in defense of midi files

in defense of midi files

I went back to lurking for a while, but then this came up, and I felt inspired to join the fray again.

I saw the following user review of an electronic keyboard:
"The teaching program on the keyboard makes it so easy to play. It lights up the keys and the display tells you what finger you should use to press the lighted key. And after you play along with the light up keys, it gives you a grade. It can be a bit frustrating when you know that you a[re] pressing the keys in the right order, but you still get a low grade because your timing is off. However, all you have to do is listen to the keyboard play that part again and you should be able to figure out where your timing went wrong."

At first I laughed at this poor dolt who had no concept of rhythm—but then I realized that this person will learn to at least better appreciate some of the finer points of music.

I think the same thing applies to midi files. They’re no substitute for the real thing, but they can help a newbie to dip a toe into The Music. Which is a Good Thing, right?

Re: in defense of midi files

OK I’ll bite.

Obviously MIDI files are not the real thing. The MIDI files contain the same information as the dots, nothing more. They offer the same kind of dangerous seduction that the dots. The dots or the MID will only give you the most primitive approximation of how the music should sound, and reliance on them will not yield authentic sounding results. I think it will tend to ultimately be a big waste of time for a newbie. Much better to get some authentic recordings of a few tunes and learn them by ear.

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I guess asault and battery is not as bad as murder, which means it must be OK?
Some things are just not right, and MIDI is one of those things.

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;-)

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Oh, so it’s a religious argument, then. :-)

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To people who don’t read music well, MIDI can actually convey MORE information than the dots. Nowhere near as much as learning the tune from a person, no argument. Years ago I made MIDIs of a bunch of tunes I wanted to learn - I’d heard or read the names - but was never inspired enough to really learn the tune. I soon abandoned the process. The wayward excesses of youth. But every once in a while I’ll hear a tune that sounds familiar, and only later remember it was one I’d listened to as a MIDI years before.

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I started using MIDIs to learn tunes years ago. And there’s lots of good reasons to use them:

They are freely available, easily made from ABCs, you can vary the pitch and tempo to your liking, you can display them as scrolling sheet music and play along with both sound and dots, print scores, and you can even make mp3 files from them! Etc…etc…

On the plus side they definitely helped me to learn at my own pace, to learn by ear, and helped me to expand my repertoire quickly. The big drawback was in not getting the timing and feel of Irish music from them! (Also sound quality but better sound cards really improved that.)

Now I mostly learn from the many good session players around here now - and CDs - but I still use MIDIs from time to time for "sticky" tunes. I also like to keep them around for quick reference as I’m not very good with dots.

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Well, I might support MIDI files as a learning tool for playing contradances or for playing some kinds of traditional music. One could even say it is a useful tool for learning "Irish tunes," whatever that means. But, I don’t think they are of much use for getting involved with Irish Trad playing. Like bluegrass, Irish Trad really seems to revolve around on the fly "adjustments" to the tune in the form of what seems to be called improvisations on this board (let’s not have that discussion again) and is certainly called that in bluegrass. You don’t learn that sort of thing any way except from recordings and live playing. Mostly the latter.

Re: in defense of midi files

MIDI files - schmidi files - if it helps then use it, if it doesn’t then don’t.

Same as Vaseline really. Or wearing glasses. Or playing with your eyes shut.

Heed the sensible warnings given by the posters above with regard to the pitfalls, then make your own mind up.

*sigh*

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" if it helps then use it, if it doesn’t then don’t."

People who are new to this music are in no position to judge for themselves whether something helps or not.

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"Heed the sensible warnings given by the posters above with regard to the pitfalls, then make your own mind up."

I hoped that said it.

Mebbe not.

I mean - try it for yourself, bearing in mind the potential pitfalls outlined by the experienced people who have already commented in this thread, and then judge for yourself whether it is helping or not, and use it or abandon it accordingly.

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In other words, don’t just embrace it or reject it simply on the basis of someone else saying "It didn’t work for me so it won’t work for you"

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I think MIDI files are even worse than sheet music. If you’re familiar with Irish music, you can interpret sheet music in a way that sounds like Irish music. I know, not the ideal way, maybe, but if you don’t have a recording, like if you’re looking at an 18th century collection of tunes that haven’t been played since 1780, then dots have their uses. But with the MIDI, the aural interpretation is already there and it doesn’t even sound like a tune. It sounds like a random collection of notes. It does my head in listening to them.

