8: MIDI: N
Many devices, especially hardware keyboards, have the ability to act both as
controllers (producing MIDI control data) and as receivers (producing sound,
video, or some other event).
Of course, the real joy of MIDI isn’t just the ability to use one piece of
equipment or software to control another: it’s the fact that you can record
and edit MIDI events. Any device with the ability to record and play back
MIDI is considered a sequencer. This includes both hardware keyboards with
built-in sequencers and the MIDI sequencers integrated within DAWs like
Cubase, Pro Tools, and Live.
Sequencing MIDI data lets you record, edit, and arrange compositions.
You might use sequencing as a simple writing tool for recording ideas and
adjusting and arranging them, or to create instrumental performances so
complex that you couldn’t play them in real time. Since MIDI stores only
event information and not sound, it’s possible to make edits with MIDI
that are difﬁcult or impossible with audio recordings. For example, you can
change a recorded part to another instrument, make quick, ﬁne-tuned pitch
adjustments without having to select audio waveforms, draw in unplayable
notes and rhythms, or make radical alterations to tempo.
What if you’re “all virtual”?
You might think that MIDI doesn’t concern you,
because you make music directly in software and don’t have a controller. Well, think
again: if you’re playing a virtual instrument in a DAW or loop-based “virtual studio,”
you’re using MIDI every time you click with the pencil tool to add a note. If anyone
tells you,“MIDI is dead,” they’re wrong—for now, at least. (See the sidebar “OSC: MIDI’s
Successor?” on p. 324.)
Connecting Instruments and Devices
USB and FireWire
Connecting a USB or FireWire MIDI device to your computer is basically
plug-and-play. Connect the USB or FireWire cable to your computer, as in
Figure 8.2, and your software should recognize the device automatically.
(Some devices require driver installation ﬁrst.) If you have more devices,
Is it live, or is it
Sequencers work well for
recording and editing,
but MIDI is also useful
onstage. Because MIDI
data is simple and stan-
dardized, it’s easy to
build everything from
basic real-time trans-
posers to sophisticated
interactive setups. MIDI
effects in sequencers or
modular MIDI systems
like Max/MSP, Jade, Pure
Data (Pd), Reaktor, and
Logic’s Environments let
you create custom per-
formance rigs that work
as you play.