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EE2F2 - Music Technology

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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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Presentation Transcript
  • 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
early analogue sequencers
Early Analogue Sequencers

Inputs are transmitted sequentially

Three separate channels (e.g. drums)

a virtual analogue sequencer
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
modern computerised sequencing
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
advantages over tape recording
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
a primitive midi sequencer
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!
standard midi files
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.
digital audio features
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
virtual studio technology
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


virtual instruments
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
virtual mixing effects
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!)
  • 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!