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The balance of replies so far certainly seems to militate against any sort of long term dependency on this MIDI substance.

I use sheet music to tell me what notes are in the tune if I can’t quite pick out what is being played (after all, I’m not perfect). But I don’t use the dots to tell me HOW to play the tune.

I’ve never used midi, but it sounds risky. I’ll stick to tobacco and alcohol.

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I’ll put it another way then … just because you have made a personal judgement that something helps, it does not mean it actually helps.

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Apart from anything else, an awful lot of midi files positively misrepresent the tunes, with poor, lifeless rhythm, laughable attempts at ornamentation, wayward note-lengths and all the rest. I find ‘em literally worse than useless.

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Of course they are worse than useless. I’m aghast that anyone can defend them. At the very least, they should all be removed from this site.

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I’ll get my pitchfork.

Anyone else want a burning brand?

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fifkid:
>To people who don’t read music well, MIDI can actually >convey MORE information than the dots.

Yup, problem is it will convey more WRONG information. In addition to the basic notes (dots) you will get the additional information of how the tune can sound without any swing, lift etc etc. For that reason much worse than the dots (IMHO).



- chris

Re: in defense of midi files

I’m only here ‘cos showaddydadito brought me :-)

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I’ll put it another way then … just because you have made a personal judgement that something doesn’t help, it does not mean it actually doesn’t help.

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Quite right, I totally agree. Let someone who knows what they are talking about decide.

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I no longer learn from the dots. I had that affliction at first. I now learn tunes a bit slower, but overall I have a greater feel for the tune I’m learning. Now, I understand the OP’s point, because I was one who dipped my toe into the music in this way, and it wasn’t disastrous, because the tunes I learned from the dots I still play, and I’ve made necessary adjustments. I don’t know if it’s a waste of time, as one poster said, because I learn from the dots faster, but then have to spend time adjusting what I play, whereas by ear I learn, but more slowly, so, time-wise, it’s six of one or half a dozen of the other. However, I am sure as I progress my learning time will shrink.

However, in these times I just don’t understand why someone who is beyond the stage of toe dipping would even want to use dots or midi when it is now so easy to slow down recordings without changing pitch with freeware. If you own a mp3 recorder, you can take it to sessions, and as long as nobody objects, you can record sets, take them home, slow them down if necessary and bang away. This is far superior to dots or midi in my opinion, and so accessible now that I can’t see doing it any other way. If you don’t have a mp3 recorder, there are still thousands of tunes on recording out there.

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Is it any more convincing to say "Just because you have made a personal judgement that something is doing no harm does not mean it is not doing harm" ?
Is a quick listen to find out "Oh yes, that tune" (rather than read the dots) like clicking one of those dodgy email attachments ?

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Look - are we going up the castle to burn them out or not.

My flaming brand is burning dangerously near my fingers.

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With no access to a session, midi comes in handy… sort of.
I learn tunes using ABC(midi) first to get the basic notes of a tune. THEN once I have the basics I’ll find a good video on YouTube, download it, convert it to a Quicktime movie, and slow it down with Quicktime Pro to learn how to play the tune properly.
If I don’t like the videos and I have a cd with the tune on it, I’ll rip the tune from the cd, convert it to Quicktime, etc.

But definitely the ABC midi files are poor representations of the tunes. I wouldn’t even say I know a tune until I can at least play along with at least one video.

"Rights of Man" is a good example of a tune I just learned how to play. The midi churned out in ABCNavigator is simple and the rhythm is all wrong. Then I watched this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiJLjRsgOkU to actually get it right.


I hate midi but it does have it’s uses.

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I suppose they’re like your high school biology textbook’s chapter on animal reproduction. None of us can say for certain that it couldn’t help someone who wants to try it out for the first time.

Posted by .

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Ok, midi is not pretty……I don’t play them for personal enjoyment but they are my initial ‘screening’ as to whether or not I want to devote any time to that tune.

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OK folks, I just got here, sorry I’m late. I brought more pitchforks in case any have rambled off. I also have more pitch for the torches, and I even remembered to bring the tar and feathers. We should be all set!

