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Tips for a MIDI Sequence Realization

Selection of instrument

The first thing to do, at the beginning of a MIDI sequence, is to set an instrument for each track used by the sequence. Otherwise, unexpected results may arise because the last instrument used on the previous sequence may be left over. This site being dedicated to classical guitar, the nylon guitar (number 25 or 24 depending on the MIDI software used) should be chosen. Another instrument could also be selected provided the presence of the guitar is ensured, for example:  guitar-violin, guitar-flute duets, guitar + orchestra. MIDI files made with only one instrument different of guitar will not be accepted. 

Volume setting

Next, the volume should be set to maximum. Failing to follow that rule is a problem since I receive many nearly inaudible MIDI sequences.

Sequencing the right tempo

Try to make a MIDI sequence at the right tempo. If you are not sure of the tempo of a song, try whenever possible to listen to a professional performer's recording.

Other parameters: reverb, panoramic

Make use of these controls. Utilisation of  reverb adds another dimension to your MIDI sequence. Utilisation of panoramic control can be useful: when using two tracks or more (or two instruments or more), think about sequencing one in the left speaker and the second one in the right speaker, this will add spatial dimension to the MIDI.

Sequencing in the right octave

"This is a very important side of classical guitar MIDI sequencing realization. One must remember that the guitar is a transposing instrument, it sounds one octave lower than its written  music in the G clef. Thus, it is necessary to always transpose the sequenced guitar staff down one octave to obtain the actual guitar sound (otherwise, you will be one octave too high). This is a common mistake of the MIDI that I receive. Your classical guitar MIDI must sound the closest possible to the true instrument. As a rule, there are two ways to carry that transposition to one lower octave: one can use the G clef shifted down one octave (a G clef with a small "8" under it) and enter the notes of your score as they are. This is by far the simplest method to use provided your MIDI editor has that possibility. For the second way, use a normal G clef (unshifted) but block all the notes already processed and transpose them down one octave. Using the two ways allows to transpose the entered score down one octave and hence you obtain the guitar MIDI sound at the right octave.

The quality of the MIDI sound

The MIDI sound obtained will always be poor and unpleasant if you only enter, as they appear, the notes of a score, the reason for this being that musical notation is in fact a simplification of the actual sound of an instrument. Let's take for example a C major arpeggio of four notes for classical guitar. The score will simply show us C, E, G, C but, in fact, the C note is still heard when one plays the E note, the C and E notes can still be heard when the G note is played. the C, E and G notes are still heard when you play the final C note. Listen to this small MIDI given as example.  The two first MIDI arpeggios in C major have been made by entering only what is on the score (C, E, G, C) but for the two last arpeggios, care has been taken to make the notes sound as a true guitar would. Therefore, MIDI sequencing is an art consisting of score notes interpretation and programming the sound the closest way possible to realty.

A good and efficient method that will give a pleasant MIDI sound consists in entering the score notes on many tracks or staves . Lets imagine, for example, a classical guitar song with arpeggios. One would easily spot three voices: the bass notes that can be heard all the time, the accompaniment notes (arpeggios) and the song notes (for example the high-pitched notes on the E string). In that kind of song, one would enter the bass notes on a first voice, the arpeggio notes on a second voice and the song notes on a third voice. Or create as well a special score (on three distinct tracks). This special score thus created cannot be read by a guitarist but the goal is not the reading but the creation of the closest possible MIDI sound to the real nylon guitar's sound. Listen to this small melody given as example. The first interpretation has been made with all the notes on the same voice, it is very dull. The second interpretation, on three distinct voices: bass, accompaniment notes, and song notes. It gives a much better result close to a true guitar playing. In the third interpretation, the notes duration is at maximum (if your MIDI editor has a feature allowing a maximum duration to the notes, set it to 100% in order to obtain a continuous sound or for those having an advanced MIDI editor, set a legato* function on all the score), the song notes have been put in a prominent state (volume risen a little bit higher than for the other notes), the arpeggios sound better (their notes sound as in true guitar playing), the final chord has been played as an arpeggio in order to simulate a professional performing.

