Copyright Michael Karbo, Denmark, Europe.


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    Chapter 17. Digital musicians

    As mentioned earlier, Creative supplies a succession of large, commercial and relatively expensive program packages in connection with Audigy sound cards.

    These ”external” programs are used, first and foremost, for producing music. The programs are very valuable, because they give you access to a completely new world of experiences, so it is a very good thing that Creative ”bundles” all this software with its sound cards. It’s just a question of getting started!

    Creative’s various program packages

    Audigy cards are found in many versions, and they are also redeveloped from year to year. So it is difficult to say, precisely which programs accompany a particular product.

    Under all circumstances, software for several thousands of kroner accompanies a sound card! You can see here the programs, which accompany an Audi­gy Platinum card:

    Figure 109. Expensive and professional software, which accompanies a sound card – pure luxury!

    We are talking about very big program packages, which you can probably work with for months without getting to the bottom of all of their possibilities.

    Composition synthesizer

    The Sonic Foundry AcidDJ program, which was mentioned on page 51, is one of these very entertaining programs. Let me, quickly, mention two other fun-giving and amazing programs FruityLoops and Storm, which are also used for producing electronic music (such as techno, for instance).

    FruityLoops is a sequencer, which you can use for composing melodies and drum loops. The final songs can be saved either as pure MIDI files (without sound content) or they can be ren­dered as sound in WAV or mp3 formats.

    So with FruityLoops you play the sound the program supplies. You design patterns, which you can process with effects such as re­verb, phaser, flanger etc. I have chosen some drum sounds; see below (there a lot of them):

    Figure 110. FruityLoops with drum synthesizers.

    After I have, for instance, selected some drum sounds, then it is very easy to program a rhythm pattern by clicking on the mouse:

    Figure 111. It’s that easy making a drum rhythm.

    If you have an electric piano or some other instrument, then you can let the drum sound continue, while you play to it. If you use the function “What U hear” (see page 3), then you can record both the drums and your own instrument’s sound in a WAV file. After that you can sing with it and by this means build layer upon layer of pure audio. You are simply using a hard disc as a sort of tape recorder.

    ”Proper” musicians, of course, don’t record music in this way; but for us amateurs it is possible to produce some very entertaining recordings with rather simple procedures.

    Figure 112. Yamaha PSR 1000 – a good digital instrument, which can be connected to a computer in several ways.

    Storm

    Storm is a very amusing sequencer program. It contains approximately correct electronic copies of different synthesizers from the 1970s. You program the sound sequence, which the synthesizers then supply with sound.

    Storm has two sorts of modules, which you can install in your virtual studio. There is an instrument module and an effects module. Just drag them into the studio, and the music will play. You see here an Arsenic bass line synthesizer:

    And here is a Chorus module:

    The different instruments play of their own accord but you program them with the help of small control panels like this:

    Storm gives everybody a chance to get going with electronic music very quickly. You have to be very clever to produce art, but the rest of us can put up with enjoying ourselves.

    Figure 113. Storm’s complete sound studio.

    Audio or MIDI

    Common for programs for musicians is that they can work with both sound and MIDI.

  • When you work with sound, then it is called audio. Music is recorded on a hard disk, where it is played back from, edited or where new instruments can be added, etc.

  • No sounds are saved in the files, when you work with MIDI but just sheer composition. The music is composed with a sequencer, which can either be a keyboard or a program. A MIDI file almost corresponds to a sheet of music.

    Most programs can work with both Audio and MIDI in different mixes. You always finish with audio, when a piece of music is completed (rendered), but during the process the music sequence for certain instruments can easily be stored in a MIDI format.

    If you work with audio, then the recordings will take a lot of room, as they are stored uncompressed in WAV files. As long as you don’t compress the files, then you can add layer upon layer in these music files without loss.

    MIDI

    MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a specification, which was originally developed for communication between synthesizers. Since then, MIDI has been established as music standard used for several tasks:

  • Several programs can play sampled sounds via a computer’s sound card.

  • Digital pianos (as in Figure 112) and other instruments have MIDI built in so you can record your own compositions in the instruments.

  • The digital instruments can communicate with each other and with computers via MIDI cables.

  • You can record and compose music in 96 independent audio and MIDI tracks with the big sequencer programs (first and foremost Cubasis).

    So MIDI is a very important component in the digital music studio.

    Compositions

    Compositions are described – also called mu­sical events – in the MIDI format. The point being, that the description doesn’t contain a single sound. On the other hand, the description contains very precisely how each and every instrument (and by this the sounds) should be played. The sounds, which are used for the compositions, are stored as samples either in a sound card or on a hard disk. Or saved in a ROM circuit in the electric instruments.

    If you play with MIDI, then you produce seque­n­cing information. These are small files, which describe, when and how each instrument should play. A MIDI sequence can, for example, describe a keystroke on the piano. This will contain information about:

  • The instrument.

  • The tone.

  • Keystroke force.

  • How long the tone should be held.

    The only thing that is not described is the sound of the instrument.

    Playing samples

    If you play a MIDI piano, then the sound is produced electronically while you play. If you compose music on a computer, the sounds are produced when you play the composition. In both situations, the sound quality is wholly dependent on the sound quality found in the samples concerned.

    Which is why you can easily compose music with a very cheap MIDI piano, which doesn’t have a very good sound. When you transfer the sound to another sound module, it can sound completely different. See Figure 114.

     The recording of MIDI files is done at a ”node level”, you see. The melody is played on one or another device (usually an electric instrument, sound module or a sound card), which can provide the required sounds.

    Figure 114. MIDI recordings activate the sound samples.

    MIDI interface for keyboards

    A keyboard can be connected to the sound card via MIDI ports. In this way you can record musical sequences in a computer in a MIDI format (i.e. the notes, without sounds). Special computer keyboards can be bought or you can use a normal electric piano/organ/synthesizer from a music shop –just as long as there are MIDI ports on it and your sound card.

    Using a 5-pole DIN plug, which fits into the keyboard, the connection itself is made between the keyboard and the sound card. At the other end of the cable there is a corresponding DIN plug or so-called DB15 plug with fits into some sound cards.

    The transmission itself between the MIDI ports isn’t ”heavy” – there is not very much data to be transferred. Which is why many of the more professional MIDI devices are connected via a simple USB cable, which is, in fact, the simplest arrangement.

    Figure 115. A MIDI keyboard for USB.

    With a sequencer program like Cubasis, you can record your own music directly from the keyboard.

    Figure 116. Cubasis is many musicians’ favourite program.

    Further studies

    MIDI is a very big subject, and a program like Cubasis is really very extensive. So, I will, therefore, have to refer you to the Internet, where you can search for much more material on the subject, just as there also are many books about MIDI.

    Creative got a musician to write a complete guide about music recording with the Sound Blaster sound card and all the software, which accompanies it. This very extensive document (Music Creation Guide) can be installed in your computer with the sound card’s software. It is really a very impressive work (in English) with 11 long chapters, which ought to be able to satisfy everyone.

    Figure 117. Excellent documentation for Creative’s sound card.


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