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Tempo-Stretching MIDI?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Doublehelix, Jun 2, 2002.

  1. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    OK...I guess I have finally made it into the 80's, and have acutally started recording some MIDI information!!! I have always been an "audio-guy", and have never really delved into this really cool world of VSTi's and MIDI keyboards (I am a guitarist who plays some piano).

    Now that I am recording more and more MIDI tracks, my lack of keyboarding skills are becoming apparent (since I have always worked with some really talented keyboardists, I never really had to stretch beyond some basic chord changes when composing).

    I have a song that I am working on that is currently running at about 150 bps, and was wondering from some of you MIDI experts if I could record the MIDI parts separately at...oh...let's say 110 bps, and then import this track into the final 150 bps session? This way, I can play through the changes at a much slower pace, and then speed it up later (and everyone will be amazed at my keyboard prowness! <grin> :)

    I am using Cubase VST 5.1 and am now moving more and more stuff over to Cubase SX. (I also use Acid Pro 3.0, plus both Wavelab 4.0 and Sound Forge 5.0.)

    Any suggestions for a MIDI neophyte would be greatly appreciated!

    Cheers!
     
  2. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Hey again, DH - From my earlier post on TrueTape, you already know I don't use Cubase - however, all the major "digital audio sequencers", of which Cubase, Cakewalk, Logic, et al, are members, work about the same. The only diff is where you find the controls, you'll have to look for that part if no Cubasers come along.

    The good news is yes, you can record parts into your sequencer at 12 bpm if you can keep the "feel" you want - but if you can play it at 100 or 110, it should come out better. All you need to do is set the tempo (most have an icon in one of the main toolbars for this) to whatever you're comfortable playing at, enable the click track (I like to modify the default click settings to use two drum notes, such as a clave for beat 1 and a lower pitched wood block for the rest. This gives you an incredible cutting downbeat for thick arrangements where you need the un-mistakable cut-through ability.) Then, choose whatever patch you're going to play, enable record for that track and do it. Once you have all the MIDI tracks you need for the song, all played in at the slower tempo, you need to up the tempo to the finished speed. Cakewalk reverts back to the old tempo if you're not careful, so I manually insert a tempo change right at the beginning of the song, just after the slower one. Use the event editor, whatever Cubase calls it. (You will have to RTFM occasionally, especially with Cubase, I hear it's not too friendly in some ways.) Once you save the song, any tempo changes will be saved as well, and it should open up with the correct settings. Cake sometimes shows up at the old tempo, and then changes just when you hit play. This can be eliminated once you get the hang of the event editor, and you can just erase the old tempo event.

    I usually leave at least two and sometimes four empty measures at the beginning of each song, to allow for add-ons, program changes, etc - You just have to compensate by going to bar 24 when you really want bar 20, for example.

    Another cool thing for semi-keyboard players, such as myself most of the time, is that if you are more comfortable playing in a certain key, such as G or C, record all the MIDI stuff (except drums) in whatever key you like, then select all tracks at once and do a global transpose to the key you're going to use for your guitar tracks. If you transpose a drum track, all the notes will be wrong so don't do that.

    Also, you can do ritards, accelerandos, etc after the fact (before digital audio, though) by re-recording the tempo track while speeding up and slowing down the tempo. For you and Cubase, without a Cubaser for support this is one of those RTFM deals but it can be done. It makes songs a lot more real when you speed up in the chorus for a little immediacy, etc -

    Another Godsend for most writers is the Piano Roll editor. Cake, Logic, Cubase all use it. I think Cubase is similar, so I'll do a quick blurb - each note on the track you're editing is shown by a bar. the horizontal position of the bar is time, and vertical corresponds with the keyboard shown on the left. Click on the bar and drag it up/down, and you should hear the note play and change. You can move it til it either looks or sounds right. Click on the left end of the bar, and drag it earlier or later.
    The whole bar will move without changing length. Note too short? Click on the Right end of the bar and drag, now the start time stays put and the length changes. The way I use this is I try to get close to what I want, then when I'm down to just a few mistakes and/or double-strikes, I use the Piano Roll editor and clean it up.

    If you've already found all this stuff, don't read this part. :=) If not, look for it - you'll love it... Steve
     
  3. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    Yo Steve, thanks for your replies...

    I have found the piano roll editor, and it does work well for cleaning up my sloppy play, and quantize helps a bit with that too, although I found that if you are not careful, you can make the part sound *too* sterile (there are some "groove" settngs that help a bit here).

    What I was thinking about as an idea for the "speeding up the MIDI thingie", was to record the midi part in another song (at 100 bps), then import the midi part into the new song (at 150 bps), I am just wondering if it will fit into the song appropriately if I do that (same number of bars, etc.). Unfortunately, for me, the MIDI parts are the *last* parts of the song that I want to add, so the rest of the structure of the song is already created at 150 bps. To record the midi parts at 100, then speed up the song would only work if the midi parts were the first parts I recorded (unless I use another song as mentioned, I guess). I will rtfm as you suggest, but was hoping for some general tips, and you have certainly pointed me in the right direction...at least now I know that it *can* be done, it is just how to do it specifically in Cubase.

    Thanks again, and Cheers!
     
  4. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Totally welcome, DH - for your way of working, cake has a thing where you can extract audio timing, I think it's called "extract audio timing" :=) or something like that - it takes audio peaks and tries to create a tempo map. If you can find that function in Cubase and make it work (usually takes pretty strong beats, like kick and snare, as I recall) that might be helpful. Otherwise, import your MIDI stuff, reset the tempo, SELECT the whole track and slide it over to coincide with the audio. This is kind of a "cut and try" approach, it helps to stretch the screen out for better visibility of audio and Midi events for lineup. Hard to explain better than this, especially cross-program. I'm pretty sure Cubase has the "beat extract" function too, but you wouldn't even need that for the procedure I just described. If you played the audio in with a click track synced to the program, then set MIDI tempo on imports to the same BPM, once you get things lined up they should stay that way thru-out the whole song...

    One other REALLY helpful hint - if you haven't already clicked on "search" under the help menu, when you do I would highly recommend choosing the "maximise search potential" mode for building the index. Then, when you want to search on a specific word while hunting for some of the above info, you'll get ALL the instances of that word, including the one you might have missed with a less rigorous indexing. Even if you've already done this another way, I think there's a way to "rebuild index", just don't remember how. "maximise search" is the way I index every help file I bother to open, and there are times when it's the last and only chance to find something. Happy "Midi-ing", now you get to learn another whole new language... Steve
     
  5. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Duh, just re-read your post, whack me with a rancid rat-turd...

    All you need to do is record your MIDI part at the tempo you can actually do it, open the event editor and change the tempo, usually one of the first entries in the editor - save the part at the new tempo, open it again and make sure it opens at 150, then import it into the other project, slide it around til it lines up, and VOILAAAAA....

    PS - Don't forget about playing in an easier key if it helps - just transpose before you save it for import into the other project... Steve
     
  6. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    OK...thanks. I am especially intregued by the key change...this could really help! This particular song is played in "G", which isn't too bad, but there is a very quick F -> Bb -> C change, and I seem to flub the Bb about half the time! :) It moves pretty quick for these old guitar fingers!

    This virtual instrument thing(VSTi for me, DXi for you) is so very cool! I have really been having a blast with it for the last 2 weeks or so. :) The potential here seems pretty great, although I have yet to hear a good string patch. I really like the B4 demo that downloaded, and I am going to have to rush out and buy that one ASAP. I am also looking into NI's FM7...I hear it sounds pretty good (and 80's-ish) as well.

    This technology is really opening up a whole new world for me, and if I can play the part at a slower speed, and in an easier key...crap! I am in 7th heaven! I realize that I am way behind the times here, but I have always heard (and felt) that MIDI stuff sounded so sterile and canned (but that was from the GM stuff). Since I started my own projects here with me playing the keyboard parts, I have always just depended on the internal sounds, but now I can venture out into this whole new world...gotta lot of catching up to do...

    Thanks again...I hope to try this out tomorrw, and I'll post back and let ya know how it worked out.

    Cheers!
     
  7. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    "but I have always heard (and felt) that MIDI stuff sounded so sterile and canned (but that was from the GM stuff)." - Not just the GM stuff - one of the main reasons MIDI used to sound that way was sequencer resolution - it used to be a lot worse, so there were fewer increments between quarter note intervals, so even if you didn't quantize it still sounded a little stilted. Now, with most sequencers using at least 480 ppqn, if you play something into the sequencer and don't quantize it, it sounds no different than if you recorded it as audio. In other words, the less practice you get, the more "human" it sounds. Then it's all down to how good are your sounds? This is where the soft synths come in - stuff like the B4, Gigapiano, giga strings, etc - sound as good as your computer is fast. The other benny is that with MIDI, you can record just as you would with audio, and it sounds just the same, only with MIDI you can still decide later to change the sound you used to play that part, only AFTER the fact, and without having to re-record it. I play all my MIDI parts into the sequencer real time, NEVER quantize, other than the first drum track which gets used as a fancy click, then tossed out; and I only "fix" notes that are really rotten, and then only if the majority of the part is cool. Otherwise, I start over. I never loop, other than said click track, I play drums in real time with a Roland V-Custom + kit, and people can't believe I "did it on the computer"... You just need to learn to use every tool in your arsenal in ways that work for you. And, given half a chance, they will work wonders for you... Steve
     

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