You've definitely Heard About MIDI. But Do You Really Know What It Is, how It Actually Works and How Powerful It Is?
You've probably heard us talk about MIDI before. We use it all the time for many different things. Even in songs and genres that have zero virtual instruments. It's commonly used in writing, recording, editing and mixing music, as well as live music performances and lots of other applications.
Have you used MIDI before? Probably. Did you know you used it? Not necessarily. MIDI is working under the hood of many audio tools without us even noticing. And then there's the obvious stuff like drum programming or using other virtual instruments, where we write, edit and see the actual MIDI events directly.
It's a relatively simple, but super powerful tool that has been used since the early 80s and that is not going anywhere anytime soon.
If you feel like you're not 100% sure what you're doing when you're dealing with MIDI, this episode is for you. If you want to know what the various values and parameters actually do, this is for you. If you just want to get a better understanding of the concept, routing, MIDI maps, keyswitches, articulations, etc., this episode is also for you.
Let's jump in!
This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.
TSRB Podcast 060 - MIDI Basics - What MIDI Actually Is And What You Can Do With It (NOT REVIEWED FOR MISTAKES)
[00:00:00] Malcom: [00:00:00] You could be on stage and want to have the bass drop. And the drummer's got a little Pat behind him and he assigns his baby based drop to this one pad East maxi with a stick. And that bass drop plays on stage. So you can really customize and make little special effects or whatever you want.
Benedikt: [00:00:16] This is the self recording band podcast, the show where we help you make exciting records on your own wherever you are, DIY style.
Hello and welcome to. The self recording band podcast. I am your host and a Dick time. And I'm here with my friend and cohost Malcolm Owen flood. How are you Malcolm? I'm great, man. How are you? Uh, it's better, but
Malcom: [00:00:43] I feel bad for asking after the conversation we just had.
Benedikt: [00:00:47] Um, yeah. Um, I'm pretty tired, but I'm going to get through this and yeah, I'm feeling, feeling good, actually,
Malcom: [00:00:57] this, uh, I guess when this comes out, [00:01:00] the course will have already have gone through its launch, but Benny is in the. The belly of the beast right now, making that happen for all of you. Exactly,
Benedikt: [00:01:10] exactly. And, uh, yeah, it seems like, I don't know how to say that there's trials that we know, but it's working, I'm working super hard and we're going to get this out or it should be out at this point.
Um, yeah. And then, yeah. All right.
Malcom: [00:01:28] Just me bragging, but I got into the mixed poll in the URM. Uh, mix off in the most recent month, which is like, uh, for people unaware. I'm sure most people are aware because we talk about that community quite a bit, but, um, it's like a mixing community educational platform and they have like a mix off every month.
And I got into the top 20 for the first time, which is really cool.
Benedikt: [00:01:49] Congrats. I, I like, I saw that post. I was so happy for you. That's awesome. Which band was it? Which session was it
Malcom: [00:01:55] sleeping with? Sirens? Which I have no idea if that's the band or the song,
[00:02:00] Benedikt: [00:02:00] the fan dude, it's the band.
Malcom: [00:02:03] I'm not familiar with them, but the song was fantastic.
Yeah, it was great. So I had a blast mix it up, but honestly I'd never listened to them before.
Benedikt: [00:02:13] Yeah. Congrats, dude. It has the mixed poll already happened.
Malcom: [00:02:18] I didn't win it, but that's okay. Talk to any, in a community full of amazing mixers is pretty sweet. I'll take that
Benedikt: [00:02:24] also. The like the standard is not what it was with those, like in the beginning.
I remember when I joined a couple of years ago, um, those top 20 mixes, sometimes some of them weren't that great, but now we have so many, like, they have so many super talented people in there. That you compete with like super pros basically.
Malcom: [00:02:45] And so it's definitely a stiff competition. Um, yeah. Some of our really close friends compete every month and it's like, Oh man, they're kids.
Yeah. Um, and then another cool thing about it is that I used. Uh, cause I've been making a drum sample library with [00:03:00] some, some other, um, colleagues and I used the samples we've been making almost exclusively on that. So it's like, it's like kind of a proof is in the pudding that the samples are great.
Benedikt: [00:03:10] Oh, that that's even better.
Awesome. That's cool. Will this be a, will the drum sample thing? Will this be a, um, like a release of publicly? I
Malcom: [00:03:20] will. Thanks in some degree. Yeah. I actually have plans to, to try and license it to. Uh, platform. Um, and I won't really go further than that on air here for now. Um, but, uh, in whatever happens is coming out in one shape or another, and I'll obviously keep everybody updated.
Cause it's pretty massive. It's wicked. Oh,
Benedikt: [00:03:41] that's stuff. That's super cool. That's super cool to hear. I was not sure if it's just a thing for yourself, like, or if it's going to be a public
Malcom: [00:03:47] product, it'll be a public product. Cause there's like, there's going to be at least four. Engineers contributing at this point.
Um, and they're all heavy hitters. It's like the stuff is sweet. I'm so [00:04:00] stoked on it.
Benedikt: [00:04:01] That's pretty cool. We haven't talked about this really, but yeah. Cool. Cool, cool. Good, good. Yeah. Stoked. All right.
Malcom: [00:04:07] So yeah, that, that's, there's a little bit of a tie in to what we're talking about. Um, because drum samples, don't just magically make themselves on two tracks.
