Biographical Info | Technical Info | Background Info | FAQs | MIDI on the Net | Sequencing Faux-Pas
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Name: Gary Wachtel
Born: December 5
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Certified Chef/Manager
Education: Graduate of the Culinary Institute of America
Hobbies: MIDI Music, Computers, Cooking (I am a chef for god's sake!)
Computer Type: Apple Macintosh 6500/250
MIDI Devices: Korg X5 Controller/Synthesizer, X5DR & NS5R Sound Modules
MIDI Software: Performer & Freestyle Sequencer Software by Mark of the Unicorn, Band-In-A-Box Accompaniment Software by PG Music
I am a certified chef/manager who lives and works in the Orlando, Florida area.
My interest in making music goes way back to my earliest days in Grade School (where I learned to play the recorder); then onto Junior High (where I learned to play clarinet); then High School and College (where I picked up sax and flute); and finally, my latest foray into the world of computer music.
While I am not a professional musician (nor would I ever profess to be one), I still enjoy the experience of "performing" through this medium. I even find myself playing along from time to time on the sax, clarinet or flute (mostly when the mood strikes me, and my lip is willing).
I began working with MIDI nearly 10 years ago, and as some of you may have noticed, my sequencing techniques have changed drastically during that period of time. The main reason for this change can be attributed to hours of trial-and-error, comments and critiques from friends & colleagues, as well as hints and tips from several publications written for the "Desktop Musician."
MIDI has the flexibility that offers the beginner, intermediate and expert alike the chance to express themselves, as long as they have A LOT of patience, and the willingness to put the time in to improve their techniques.
Frequently Asked Questions:
<Q> Do you create your sequences by ear, or do you work from published arrangements?
<A> I work mostly from commercial arrangements, many of which I've purchased from their respective publishers over the years. It was only after discovering MIDI that I have been able to put them to use again.
<Q> Do you enter your sequences in "real-time," or do you use some sort of notation (mouse) entry?
<A> I use a bit of both techniques, but, for the most part, I rely on graphic notation entry (piano roll) for the bulk of the sequencing; quantizing and "tweaking" the notes as necessary in order to achieve as "realistic" a sound as I possibly can given the limitations of this particular technique.
<Q> How long does it take you to create a sequence?
<A> It all depends on the size and complexity of the arrangement, but I find that an average of 1 hour per minute of playback time is normal for most sequences. Of course, this can be spread out over a period of several days, weeks and sometimes even months, as I usually have 10-15 "works in progress" at any one time. Once I get close to finishing a file, I put all my efforts into completing it for release.
<Q> Where did you get all of these arrangements?
<A> Many of them were purchased years ago, and are now permanently out-of-print, but many can still be acquired from mail-order companies that represent some of the larger music publishers in the U.S., as well as online music distributors (See Publishers List)
towards MIDI on the Internet:
If I had to comment on what I like most about MIDI on the Internet, I would have to say that it is the fact that people all around the world can share their talents with others who have similar tastes in music with the simple click of a mouse.
As for what I like least about MIDI on the Internet, I would have to say that it is the wannabe's out there who want to skip the whole "express their musical talents" thing and paste their names on other peoples work, taking credit for the sequences creation simply because they might have changed a note here, or changed a controller setting there.
I don't get angry with them, rather I feel sorry that they don't have the talent it takes to create something on their own, or are just unwilling to try.
I do not set myself up as being an authority on MIDI sequencing, but during my tenure as a MIDI author I have found "mistakes" made by many people who attempt to make a good sequence but leave out a few simple additions that would make their files sound all that much better. Here are a few tips I have found useful to improve my sequences.
Tip #1: Reverb (#91) is one of the most powerful controller messages one can add to their sequences. It gives the player a depth of sound that would otherwise sound "flattened" without it. How much you use depends on the type of music your sequencing. Less for Pop, Rock or Electronic Music; more for Orchestral, Concert Band and other music that would normally be heard in a concert hall setting.
Tip #2: Panning (#10) is a must for all types of music, simply because without it, all the players sound as if they are sitting in a straight line, one behind the other. I don't know about you, but I have yet to see a band set up like this, with the exception of a Marching Band coming towards you. In order to get the right pan settings, make believe you are sitting in the fifth row center from the stage (about 20-30 feet back). The far left of the stage is 1, the center is 64 and the far right is 127. Point your finger to each players position on the stage and assign him the corresponding number along the scale (from 1 to 127). I guarantee that you will notice an immediate difference in the sequence.
Tip #3: Main Volume vs. Expression Control is a debate that rages on between many MIDI authors. Some prefer to make their dynamic changes (Crescendos, Decrescendos, Sforzandos, etc.) using the Main Volume controller (#7), while others (including me) prefer to use the Expression controller (#11). Think of the Main Volume controller like the coarse setting knob and the Expression controller as the fine tuning. If you set the Main Volume level at the beginning of the sequence you need not touch it again if you utilize the Expression controller to alter the dynamics. This way, if a person needs to make a change to the overall volume of a track to conform to their specific synth/sound module/sound card, all they have to do is change the #7 controller at the beginning, and the rest of the dynamic changes made with controller #11 will respond accordingly.
Tip #4: Notation vs. Real-Time Entry is one topic that I can speak on with some authority, as many of my earliest (and in my opinion, worst) sequences were entered in Real-Time on my Korg X5 Controller. I found that if one is not a proficient pianist, they should lean towards notation entry as a viable alternative, if, for nothing else, to "cleanup" their act. Of course, there are disadvantages in using this entry style, the least of which is the need to alter note velocities, durations and attack times, but with practice, patience and a lot of trial-and-error, a person can overcome these obstacles.
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