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Cello MIDI experiment with KARMA
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GovernorSilver



Joined: Apr 26, 2004
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:34 pm    Post subject: Cello MIDI experiment with KARMA
Subject description: Potential and shortcomings of Roland-implemented MIDI for fretless strings
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I finally recorded a couple of demos of MIDI cello. First, the setup

TK Instruments 5-string cello -> Roland VG-99 (MIDI converter only, no internal sounds) -> Korg M3 synth

First demo:
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_songInfo.cfm?bandID=791533&songID=8861661

Starts with a couple of tracks of the cello dry (no effects, no MIDI). You might be able to hear me tapping a note with my right hand in the plucked cello track. Yes, the pickups are sensitive to two-handed tapping. Then, you will hear the cello triggering synth sounds on the Korg M3, in parallel with the cello. The low C string triggers a French horn type sound, the high E string triggers another type of horn sound, and some of the middle strings are triggering drum sounds. This "music" was made up on the spot. I improvised a solo on top.

Second demo:
http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page_songInfo.cfm?bandID=791533&songID=8860451

One reason I got the Korg M3 was its KARMA feature. KARMA is an algorithmic music generator that interacts with user input from the MIDI input or from the M3 keyboard. Most of the factory presets that feature KARMA create a techno or "jazz lite" type of groove. This is one of the few that I found sounded less stereotypical of the KARMA demos I've heard. This demo features one track of dry cello, and a simulateously recorded track of Korg M3. The demo starts with the low C string triggering drum sounds (you may have to use headphones to hear the drum sounds that correspond with me plucking the C string). Then you hear the G string trigger some kind of delayed bell sound. As a "bonus" you'll hear a demo of yet another KARMA-enabled patch, this time more techno-like.

Thus we can hear that MIDI has some potential for fretless string instruments. With a well-written, well-arranged, and well-executed piece of music, MIDI triggered drums, horns, etc. can add some extra flavor to a solo string instrument performance. With a technology like KARMA interacting with your MIDI signals, you can generate a lot of sonic events that do not always sound sequenced.

Where the Roland implementation fails for bowed fretless strings:

1. The MIDI note number corresponds to the pitch of the note, up to the next MIDI note number pitch. This means that if the note you play is even just a little bit flat, the MIDI Note Number value will be one half step off. You can hear how some MIDI notes are one half step out of tune with what I'm playing, making my already bad intonation sound even worse. A better MIDI implementation would figure out the closest MIDI Note Number value and assign it to the pitch you are playing.

2. MIDI Velocity is based on plucking dynamics, not bowing dynamics. Notice certain sounds that were triggered when I plucked were not triggered when I bowed.

One minor problem with KARMA for string instruments (possibly including guitar): Some KARMA events are triggered by holding down a chord on the keyboard - typically an arpeggio or bass line. This generates a different set of MIDI events than strumming or tapping a chord on guitar and holding it. I think to get the same effect on guitar, you'd have to use your hold pedal.

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