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Microtonal MIDI

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Microtonal MIDI

Postby Ignis Fatuus » Sun Jun 14, 2009 12:40 am

Hi all! In the midi world what is the best way to play notes between the (well tempered) midi notes? ... for example to use a conventional keyboard to play Greek Orthodox or Arabic music, or even non-well-tempered European classical music if you're being 'authetic'.

Ideally it would be nice to assign each keyboard midi note to play at a specified microtonal variety of that note (e.g. Set 'E flat' to sound as 'E half flat'), or just even a specific frequency. Is this kind of this possible with any of the soft samplers out there today?

And what about with soft synths (as opposed to samplers)? If they don't provide microtonal options, can you force it on them somehow?

Thanks in advance for any tips!
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby desmond » Sun Jun 14, 2009 1:11 am

MIDI doesn't officially support microtoning.

Usually, the easiest method is to use instruments that support this feature - you choose a microtonal scale on the instrument, and the incoming notes will be pitched according to the scale.

If you want to use instruments that don't have this feature, the traditional, though clunky, way of doing it is via pitch bends - it only works on monophonic parts, but basically you send small amounts of pitch bend before each note is played to pitch it to the appropriate scale.

Not sure I'd want to bother with that myself, but... :)
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Ignis Fatuus » Sun Jun 14, 2009 1:19 am

Lol it's as a feared then on that front!

Anyone know any samplers that might be able to help? I know midi doesn't support microtones but no one need tell it the pitch of the audio sample it's triggering!
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Johnny Stecchino » Sun Jun 14, 2009 1:42 am

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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby MadManDan » Sun Jun 14, 2009 3:42 am

I don't know the specifics but maybe this would help - Do you need 1 quarter step in btwn each half step? If so , why not split the keyboard in two? The bottom half will play your sampler program, and the top half will play a duplicate of the same program, but pitched up one quarter step. A little clunky, but at least all the western notes keep their correct frequency, and all those in between have to be played at the top of the keyboard.
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Sun Jun 14, 2009 12:17 pm

Strange, we just had a thread on this topic a few days ago. Kontakt is one of the better samplers, and can do microtonal via a supplied script. You can do pretty much anything with Kontakt, it's fab.
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby ramthelinefeed » Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:32 am

desmond wrote:MIDI doesn't officially support microtoning.

Yes it does.
It's not 1983 any more, you know! :headbang:
http://www.midi.org
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby desmond » Mon Jun 15, 2009 1:33 pm

feline1 wrote:
desmond wrote:MIDI doesn't officially support microtoning.

Yes it does.
It's not 1983 any more, you know! :headbang:

So there is a microtuning actual MIDI message, that supports polyphonic playing (like poly aftertouch) including defining scales, supported by most instruments, is there?

Or are you talking about using something generic, like using non-registered parameters or even controller messages for the purpose?

I didn't say it could be *done* via MIDI (heck, you can do a lot via MIDI with some effort, and I even gave one way that it was done using pitch bend messages), just that there isn't (to my knowledge) an actual properly defined MIDI message for microtuning.

And thanks, I'm aware of the MIDI.org site for many years - I still couldn't find a page on microtuning... could you point me to it, please?
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Mike L » Mon Jun 15, 2009 1:51 pm

"Micro Tuner (in Cubase) works with synths that accept microtuning information. It comes with a selection of pure, equal temperament, Pythagorean, and experimental tunings. Probably one for enthusiasts only." - SOS

http://www.soundonsound.com/SOS/jan05/a ... enotes.htm
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Reiknir » Mon Jun 15, 2009 2:02 pm

Let it be your first step to download scala
http://www.huygens-fokker.org/scala/
It is a great little utility for those that are interested in alternative tunings. Available for most platforms, easy to port to the rest...... Converts microtonal MIDI information to standard MIDI files for instruments that do not support alternative tunings amongst other tricks.


Actually while American and North European synths and keyboards usually do not support alternative tunings or at best gave a rudimentary nod to them support for them is actually usually at the least reasonable in South European and Japanese instruments. Stands to reason really, Italian synth manufacturers second biggest market was the Arabic world and their tunings are not equal temperament. Ditto Japanese manufacturers and sundry Asian tunings. Even cheap Kawai home keyboards did in the end have support for a large variety of alternative tunings even though they did not support user creation of tables/tunings.
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby ramthelinefeed » Mon Jun 15, 2009 2:54 pm

desmond wrote:

And thanks, I'm aware of the MIDI.org site for many years - I still couldn't find a page on microtuning... could you point me to it, please?

Funny that, I typed "microtuning" into the Search field on the front of their site and instantly was directed to
http://www.midi.org/techspecs/midituning.php

Happy reading! :bouncy:
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby desmond » Mon Jun 15, 2009 3:16 pm

Thanks - I got to the index page of the appropriate section (Tech Specs), but this page doesn't seem to be listed there in the index strangely enough - otherwise I would have got there...

Anyway - interesting - but yes, they are just using sysex to share tuning data and to affect voices. That's probably even less workable on generic instruments than the pitch bend method :) but cool of course if the instrument has this support built in natively (do many? I don't think any of mine do, without diggout out there MIDI implementation specs again.)

So yes, I stand by what I said in that "MIDI itself doesn't have this built in" as there isn't a MIDI tuning message as such. As I mentioned in my post as a possibility, they are using another standard MIDI message (system exclusive messages) with which to implement a tuning standard. Semantics, we're not gonna have this argument again :)

So, if you're into sysex bytes and your instruments support it, it's another thing to look into. Cheers for that fel.
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby ramthelinefeed » Mon Jun 15, 2009 4:30 pm

Desmond, there *is* a set of MIDI messages for microtonal tuning! They are an elaborate set of instructions which allow you set up all the scale-divisions you want and the pitches they should have! It's as comprehensive as anyone could wish for.
(Admittedly, I don't know of a single device or piece of software that supports them yet, but that's not the point ;)
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby desmond » Mon Jun 15, 2009 4:48 pm

feline1 wrote:Desmond, there *is* a set of MIDI messages for microtonal tuning! They are an elaborate set of instructions which allow you set up all the scale-divisions you want and the pitches they should have! It's as comprehensive as anyone could wish for.

Yep, I see that, I did skim the docs. It's all in sysex.

feline1 wrote:(Admittedly, I don't know of a single device or piece of software that supports them yet, but that's not the point ;)

Indeed! ;)
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby ramthelinefeed » Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:07 pm

Well to be pedantic, it's not really "SysEx" - SysEx, by definition, are messages that are 'exclusive' to a particular manufacturer's 'system'. They are labelled with a Manufacturer ID code, and any devices not from that Manufacturer ignore them.

The microtuning messages are in the "Universal Non-Real Time" and "Universal Real Time" set, which have a special dummy Manufacturer ID, and all devices can thus read them if desired, no matter who they are made by.
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