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Microtonal MIDI

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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby desmond » Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:21 pm

Some examples:-

"Frequency data shall be sent via system exclusive messages."

"A bulk tuning dump request is as follows:
F0 7E Universal Non-Real Time SysEx header"

"A bulk tuning dump comprises frequency data in the 3-byte format outlined in section 1, for all 128 MIDI key numbers, in order from note 0 (earliest sent) to note 127 (latest sent), enclosed by a system exclusive header and tail."

It's SysEx, is referred to as such in the specs for every format doc, and is mentioned constantly.

I understand your point, but it looks pretty darn SysEXy to me... ;)

Anyway - before it gets silly and drifting off into a semantic argument, I'll stop here. When I said "MIDI doesn't support micro-tuning" - that is a wrong statement taken literally, and I was not aware of the MIDI Tuning standard. So I was in error there - and thanks for the pointers.

What I *meant* with that statement is there isn't an easy way with MIDI messages to let you do micro-tuning (there isn't a defined micro-tuning MIDI message like conventional notes, controllers, program changes and so on are defined). That's what I was getting at with "not supported directly".

The fact this sysex spec has been added onto the MIDI spec at some stage (after 1983 ;) is great, but being sysex means that it isn't really practical without dedicated software support. It *could* be a really good solution if implemented properly, but it's still not going to work on all the instruments up to now that don't support it.

Phew! Now time for a coffee...
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Revson » Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:50 pm

This work and java app would probably be of interest:

http://eamusic.dartmouth.edu/~larry/owt/index.html

The java application (you can download gratis) works, though with limited functionality (and a little slow) on Mac - you can't assign the midi output. Have a Boot Camp install pending so haven't yet tried on PC (the recommended platform).

Cheers.
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby ramthelinefeed » Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:56 pm

desmond wrote:Some examples:-

"A bulk tuning dump request is as follows:
F0 7E Universal Non-Real Time SysEx header"


Yes, it's a special subset of the SysEx which isn't, er, "ex" to any particular "sys".

desmond wrote:

What I *meant* with that statement is there isn't an easy way with MIDI messages to let you do micro-tuning (there isn't a defined micro-tuning MIDI message like conventional notes, controllers, program changes and so on are defined). That's what I was getting at with "not supported directly".

I do see what you mean, but I don't really see how it could be any other way - the messages you are talking about (e.g. Note On/Note Off, Aftertouch) are for EVENTS that happen in real time performance.

Microtuning is not in that category: an instrument is first constructed or tuned to a particular tuning and temperament system, and then you play it.
Thus the MIDI microtonal commands allow you to specify all the scale degrees and their frequencies, and then you go play it.

The beauty of MIDI and digital machines is that you can set up various microtunings and then transmit them at a press of a button just before you play (or in the middle of playing!) and your instrument can retune right away, without you having to open the lid and re-tune it.
Even Bach allegedly had to spend 10 minutes retuning a harpsichord mid-gig ;)
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Revson » Mon Jun 15, 2009 6:12 pm

...oh, and the Capella sequencer has programmable tuning:

http://www.recordare.com/capella/images/screenshots/hermode-large.png
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby desmond » Mon Jun 15, 2009 7:07 pm

feline1 wrote:I do see what you mean, but I don't really see how it could be any other way - the messages you are talking about (e.g. Note On/Note Off, Aftertouch) are for EVENTS that happen in real time performance.

Microtuning is not in that category: an instrument is first constructed or tuned to a particular tuning and temperament system, and then you play it.
Thus the MIDI microtonal commands allow you to specify all the scale degrees and their frequencies, and then you go play it.

Sure, yeah I understand that and it seems a realistic implementation.

The way I was thinking of doing it with real time events would be a la polyphonic aftertouch - you send a "tuning" event for a particular note with a particular value (if we're talking 7-bit, then the 128 steps would need to cover enough of a range to be useful with enough resolution to be fine enough - I guess +/- 64 cents each way).

That value would "stick" like controllers, pitch bend or aftertouch, so once it's set those notes always play at that pitch offset by the receiving instrument. This would also let you modify the scales in real time during performance. Just like with other controllers or sysex, you send the configuring data before the song/session to put the receiving instruments into the correct state (scale tuning).

This would keep it simple like other MIDI controller, aftertouch standards without the need for sysex, and without the need for modying the existing standard (eg, adding a tuning offset into a note-on, which would clearly be a bad thing to do.)

Of course, more complexity may be necessary (I'm not a huge alternative scale user myself) - but anyway - they've decided to implement it with sysex and we can assume it was for good reason... :headbang:
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby ramthelinefeed » Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:34 pm

7 bit resolution is not really good enough for microtuning.

The MIDI microtuning commands actually use 21 bit resolution!

For serious microtuning, you are talking about adjusting the pitch of scale degrees by fractions of a cent. It's not really the sort of thing you are going to be able to do "on the fly" *whilst* performing - I mean, OK, if you are soloing on an electric guitar, you may bend one string at a time - but for chordal music? You'd never simultaneous microtune 3 or 4 or more notes at once!
That is why it is mainly done with a "non-real-time" string of bytes.

Don't forget that with most SysEx type messages, there may be a dozen or so bytes in the command, but most are effectively just labels to specify what you're talking about - the actual changing data (e.g. what frequency to make the scale degree) is usually just a few (in this case) 3 bytes.
So you can often program a MIDI knob controller (or a computer GUI) so that moving the knob or slider transmits the entire SysEx command, taking the actual data from the knob or slider position. Once you've set up the controller, it is just as straightforward as sending simpler messages like 'continuous controllers'.
(see for example the recent piece in Sound on Sound about setting up a control environment in Logic, with a touch screen, to control the Akai MPC4000 via SysEx.... the MPC4000 is an example of a sampler which supports microtuning, just about, using its own SysEx rather than the MIDI standard commands)
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Ignis Fatuus » Tue Jun 16, 2009 11:36 am

Haha, this turned into the archaetypical internet thread: loads of great info and a disagreement that veers beyond my area of understanding.

Thanks for your help everyone! I'll check them all out and post back a conclusion (for the benefit of those who search forms.. as t looks like I should have done).

I'm amazed (and glad) to find they do make keyboards with different tuning possibilities. I'm buying Italian next time :)
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby MarkOne » Tue Jun 16, 2009 1:25 pm

My old EMU Proteus PK6 (and I believe all the Proteus derived modules and keyboards had 12 alternative tunings and the ability to store 12 more user defined tuning schemes. How's that for comprehensive!

My alesis fusion has Equal, Just major and Just minor...

I'm pretty sure Korg, Yamaha and Roland have similar options squirreled away somewhere deep in their menus, so alternate tunings actually quite widely available
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Johnny Stecchino » Tue Jun 16, 2009 10:52 pm

Ignis Fatuus wrote:...I'm amazed (and glad) to find they do make keyboards with different tuning possibilities. I'm buying Italian next time :)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en
GB&v=nSPaaGJ0Rog&feature=%20related

This should be Egyptian musician Magdi Al Huseini who seems to play the Farsifa vip500. Since it's from the '70 it wouldn't have midi in out... :)
I didn't know Farsifa made these microtuning keyboards. Today they do intercom stuff :frown: I knew only the Roland OR keyboard.
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Reiknir » Wed Jun 17, 2009 12:42 am

johnny Stecchino wrote:
Ignis Fatuus wrote:...I'm amazed (and glad) to find they do make keyboards with different tuning possibilities. I'm buying Italian next time :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en
GB&v=nSPaaGJ0Rog&feature=%20related

This should be Egyptian musician Magdi Al Huseini who seems to play the Farsifa vip500. Since it's from the '70 it wouldn't have midi in out... :)
I didn't know Farsifa made these microtuning keyboards. Today they do intercom stuff :frown: I knew only the Roland OR keyboard.

