Transcribing MIDI Files and Recordings to Notation

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Transcribing MIDI Files and Recordings to Notation

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When you open a MIDI file, Musician transcribes  the performance in the MIDI file to notation. The data stored in the MIDI file is basically a recording of what notes (pitches) are played at what exact times by various instruments (in staves).

A good way to understand transcription is to think of the MIDI performance as a piano roll used on player pianos that were popular in the late 1800's and early 1900's. The holes in the piano roll determine what notes are played at what times. If you unroll the piano roll horizontally, you will observe that the holes mark the beginning and ending times of played notes. The vertical position of the holes determine the pitch of the notes.

Here is an example of a piano roll:


Basically, the above piano roll is all that Musician is given when it must transcribe  a MIDI file, to notation. Musician is able to transcribe the above piano roll information into notation. This example happens to be the Bach Minuet file, minuet.mid, that is installed in the C:\Users\Public\Documents\Notation_3\Songs directory. The result of the transcription looks like this:


In Notation Composer, but not Notation Musician, you can actually see the piano roll "holes", as illustrated here:


Musician must make many decisions about how to transcribe any given MIDI performance to notation. These decisions are similar to those that a trained musician would make when he or she hears music and writes down the notes on paper. (Very few musicians have this special training in "music dictation".)

Some decisions about how to transcribe the music are closely related to the style of the music. Musician does not attempt to determine what the style of music is, in order to make the appropriate decisions in transcribing the MIDI performance to notation. Instead, Musician lets you make a few simple choices about how to transcribe the music.

In particular, you can instruct Musician to:

B8Choose either Standard or Swing style in determining how to display rhythms such as illustrated here:


B8Detect and display split upper and lower voices as opposed to single voice, as illustrated here:


B8Remove overlapping notes in order to reduce the number of ties, as illustrated here:


B8Remove rests smaller than some size you specify, such as a quarter rest, as illustrated here:


B8Detect grace notes, trills, and tremolos.


The options described above are offered in the Transcription Options dialog described in the next topic. Musician offers you the opportunity to specify the transcription options in several circumstances:

B8When you open a MIDI file, click the Transcription Options button in the File Open dialog box.
B8As you download a MIDI file from the Internet, click the Transcription Options button in the File Save As dialog box.
B8Before you record from your MIDI keyboard, choose the Transcription Options command in the Setup menu.
B8When you use the Split Hands command, click the Transcription Options button in the Split Hands dialog box.
B8When you use the Merge Staves command, click the Transcription Options button in the Merge Staves dialog box.

Also, after you have opened a MIDI file, or recorded a performance at your music keyboard, you can re-transcribe the performance using a different set of transcription options, by using the Re-Transcribe command.

About Quantization
If you have used other music notation programs with a transcription feature, that feature very likely includes an option for specifying the "quantization level". Such an option tells the program to round note duration values and attack times to the nearest, say, thirty-second note, or sixteenth note. Rather than using "quantization", Musician has a better way of determining note durations and attack times than simply rounding to some nearest value. Such quantization only works well for fairly simple rhythms. Notes with long values tend to be "over-enthusiastically" notated with extra dotted values and ties. Separate notes with short values and small differences in attack times may be incorrectly collapsed into chords. Musician does a much better job at transcribing rhythms than notation programs that use a simple quantization approach. Musician analyzes the rhythmic context of each note to determine what quantization level to apply to the note.