Electronic Music Production (MIDI) Class
Electronic Music Production (MIDI) Class
Have you ever played a game or watched a video, and wondered how the creators made the music for it? All the way back to Mario, music has been a fundamental part of the video game experience. It’s all part of a simple process known as MIDI that anyone with a computer can learn to program and explore – and can use to make amazing sounding music with simple instruments and processes.
MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is a computer language with a range of 128 values that can be assigned to any value, usually pitch along a traditional keyboard. Within this mechanism, we find the highest evolution of music possible – in which the computer itself becomes a Musical Mind that can be played off of through digital responses and feedback, creating music like Skrillex, Deadmau5, Avicii, and other world-famous DJ’s.
MIDI represents a world of its own, in which these 128 values can be repeated and layered on themselves practically infinitely, through the use of drum pads, digital instruments, and MIDI racks. Another world merges with this one, when we layer audio effects and arpeggiators over our fundamental MIDI instruments, achieving inhumanely complex sounds and instruments by simply moving, adjusting, and clicking digital dials. Modern laptops can run up to around 100 tracks simultaneously, giving us the power to layer and shape sonic landscapes that artists like The Beatles could only dream of. When I work with MIDI, I find it to be the most interesting, beautiful, and insightful thing I have ever seen (besides my wife!)
Within this connection to the Musical Mind of the computer, humanity has transcended its physical form, and gained the ability to magnify and multiply the raw intelligence of its mind through the use of the computer. Through the binary language we can do extraordinary things, such as:
· Program a live sounding and realistic drum set
· Keep everything perfectly in rhythm
· Layer synthesizers to build music on itself
· Automate almost everything to create dynamic, evolving, and interesting music
MIDI allows us to observe the continuum of music from its simple origins, to its transcendent highest form today:
1. Water organ, or hydraulis of the Ancient Greeks
2. Pipe organ
4. The addition of varying dynamic range with the pianoforte (soft and loud in Italian), or piano
5. Solid-state electronic organs
6. Digital synthesizers and MIDI
The interplay of MIDI notes on the piano roll is an intricate and beautiful thing – the ability to dive as deeply as possible into creating music, to be able to shape the very waveform itself, represents mankind having cracked the code to music. These waveforms repeated at different frequencies can induce feelings and emotions in our brains, in the same way that the frequency of photons reflecting back into our eyes can make us see things that induce feeling and emotion. I hope that I can share my love and passion of Electronic Music Production with you during the course of this class
Desire to learn how to create electronic music
For this class, you will need a laptop with an internet connection and the free trial installed of Ableton Live, containing their in-house synthesizer, Operator.
What will I be able to do by the end of this class?
By the end of this class, I will teach you enough basic music theory and fundamental MIDI mechanics that you will be able to start programming a song, using the following steps:
· Create a basic triad for C major
· Build a Minor 6th, and Major 4th and 5th chords in our starting key, making a simple song
· Link this to a MIDI instrument
· Create a MIDI drum rack, basic drum elements, and basic rhythms for our song
· Copy our base chords, and use the root notes to create a MIDI bass line
· Process the bass line using a lowpass filter
· Layer our chord progression, and use arpeggiators and audio effects to create different sounds
· Explore the ability of the MIDI instrument itself to process and synthesize sounds
· Use Frequency Modulation and automation to create dynamic sounds
· Produce our sound using simple audio effects, such as: Equalization, Compression, Delay, Reverb
· Create a simple mastering track using audio effects
· Render our track to a .WAV or another listenable format
Generally, this can be achieved within the space of a month or two by the average person, given that they are interested enough in it to spend at least around 30-60 minutes a day tinkering with the software. It’s really an enjoyable and enriching process, and a feeling like no other when you produce a song of your own.
All of the above steps are simple enough that they can be demonstrated to the average person, and if you understand these basic concepts then you know enough to create a very simple song. The rest of it depends on each person’s creativity and willingness to sit in front of a computer.
For myself, I started working in Garageband on my parent’s iMac, in 2005. That was 17 years ago, and I would estimate that I average about 2.5 hours per day working on or practicing music. So that’s about 15,000 hours of practice, although a lot of that was on physical instruments: guitar, piano, and organ.
It’s important to remember that the creative ability to compose music is an important part of creating MIDI; however, the computer interface allows a much more accessible, interactive, and a less-steep learning curve than a stringed instrument like the guitar or even the piano.
Institutions that owned pipe organs in the past, such as cathedrals, used to have to pay people to pump the bellows of pipe organs to produce wind, but now we have access to laptops that can layer over 100 tracks and hardly even start overheating. Music is the most fun thing I have ever done, and I have created over a thousand songs using Ableton Live, Massive, FM8, and Kontakt. MIDI technology is truly an incredible thing that we have developed as a species.
Are you qualified to teach MIDI?
I did obtain a 1-year Audio Engineering Certification, in which I studied MIDI and other forms of music production. This was from Pinnacle College in Rancho Cordova California in 2013, after I studied Psychology for 2 years at UC Santa Barbara. More importantly, I have spent thousands of hours mastering songs and obsessively learning the inner mechanics of Ableton and various digital synthesizers. In fact, some of the most profound moments of my life have been late nights creating songs which I can still enjoy today. It is impossible to overstate the effect that music has had on my life, and I consider digital music to be the highest art form known to man.
I come from a family of all teachers, and I did a work study program while I was at UCSB where I taught music to elementary school kids for 2 years. In high school, I taught the advanced guitar section of a guitar class, and played live shows regularly at the time in several bands. Unfortunately, I never did get that record deal.
Examples of me playing music can be found on my Youtube channel:
Newer songs I wrote and produced:
Older songs I wrote and produced:
Playing and singing with my wife:
What do I need?
For this class, we will use the free trial of Ableton Live and their in-house synthesizer, Operator.