A Simple Guide to Learn Sequencers
by Srikanth [yeh! the h1bees dude]

Musicians today gets to know about sequencers and its advancement very quickly, thanks to Google or other “searching” engines! Plenty of articles can be found online. Some of the articles are really elaborate which warrants decent reading time. I started to sequence music when there was no internet. Yes! Could you believe it, a decade ago we had no Internet or Google to search for free porn or free cricket.

My knowledge in this area comes from reading various books, manual and practical hands on real time experience. I have been sequencing/programming music for about 15 years now; this is a journey that started from the good old Twelve Tone System’s Cakewalk for DOS which now has reached modern day Sonars, Cubases or Logics and the ever popular and powerful Protools.

In this series of articles summing up my experience I shall try and provide some insights, pitfalls, power user modes, tips [10% of the bill] and advanced mode of operations about sequencers. Yes! I hear there are tons out there on this subject. What new I am going to write? Just the same, but my goal here is to share my experience and to teach non-musicians about midi programming, if they really care. Some of “them” though assume Midi and keyboards makes music automatically, as Yoda would say “blame them not - pardon their ignorance”.

When talking about sequencers, you will find an alliance similar to NATO, an alliance between PC, MIDI, and Keyboards etc that works pretty well. I would try to provide explanations as simple as possible, some of them might sound really confusing for non musicians and a new comer, for them Yoda says “Fear not – the force is with you”. [Yes you guessed, I saw star wars final part few days ago]

Day 1
When Gods [atheists are welcome to replace Gods with Roland or Korg, Nord etc!] created electronic keyboards, very soon realized - in order to serve efficiently keyboards should have a companion or a buddy – [He thought the same and gave Eve! Duh!;] This made God to create “sequencers”, he then tied the knot between these two entities using something called MIDI and told “thou shall remain the master and other would be a faithful slave”. To put it polity a device that is totally controlled by another. [If you are married I can guess your thoughts]

What is MIDI? [Please! – Do not get creative over female fashion.]
MIDI is an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is a protocol for musical instruments to exchange data. Something similar to TCP/IP for networks; it is a common etiquette between 2 or more midi devises to accept one as their master. Hence using general MIDI it is possible to chain [connect] various type midi supporting devices.

What is this general midi? As soon as the first version of Midi came out, every one started to create/clone their versions of midi protocols; this was clearly against God’s wish of a companion yadayadaYada. Hence for once the entire electronic music instrument manufacturing community teamed together and accepted to follow a common protocol called “GENERAL MIDI” [GM].The low level GM specification is a well composed lullaby. So let me skip it and keep it really simple.

General MIDI establishes unidirectional path between master and the slave on 16 different channels. Both the entities talk the same language. However this is a “one-way” super highway that has 16 lanes. Each lane has numbers 1 to 16 assigned to it. The master always assigns the channel numbers to each datum [singular for data - for ages I have been waiting to use this word] and sends it to the slave, which receives the datum in the same channel and does the needful.

If a keyboard supports general midi - you will find a MIDI-OUT & a MIDI-IN and a MIDI-THRU sockets. MIDI-OUT sends midi data out, while MIDI-IN receives data from other instruments. MIDI-THRU, will get the data - might use it but it also simply passes it on to another chained device. The best thing about midi data is its size; it is really small and condensed. The reason being the actual sound is not transported, the master informs the slave of about its current actions or tasks, and slaves follow it diligently. Say master says “dude” I have a keypress data for the key C4 for n number of seconds, the slave will play the sound C4 using its own internal sound generator for the same ‘n’ number of seconds.

This is midi in a nutshell; there are various midi events to deal which I shall explain later in the article.

In a proper midi setup, generally a Sequencer would be the Master, it captures and store midi events emulated from various salve devices. It will allow users to edit/manipulate the captured data and it can play back to various types of midi salves. Sequencer can also act as a slave; sometimes it does go nutty in Slavery mode, but it works. Next would be check out another important entity. “Keyboards”

All Rights Reserved (c) Srikanth Devarajan, Unauthorized copying or re-publishing of this article is prohibited, you have license to learn! And pass it on to others with the authors name intact. If you want to syndicate this, kindly contact me at srikanthD at gmail.

I am making this more meaningful in a book format, hence i had to remove yesterday's issue.