They have to be placed there through some kind of software. Um, and. Essentially, what we're talking about today is programming and middy basics, um, and how and why you would use it and how it works. To some extent, this is going to be like a really basic overview and probably a little bit even incorrect, but as long as it helps you understand, because I really don't understand like the, the.
Like, I don't have the most technical understanding of how it works, but I can make it do what I want. And that's really what I'm most concerned about getting our listeners up to speed with is not being afraid to open up a mini keyboard and try and make their idea come to
Benedikt: [00:04:55] life. Yeah, exactly. Um, yeah, this the thing with me, it's also, for me, it's one of those [00:05:00] things that just has to work, but I don't really care if I really understand what's going on.
And like it's, it's not so complicated. So the basics are. Pretty easy to understand and to explain, I think, but it goes much deeper than like the surface level stuff that we use every day. But, um, I don't really care. I once read actually I once read the, I think it's called the practical middy handbook or something like that.
It's at the original, the OG media handbook from the eighties. That must've been
Malcom: [00:05:25] the most boring thing. I,
Benedikt: [00:05:27] once I once read that, right. Because I just wanted to know, I would just, I don't know. It just interested. It was years ago and I was like, What the, like, this is, yeah, exactly. So boring on the one hand, but also sort of fascinating.
I don't know why. And it's, what's fascinating to me is that this. Almost 40 year old or I think it is 40 year old at this point. Um, technology still hasn't changed. Basically. It's the same thing. It's the same thing they used in the early eighties. And it's still the standard for doing these things. So, um, it's definitely something you should [00:06:00] understand how to use, not so much why and how it works under the hood, but just know how to use it correctly and what to use it for and how to set it up.
And that's what you want. We're going to talk in this episode, we're going to talk about in this episode, it's not a specific. Drum sample episode, we've done those. Um, but it's a mini one. W one Oh one like, uh, yeah. Mini basics. Yeah. Basic
Malcom: [00:06:21] overview. Um, yeah. And it is always amazing to me when I do find folks who have never tried to use it at all, because it is easily the most powerful tool that.
Uh, a band has available to them with modern Dawes. Um, it changes everything. You just need a laptop and you can make a song without even recording the single instrument now to some extent, right? Yeah. So it's, it's truly a lifesaver if you don't have access to recording. Sure. Yeah. Okay.
Benedikt: [00:06:50] So I'll, I think I'll start with.
Um, the, the real basics, but I come across these a couple of times every, [00:07:00] every month, probably like it's still a regularly occurring thing that people confuse Medi. And audio files, for example. So before we dive into how it actually works, I want to say that mini a mini file does not contain audio information.
It's not an, an audio file that you can play back. You might think it is because probably you've, you've imported the MIDI file at some point. And then your software automatically loaded up some instrument or sampler or whatever, and then you hit play and you could hear something, but that's not because this information is in the media file.
The way a mini file works is it contains commands, like basic commands that tell a piece of software what to do. That's what a mini file is. So it doesn't have the actual audio in it. It's just a trigger for something else to fire off prerecorded samples or do whatever you tell it to do. So. Just as you, like, you click on your mouse and your computer does something after you do that.
It's the same thing. You click on a mini keyboard and the computer does [00:08:00] something and it's, it's not an audio file, a mini file. So I think the most often used and most important things we need to talk about are the meeting notes themselves, like which note is, is being played and what causes that. In the device that you're sending it to, then how loud is that note?
Like what's the velocity. So the loss, it is the term for it. And that's one of the things that's probably not correct, but I just say it that way, because easy to understand, you can think of velocity as like similar to a volume or intensity control, like lower velocity means quieter note, louder velocity means more louder notes.
So in case of drum samples, if you. Send a MIDI note to a sampler with a low velocity. You're going to hear a quiet drum hit. If you sent the same note with a higher velocity to the same sampler, you hear louder Gromit so that's the velocity. Same as with pianos, you hit the [00:09:00] keys harder or softer and get a different velocity and it triggers a different sound.
Um, different volume. And then the third thing is besides the actual note and the velocity, and the third thing are articulations or key switches is what they call it. This is you play a note. And then in addition to that, you hit another key or you program another command. Another note that doesn't cause the sampler or the software to play a sound, but it causes it to.
Alter the sound that it's been play that is playing. So this could be a sustained pedal on a piano or telling an acoustic guitar instrument to do a Palm mute or an open strum or
Malcom: [00:09:43] the pitch bender on a synthesizer.
Benedikt: [00:09:45] Exactly. Exactly. These are articulations that you can trigger. Um, these are key switches that allow you to not just have boring.
Um, like Nintendo sounds that, you know, like, because the bare, the bare basics would be, [00:10:00] which note, how loud and with the articulations, the key switches, you can make it more natural. You can alternate, you can change it. And like, there's basically almost unlimited possibilities depending on the sampler you using.
So that's the basic three things. Um,
Malcom: [00:10:14] we should kind of start that, like the visualizing of a mini-map on a keyboard. And just go get people. Imagine it's like trying to see something. Um, uh, because a lot of people don't realize that. Using a mini keyboard is the same as punching in the commands on, on your door, using your mouse.
You can do the same thing with your mouse as you can do with a mini keyboard or mini drum pads or whatever. It's all the same, but it's really easy to visualize if you visualize a piano roll. Um, so if you've got a piano in front of you or a piano roll in front of you on your screen, even each one of those notes is going to correspond with a certain sample inside of the software that you pair it with.
