Home Recording Basics: Initial MIDI Gear - dummies

By Jeff Strong

Okay, so this MIDI thing sounds kind of interesting to you, and you want to know what you need to buy to do some MIDIing yourself. Well, you can’t do any of this cool MIDI stuff with your vintage Stratocaster guitar or your acoustic drum set (unless you do some fancy rigging to your gear). Here’s the equipment that you need to record using MIDI:

  • Sound generator: This device enables you to hear the music and may be a synthesizer, drum machine, sound module, or sampler.

  • MIDI controller: This device controls the MIDI instruments in your studio.

  • Sequencer: This device records and plays the MIDI performances that are programmed into it. The sequencer allows you to program your part into the synthesizer and have it play back automatically (much like the old-time player piano).

  • MIDI interface: This interface enables your computer to send and receive MIDI data.

This sounds like a lot of stuff, but most of this gear performs more than one function in the MIDI studio. For example, nearly all synthesizers come with drum sounds, and some synthesizers even include a sequencer.

In this case, this one synthesizer can do the job of a sound generator, drum machine, MIDI controller, and sequencer all in one. Or, you can get a computer equipped with sequencing software (part of most recording programs such as Pro Tools), a couple of software synthesizers (acting as your sound modules/generators), and an external MIDI keyboard with its own internal interface (you can find many with USB connections that plug right into your computer).

This setup gets you going with as few components as possible.