Re: in defense of midi files

The first person you’ll have to go after is Jeremy, who apparently thought enough of them to include them as a feature on this site.

Re: in defense of midi files

I’m in.

Jeremy likes the midi things ‘cause he’s a geek.

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And a tip of the hat to geeks! :-)

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I can’t for the life of me see any use whatsoever with midi files. It promotes the absolute ruination of traditional music. I cannot see one single valid reason from this thread that makes any sense.

If anyone listens to midi files to try and find good tunes then they are completely missing the point of this music. There is ridiculous quantities of free traditional music to listen to and pick up tunes from. Why on earth try and learn from a machine????

Becoming a traditional musician
Step one - listen and learn
Step two - know what not to listen to and learn

Re: in defense of midi files

Say a person sometimes needed the first few notes of a tune to get started and they did not have a live musician, or a recording of one, to hand. For music from an aural tradition which would be best and worst of:
- A couple of bars of dots
- A couple of bars of ABC
- A couple of bars of plonky MIDI sound.

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Should have said " a person who is trying to learn to learn by earn"

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ear

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Well, unless you want to carry a laptop around then midi is out. What you’re talking about is just a memory jog so it doesn’t matter how you do it.

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Yes bogman, probably doesn’t. I was wondering about them finding their way into visual or aural memory, which the couple of bars of dots tend to.

I’m pondering your two steps. If you are presenting a paradox it is probably wasted in this discussion. I would ponder on them less if they were in the opposite order.

Re: in defense of midi files

Instead of using midi, and for anyone who may have been wondering how I managed to download videos from YouTube, try this;

1- Find a video on YouTube you’d like to download
Open a new tab in your browser and go to http://keepvid.com/?url=http%3A//keepvid.com/ (Yes, copy & paste the entire thing)
2- Copy the URL of the video on YouTube. It’s in a text field on the right side of the video. Example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJS3ZTf-sWI

3- Paste that URL into the text field on keepvid.com
4- Click DOWNLOAD
5- answer the curvy text code thingamabob(you’ll see what I mean) and click SUBMIT
6- You’ll see a link in green that says DOWNLOAD. Right click on it and choose Save As. Save the video with whatever default name it gives you. Usually "video.flv" Just choose a location, like your desktop.

While you’re on the website keepvid.com you’ll see a banner ad for AVS Video Converter. It’s a free utility you can use to convert the .flv files into Quicktime (.mov)

The newest version of Quicktime will allow you to slow down the videos without changing the pitch. Get that for free at www.apple.com

And there you go. The next best thing to being at a session or having private lessons.

You’re welcome. :-)

Re: in defense of midi files

ABCMus uses midi to play ABC tunes, and this is really the only time I find it useful. It helps me to check out audibly an ABC I’m about to submit here - the ear is far more accurate than the eye - and the ability of midi to run a tune at half-speed is a useful bonus in this respect.

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Ha ha, so the only useful reason for the midi thing is to check your abc is error free? Brilliant. It’s only use is if you already know the tune.

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Just remembered that I found is useful when reading a discussion here about swing, hornpipes,dotting, jig rhythms etc. By messing around with fractional note lengths in ABC and turning off any inbuilt features (despite what someone
said above most converters will do something different if you tell them its a hornpipe rather than a reel) it is possible to find out roughly what something would sound like if the description of note lengths were taken literally. Which highlights the importance of attack, dynamics and the other stuff that is not in the dots. But it is possible do stuff like getting something in 6/8 to sound roughly like a jig rather than roughly like a pipe march and vice versa.

Yes, I know listening to real music is better, but sometimes I like to check up whether the descriptions people give make sense.

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two thirds? five eighths? 0.62431? You can make you computer accurately play whatever divisions you want. But that’s not how music is played. The divisions vary considerably, even across a single bar. You might think you are getting your computer to make a better go at it than just making it play straight, but you are not. All you are doing is giving it different restriction to doggedly stick to.

You say you are getting it to "roughly" sound like music? Examine again the usefulness of learning from a machine you’ve managed to get to sound "roughly" like it’s playing music. The more you get your machine to sound like music, the more your own playing will sound mechanical.