So if anybody's taken a piano lesson, they know there's something called middle C. [00:11:00] And if you go up or down in an octave, that's no longer middle C that's C negative C plus one or whatever. Right. Um, and those aren't going to correspond to the same sound inside of the software. So, if it's a piano they're going to match up, it's like playing a piano, which is really convenient.
But if it's a jump kit, you know, one of these keys is going to be the kick drum and another is going to be the snare. But if you go up an octave and hit the same note, it's not the same snare sample there. It's going to be a different sound, maybe a different iteration of the snapper, perhaps kind of thing.
Um, it varies from software. So you kind of gotta figure it out like that. But just knowing that each key on that piano role is assigned to a certain number and letter, which is identified by the software. And that's how they communicate. Is that, uh, that the name of that track or the, of that key is the middy data that's going to be sent to the sampler essentially.
Benedikt: [00:11:52] Yeah, it's true. And, and you got to. Either learn what the mini-map looks [00:12:00] like in the sampler you're using. So the mini-map is basically just, yeah. A map that tells you which key triggers what, and you can either learn the way it's set up with whatever instrument or hardware device or whatever you're using, or you can change and customize the mini-map and make it so that it works for you.
So you can go into a drum sample and say, I want the C to be the cake and the D to be the snare. And then, you know, and like you can assign these things so that it's convenient for you to play, or if you're using like mini pads or some sort of input device or an ear drum kit or whatever, you have to assign the pads to a certain sample so that it works because you don't want the snare to fire off if you hit the kick drum, you know?
So, um, yeah, that's, that's exactly, that's what my concern that, that's how it works. And it's the core components are. Immediate input device. So either a program mini track that you've just, we just draw in the notes with a pencil in your software, or like a prerecorded mini track that, that you have, or a loop or something you can purchase loops online, or [00:13:00] you have something some in your door.
Maybe this is just the input. Device, either a loop file or an actual device, like pads, a keyboard, stuff like that. And then you have the device that you send that to. There's going to be a virtual instrument, a drum sampler, um, a virtual keyboard, anything like that, or it could be a hardware synth or sampler, or it could even be, and we can get to that later, but.
It could even be other things like other plugins that you can trigger with the mini notes. You can tell a gate to open with a meeting note, for example, sometimes or stuff like that. So input device, and then something you sent that to, and then the output of what you send it to goes through to an audio output in your door, basically.
And then you hear what's coming up. That's a. The signal flow, basically, if you add as the
Malcom: [00:13:47] exact chain. Yeah. Um, and in the interest of getting people able to experiment with that right away, if they haven't already, um, yeah. You can get like a little mini keyboard and it'll just plug in via USB cable. [00:14:00] Uh, and it'll probably just work right away.
It's like amazingly simple. Most of the time, sometimes you have to like download some drivers or tell the dog to communicate with it, but generally it's just like plug and play, um, or. Like we've mentioned, there's always a mini editor, um, piano roll inside of your door. So it'll just look like a piano and you can draw in literally what notes you want to get played.
Um, there's even some newer functions, like in tools recently, you can drag an audio track onto a mini file onto admitted instrument track, and it will generate money off of that audio file. Um, and now you've kind of got like a rough outline of what was being played. And audio is now converted to media now.
So say it was a guitar solo drag that onto the instrument track. And now I can throw on like a trombone virtual instrument and it's going to play that same guitar solo. But on a trombone now. So like, it can really be a powerful little tool if used in creative ways. Yeah. How
Benedikt: [00:14:56] do we get, like you mentioned the USB to, uh, do the [00:15:00] computer.
How do you usually get the middy information into your door? How do you do that? So that the easiest thing, as you said, like, um, like you connect the, the interface to USP or not the interface, the controller, we are USP and it should work. But if it doesn't work or if you don't have a USB keyboard or like, how do you get media
Malcom: [00:15:18] into your door?
Right? Yeah. So, because I did skip a step that I assume people would know, but that's definitely not to be assumed is that you can't, if you plug in a MIDI keyboard, it's not going to work on an audio channel. Um, because an audio channel is expecting audio. So the it's, it's just not gonna receive anything.
So you have to, uh, in pro tools, it's called an instrument track. Um, or there's, there's also media channels and protocols, but an instrument channels, really what we want to use. Um, and you make that instead of an audio track, and it's going to be looking to receive media information from something.
Furthermore, another step that could trip people up is that if you just do that and start playing your mini keyboard, It might be receiving the data, but it's not going to play any sound because there's no, there's no virtual instrument for it to engage with. So [00:16:00] the, that meta-data is silent. Like Benny said, it's not an audio file.
It's just middy information. It's ones and zeros at the end of the day. Um, and you have to pair it with some kind of software. That's going to intelligently take that information and turn it into sound. So there's making a mini or instrument channel in your doll and then pairing it with the software that it can play with.
Um, those are like the two big steps. I think Benny, you S another question in there was, if you don't, I have a mini keyboard,
Benedikt: [00:16:28] right? If you D if you don't have a USB MIDI keyboard, like if you have say you app level, for example, I have a, a big. Um, electric piano, like a stage piano, a really big one in my studio that doesn't have a USB, but it has media.
Malcom: [00:16:43] Okay. Yeah. So this is fascinating because, uh, yeah, USB and media are pretty much just used interchangeably. Now people like when they bring in a keyboard, I'm like, Oh, can we plug in Midian? And they hand me a USB cable and I don't think twice about it. Right. But technically that's not. [00:17:00] Really correct. Uh, there's these old cables called mini cables, which I think are like, they have six pins, I believe.
Right. And the kind of like a semicircle. Going around, maybe it's five, five, five. Okay. Um, and they, yeah, they they're mini cables and they're just used for sending that information. And I'm old school like brains, I guess, is what I would call them mini brains, which would ha like how it was different instruments inside of it would have ports to receive those mini cables and, and take that information and an output sound.
It live just like before computers were doing it for us, essentially. Um, and in all of my career, I've been doing this since 2009, more or less? I think, uh, I've never had to use a Medicaid cable in my life. Really? Not
Benedikt: [00:17:43] once. That's fascinating. I do quite a bit. Actually. I. First of all, most modern or many modern interfaces still have a mini input.
Like the one that I'm talking to right now has immediate in and out classic media ended out, um, some don't, but some have a [00:18:00] breakout cable or something like that, where you can pluck the media in. But as I said with like this big piano that I have, that's the only way to do it. And then also there are, I mean, that's sort of rare, but some people like to use that stuff.
There are like classic. Hardware since like synthesizes devices from the eighties or nineties or whatever, um, where you actually use them the other way around you, you generate a Medifast or you play a mini file on a mini keyboard. Uh, and you have that manufactured in the door and then you send it out to so the media out into the hardware device, and then that puts out an audio signal and you record that back in.
So. That's also a way that it can be used. So I actually use it quite a bit, not as often anymore, but it still happens.
Malcom: [00:18:43] So is it for you, is it mainly to make use of that piano?
Benedikt: [00:18:48] Yeah, that's my, that's my only use for it basically, but I work with people who like these old. Since sometimes, or, um, or
Malcom: [00:18:57] they just, I can see that.
Yeah. [00:19:00] If you have something that's got the sound you're looking for, it's just, it's just another way of interfacing to it. Right. So if, if we can't take you as be, and it can take many cables, you've got to figure that out. Um, like you said some doors or sorry, some interfaces will have many ports. So in that case you just link them up.
There'll be, it should be pretty straightforward. Sometimes they don't and you have to get like an additional dongle to do it, like a break up cable from your interface, or even there's like some USB to middy, uh, dongles as well out there that I've seen again, I've never had to use one. So. Can't really help you
Benedikt: [00:19:35] Yeah. I mean, and I think there are also some classic like drum machines or drum modules that only work with MIDI and not USP. So that might be some use case. I just wanted to mention it in case you wondering, like, maybe you have a keyboard or whatever, but it doesn't have. USB like an old whatever it is.
And you wondering how to, how to do it. Yeah, right? Yeah, they do.
Malcom: [00:19:56] I've had people like with a Nord, for example, think that they had to use the [00:20:00] old school committee thing and it's like, Oh, I'm going to blow your mind. You just use this USB plug and we're good. Yeah.
Benedikt: [00:20:06] And because it's such a simple thing, I mean, it's a technology that's 40 years old and you just.
Like, yeah. Easy to transfer these commands. We are a USB cable, like the video overused thing. It's just plug and play super easy to do so. Yeah. Cool. So that's, that's how it works. That's how you get it into the computer. And typical input devices would be small mini keyboards that sits on your desktop.
For example, I have something like that to do post pro or program baseline, simple things like that. Um, could be a big like electric piano could be your mouse. Draw the stuff in could be the keyboard of your computer. You can set that up as a trigger so you can like play the drums on your keyboard or like the key, the computer keyboard.
You can have like drum pads, you can have, um, yeah, the various input devices and that's. Basically all there is to say about the workflow or [00:21:00] like the signal
Malcom: [00:21:01] flow. Yeah. I think maybe just to add again, stressing that it's not an audio file. It is maybe information that is getting into your computer and like the typical workspace or workflow that we're describing, where you're taking many information into a computer and then pairing it with a plugin to make sound.
Um, rather than the sending out to old synthesizers and stuff, the more common workflow of taking mini information into your computer. It's not an audio file. And why, why is that important and useful to us? The reason that's important and useful to us is that we can modify it for as long as we want. Um, and so I think we've talked about this with drums, especially, you know, if you programmed drums at the start of the project and you're tracking to it and you decide you want to change the groove because the guitarist has come up with like a new rendition of a certain riff, you can still go do that.
You don't have to go and set up drums and rerecord from scratch. You can just literally modify the performance. Um, right up until mixing until you commit those audio files, they're totally interchangeable, [00:22:00] which is super powerful. Um, you can also edit the performance with like unlimited power. Um, there's, there's nothing you can't do in editing.
Um, if, so, sometimes people might play it on a piano, but then you can go and tighten it up in the doll.
Benedikt: [00:22:15] That's I think is the classic scenario that we need to talk about. Um, and that I, I come across this so often when people play the keys, when they play a piano and they want to record it and they ask me how to record it, what they think about is always how do I get the audio from the keyboard into the computer?
And they don't even think about that. Recording the audio is almost always a bad idea or completely unnecessary because. Unless you have a note or something that really sounds super nice where the sounds are actually really good and better than the plugins or the virtual instruments. There's no need to record the audio at all because it's like plugins and virtual instruments are just so much better and you can't really edit the audio.