Utilization of channels in MIDI sequencing

In MIDI sequencing,  it is better to handle each track (or staff) on a separate MIDI channel (even if using the same instrument on each track) in order to prevent clipped or dead notes when there is too much data to handle. When sequencing for different instruments (for example, a duet flute-guitar), there is less problem since different instruments must be handled on different channels. But for a duet of guitars, one should handle each guitar on a different MIDI channel otherwise a common symptom of dead (or clipped) notes may occur. It appears that some MIDI players have limited capabilities and cannot handle too much data at once, all on the same midi channel.

 Also, if you sequence in several staves for one guitar (for example, a staff for acute notes and another one for chords or bass notes), try to select a different channel for each staff. This measure will greatly improve the results. To render some guitar effects , for example, where the same  note is to be played on two different strings at the same time (e.g. an E on the B string, 5th fret and another one on the open 6th string), it’s a good idea to sequence each note on a different channel.

About legato

The linking of sounds is called "legato". When a note is entered whatever way in a MIDI editor, its written duration on the score doesn't correspond to its real duration as read by the system. It is a little bit less, in general 80% of its written duration on the score. Thus, there are some very small pauses between each notes. The legato utilisation consists in removing of those sound interruptions, therefore the played notes duration will be virtually equal to their duration on the written score, we are thus much closer to the guitar playing. It must be clear that this assertion is true only for nylon guitar (MIDI No.24 or 25 depending of editors). When  MIDI editing is applied to nylon guitar, the sound ends between  each note while it is not at all the same situation with held notes such as with bowed instruments (as violin), the winds or the human voices. Try the following experience: Tie five or six consecutive wholes and listen to the result for nylon guitar. After the fifth or sixth beat, with an ordinary tempo, one doesn't no longer hear anything while with a bowed instrument, the sound is perfectly audible up to 80% of its duration. Let's note that for the harp (MIDI No.47), the legato would be less necessary since the synthesizer makes a string continue to vibrate with the following note, in opposition to the guitar. If one enter a serie of eight notes and compares the result with guitar and with harp, he wil hear a continuous sound with the harp but a discontinuous one with guitar. The goal of the legato is therefore to adapt the note duration to realty and to hear a continuous sound in conformity with classical guitar.

About chord sequencing

In scores, the chords are written as superimposed notes. However, when one plays guitar, these notes are often performed one after the other or played in fast arpeggios and thus are not  simultananeously played. This chord arpeggio is sequenced by using the 32th note (or 64th note) for the speed of the arpeggio. Let's take for example the C major chord: C, E, G, C. You would write the 5th string C as a 32nd note. Just after, you write the 4th string E as a 32th note and include again the 5th string C and tie it to the first C. Then, you write the 4th string G in 32nd note and include the E and the C, both of which are tied to the preceding notes. Finally, we write the high C (2nd string) as a 32th note and the G, the E and the low C are included and tied to the preceeding notes as before (see fig.1). If the C chord were a quarter note, you would complete it by using 8th notes tied to the preceding notes (fig.1). In the following figure, the chord has a total duration equal to a dotted quarter note. As a result, the arpeggio of C has been completed with a quarter note (four 32th note + one 4th note = one 4th note and a half).

Listen to the following chords, the first ones are played simultaneously (MIDI notes superimposed) then, the same series of chords is played as arpeggios. Note that it is sometimes good to tie the upper note of a chord to the following notes especially in the case of an open string that continues to vibrate while you change the fingering. In the case of two superimposed notes in a score, for example a bass and a treble note, it is sometimes good to let the bass note ring through the treble note. Visually, the score becomes more complex by the presence of those tied supplementary notes but the resulting sound is closer to realty.

           fig.1

 

References

SoundFount Introduction to MIDI 
Polish translation by Vicky Rotarova
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