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Midi basics.

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by allenhumble, Nov 30, 2006.


  1. allenhumble

    allenhumble

    Oct 22, 2004
    Acworth GA.
    I am not to familure with MIDI and I am hoping that some of you can help me understand it a little better. I have looked through the forums but I'm not sure I completly understand a few things.

    You have to have a midi pickup whether it be extrenal (roland) or piezo (RMC), and you have to have a midi module (Vbass).Is peizo better then external? Why? What are some good modules? What are the pros and cons to using MIDI as opposed to a multi effects unit? Can you loop with a MIDI module?
    :confused:
     
  2. Swimming Bird

    Swimming Bird

    Apr 18, 2006
    Wheaton MD
    Piezo tends to have better tracking than GK (Roland) pickups, but they are more expensive.

    Module refers to a device with sets of midi sounds, not to the device that converts your signal to midi. Roland and Axon make great converter/module combos (almost all converters have internal modules). Yamaha makes one too, but I have no experience with it.

    V-Bass is Roland's bass modeling system were as the GR-20 (which has a bass guitar setting) is a dedicated synth. Axon's track in a completely different way, but it won't matter if you don't play with a pick and most of the cool features of the Axon are unavailable otherwise.

    A midi processor is not really a replacement for an effect board, it is something completely different. Think of the V-Bass as a suped-up Line 6 Pod in terms of modeling and what-not, though it will have some effects built in under specific settings.
     
  3. allenhumble

    allenhumble

    Oct 22, 2004
    Acworth GA.
    Can you loop with the Vbass? Do you think it is worth the money converting to MIDI or having it installed in custom bass? When you are running MIDI do your other pickups work as well?
     
  4. Who on TB uses a midi bass in conjunction with Sibelius notation software? Good results, great tracking?



     
  5. spindizzy

    spindizzy

    Apr 12, 2004
    Michigan
    I think Swimming Bird has caught most of the high points but I will chime in anyway. I started out with the V-Bass unit about 5 years ago with an external Roland pickup on my old Conklin 7. I switch last year to a new Customer 7 string and had Piezo's with the RMC bridge and wired to both 1/4" output as well as the 13 pin midi. I found the Piezo setup vastly superior to the external in multiple ways not the least of which was it just seem to track better.

    Although I have had significant fun with the V-Bass I am currently pulling it from my rig and looking into either the GR20 or the Axon to get closer to a real sampler/synth setup. As I run a seperate pair of 1/4" outputs in conjuction with the 13 pin (mostly because I didn't care for the way the V-Bass mixed the mag pickups with the synth stuff) I generally stay away from the amp modeling functions and now don't use the onboard COSM effects at all prefering outboard effects instead (currently all being produced by a heavy duty laptop with both DSP and VST effects.

    Tracking is still an issue with all of the units mentioned although they are now at a point, especially if you stick to higher registers, that properly setup can be very interesting and useful. With my setup having a very pure analog line out to a seperate rig allows the mix of the mags, piezo and midi output to have very distinct characteristics so that it tends to layer the sounds rather than just mix them all up together. Hard to describe so you will just have to take my word that for me it is the only way to go.

    Is it worth it to go Piezo right off the bat? I think so but if the dollars are not there or you don't want to mod an existing bass you will have good results from the external pickups so I wouldn't make that a deal breaker.

    Now the ultimate expert on this site that I know of is greenboy so I would search his posts and visit his V-Bass forum to gather more information. I believe that Tim Cole is another individual who has played extensively with GR20 and may be worth a search here. I have seen multiple posts on the Axon and there are several sites dedicated to midi guitar that are also rich in info.

    Does the use of this dramatically affect the average working player? For those who are into amp and instrument models so that they can recreate a broad set of instruments and sounds without the need for a 100 different axes and rigs the answer is yes. If you are looking to create a personal sound that is out on the edge, also yes. If you are composing and multitracking all by your lonesome and you need a way to emulate various types of instruments also yes. If however you are out there playing a specific style of music or are looking for your own, purely bass oriented, identity you may want to consider working with bass, rig and outboard effects to get there.

    I will tell you that once you start up with this stuff it is a lot of fun and really can stir up the creative juices. Good luck and I hope my contribution to this thread is helpful
     
  6. allenhumble

    allenhumble

    Oct 22, 2004
    Acworth GA.
    You guys have been very helpful. Are these converter/modules stage friendly? Could you play one instrument and loop it and play over it with another without having a seperate looping device?
     
  7. spindizzy

    spindizzy

    Apr 12, 2004
    Michigan
    Well not necessarily. Looping is more of a dedicated device these days and usually you would be taking a mix of your synth/smpler modual out to a looper to do the looping. Now with that said I don't know much about the other alternatives to the V-Bass (like the GR20 or Axon units) so I can only tell you that the V-Bass does not have a looping function that will allow the kind of loop work you would do with say a Boomerang or JamMan etc. The other units may have sequencing functionality or may be able to facilitate passing the midi on to a sequencer but it still might not be what you would easily use for live work with a looper. For that you really need a stage friendly dedicated unit. Mike Dimin, a former pro here at TB and I think still a member and occasional poster, is one who seems very knowledgeable about looping. Steve Lawson and Michael Manring who still have a pro forum here are also great sources for information on the beauty and use of loopers so I would take a look at their forum. Not the ultimate expert here so hopefully others more knowledgeable than I in this area will also fill in your information gap.
     