So what you want to do is you want, you don't need to find a way to [00:23:00] get the quarter-inch check or whatever into the interface. What you need to do is. You need to connect the USP, record the Medi commands and load up a virtual instrument. And what you're going to hear is not your keyboard, but you're going to hear your computer play, um, playback.
What's coming out of a sampler. That's the way to do it. And in 99% of all cases, that's what you should do. So if people are wondering what to do with their keyboard, that's what you should do. Connect the USP. Just use it as an input device and ignore the sounds and the keyboard. Just turn the volume off or whatever.
And trigger an instrument in your computer because that's, most of the time sounding gonna sound better. And also, as Malcolm said, you can play one take and that's it. And then you go in and tidy and clean it up and like quantize it or do whatever you want. Um, but there's no need. To get the absolute perfect performance of course, feeling and everything is always important, but it's not like you can do anything you want with it.
You can completely change it. You can make a new song out of it. You can erase it. You [00:24:00] can veg, it's just commands that you can move around quantize. And so no need to. Record the audio from a keyboard. That's the classic scenario. I think that we absolutely need to talk about, because I don't know why, but there's this misconception that I come across all the time that people don't realize that it's just an input device.
Malcom: [00:24:19] exactly. Um, so incredibly powerful workflow tool. It it's quick. Um, the, this is totally just a tangent, but the debate between like the sound of the built-in piano sounds versus the virtual. Plugin piano sounds is so hilarious to me because it's the same thing. It's just a computer inside of the keyboard or a computer inside of a computer doing the work.
I don't know. I don't understand that argument. That's not the same as two lamps versus amp Sims that there's, it's just like, uh, you realize that just, just like it's, it's not an acoustic piano you're playing, but yeah. Have you ever come across that?
Benedikt: [00:24:56] Absolutely. I absolutely have. And it's only true in that, [00:25:00] like, if you.
Really like the, the Hammond sound in an Ord, for example, that's the classic thing. That's just sounds good. Yeah.
Malcom: [00:25:07] Yeah. Um, or they could just release a plug-in version of it one day. Exactly.
Benedikt: [00:25:12] Yeah. As you said, it's just, uh, a pretty crappy computer playing back the samples instead of your good computer that could do that.
Malcom: [00:25:20] totally. Um, so, uh, I think. To make this a little more abstract, actually, we've been talking about how instruments relate to a mini-map. Um, but I wanted to also tell people that if they want, they can assign their own sounds to any key on it. Mini-map as well. Um, so there's, there's different tools that allow you to do that.
Um, so you you've probably, at some point seen a DJ or something with like a big pad. It's like a drum pad. There's normally like, you know, like four spots or like eight spots with different pads and they hit it and something happens. They hit another one, something happens. Um, and. That's. Yeah, that's a cool power with this.
As you [00:26:00] could be on stage and want to have the bass drop and the drummer's got a little Pat behind him and he assigns his favorite bass drop to this one pad. He smacks it with a stick and a bass drop plays on stage kind of thing. So you can really customize and make little special effects or whatever you want.
Um, it doesn't have to be. Tied to a specific instrument necessarily. Oh yeah. Or even logical, you know, one could be a piano chord and the other could be a drum, like on the same keyboard with the right software.
Benedikt: [00:26:27] Absolutely. Well, that brings us to another important thing that we skipped sort of, and that is, we need to probably explain what a sampler is like the concept of a sampler, what that actually is, because that's another misconception.
When people think of drum samples or piano samples or any sort of samples, they sometimes think. It's a synthesizer. That's creating an artificial fake sound. That sounds sort of like a drum or like a piano. That's not what's what a sampler is. A sampler is a device, a playback device, very [00:27:00] simple player that just plays an audio sample.
And an audio sample is a small, usually pretty short, small snippet of a real audio recording. So you hit a snare drum. You record that hit you. Cut. The you cut it very short in the beginning, we can cut all the silence off in the beginning and you make the tail as long as you want it. And that single drum hit is a sample.
And you load that into a sampler, which is like a basic audio player. And when the sampler receives the mini, no, that tells it to play that sample. It just hits play and you hear that snare sample. So it's a real snit run recorded in a real room by real people. That's been playing playback by a sampler.
Same with a piano. If you play a virtual piano, it's the people who make these laboratories. They. Go through this massive process of recording every single detail of a real piano, every single key, every single [00:28:00] note, every single articulation, everything that a real thing can do, they record all of that and they put together this.
Super complicated, like puzzle of all these things and loaded into a sampler and that sampler then intelligently plays back, whatever is needed depending on the media input. And what you hear are real recordings of real instruments that are being played back. So it's not. The same as a synthesize. It's not fake.
It's not, there are better ones and not so good ones because like some people make record good stuff and other stone, and also like the way the sampling engine works is different. So there's a lot that goes into that. But at the end of the day, it's real recordings that you hear when, when a sample plays something and what Malcolm just described with a DJ, it's the same thing.
They use a small sampler. And when you hit that pad, a sample that they loaded into that sampler is being played. And, uh, it's simple as that. And you can, you, you do your own things as, um, as Malcolm just described and you can, you can get very creative here. I remember when I was at the [00:29:00] URM summit 2018, the year before you went there, like Joey search just did a presentation there where he recorded sounds with a field recorder in the audience, like.
