The use of Musical Instrument Digital Interface or MIDI is incredibly common in music composition and has been the industry standard for over three decades now. It’s a protocol that allows computers to communicate with musical instruments like synthesizers and sequencers.
Music production with MIDI is easier because it gives producers a range of sonic capabilities that are otherwise difficult to perform on their own.
As useful as MIDI is in music composition and production today, it sometimes fails to evoke the kind of raw, sincere sound that we expect from our music. The problem lies in how MIDI creates sheet music. The technology itself does not produce sound because it does not transmit any audio signals. It essentially gathers information on technical aspects like notes, pitch and velocity to produce a musical performance—not the sound itself.
The data generated on a computer is passed onto different musical instruments that are connected to the MIDI protocol and then standardizes them. This is where MIDI music falls short of being emotive and often comes off as artificial.
However, you don’t have to abandon a technology as useful as MIDI to create organic music. You can still attain that natural instrumental sound if you know the right tricks. Here are some tips on how to create music that sounds realistic with MIDI.
Tip 1: Do it yourself
Before heading straight for your laptop and controls, try recording an actual human being perform the music. It’s definitely easier to produce sounds through a computer because they’re standard and predictable but that’s where the biggest difference lies. Music played by humans can be uneven and comes with subtle imperfections that make it easily recognizable to our ears.
Tip 2: Find your comfort zone
Do your research and find yourself a MIDI software or controller that works well for you. As a producer, it’s important for you to embody the nuances of your playing style into your sound. That serves as a buffer against music that sounds robotic and artificially created.
Tip 3: Master note velocity
Note velocity refers to how hard and rapidly you press the key on your controller. The harder you press, the greater note velocity will be recorded by your MIDI. Also, keep in mind the instrument that you’re playing. Some instruments like piano are easy to replicate on software where the velocity change is barely noticeable. However, this rule does not hold true for many string based instruments and you’ll have to figure out what velocity to play at to get the most natural sound.
Tip 4: Take advantage of the computer
This may seem counterintuitive when trying to make your music sound less like it was churned out by composition software, but most automated tools come with options to naturalize the sound.
In other words, use extensive MIDI editing to create unique sounds that showcase a well-thought-out artistic piece. You can change the modulation, deploy filters and try some panning techniques to get a more complicated but organic composition.
Creating realistic music is definitely possible with MIDI. All you need to do is find the perfect software for your computer and start experimenting with our handy tips.