Recording MIDI Data - dummies

By Jeff Strong

Recording MIDI tracks are similar to the process you undertake with audio. The main difference is that MIDI tracks contain performance data instead of sound. This offers the advantage of being able to choose what sound or instrument “plays” your data after you’ve finished recording.

Preparing to record

Before you start to record a MIDI track, you need to make the following adjustments to your setup:

  • Make sure that your MIDI gear is synchronized.

  • Set your levels and the patch (sound) that you want to hear. Setting levels simply means setting the volume that you hear through your monitors at a comfortable level.

    To choose the sound that you want to hear, you can select the sound in your synthesizer, in which case the sequencer recognizes this setting, or choose the sound within the sequencer program.

  • Set your metronome to the tempo that you want to record to. You do this by opening the Metronome Settings menu (which is often located on the Options menu). Choose the tempo and time signature for your song, and you’re set to go.

    Within the Metronome Settings menu, you can also choose the MIDI note that the metronome sounds on, whether you have a count in before the song actually starts (called a pre-roll), and more.

You don’t need to set the tempo for a song ahead of time. You can always adjust this later. In fact, you can set the tempo slower than the final version so that you can play the part slower and get the notes right.

Real-time recording

If you’re recording in real time, just press the Record button and start playing. You can find the Record button on the Transport Bar if you use a computer-based software program (this can be found on the Windows menu in Logic, for example).

On a Roland VS-1680, the Record button is the red button on the lower left of the device. (Don’t forget to wait until the pre-roll is finished if you have that function engaged.)

If your recorded performance is the way you want it, you can move on to another instrument’s part. Just set up a new track to record the sound that you want on the MIDI channel you prefer. If you don’t like your performance, you have the following options:

  • Rerecord your part from the beginning.

  • Rerecord only those sections that don’t sound right. Rerecording parts of a performance is generally referred to as punching in and out. This involves setting your recorder to just record a section of your performance.

  • Edit the performance.

Step-time sequencing

Step-time recording involves entering your part one note at a time. This can take a long time to do, especially if it’s a part with lots of notes. But step-time recording may be your only option if you don’t have the skills to play the part live.

Most sequencer programs include a step-time recording mode. Select this mode and then click the Record button. You enter your part by selecting the note value (eighth note or sixteenth note, for example) for the first note or chord. Then when you play the note on your keyboard, it is entered into the sequencer. Choose your next note, press the key(s) you want to record, and so on.

Some sequencers enable you to enter notes in a score window. If you can read music, this can be much easier and faster than the traditional step-time mode. Just choose the note’s duration from the menu bar and click the place where you want that note to be. After you get the hang of this method, step timing can be pretty quick. Check your sequencer program’s manual for details.