Um, people would like hit their chest or clap, or like do weird noises with their throats and all sorts of stuff. And he recorded those noises with the field recorder, then put it. Like, um, imported in, into the dark, manipulated it with whatever he did there. And then he made kick drums and pads sounds and stuff like that.
Out of the noises, he just recorded in the audience. He loaded it into a sampler and then you could just trigger it and use it as drum samples, or it played with a piano and you can put it, there are things like sampler tracks in Cubase, for example, or other softwares do the same thing where you import one.
Sound one sample and then it will automatically transpose if you like hit another key and you can play a melody with one single recorded sample, basically. And you, so that's what he did there, which was very cool. Yeah. Like he, he did a [00:30:00] complete, like post-production effects thing and the kick drum sample and stuff with things he just recorded in the audience five minutes ago.
So super cool. Yeah, exactly. So that's, you can do that. That's what you can do. And that's the concept of sampling of. Recording something cutting out the relevant, relevant part of it, loading into a sampler and then triggering it with a MIDI note. Yep.
Malcom: [00:30:21] You know what hits sampler sampler says, okay, I'll grab this audio file and then plays it.
And you hear that audio file. Yup. Um, but I do like that you brought up. The creative side of being able to manipulate that audio as well. Thank you. So there's a trend going on for the last while, actually multiple years, maybe in pop music where there's like these sound more beautiful than that, but it's like a voice, all like, kind of like weird, and it's not saying a word, but it's normally like some kind of vocal sample that's been manipulated to hell and is being played.
Oh, multiple notes kind of thing. And like this, uh, sampler engine is [00:31:00] making it sound like that, um, that, you know, you pitch it up and, and reverse it or whatever kind of thing. Um, so there there's all sorts of creative ways to use samplers as well. Um, I think we should maybe talk about how this ties into drum samples a little bit.
Now, getting back to that, because I got into sampling drums using an audio file, not many. At least in my head. That's what I thought I was doing. Um, because slate trigger, which is probably the most common sampler drum sampler, I think you could grab like the snare track or let's say kick track actually.
So you grab the kick track and you throw you load open a plugin on it. And this is your audio kick track, like a real kick open a plugin called slate trigger. And it allows you to grab any job sample you want. And when it detects the KickUp bean hit the live kick on that audio file being hit, it decides to play the sample that you've chosen.
So it's kind of like the process we just described, [00:32:00] but instead of sending a mini data, um, it's detecting audio data and deciding to play. But I think behind the hood is detecting audio data and sending metadata. To play that sampler. I think it's just like using audio as a trigger for
Benedikt: [00:32:13] middy. It's a time audio meaty thing that happens.
Malcom: [00:32:16] Yeah. Um, now before you jump in and say, that's a very bad way to use that plugin, which I agree. Um, um, that's, that's where the confusion could be that that it's audio doing it, but it's just that audio is telling it to the firearm Mitty in this case. Um, but yeah, so the same could be there's other tools that do the same thing where you could, um, Detect off the audio and generate middy, uh, spikes essentially.
And then tell those mini spikes to play a certain sample as well. Um, and in that case, you're placing them essentially with drums, though, if you want to blend or sample replace, you have to generate middy that hits at the same, same, [00:33:00] exact same time as the audio of your drum track. But corresponds with the sample you want to play.
So slate triggers just a tool that lets you do that. Um, and, and there's, there's other ones as well. Like there might be one built into your doll for example, but the important bit is that it has to fire exactly when your
Benedikt: [00:33:18] drum does. Exactly. Yeah. That's the important bit. But you also have to sort of hope or assume that the person who made the samples.
Cut them the right way. And that there is, because what it does is you, you can, you can load a TCI file, which is a trigger file that can read the different velocity layers and all that. Or you can just load up away, file into trigger, and it will just play the wave file. But for example, if you made a snare sample on your own and you left half a second of silence, In the beginning of that sample, it will trigger at the right moment, but the snare sample will be late because of that silence that's in the beginning.
So you need to cut it very, very short. And you got to sort of hope that it [00:34:00] matches the original drum. You have to flip the phase and check if it works and stuff. Yeah. So, but that's that you have to assume that this is the case and then you can use it in real time. I, and it works actually very well. What I want to say though is, and I think you agree is that a better way to use trigger is to not just throw it on the audio track, but to convert your drum tracks to media.
So you have it on a mini track and then sent that Medi to trigger and set trigger to respond to the media or to the audio. Because what that does is you won't have miss triggers. It will only trigger where the muddy notes are. So that's, that's one thing you have complete control over Phil's ghost notes and stuff like that.
So you can manipulate the Medi before it hits trigger. And, um, so it will sound more organic probably. And also you have very reliable results because what trigger does is when you use a sample library with multiple different samples per velocity layer. [00:35:00] One might be in phase. Another one might be slightly out of phase and you get like these random triggers and some hits will sound weird.
And like you play, you played the track back and one time it will sound good. And the next time it will be a little different. So we don't get as consistent of a result. So I really liked to use middy because it's more consistent. And then I like to commit as fast as possible. I just want it to say that because I've received a couple of tracks from people where they sent like the drums and then they sent them a separate track.
The trigger, like the sample track that they want me to use and they printed whatever trigger did, but it's miss triggers and Flammes and outer face stuff and everything all over the place. And to prevent that, I would always recommend it. Some are a little more tedious, but I would always recommend converting the actual audio into mini track and then using that to trigger.
