point on a single track to the current end of the track, simply type the word "END" (not the quotes) at Note Name (or Rest). Follow this by pressing the Enter key, and then accept the item.
IndexRefining the music