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Old 06-04-2010, 02:47 PM
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Sherry C Sherry C is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Bad Axe, MI, USA (The Tip of the Thumb of Michigan)
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Default Recording using a MIDI microphone or guitar-to-MIDI unit

Hi friends,

I just answered a question at the helpdesk about using a MIDI microphone and recording into Composer. When using any audio-to-MIDI conversion equipment, it's important to remember that the unit is attempting to take a complex audio signal, and convert it to a much simpler (and easier to use) MIDI signal. There are some "tricks" that are used, depending on the unit, to preserve as much of the original performance as possible, and have that "speak" in MIDI. For example, vibrato of the notes, or slides from one note to another are typically performed using Pitch Bend data. These "tricks" are really just other MIDI data besides the note pitch, and may affect the notation you get in Composer.

Here is what I told the musician, based on my own experience using a guitar-to-MIDI converter unit:
As long as the signal that Composer receives is MIDI and not audio, then it will recognize it and record that signal, giving you notation (and performance) in the score.

I'll add a caveat here from my own experience using a guitar-to-MIDI converter unit, because some of the same principles may apply to the situation of singing notes. I sometimes use a Sonuus G2M guitar-to-MIDI interface to get notes into Composer. What I've found is that the Sonuus unit's built-in processing adds far more in the way of pitch bends than what I'd like to have. If I want "clean" notation, I have to go in after recording and remove the pitch bend data (Composer records all incoming MIDI data) and adjust some of the note pitches to compensate for the absence of the pitch bends. The Sonuus unit doesn't have any way for me to "turn off" the pitch bend data, so I'm stuck with that. Depending on your goals, you may want to find out what kind of control of different MIDI data you can have with your MIDI microphone.

Guitar and vocals both have some amount of vibrato and "slide", which is why my Sonuus unit also records the pitch bend data. It's just trying to be faithful to my original performance, and it does that very well. But if I want "clean" notation in Composer, then I have to remove the pitch bends and sometimes adjust the notes from there. If I'm just creating a backing track and want to preserve the performance, then I don't have to do that. I don't know which MIDI mic you're looking into (or already have), but when you record, you may want to minimize the amount of vibrato in your voice, and try to avoid sliding into notes if you're looking to get really "clean" notation transcription. If you're looking to add "nuance" to the performance for creating a backing track or such, then you'll probably want Pitch Bend (or other MIDI performance data) included. It just depends on what your ultimate goals are for recording your voice using the MIDI microphone.
MIDI keyboards - either synthesizers with sound or controllers without sound - are by far the most popular MIDI instruments for playing and recording into Composer. They have the MIDI controller issues nailed down pretty well. There are other specific MIDI instruments out there. But taking an acoustic signal and turning it into MIDI is an extremely difficult task. As long as we understand the caveats that are associated with the particular audio-to-MIDI unit we're using, it will help us use both that unit and Composer to get the results we want.

If you use any kind of audio-to-MIDI unit and would like to share your experience (either good or bad) here, please do. I'm sure there are folks who could use the information.

Music is to the soul like water is to green growing things.
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