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In a nutshell, MIDI allows you to connect several keyboards and play them all at once. Say you have three keyboards. You select the first one to be the controller and set it to sound like a piano. You connect the other two keyboards to the controller and set each of them to different sounds, perhaps a flute and a tuba. As you play the controller, the other two keyboards are sent MIDI messages (binary codes) telling them which notes to play, how long, how hard, and so on. But it sounds like three players are playing three separate instruments, instead of just you on a piano.
But thatís not all MIDI can do. You can buy MIDI-recorded CDs and hear the songs played with the sounds of your own keyboard. You may remember player pianos from many years ago ó this is the electronic version of those player pianos, without all those big fussy rolls of paper with holes punched in them. These relatively new types of MIDI software and recordings have become quite popular teaching aids, because you can follow along note for note as your keyboard plays the songs.
Part VI: So Many Toys, So Little Time
Are you feeling left out of the MIDI world because you bought an acoustic piano? No problem. You can now have your acoustic piano retrofitted with a MIDI box and various other wires. Use your grand piano as a MIDI controller, or load disks and CD-ROMs and hear your baby grand play songs for you and your dinner guests. Itís quite expensive to do, but maybe the result is worth it to you. Most piano dealers can give you more information and, of course, a cost estimate if this interests you.
Sequencing and recording
Sooner or later, youíll probably want to record your virtuosic playing for the world to hear. Well, at least for your friends and family to hear. Electronic keyboards offer you a host of options that help you record your sound. You can choose to record on tape, on disk, or on your computer.
Putting it in sequence With MIDI
If you use MIDI, you can record exactly what you play without ever using a single cassette tape. The MIDI messages you send from your keyboard as you play can be stored in a computer or sequencer. Later, all you do is push ďplayĒ on the sequencer and hear note for note, volume for volume, exactly what you played.
But thatís not all! Most sequencers have several different tracks. So, you can record yourself playing the melody of a song with a piano sound on Track 1, followed by the drum part on Track 2, and then the guitar part strumming away on Track 3. But you never used any instrument other than your keyboard and its sounds.
Push ďplayĒ and the sequencer plays all three tracks at once, which sounds like a four-member band. Want more? Just add some violins on Track 4 of the sequencer. Perhaps the sound of rain on Track 5. Pretty soon youíve got the entire London Philharmonic playing on Tracks 6 through 16.
Recording the old fashioned u/ag
If MIDI isnít your bag, baby, you can still record your performance on cassette tape, digital audio tape, or hard disk. Several pieces of equipment are available, each unique in what it can offer the aspiring recording artist. You must decide between analog and digital recording.
Technical explanations aside, analog is the old-fashioned way of using magnetic cassette tapes to record audio; digital is the new and improved means of converting audio into a binary code to be stored on tape or computer disk. Both work fine, but digital is often easier to work with, especially when editing your performance.
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After you decide on your brand of recording, buy the equipment you find easiest to use:
j Multi-track tape recording: These units can record up to eight separate audio tracks on an ordinary (analog) cassette tape, digital audio tape, or minidisc. The recording can then be edited, mixed, and enhanced to your liking. Recommended models: Alesis ADAT, Fostex X series,
Tascam 488 Portastudio.
J' Hard disk recording: Record separate tracks of audio digitally and save it on a hard disk, floppy disk, or removable storage cartridge just like you would save a computer program or document. This can be done on an individual unit or on your home computer with the appropriate hardware and software. Edit, mix, and enhance to your heartís content. Recommended models: Akai DPS12, Fostex DMT, Roland VS-880, Tascam 564 Digital Portastudio.
After you start investing in recording equipment, two things happen: (1) you spend far less time practicing music, and (2) your bank account shrinks. For now, itís nice to know these recording options exist, but consider playing music for a while before diving into a new career as a recording engineer.
Fried keys, anyone?
Always, always, always, always use a surge protector for any and all electronic music equipment you use. You can find these at electronics, office supply, or home supply stores. Plug the protector into the wall and plug all of your equipment into the protector. If lightning strikes, or the power goes out, oryou accidentally flip the breaker switch while dancing a