Midi Editing—Sonar Style
Sonar 6 is the latest in a series of midi and audio recording and sequencing programs to come from the Cakewalk folks in Massachusetts. In fact, until Cakewalk 6, you could only record and edit midi data. Why is MIDI such a big deal now that we have these huge hard drives and fast processors in our modern day music production PC’s? Flexibility, that’s why. Once you lay down an audio track, you’re stuck with it unless you want to re-record it and there’s no guarantee that you’ll play it exactly the same way. Or maybe you recorded a perfect take except for one or two mistakes. With audio, you’ve got to re-record that part and hope it fits with the rest of the track. With midi you don’t have these problems because it’s a plastic medium. You can stretch it, bend it, change the tempo, instrument, etc.
Midi editing can take an OK track and turn it into a masterpiece. Only virtuoso’s can play a piece of music exactly as it is written but if you don’t hold down that C for the entire dotted half note or if you strike two keys by mistake, it’s very easy to correct by changing the duration of the note in the first case or deleting the undesired note in the second.
Let’s take a look at what Sonar (and most other professional quality programs) can do.
1) At the individual note level, you can change the value of the note, the duration, the starting point, the
velocity (volume) and midi channel
2) At the track level, you can change the midi output port, channel, instrument and adjust the amount of
chorus, reverb and pan. You can also draw in volume, pan, chorus and reverb automation curves.
3) Upon selection, you can
a) Quantize Time—adjust notes so that they line up with the nearest unit of time from whole notes
all the way down to 32nd triplets
b) Groove Quantize—adjusts notes so that they line up with a particular pattern or groove—It can
change the entire feel of a track from swing to straight and vice-versa
c) Quantize Duration—adjust notes so that they are either shortened or lengthened to the closest
note value again from whole note to 32nd triplets
e) Scale Velocity—this can be used to make every note a certain velocity or fade in or out
f) Deglitch—filters out any notes that are less than a specified duration or velocity
g) Interpolate– basically a find and replace feature. It’s very helpful with drum tracks when you
want to change from one snare to another
4) Real time midi effects—these are plugins just like audio and include quantizing, echo, etc.
5) Cakewalk Application Language or CAL routines—These small programs written by Cakewalk
engineers and users have a multitude of uses such as Random Time—changes the beginning times of notes
slightly so that after you’ve quantized it, it doesn’t sound mechanical or Humanize—does the same thing
only it changes the length of the note as well. It can also take a note and build a chord from it or take a
chord played in block style and strum it.
The real world test is how it sounds and that will be determined by your synthesizer or sample playback hardware or software. With the quality that is out there and the costs coming down, you can have a real Hammond B-3, Steinway Piano, or an entire symphonic orchestra at your fingertips that will sound just like the real thing.
Next Month—We’ll actually take a midi file and use some of the editing features
Your Home Studio