Roland has a design and manufacturing division in Italy, does a lot of the home and semi pro keyboard stuff, used to be an independent company called SIEL
:D
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Johnny Stecchino » Wed Jun 17, 2009 12:17 pm

Reiknir wrote:Roland has a design and manufacturing division in Italy, does a lot of the home and semi pro keyboard stuff, used to be an independent company called SIEL :D

Interesting, didn't know Roland Europe was based on a previous Italian company... found some info. about SIEL on:

http://www.rolandus.com/community/musiceducation/resources/pdfs/The%20History%20of%20Roland-Part%203.pdf

"Why Kakehashi bought SIEL is not clear. Whatever the reason, 1987 saw production of all SIEL products cease, and its name slipped quietly into oblivion. The following year, the company was re-established as Roland Europe SpA..."

I don't think the reason though was microtuning issue... still it was a new info for me, thanks! :beamup:
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Reiknir » Wed Jun 17, 2009 5:04 pm

johnny Stecchino wrote:
I don't think the reason though was microtuning issue... still it was a new info for me, thanks!

No ... at the time it was a manufacturing base inside the EU in a relatively low wage country, but SIEL and a couple of other Italian companies were acting as OEMs already for Japanese and American companies, they were high tech but low cost at the time. But it did mean that instruments with strange tuning options turned up with all kinds of names on them

Nothing new, remember that the cheaper Hammonds sold in Europe in the 70s were designed and made in Denmark and early 70's Yamaha organs designed and made in Germany
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Johnny Stecchino » Wed Jun 17, 2009 8:57 pm

Sure,
as today it's all MADE in CHINA.

The topic though speaks about Microtuning and the fact I spoke about the Farsifa vip500 was that somebody mentioned Italian keyboards for Arab music costumers. Farsifa DID microtuning even before Midi was invented but that's a problem today 'couse u can't control ur computer with it... This is what we r talking about in this topic, so the fact Roland have here in Italy a section is not connected at all to the issue, as I can reckon, since I don't think they were influenced by Italian manufactures and unfortunately I don't know nowadays about ANY Italian keybords manufacture who made keyboards with alternative scales and would be glad if somebody will open my eyes but I doubt it!
I tried though the Roland EXR-40 OR and it functions very well though purists of non tempered music wouldn't like any keyboard with fixed 1/4 of tones... but ofcourse the bender can help us :)
Here is a nice link of the EXR-40 OR

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sckkutTafU0
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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Johnny Stecchino » Wed Jun 17, 2009 9:13 pm

and another link: for the EXR-46 OR
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XkiWWJZr7U&feature=related

OK! here we are! This is a Hardware - this is what we r looking for but I don't know what is the price. I might get one too! http://www.kelfar.net/prod06.htm

Just checked the manual u can choose from +64cent to -64 on any note

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Re: Microtonal MIDI

Postby Reiknir » Thu Jun 18, 2009 1:08 am

johnny Stecchino wrote: This is what we r talking about in this topic, so the fact Roland have here in Italy a section is not connected at all to the issue, as I can reckon, since I don't think they were influenced by Italian manufactures and unfortunately I don't know nowadays about ANY Italian keybords manufacture who made keyboards with alternative scales and would be glad if somebody will open my eyes but I doubt it!
Crumar Digital Products definetly (have used them) think some of the analogue or hybrids as well, an Elka/Orla synth I had a long time ago, some of them may have been shipped with alternative tunings for specific markets only. And Roland products designed and made in Italy are Italian ?

And the Roland EXR40 OR supports alternative tunings, go into the function menu, choose KB Scale mode, there is a little explanation in page 43 of the manual. Almost all home keyboards do this these days since some classical vocal work requires Baroque and Pythagorean scales.
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