Future Music



Cast your mind back to the first time you started programmin­g a track in whichever DAW you worked with. There was a tingle of excitement for every one of us that came from realising that, despite liking the notes we’d programmed, we weren’t sure the sound was quite right – and that we could change it. Being able to swap a sound – either by selecting a similar yet subtly different one, or making a bolder, more radical choice which completely reimagines the part we were working on – is a process we quickly learn to take for granted.

But it’s one of a million ways in which working with MIDI for as long as possible within our production­s is incredibly seductive. You can see why. If you’ve selected a group of sounds which map controller data to specific parameters and you don’t know whether the filter ramp you’ve programmed is quite extreme enough, why would you turn MIDI into audio and forego the opportunit­y to tweak it later? If you’re working with a sound whose velocity is sensitive enough that notes occasional­ly get ‘lost’ in the mix, while others poke out, again, why turn MIDI into audio?


There are countless examples of times when keeping MIDI running live in your tracks, all the way through to the mix stage, feels as though it makes the most sense, as that allows for these kinds of changes to be made, easily, right up to the last minute. However, there’s something about working with audio which feels, somehow, like a different kind of relationsh­ip. Not having access to the processes outlined above, or any of the other ‘MIDI only’ tricks upon which we have grown reliant, shifts our relationsh­ip and makes us assess the materials we have in front of us in different ways. Some of these are obvious; in the days before MIDI, records were made in different ways with a greater emphasis on performanc­e, which meant there was more expectatio­n of musicians that they’d play in tune and in time because the ways in which their performanc­es could be changed afterwards were more limited. But in the context of a feature relating to resampling, the biggest considerat­ion concerning the difference between working with MIDI and audio is that pursuit of the latter has a tendancy to turn all of us into ‘detectoris­ts’.


The moment you present a producer with audio stems (rather than MIDI files), any notion of velocity values or controller mapping cease to be considerat­ions. Instead, our ears become tuned to different things; ‘what could I do with that little slice of audio there’? ‘Could I isolate the end of that release tail and make a loop of it?’. ‘What would that whole part sound like time-stretched?’ It’s often been noted that we become particular­ly creative when our options are limited. That’s not to suggest that working with audio is inherently ‘limiting’ – with access to powerful real-time and post-processing techniques, as well as the usual raft of effects offered by any self-respecting DAW – there are countless ways to make audio ‘your own’. But de-coupling yourself from the readily-changeable ways in which MIDI can be manipulate­d somehow manages to make our relationsh­ip with the individual tracks of our mix more sophistica­ted. We accept that there are certain limitation­s to what can be done and we move on, making different choices and being creative in new and different ways. It goes without saying that experienci­ng this for yourself needn’t be a high-wire act of potential disaster. Nearly every DAW makes rendering an audio file from a MIDI track extremely straightfo­rward these days, meaning that you can preserve the MIDI track ‘just in case’, while importing the resulting audio file to see what gems it can offer from a post-processing viewpoint. And this doesn’t have to ‘only’ be true on a track-by track basis. If a group of tracks, rendered together as an audio file, provide a mine of potentiall­y interestin­g new things, then do it.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia