Even today, long after the introduction of MIDI, a lot of confusion still exists. The simplest way to start with MIDI is to get yourself a keyboard that makes sounds that has a MIDI IN port, a MIDI OUT port, get yourself a MIDI-USB connector, and download some free MIDI software or buy some lower priced software. I will have to add recommendations later, and I cannot show you where to go to download freeware or shareware because of Ebay rules. I do not yet sell new music software in my Ebay store, but I hope to do so in soon. You can visit my Ebay store anyway as a favor to me, and I usually have several high-end used musical keyboards and other electronic musical items for sale.
I was one of the early adopters of MIDI, with my collection of Atari ST computers, with their included MIDI port. You had to buy a separate card for any other computer at that time, which were not cheap. The inclusion of this MIDI port was great for stimulating the growth of MIDI software for the Atari ST line of computers. Even today, there are Atari ST music programs that use MIDI that people still use. You can now get a lot of these programs for free at the site run by Tim Conrardy.
Tim managed to talk many of the developers of these programs to release these old programs as freeware. Now they can run easily on computers running Windows, using an free emulator program called STeem. This amazing piece of FREE software allows you to run Atari ST MIDI programs on a Windows computer hooked up with some kind of MIDI ports. This is truly remarkable since today's computers run at 2 GHz or more, and Atari STs ran at 8 Mhz. MIDI programs use timing..so this is truly amazing. Probably the best notation program ever released for any computer was Notator. It evolved into other programs to run on different computers (platforms), but it never was the same as with the version for the Atari ST. . With Notator, the user could enter notes like a musician..and not every note needed to be on a different layer like the current popular program Finale, among a host of other programs that work the same way today. . That is really frustrating, especially to someone who is a pianist and plays blocks of notes. I am getting too far away from MIDI.
For the longest time, you could go an electronics store and find various low level MIDI software/hardware packages that used the game port of computers, even when computers with game ports had stopped being produced years before. Now, finally, we do not see this anymore, as even retail stores have caught up to USB-MIDI connectors. This makes MIDI as easy to use as it was on the Atari ST computers.
What is MIDI? I could tell you it stands for Musical Digital Digital Interface,but this tells you nothing. .What it does is allow you to allow you to hook up your computer to a keyboard or keyboard controller (or a guitar controller..or an accordian controller.or a kazoo contoller, for that matter) with a MIDI interface. You can play notes into your computer and the computer can record them. Or you can use the computer to output notes onto your keyboard. Or you can use the computer to edit voices or "patches" on your keyboard, if your keyboard makes sound. Or you can use the computer to compose music on its own, and it will play it on the keyboard sounds. Or perhaps you want to play notes, and the MIDI interface allows the computer to interact with you--waiting for you to play a right note..jamming along with you..adding a drum track..many many possibilities. A controller is something that allows you to somehow interact with it and then sounds out MIDI messages based on this interaction. The most famous elaborate controller ever made was the HOTZ controller. Today, probably the Kurzweil line of keyboards has the most elaborate set of ways to control MIDI. I would have to write a separate guide to MIDI controllers, so I will stop right here with this.
Today, a lot of people use sound cards instead of a keyboard to make sounds. Sound card installation can be complicated, and I know lots of people who have made expensive investments in high-cost sound cards and high-end music software, unable to get any of it to work. Eventually, I will write a guide to that also, it is almost just always assumed that it is an easy process. It often is not. We need to leave that to another day.
MIDI is cool and completely underutilized outside of the world professional musicians. Even keyboard players and composers who use MIDI a lot often also have trouble . When you start adding a lot of sound modules,keyboards, other instruments, and connect them to a computer, the cabling becomes like a plastic version of the Spaghetti Factory, and you start running into problems with the limiting numbers of connectors.
For a start you should look for a keyboard that makes sounds on its own, with an MIDI In port a MIDI OUT port and a USB-MIDI connector. And you need some software to help you record your creations.
There are a lot of other ways to go about this, and a lot of people start off with a keyboard that makes no sound
on its own--this is called a keyboard controller--and depend on the computer for the sounds. I do not suggest this for starting out for a lot of reasons. Since I have bought and sold lots of MIDI instruments in my life, I can tell you right now that a lot of people that get very heavily involved in using the computer to do everything eventually give that part up and rely more and more on musical hardware.
