Get Midi

Wow… I have to say that the wait for converter cable has been totally worth it. I finally hooked the keyboard up to Caustic 2 today and even without the ability to record live, being able to test different keys out in real time is so nice. Even with the latency on most devices, having the ability to at least sound things out in real time streamlines the production process a LOT!

In other news, i’m going to try to make some presets for Caustic today out of samples from my Casio. Unfortunately there is an ungodly hissing sound coming out of the headphone jack, which is the only sound out. Going to try it anyway, the presets may only be good for super LoFi projects. We’ll see, I should have some up tomorrow.

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Synthesizer vs Midi Controller

I apologize for the lack of updates. I had a job interview today which went well. I have also decided I will not be working on the blog/any projects during my wife’s days off.

I still wanted to throw something up today, so I decided I would talk about an alternative to purchasing expensive midi keyboard controllers.

Just in case you don’t know the difference (as I did not) between a midi controller and a synthesizer, here they are.

Midi Controllers

Midi controllers generally do not play their own sounds. They include a number of programmable sliders and nobs to streamline your DAW, and require you to utilize sound generating VST plugins (virtual instruments) in your DAW to generate sound. Many of them include USB to USB contacts so that you can plug the controller (keyboard) directly into your laptop. Controllers also tend to be more compact as they don’t need room for tone generators and internal speakers.

Synthesizers

On the other hand there are synthesizers. Synthesizers have the ability to generate their own sounds (not very nice sounding unless you drop some cash) and can have “analog” Midi ports adding Midi Controller functionality. These are going to be a LOT larger due to the tone generating components and speakers.

The Point

Now where am I going with this? Often times you can find large older Synthesizers with Midi Controlling capabilities that are FAR less expensive than buying a new (or used) slim line Midi Controller Keyboards. I have found older, decent, entry level synths with Midi controlling capabilities going second hand for about $50, that have 61 full sized keys. Second hand 25 micro key controllers can go for as little as $60 and 49 micro key controllers seem to go for as little as $100.

A lot of people have the opinion that older synth keybeds can feel nicer than modern controllers, but you lose the portability and sliders/nob functionality.

I know that I would like to learn music theory, which requires me to have more than 49 keys. I am also more concerned about price than having programmable nobs and sliders (especially since this is an android based blog and I plan on using TouchDAW anyway). I also have a bed frame tall enough to slide a large keyboard under when I am not using it. Therefore I think a cheap synth with midi control is the best option.

Finally, do remember if you decide to go with an old synthesizer, you need to purchase an Analog to USB midi converter and download appropriate drivers for your computer. The converters seem to run $20-$30 in stores, but you can get them for closer to $6 on ebay.

Here are some visuals on the difference between a controller and a synth.

ph_ctk700

This is an old Casio 61 key CTK-700 Synthesizer. Works as a Midi Controller and goes for about $50 second hand.

korg 25
This is Korg 25 Key Midi Controller. Notice it is more slim lines and has programmable buttons. Retails new around $75

Making Progress

Been working on that track for a while today. Brought the subsynth up an octave and you can already hear it better. Honestly though, I’m getting a little bored with it. I would like to and probably will just put an ending on it and call it good.

In my next project I am going to try something a little different. Instead of starting from scratch I am going to use the app “Sonic Chop” from the google app store to chop up a song I like so I can try to do a remixish type deal. It sounds like just chopping tracks into samples is very time consuming, so this could take a while just to get rolling. I also need to add Sonic Chop to my app page, which I will get around to eventually.

In other news during my job hunt I have been researching small midi keyboards, besides the Akai MPK Mini. I am actually thinking about getting a Korg Microkey 37 key controller. I’ve found that with the constricted space in a studio apartment a smaller keyboard would be good and I am getting more interested in playing piano, so something bigger than a 25 key would be nice. Also if I ever work with a desktop DAW there is an Android app I can use as a midi drum pad, making that part of the Akai less necessary.

Here’s a link to the specific model I am talking about. I wish I still had access to amazon, being in Australia now. This sucker will end up running me $109 if I end up getting it.

http://www.amazon.com/Korg-MICROKEY37-37-Key-Midi-Controller/dp/B007VQIGPW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1371884174&sr=8-1&keywords=korg+microkey

DAC and MIDI

A little busy prepping for the move to my new place on Tuesday, so I haven’t been able to get any progress done on that track. I have however found some affordable hardware that will increase your productivity, even through Android.

USB Digital to Analog Converter

The first is a device called a USB DAC (Digital to Analog Converter). As I mentioned in a previous post the headphones jacks found on android devices, PC’s and other media devices just barely deliver what is considered acceptable sound quality . These devices are superior stand alone sound cards/amplifiers that connect to your device via USB (who would have guessed). They supply much better sound quality and can be very beneficial for production, especially if you are restricted to using headphones. I may shortly invest in a VERY budget one since I have noticed that Bass comes through much stronger on my PC than it does through my Kindle Fire, and I would at least like some more continuity.

Here is a nice little guide with more information on the devices: http://lifehacker.com/5903575/unleash-your-headphones-full-potential-with-a-usb-dac-and-amplifier

USB DAC

Muse HiFi PCM2047 USB DAC

Midi Controller

Midi controllers can come in many different forms: mixing boards, keyboards, drumpads etc. They hook up to your Digital Audio Work station and immensely help streamline music production. Instead of clicking where you want to sequence notes, they allow you record in real time. There are plenty of resources out there on how they work and why you want them. I specifically would like to get an Akai MPK Mini. It’s an affordable midi keyboard with drum pads. Midi keyboards work with Caustic 2, but I understand that Drum Pad mapping will be available in future updates. Don’t know what drum pads are? Check out the Su-Preme MPA app in my Apps page.

Note that Midi controllers are not viable unless you have a low audio latency device. Right now with my Kindle Fire it is at 160ms, which will not work for live recording. You want closer to <20ms.

Akai MPC Midi

 Akai MPK Mini: http://www.akaipro.com/mpkmini