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EE2F2 - Music Technology - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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6. Sequencers. EE2F2 - Music Technology. Introduction. Last time: MIDI – How electronic instruments talk to each other MIDI Messages – How to play a synthesiser by remote control Today: Sequencing – Automatically playing a tune or drum pattern MIDI and computers – Sequencing using MIDI

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6. Sequencers

EE2F2 - Music Technology

Introduction l.jpg

  • Last time:

    • MIDI – How electronic instruments talk to each other

    • MIDI Messages – How to play a synthesiser by remote control

  • Today:

    • Sequencing – Automatically playing a tune or drum pattern

    • MIDI and computers – Sequencing using MIDI

    • The Virtual Studio

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Early Analogue Sequencers

Inputs are transmitted sequentially

Three separate channels (e.g. drums)

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A Virtual Analogue Sequencer

  • Functionally, this simple sequencer is very similar to an old analogue drum machine

  • Drum beats are selected/removed using the mouse

  • Drum kits of increasing complexity can be selected

  • You will, hopefully, discover the pros and cons of this style of sequencer

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Modern Computerised Sequencing

  • The modern day equivalent of a control voltage or trigger signal is a MIDI message

  • A computer can be set-up to transmit pre-programmed MIDI messages at set times

  • The sequence can be either pre-programmed or recorded live from a MIDI controller (e.g. a keyboard)

  • Using the MIDI channels, up to 16 instruments can be independently controlled in this way by a single computer with a single MIDI output

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Advantages Over Tape Recording

  • MIDI messages are digitally stored, perfect reproduction/duplication is implicit

  • Much lower bandwidth; file sizes can be around 1000 times smaller

  • Virtually unlimited number of tracks (although only 16 instruments per MIDI Out can be controlled independently)

  • Editing facilities

    • Tracks can be copied, looped etc.

    • Mistakes can be corrected

    • Dud notes can be erased

    • Timing can be made consistent (quantised)

    • Completely new sequences can be programmed

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A Primitive MIDI Sequencer

  • MIDI events (i.e. a MIDI message plus a time-stamp) are inputted directly

  • Useful for investigating how MIDI works and what different messages do.

  • Not very good for actually making music!

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Standard MIDI Files

  • To begin with, every sequencing package used its own file format

  • Swapping files was difficult if not impossible

  • Standard MIDI files (.MID files) are simply an agreed format that all sequencers are capable of exporting and importing files in

  • They are the musical equivalent of an ASCII text file – the information’s all there but some of the formatting niceties may be lost.

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Digital Audio Features

  • Computers with audio outputs can transmit MIDI information and play back samples (e.g. .WAV files) at the same time

  • In early sequencers, samples had to be loaded into memory if you wanted to include them in a song

  • Now, hard disks are fast enough to play samples directly from the disk

  • In fact several samples of arbitrary length can be played and mixed simultaneously…

  • … turning the computer into a multi-track hard disk recorder and mixer

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Virtual Studio Technology

  • Simple example – the computer transmits two types of data at once:

    • MIDI sequence to the digital piano

    • Digital audio sample direct from hard disk



Audio In

Audio Out

Digital Audio Track


Audio Out


MIDI Sequence



Audio Out


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Virtual Instruments

  • Actually, the digital piano is just a DSP running some software

  • If the computer can cope, why not run the same software on the computer instead

  • Advantages

    • Much cheaper – save the cost of a digital piano

    • Easier to program – electronic instruments often have a tiny LCD window, computer has a nice colour monitor and a mouse etc.

    • Less noise – digital output is implicit

    • Can be digitally mixed (added) to the audio track so we don’t need a mixer anymore

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Virtual Mixing & Effects

  • If all the instruments are virtual and all the audio tracks are on the hard disk, you don’t need a mixer – the computer can do it

  • Also, the computer can easily simulate:

    • EQ – just like a real desk

    • Panning, fading etc.

    • Effects – many effects like reverberation are usually done digitally anyway

  • In fact, the only real (non-virtual) piece of studio equipment needed is the microphone (and the singer!)

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  • Most modern recording studios are becoming computer-based

  • Even a modestly specified computer can:

    • Digitally record and play multiple tracks

    • Handle MIDI sequencing

    • Simulate multiple virtual instruments in real time

    • Digitally mix and apply virtual effects

    • Master the whole thing into an MP3 and e-mail it straight to the record company!