How to make MIDI recordings of performances

A previous article discussed how to make audio recordings of your keyboard performances. In this article, I’ll show how to make MIDI records of keyboard performances using our new utility, MiniMIDI Recorder. Figure 1 shows the interface. In principle, the PSR E423 keyboard has built-in capabilities for MIDI recording. There are several disadvantages to the internal routines:

  • Recordings are trapped inside the keyboard. There is no way to export them to general MIDI files on a computer.
  • The internal memory holds only five recordings.
  • The haphazard sequence of buttons that you must press to make a recording is an invitation to error.

The end result is that you couldn’t create enough accompaniment tracks to cover a full performance. In contrast, with MiniMIDI Recorder you can create an unlimited set of tracks through an easy-to-use and reliable interface.

MiniMIDI Recorder screenshot

Figure 1. MiniMIDI Recorder screenshot.

As with our other programs, any connected input MIDI source can supply the incoming data. The output port is used to review the recording before writing a file. I’ll concentrate on the Yamaha PSR E423 as the input device. Here, the challenge is to include all information in the recording: melody notes, accompaniment styles and voices (MIDI patches). In order to see how to accomplish this with MiniMIDI Recorder, its necessary to understand basics of data flow from the keyboard to a computer. Figure 2 shows a detail from a flow chart discussed in the previous article. The keys of the keyboard (along with a rudimentary processor) generate basic MIDI NoteOn and NoteOff commands that are sent to the computer via a MIDI output port (one of the functions of the USB connector). The signals are sent when KbdOut = ON, the default setting when you turn on the E423.

Data flow in a recording

Figure 2. Data flow in a recording.

The main processor generates sequences of style notes based on the set of styles in memory. Harmonic offsets are added to the style notes when you press key combinations below the split point. In the default mode, style notes are not added to the MIDI output flow. You must turn on StyleOut manually with the following procedure:

  • Press the Function button
  • Use the Up/Dn arrows under Category to patiently scroll through the long list of options until you come to StyleOut.
  • Rotate the wheel above Category to turn the option ON.

A complete MIDI file of a keyboard performance contains two main types of information. The beginning of the file represents data on voice settings for the melody and the instruments of the style. This initialization is followed by the notes and other musical signals that constitute the performance. The following procedure instructs the main processor to send MIDI data on voices and other settings.

  • Press the Function button
  • Use the Up/Dn arrows under Category to find InitSend.
  • Press the Yes button under Reset to send the information.

With this background, here is how to apply MiniMIDI Recorder to record a keyboard performance, complete with style information:

  1. Set up the keyboard for the performance.
  2. Click on the ARM button. The button turns green and the STOP button turns red to show that the program is in the armed mode.
  3. Send out the voice and other initialization information using the InitSend procedure. MiniMIDI Recorder remembers all the information and will include them in the file as MIDI events at zero time. You don’t have to hurry — synchronized recording doesn’t begin until you start playing notes. If you omit this step, the melody voices and all voices of the style are set to piano by default, generating some strange sounds.
  4. If you are using a style, make sure it is active by pressing Synch Start on the keyboard.
  5. Start playing the song. When MiniMIDI Recorder detects a NoteOn signal (either from the melody or style), the program enters lawyer mode (on the clock). The ARM button flashes and the program records incoming MIDI signals with timing information.
  6. Press STOP when the song ends. Again, there is no need to hurry. Nothing is recorded if there are no incoming NoteOn signals.

At this point, you can listen to the recording using the controls in the Review box (lower-right). If everything sounds good, use the Write file button to create a general MIDI file. For reference, it is a Type 0 file with a single track.

MiniMIDI Recorder includes a metronome which sends timing sounds to the MIDI output device. These sounds are not included in the recording. To use the function, check the Metronome box, set the tempo in quarter notes per minute and set the time signature. For example, if you are playing a waltz, enter “3” in the left-hand box and “4” in the right hand box. You should not use the metronome when you use a style because the keyboard sets the timing) In this case, you can use the internal metronome of the E423. The main processor sends timing signals to the speakers but not to the computer interface, so the sounds are not added to the recording.

Finally, a detailed point on data in the MIDI file. MiniMIDI Recorder faithfully records input signal sequences, but has no idea of the tempo and key signature values you had in mind. The program adds arbitrary timing information to the MIDI file to ensure that it plays back at the correct speed. If you want specific values to appear in the output file, set values for Tempo and Time signature in the Metronome group. This data will be included in the file, even if the metronome was not used.


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