  8. Swimming Bird

    Swimming Bird

    Apr 18, 2006
    Wheaton MD
    I can only speak for the GR-20, and the answer is "sort of". For gliss or infinite sustain of a synth note type playing, the answer is mostly yes. For looping of a line, no you'll need a loop station or delay pedal with a hold function. For playing multiple sounds simultaneously, you'll need to use an external module that has that as a specific capability (most modern synths can do that); also, the Axon may be able to do this.

    Unfortunately, Roland does not have a separate piezo option on the GR-20, so tracking doesn't improve as much as it could with an internal pickup.

    I have an external pickup (GK-3B) on my Ibanez 5-string, and a piezo on my Spalt Magma 6 fretless. Fretless and midi aren't 100% compatible if you enjoy using micro-tones as midi operates on a western 12-note scale.

    EDIT: as for loop stations: if you're on a budget the Boss RC-20xl is great, but if you can afford it the RC-50 is magnificent -- by far the best floor-based looper on the market. I'm unfamiliar with the Jamman, but believe it operates similarly to the RC-20xl and I would suggest against the Boomerang as it is overpriced and each loop degrades in quality.
     
  9. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Something that hasn't quite been explained here yet: MIDI is just a computer code that refers to a set of specific controllable functions. It was developed by a few of the major synth manufacturers in the early 80's as a way to get all of their products to "work together", as previously they had all used their own proprietary systems that were not compatible with other brands. MIDI has not changed since it was first developed 20 years ago.

    The reason I mention all this is that MIDI is not a device, and it doesn't do anything by itself. It's just a language for one MIDI-capable device to talk to another MIDI-capaple device. So having MIDI capability on any one device does not mean it will be able to do looping, sampling, effects, or any other specific function. You have to buy a device that claims to do the functions you want (like a looper or sampler), and use your MIDI controller (bass or whatever) to control it. There are a gagillion different MIDI-controllable devices out there, and you have to shop around to find the ones that do the functions you want.

    The devices people here are calling "modules" mostly just provide sounds that you can play using your controller.
     
  10. Swimming Bird

    Swimming Bird

    Apr 18, 2006
    Wheaton MD
    I guess we can all quietly hope for midi 2.0 or some such, though I doubt it. The format will have to change eventually...

    The problem with midi is that it doesn't track low frequencies all that well, and even if it tracked perfectly, low frequencies take longer to convert into midi.

    But I digress, M. Humble -- midi converter/modules are not the most rugged devices out there, but they are pretty stage friendly. Remember, the more you add to your setup, such as external modules and loopers and whatnot, the harder your system is to control and keep together. Basically, the more you have on stage, the harder it all is to deal with and if you're worried about one essential aspect breaking down live, I wouldn't add too much on to it.
     
  11. allenhumble

    allenhumble

    Oct 22, 2004
    Acworth GA.
    I know this has been covered as far as the pros and cons of external vs. peizo, but what I want to know is would you...
    A.spend $1400.00 on an RMC peizo?
    B.spend $650.00 on a Built in Roland with Ebony cover?
    C.spend $0 and do with out?
     
  12. Swimming Bird

    Swimming Bird

    Apr 18, 2006
    Wheaton MD
    Where are those prices coming from...? Do they include the bass or installation? Do they include the V-Bass or other system?
     
  13. greenboy

    greenboy

    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    MIDI 2.0 which has been discussed for maybe a decade or more would not improve "tracking." Because it has nothing to do with tracking. It has nothing to do with pitch conversion. It is as one poster so correctly noted, a communications protocol, with an established spec for serial data packeting and hardware connectors.

    Ptich detection and conversion to a midi data stream are taken care of by units made for this, and the pickups themselves are not midi - they are merely a means to get discrete [per string] audio data to either an audio device or to a detector/convertor.

    "Modules" as was also correctly noted, are a term applied to synth or sampling devices usually without a keyboard, devices which use mid to communacte with each other, but ultimately whose goal is to produce/synthesize audio. Since synthesis was tied mostly to keyboards at the start the majority of other "controllers" that can be used need to be designed especially to transmit appropriate noton/off and CC midi data etc, or have to go through the intermediary and imperfect pitch detection before being able to be used with sound-producing midi devices.

    Fretless basses SHOULD be no impediment whatsoever (nor should bent strings, vibrato etc) and in fact it's EXPRESSIVE qualities like this that make the synths or samplers a lot more interesting. All it takes is the ability of the detection/interface device to transmit CC (continuous controller) streams, and presets on the synths or samplers that are actually designed/programmed to be able to take advantage of this for pitch bend, etc.

