Digital Recording, Music Technology and how we use the DAW and MIDI  ...


Guitar / Bass Tuition

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How to Use MIDI

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An Introduction to Digital Recording, Digital Music Technology, using a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and how we use MIDI to produce music tracks in the Studio

Today all professional audio recording is done digitally using a DAW and Digital Music Technology. Backing tracks can also be (and often are) produced in the studio using hardware and/or software synthesisers and samplers controlled by MIDI.

There are two aspects to using a DAW. One is where the DAW is simply like a giant multi-track tape recorder with many sophisticated processors and effects. Typically, we would import or record a backing track on one track of the DAW and then record the vocal (or other instrument) on another track. We often re-record the vocal or part of it another couple of times on different tracks of the DAW and then seamlessly mix and match the best parts of each vocal track to get the optimum result before mixing the vocal with the backing track and exporting it ready for a CD or in a form to enable it to be stored on a playback device such as a phone – or perhaps in a form to attach to an email.

The other aspect of the DAW is to produce music from its built-in synthesisers (or external synthesiser) using MIDI tracks. Nowadays, synthesisers seldom “synthesise” music electronically but play multiple samples of real instruments which have been recorded digitally and stored in the synth’s instrument sound banks. Many think that putting together musical arrangements using MIDI is a black art – but although initially MIDI can be confusing, using MIDI and the DAW to produce music tracks becomes simple with practice - but only if you know what you are doing. The problem for beginners is they often don’t know where to start and don’t even know what questions to ask or who to ask to get started. Textbooks are often confusing and hard work to learn from although they are very useful for reference later. These areas are some of the issues this teaching module has been designed to address. There are several ways of entering the MIDI music information into the DAW, each having its own benefits and limitations.

Beginners usually have no idea how to combine the synthesiser music they produce on the DAW with their vocals or “real instrument” they record and often do not know which kind of microphone to use or even how to use it. Mixing everything together to produce an audio file to burn on to a CD seems like another black art to start with but it soon becomes clear – if you are taught the right things in the right order in the right way. The many aspects of using all this Music Technology can be very daunting at first and all these areas are covered. We start assuming you know nothing – always the safest place to start – and proceed in a structured way to build up your knowledge and experience at your pace to enable you to achieve what you want to achieve. All these areas are covered in detail.

Below are just some of the MIDI topics covered …

  • What is MIDI?
  • Who/what uses MIDI and why?
  • What info. does it convey?
  • What do Mono / Polyphonic and Multi-Timbral mean?
  • How does MIDI work with digital synths?
  • Ports, Patches, Banks & GENERAL MIDI
  • Synths or Samplers – what’s the difference?
  • Sequencers – what they do and why we need them
  • PC-based sequencers and some software packages
  • Internal synths and the PC soundcard / codec
  • Connecting devices together using MIDI ports
  • Multiple MIDI Devices in series - Daisy Chaining
  • Patches, samples and multis
  • Putting a Band together on the PC screen
  • Multiple MIDI set-ups – meet my “MOTU 8”
  • Introducing Cakewalk     Sonar software …
  • Setting up the Ports and Devices
  • Various options for getting your music into the DAW
  • Using the Pennyland Music Studio to make music
  • How do we go about making recordings?
  • Mixing and using various effects in the studio
  • How we use the DAW to pitch-correct out of tune singing?
  • How to use the DAW to produce perfect vocal harmonies - without having to sing them
  • Producing a Master Mix on a DAT, CD or PC
  • Cleaning up the score and making it sound better
  • At last – you can now produce your own CD!

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