At any rate, you can go to a lot of chain music stores or even an electronics store and find a relatively cheap keyboard that has MIDI IN and OUT ports. Of course, eventually, I would like to sell you what I think might be best right out of my Ebay store, but I am not there yet with my store. For now, I would highly recommend you might be happiest with one of the entry level Yamaha electronic keyboards..but these still cost a few hundreds of dollars. Amazingly, these now come with the same sounds as the Yamaha Clavinova that I own, and that was sold for almost 7,000 dollars locally when I bought it in 1999. I would suggest avoiding the low-end Casio keyboard, as the sound is quite unpleasant.The Casio Privia is actually a good electronic piano for the price, but that is more of an electronic piano than an entry level keyboard. I am not knocking Casio..actually I wish they would make more instruments. Some of the musical instruments they made in the 80s for professionals are now sought-after collector's items.
My intent here is not to write a review guide to entry level keyboards, so I had to keep that part short. Maybe I can add a guide to that later. I am assuming you have a computer since you are reading this. If you are reading this only from the library or something, I guess I am quite wrong. The only requirement for the computer is that it has USB connectors. Even computers built before the year 2000 have USB connections, so almost any computer will do.
MAC or Windows? A lot of professional musicians will only use MACs, but since I do not own a MAC, I have to restrict this guide to Windows computers. Also, the quantity of music and MIDI programs for Windows computers is much greater than for the MAC. The quality may not be the same, and as the set-up gets more complicated, there is no question the MAC is easier. I do have to apologize..I have nothing against MACs, but I just do not know about entry level MIDI setups on the MAC.
Next thing you need to acquire is a USB-MIDI connector. To me, this is the greatest thing ever invented for a Windows computer. Previous to this you had to buy some kind of expensive card and install it in your Windows computer to get MIDI functionality. That was a hassle, but a USB-MIDI connector is easy. You just plug in the USB plug to your computer and the otherend..the your MIDI keyboard. It is sometimes a little more complicated than this. Usually it is a little box-like devicewith at least a MIDI in port, a MIDI OUT port, and either a USB cable that is integral to the unit or a place where you plug in a USB cable. So you have to invest in at least two MIDI cables and perhaps as USB cable as well. You can find MIDI cables right here on Ebay. If you need a USB cable, keep in mind there are several different type of connectors. Some places will sell you USB cables for 25 dollars, and then you might find a similar cable for 5 dollars elsewhere. Save your money and buy the cheaper cable--it is not going to make any difference. You cannot really find low-priced MIDI cables, unless you look for them on Ebay. They are usually priced by length..six feet is a good length for your start-up needs.
Usually, you plug the USB plug into a USB port on your computer. If this cable comes attached to your USB-MIDI converter box, then you are done thinking about USB. If not, plug in the other side of the USB cable to the USB-MIDI converter box. On the converter box, there will be from 1 to 4 or even 8 MIDI OUT ports and 1 to 4 to 8 MIDI In ports. You take one MIDI cable; plug it into a MIDI IN port on this USB-MIDI converter box. Then you plug the other end into your MIDi keyboard into the MIDI OUT port. Next, you take a second MIDI cable, plug it in into the MIDI OUT port on your USB-MIDI converter box, and then plug it in to the MIDI IN port on your keyboard.
Generally, the converter box comes with some kind of driver software that you have to install. This will allow the computer to tell you if it senses that the USB-MIDI converter box is attached. Sometimes the instructions for the driver software are not well-written, but just by experimentation you can usually find out if the computer senses the box. Eventually, Windows should give you a message such as new USB hardware found. Maybe now it will ask you something like "Do you want to search the internet for the driver? Or point to place on the computer to find it?" Often as not, this is when you already thought you had installed the driver. Sometimes, just rebooting the Windows computer will then recognize the driver for the USB-MIDI converter box has already been installed. Other times you might have to point to the CDROM drive or to the place on your hard drive where the driver is located and reinstall
the driver for the MIDI-USB converter. box. Sometimes it can be frustrating, but a lot of USB devices work the same way..and evenutally, one way or another, the computer will recognize the hardware.
The next step is to set up the software to make use of the connection you have now established between the computer and the MIDI musical instrument.
I am not yet to the point where I sell new musical instruments, but I hope to do so eventually.
I will finish this later, but please look at my store where I have several high end musical used keyboard and keyboard modules for sale at the moment. I just wanted to start working on a some type Ebay guide, and thought this was a good place to start.
Dolphin1959 on Ebay
Dolphin's Treasure Trove
Akai SynthStation 49 Key Tablet Controller USB & Midi Keyboard Controller - NewEdirol PCR-500 Midi Controller (by Roland) PCR 500
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