Home Recording Studio Types: MIDI-Intensive - dummies

By Jeff Strong

Are you a one-man band? Do you prefer to program a home recording performance rather than to play it? If so, you may want to have a MIDI-intensive studio. The advantage of the MIDI studio is that one person can “play” many instruments at the same time.

A disadvantage is that the music can sound somewhat stiff. And you may lose touch with what it feels like to play with other musicians — which is not always a bad thing, especially if you’re into that whole reclusive artist thing.

Because MIDI instruments can be programmed to play the part perfectly, with all the dynamic variations that you want, you can spend your time working on the parts (composing, setting levels, and creating effects) without actually having to record them. As a result, you can get by with fewer audio tracks in your system, but you need to have more MIDI tracks available.

An advantage to this approach is that MIDI tracks take less CPU power and RAM to run compared to the same number of audio tracks. So, you can get by with a less-expensive computer (or use the one you already have) and save your bucks for more synthesizers or plug-ins.

For a MIDI-intensive studio, such as the one shown in the following illustration, you need a sequencer (a device that allows you to record and play back MIDI performance information) and at least one sound source. This can be a keyboard synthesizer, sound module, sampler, or a computer equipped with sounds, called soft-synths.

You also need a drum machine or drum sounds in your computer if you intend to make any music other than ambient or classical-type music. In addition, you need a MIDI controller to, well, control these sound sources. This, too, could be part of the computer software, or it could be the synthesizer. If you end up using a computer-based sequencer, you’ll also need a MIDI interface.

A MIDI-intensive studio: Most of your recording is via MIDI with a minimum of audio tracks.
A MIDI-intensive studio: Most of your recording is via MIDI with a minimum of audio tracks.

In addition to the MIDI stuff, you need some sort of recorder. Again, this can be included in your computer setup. If you plan to sequence all the parts and don’t want to include any vocals, you could get by with a decent 2-track recorder.

On the other hand, if you see yourself including vocals or any non-MIDI instruments — such as an electric guitar, for example — you need a microphone (for the vocals) and the ability to record more tracks.