In previous posts I gave some basis explanation on audio processing. See the posts on hip hop music compression. Besides audio the other very important element for hiphop beat production is Midi. I gave a very basis insight on midi in the post what is midi. From now on, we’ll go furher into midi, step by step. The tutorial was written with the hip hop and rap producer in mind that wants to come up with his own beats, but this information is valuable for every beginning producer, whatever your style.
Midi: why is was invented
- In the eighties, 1983 to be more exact, a number of manufacturers of electronic musical instruments came together to develop a format that allowed to exchange information between different makes of isntruments.
- The result was MIDI or Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI is the language in which many music devices communicate with each other.
- The manufacturers needed to agree on a cable to use for the connection.
- Of course, USB (Universal Serial Bus) did not exist at that time, so they decided on a common interface with the famous 5-pin DIN cable (Deutsche Industrie Normung).
- Initially the system allowed only simple commands, but later on more and more advanced control functions were added.
Midi needs for hip hop production
To allow the MIDI to work you will need a few tools.
- You input the notes to your computer either by using a midi keyboard or a midi editor.
- A midi keyboard produces no sound, but it generates MIDI signals or events that are sent to the computer.
- In it’s most simple form these commands are sent from the midi keyboard: the pitch of the note, the note length (on/off comando) and the strenght by which the key is pressed (called the velocity).
- In your computer, you need software to record and play midi notes. This is called the midi sequencer. This is a software program (in the old days a stand alone device) that captures the notes of musical phrases and that is able to replay this notes, stored in a midi file, as often as you want with a suitable MIDI synthesizer or sound card.
- In the middle ages of the Atari computer a midi sequencer was a program of it’s own.Nowadays it is part of a digital audio workstation: Cubase, Logic, Ableton,.. There is a wide range to choose from. For Hip hop music and beats, one of the most popular digital audio workstations is FL Studio, previously known as Fruity Loops. For dance and pop music Ableton is among the most popular.
And before you ask, for recording my background music I use a combination of Ableton and Logic.
- I find Ableton perfect for laying down ideas, where Logic offers much more control over your production with some very advanced tools. it is extremely easy to export midi files from Ableton to Logic.
- Even if you have a whole bunch of track, all you have to is to export all tracks with a few clicks to a midi file and reopen that in Logic.
Finally you need a soundgenerator with hip hops sounds to actually hear the notes coming out of the midi sequencer. In modern times this is often a software synthesizer or softsynth. The sound quality of softsynths varies between manufacturers, price ranges and the method of synthesis (subtractive, FM, sample based, rompler,..). This is the reason why a midi file may sound better, worse or simply different on another system. It’s not the midi keyboard, it’s not the sequencing software, it’s the sound generator that makes the difference.
Next time we’ll take a look at some more MIDI features that are handy for producers of hip hop beats.
In the meanwhile,