Hi! I’m Dave from boyinaband and welcome to day 5 of the 7 day studio series, where I’ll be explaining how to set up a beginner’s studio, with my convenient co-host kieran.
[looks at kieran] Hi.
Yesterday we looked at capturing audio, but today we’ll be looking at MIDI Devices – Bits of kit that allow you to capture MIDI, which is the way most software thinks about programmed musical notes. So when you see a sequence like this [show a MIDI sequence] in some software, chances are it’s MIDI.
One thing to keep in mind before we get started is that MIDI doesn’t make a sound. MIDI just tells synthesizers or samplers what sounds to make. MIDI itself is silent…
like the ninja…
You can input MIDI with a mouse and keyboard, but there isn’t much musicality in that and it can take a long time. That’s why MIDI devices exist – to make it easier to input sound.
And since there are so many types of sounds and ways to adjust your music, there are similarly many types of MIDI devices.
From the convenient and conventional, such as keyboards and mixers, to the crazy and expensive, such as the MIDI Gun and full body suits to control your sounds. Some of these are geared more towards live performance, unless you want to impress your studio clientel by shooting yourself a melody in front of your computer, so we’re going to stick with the conventional, cheaper ones.
Some MIDI devices make things like mixing much more hands on as well, with faders, buttons and knobs allowing you to bring the mixing process into the real world as well as the writing process. Again, this can mean things are much faster than if you’re mixing with a mouse.
Another popular type of device are ones with playable pads. These are great for percussion, since you don’t have to be quite as accurate as you do when playing percussion on keys. It’s all personal preference though.
So Kieran, what instruments can you play?
I can play the guitar and a bit of piano. And the kazoo.
Yes. *Kazoo solo*
Oh cool, I didn’t know that.
Well I’m not sure about the progress on someone developing a MIDI kazoo, and while there are MIDI guitars out there, they aren’t as easy to use as MIDI keyboards. So let’s go straight for one of them.
After looking about, I chose a cheap one I would trust – the M-Audio Oxygen 49.
M-Audio are known for making good MIDI devices, like long haired rappers are known for being cool dudes indeed. [put on shades in quick close-up]
Some other brands I recommend are Evolution, Novation, Akai and Rowntrees, mainly for their fruit pastels though.
You really don’t need something expensive to begin writing music in your studio. However, If you are thinking about going live with your performance, then something more like this Novation SL MkII might be your kinda thing, since it has touch sensitive pads, tons of controls, quickly syncs with software and, most importantly, has a lot of flashy lights.
So, back to the M-Audio. it is kinda cheap looking, but my assumption is that Kieran won’t be thrashing it about violently. He’s gentle, aren’t you Kieran?
*zoom in on Kieran’s face and with weakest voice ever* I sure do.
Aww. That’s lovely. Let’s see what we have here. *discuss what’s on the device*
If you want to drop the pads and faders for the budget, try the M-Audio KeyRig 49. There are smaller MIDI devices with fewer octaves, but I’d only recommend them if you’re sticking with simplistic dance music. Things like piano can be awkward to do if you only have a few octaves to play with – I don’t mind it personally, but I know a lot of people do. Kinda like charting pop music.
So how are we faring with the budget there, Kieran?
With the M-Audio Oxygen 49 at £117, that’s £480.
And our super budget?
Assuming we go for the KeyRig 49, at £79, that’s £303.
Wow, 303! As some of you will know, that number has a lot of history in electronic music production.
Yeah I’ve heard that song they did, it’s catchy.
I… I just… never mind, Kieran.
So that’s all the stuff that we’ll use for putting things into our songs sorted! Tomorrow in Day 6, we’ll move on to getting audio out of your device with a look at Speakers and headphones.