Trigger or another drum sampler or whatever. It also gives you the freedom to try different tools because you can shoot out trigger samples against contact instruments or a superior drummer or [00:36:00] whatever. So, yeah, total having the actual mini track, um, is always sort of worth it for me. I don't like to rely on the audio triggering.
Malcom: [00:36:08] I think this is one of the things that this is one of the reasons we say hire a professional mixer because. A professional mixer is going to spend it. Like, it takes a lot of time to do this to a whole drum kit because we're literally checking every single hit to make sure that it's perfectly phase aligned with the exact start of that hits site sample, um, to the sample.
So doing that across the kick, across the snare, across ghost notes, if you need to across the Toms, whatever needs to happen. And like, if there's some rim shots and stuff, like we might need to trigger those to a different channel. Right. Um, uh, really depends on the song, but it's a time-consuming thing and it's not very.
Easy to do, actually, either people I've seen people do it pretty wrong, not they unsure what they're looking at, you know, um, when they're lining it up. So that is, yeah. That's one thing that, that's why you pay mixers. Absolutely.
Benedikt: [00:36:56] And a little tip here. Yeah, you're totally right. And a little tip here. [00:37:00] If you want to know the best tool to convert your drums to Medi uh, I've done quite a bit of testing and.
I liked like the built in Cubase audio, too many thing, like creating hit points and then converting that to mini or the equivalent in like pro tools works. But what works better than everything else I've tested is like the tracker in superior drummer. It's phenomenal. It's like phenomenal. It's like a standalone thing.
You need to import the drums to that, create the media and then reimport that into your DOB. But it's so worth it because that thing. I don't know what it does, but it does it so intelligently you get all the, that you get. If you have a snare with a ton of bleed and like the quietest ghost notes are way quieter than the Hyatt's or the crashes, it's still the text that goes to those ghost notes and ignores the symbols.
So sort of, so you get all the small details. It does the fills correctly, like Thomas. Um, who does all the prepping and editing and drums committee stuff for me, he uses [00:38:00] the tracker and he sort of, sort of, um, showed it to me how, how powerful it is. And we immediately switched from the Cubase audit committee to the tracker and, uh, It's just so much better.
Like the first project he ever prepped or like edited for me and prep for me was like something pretty organic with like a lot of fills and ghost notes and subtle stuff. And I doubted that we could even like do it properly like that. It wasn't organic. And he just showed me the mini results. It obviously like a lot of manual work went into it as well, but it was like, I loaded up some sample and it just blended perfectly and sounded so organic.
So. If you have that, if you have superior drummer, try the tracker, if you're looking for a tool, um, that feature alone, in addition to the amazing sounding samples, of course is worth superior drummer, I think.
Malcom: [00:38:46] Interesting. Okay. That's good to know. I use Massey DRT, which is definitely great. Um, but I haven't tried tracker, so I'm curious, but, uh, I do it a little bit different than you.
Okay. Um, I still generate audio files. But I generate [00:39:00] really short, immediate audio blips that are a sample long, essentially, so that, um, and then that allows me to use trigger and throw sensitivity up to a hundred percent and, and detection tune to like as close as possible so that it just. Immediately fires and I printed it and it's exactly perfectly phase line.
Um, so same tool, different thing just because pro tools really sucks with middy. Um, so I avoid mini whenever I can.
Benedikt: [00:39:28] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can see that. It's the S yeah, it w it works just as well, I think. And by the way, Massey to your T I think is way better at admitting detection than triggers. For example, you can use trigger as well for that, but messaging is so much more accurate.
Malcom: [00:39:40] So, yeah, so I use Massey. Generate my key spikes and then I will send those key spikes into trigger from there. Yeah. Um, yeah, that's cool. That's the system I'm using, but yeah, if you listen to this point, you've already learned the mini basics one Oh one, I think so, because this is not maybe basics one Oh one anymore.
Benedikt: [00:39:57] let yeah. Let's circle back. Um, [00:40:00] and then wrap it up. Like, so what are the typical use cases for middy? Just to sum it up. So we have obviously playing a piano or a piano, like instrument with a MIDI piano, and then triggering a software instrument or paying, playing pads strings since anything like that.
So playing an actual instrument. What else?
Malcom: [00:40:18] Uh, I mean, like we just said, sample replacing or augmenting drum performances, um, would be. The next for me. Um, but there is actually a third one. That's fun. Um, I guess it's more of a mixing thing, but worth mentioning is gating. Um, or, or, I mean, just key spiking dynamics in general.
Um, so what that means is that you could have something like a gate, which we're going to be talking about. Actually, we're going to do a little, like. Introduction to different concepts, but here's a brief one of gating, a gate we'll just like in theory, mute a signal until a certain threshold is hit. And then it opens the gate and allows that signal through.
Um, and it doesn't have to fully mute it. But [00:41:00] for simple terms, that's what we're saying. Um, so you throw that on a snare track and until. It gets hit by the blast of a snare, which is gonna be a loudest thing on that mic. It is just muting that track to get rid of all bleed in between the snare hits kind of thing.
Now, the problem is that snare hits aren't consistent because drummers aren't machines. Um, so it's hard to find that perfect threshold, uh, and maybe they play a part really quiet. So the gate doesn't get triggered there. And the snares just muted for that section, which is obviously bad, um, or. There's a crash near or the hi-hats gets hit really loud and it triggers it as well or something.