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Llig, I did not say I was doing it to learn music from, I was doing it to learn about music. To check how close what people said they were doing and telling other people to do (e.g. the relative lengths of the notes in a jig) was to what they were actually doing. And things like a statement from you about volume having an effect on the percieved time of a note (making it sound relatively late or early).

If music is about playing with expectations I don’t dont that much of it is in the departures (or not) from regularity.

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.. I don’t doubt that …

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OK then. So it’s only useful to check if people’s estimations of the fractional divisions of notes that make up their swing are accurate? How would you tell if you hadn’t heard them. And if you had heard them, why would you want to know the arithmetic?

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A. Because its interesting.
B. Because when getting information from the internet I try to work out if people are correct in detail, describing a practical ‘model’ that may not be exactly what is happening (much like an analogy), or just plain wrong.

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No maybe not ‘wrong’ - giving information that may be misleading.

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… or correct information that’s within a misleading analogy?

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It’s a particular problem, and of this site in particular. It’s a site about music and there’s billions of bits of information and advice on it, but not one single actual bit of music. Not one. Not even one millisecond. There are plenty of links to bits of music though and I see this as its primary function.

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I use every source available to me to figure out a tune, except the one that some insist is the only way to learn. That is by going to sessions or seminars or private instructors and having them teach it to you in person. I don’t read "dots". Never learned how. I do look at the actual ABC itself and listen to the midi it generates. That at least tells me where the hell my fingers go on the fretboard. Once I have that, then I go to recordings or videos and actually learn to play the tune.
Contrary to some folks beliefs, it does work.
And recently, it’s been working very well as my fingers are getting stronger, more flexible and faster. But most important of all it’s fun. And when the day arrives that I can, finally after all this time, get my arse to a session, I’ll be just good enough to know what I’m listening to, record it, and learn how to play it the way the folks in my neck of the woods play. Cuz it’s bound to be different from what I know and even different from what is played in the sessions of Ireland and the UK.

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Michael, despite Jeremy’s claims on the home page, this site really isn’t about the tunes, or exchanging the tunes, at all. It’s just about the people who play the tunes.

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MIDI files need no defense!!!

All this crap about how MIDI files sound is just that — crap. People are condemning the hammer instead of the carpenter. Are ABC or just manuscript better??? WRONG!!! Who made the ABC & who notated the manuscript? Most Irish musicians know quite a bit less about MIDI than they do about actual manuscript notation. Where have you ever seen a manuscript rendition of an Irish tune with accent marks indicated, staccato, slurs, phrasing, etc. Since I am not familiar with ABC notation perhaps someone will enlighten me as to whether it is possible to indicate various articulation. I tried to attach or include an example of a MIDI file created by a person who has complete control of various aspects of MIDI. Of course its quality will depend somewhat on you sound card.

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Wow! this is a re-awakening of an old thread!

Anyway, @stonecrusher, I agree with you there on the sound that’s capable of being produced by MIDI. I use Harmony Assistant for transcribing and writing, and its acoustic grand piano sound is good. With quantisation you can get a decent swing and rhythm, and if you’re hitting the keys in real time you can get decent accents as well.

I think a good MIDI piano sound is fine as an audio reference for tunes, and for learning the melody, rather than a specific instrument, as the voicings and ornaments for (eg) flute, fiddle and melodeon are quite different.

Of course, for the "final product", nothing beats a real instrument played by a good player - but good MIDI still sounds good, imo, and certainly fit for purpose. MIDI sound has come a long, long way from the early days, where no matter what the simulated instrument, it always sounded dull, bland, robotic, and quite frankly, shite.

It’s a pity that many still have the perception of the MIDI of the "old days".

Not directing that last sentence at anyone on here, btw.

Re: in defense of midi files

From the OP: Huh. As I dimly recall, this conversation starter was originally intended to be a bit like Swift’s "A Modest Proposal"—you know, just playing Devil’s Advocate. Not a serious "defense." But with a touch of, "Let’s be nice to the newcomers, who are drawn to Irish music despite their lack of aptitude. Who knows, maybe these clunky tech tools will help them get started." I never dreamed that there would be more beating of this old horse, years later.

For myself, MIDI and I do go way, way back—although I don’t have much to do with it, today. But other people can do what they like. I’m happy for them. :-)