There's all. It could be anything like there's, it's really hard to gate accurately without manually just going in and automating it yourself. Um, but key spikes. Do this for us. So if we go back to what we were just talking about, and we generate mini spikes for each snare hit using nasty DRT or superior drummer tracker or whatever, uh, you can then set that to be what triggers the gate to fire.
And you know, that it's a hundred percent aligned cause you've manually gone and done it. Um, and [00:42:00] that gives you a lot of power.
Benedikt: [00:42:01] Oh yeah. Also, you know, it's aligned, you know, you won't have these MIS um, the CDs, the gate opening on, on. Spots where it shouldn't open. And I think the most powerful thing about it is I used to cut, cut out Tom tracks for years like that.
That's what I would always do. Like if there's too much bleed on the Toms, I would go in, cut out all, like all the bleed and just leave the actual hits in there. I've completely, um, like from, from doing that, I completely went to just using mitigates on the Toms. Not only because it's easy because I usually already have them from media anyways, because Thomas always, perhaps that form would be in case I need samples or anything.
But I think the most powerful thing about it is with a normal gate. Um, you manually, it always works of course, but it's tedious, but with a normal gait, not only will it sometimes open in the wrong spot, but if, even if it opens correctly and even. If you have like [00:43:00] the attack to the, this, the fastest possible setting, you still get a weird click in the beginning.
Sometimes a weird sound because it's just not opening fast enough or it's like, yeah, it just changes the attack sound of the Toms sometimes. Then when you use the look ahead function so that the gate opens a little earlier, that can mess with the phase or the timing of the drums and all that sort of stuff.
But with a mini track that triggers the gate to open, I just moved the whole mini track. To the left a couple of milliseconds or like a very short amount of time so that the Gates open slightly before the actual Tom hit. And that way I get it to open super like in time without any artifacts, the gate doesn't affect the sound in any way.
And, uh, that's that trick alone is worth it, Jimmy. So, um, I just, I, I, by placing the mini nodes intentionally, I can say when the gate should open it, it's not always the exact. It's not always exactly aligned with the Thompson's most of the time, a little earlier, so that I can avoid the look ahead [00:44:00] and the very short attack times.
So yeah, there's so much power in these, in these things. And, um, Yeah. Okay. So yeah, the triggering of Gates, what else would be there as a use case drum programming? Obviously.
Malcom: [00:44:13] I mean, yeah, drum programming. Um, sometimes I'll use still on sampling actually, but I'll use it to trigger special effects, like a bass drop or, or claps, or just like duplicate the snare trigger.
And now I've got claps firing instead kind of thing. So it's the same thing, but it just, in my head, it's like a different part of the mix. Um, and cause it's just like the sauce on top to stuff like that, you know? Um, you could, uh, Program like, you know, sublines or something like that. That's like something that's just reinforce a course with like a sub base, you know, just draw it in with a pencil, stuff like that.
Right. Um, yeah. It's, it's really limited to your creativity, I think.
Benedikt: [00:44:51] yeah, I got, I got two little things and then that's probably everything I can think of right now, but these are actually very cool. So one more use case would [00:45:00] be. You could use a, um, a mini track as a click track. So, or to like easily exchange, like projects between two different doors or whatever, instead of using the built in click, you can program a Medi click and have that trigger and instrument.
So that could be a way you could use it, but here comes a really cool thing. You can, and that's actually helpful if you transfer your files to a mixing engineer. For example, if you send your files after mixing and you have like complicated tempo maps going on, like tempo changes and the person receiving your files has to recreate those sample maps, which can sometimes be pretty impossible.
If there's like smooth transitions and everything. What you can do is even if there's no mini Trek in your project, you can just create an empty media track. Make one note in the very beginning one at the very end, like make the middle track as long as your track is. But just to note, I always put the two notes in there because it just works.
And then I export that useless, empty, almost empty mini track, along with all the audio [00:46:00] tracks and when the other person imports those in to their door and they start with the mini track. Usually that many track has the tempo info in it. And usually your temper tracking your door. Will automatically set the tempo track to whatever's in the media, and then you can import the audio and it will be perfectly aligned with like, you will have the tempo map there.
So that's a cool way to import a tempo map from another session, it's just create an empty mini drag. It has the tempo info import that first and there you have your template track because that can be a pretty complicated thing to do sometimes to get the template from one session.
Malcom: [00:46:36] Yeah. I've, I've run into that problem and it kind of a pain in the ass to work backwards to fix.
Yeah. Awesome. Yeah. Um, I think that's pretty comprehensive for, for trying to wrap your heads around middy if you're unfamiliar with it. Um, but even if you were, I'm sure there was kind of some new concepts and ideas in there to consider using.
Benedikt: [00:46:55] Yeah. Cool. Um, yeah, those episodes, I think could be fun. So we're going to do [00:47:00] more like these basic concept episodes in the future.
We're going to touch on some things that just matter and are, um, Important to know whether you're recording or mixing or whatever you're doing, but like knowing these basic things like mini gating, as Malcolm said, compression cue the just basic concepts that you can apply to whatever you're doing.
We're going to do a bunch of those in the future. And, um, I'm sort of looking forward to this because we really skipped this sort of up until now. We always talk about very specific things. But yeah. Time to address the basics and go more in-depth on those concepts. Absolutely. All right. Thank you for listening.
See you next week. .
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