    The V-Bass itself uses midi ONLY to dump or retrieve patch settings from system exlcusive software/hardware, does NOT have any ability to drive synths or samplers on its own, but does have a distinct advantage that it is instantaneous in its response to every gesture of either hand, is sensetive to what's going on with strings and body of the host bass/instrument and is able to reflect that in how it models and outputs audio. In all but a couple of COSM models - unlike using pitch detection, midi, and synth modules - TRACKING is totally irrelevant as it simply takes audio data in, acts on it much like an ubereffects device, and outputs it without caring what the pitches are.

    If it's triggering synths and samples you want, you need to suffer pitch detection and its attendant delays and tracking imperfections - or get a different controller that doesn't NEED pitch detection such as a Peavey MIDIbass (sensors in frets) or a keyboard or a Yamaha Winddriver, or whatever drum pad set ; }

    If you want bass-functional and/or bass-imitative sounds with high sensitivity to gestural nuance, and a smattering of other synthy stuff much like what can be found in "synth" pedals but with perhaps a higher level of reliability, tracking, and programmability than the pedals - you want the V-Bass. It's also cool how well it meshes and morphs with a host bass's magnetic system, especially if you gain the knack for designing presets around this ability.
     
  14. seamonkey

    seamonkey

    Aug 6, 2004
    Guitars track fine, and you can transpose them down an octave, or more. Since you're not really counting on the "sound" but just want it to provide a midi note from the Axon you can also try finger picks. i.e. the Alaska finger picks.

    Looping with midi is like using a sequencer or performance tool like Ableton Live. And the Axon can trigger/control change to other midi loops depending on where you play on the neck, or where you pick. It does take practice.

    For ultimate tracking there's other instrument options:
    http://www.starrlabs.com/

    Another option is to carry a small keyboard, and use it when you want other sounds. You're still a musician.

    The Axon, Starrlabs, or Keyboard can hook up to any synth module, sequencer, workstation, sampler, ... so your choices of sounds, effects, and looping are unlimited.
     
  15. seamonkey

    seamonkey

    Aug 6, 2004
    Somewhere I saw a video of a young woman playing bass on a Moog Theremin. She was triggering acoustic bass sounds from what I remember.

    Found it: http://www.thereminworld.com/files/videos/wbt.wmv
    She's actually just playing the Theremin oscillators.
     
  16. greenboy

    greenboy

    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    Addendum to my last post...

    I built and ran a studio that concentrated on LOTS of midi back in the earlier days of midi (though 1991). As a sax/woodwinds guy, I spent a lot on various pitch-to-midi devices and pickups and mics for the saxes, wind controllers that didn't need any of that, wind accessories for midi keyboards, a Roland guitar synth and their guitar, and worked with a guy that was into buying and building drum controllers and brains. That in addition to a lot of keyboards and modules.

    I also designed a lot of patches for various synths and actually sold a couple different banks to the parent companies of the sysnths they were for. And that was really a huge key in making sounds that not only wer cool, but were EXPRESSIVE.

    And yet, though all that, only the non-pitch-sensing wind controllers surpassed the keyboards as single note controllers that were useful and as unannoying as the keyboards. And that actually took custom patch design to fully revel in it. I still to this day find the pitch-detecting solutions for guitar and bass to be somewhat limiting. But if you like those limits, they can also be fun and musically useful when one is aware of the limitations.

    I chose V-Bass instead this time around because though it doesn't have the sonic possibilities of playing sounds totally foreign to the plucked string, it also makes use of all my hands' techniques - gestural nuances, in what it puts out. It is immediate and organic in its response and feels a little less like a prophylactic is in between me and the musical expression ; }

    It's all cool though!
     
  17. greenboy

    greenboy

    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    Forgot to mention that with V-Bass where tracking is almost always a non-issue probably the advantage of piezo systems such as GraphTech's or RMC's - over the GK pickups and the like - is durability and having the guts inside where you don't have to deal with them or look at a plastic cover. But with a little work on many basses that's not that big of an issue either.

    For use in a midi system, though, you also get better tracking if you have piezos instead, and everything is set up right.
     
  18. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Connecticut
    Sometimes I regret having developed pretty good pitch recogniton- that was painful. Not that it was her fault at all- the theremin is probably the hardest instrument to play in tune out there.

    I really wish bass was more MIDI-friendly. Having piano and strings parts would be very useful during solo bass looping pieces I do, but everytime I look at getting the GR-20/GK-3B setup, I worry that it won't be worth it (not too keen on shipping my basses out to be cut up for a Ghost system either).
     
  19. greenboy

    greenboy

    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    Well, the Ghost will get my wallet vote one of these days, as it's really small and modular (I doubt I'd have to route much to replace my GK alterations), and a luthier has told me it's really working well in his stuff.

    There was the Peavey Cyberbass (and a couple of harder to find and more expensive solutions) which had sensing built into the neck and works really well without latency or much false triggering ... but like the Line6 Variax basses, you may or may not care for the bass itself.

    But where midi really gets tricky is finding the synths you like, that'll match your inclinations and desire to program. Fortunately some of the best stuff for bass is cheap when you can find it, there was a great designed-especially-for-bass rack unit Peavey built, and the Korg Wavestation series is simply magnificent and maind altering for all kinds of analog-like and animated layered sounds!
     
  20. greenboy

    greenboy

    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    Since I'm spilling my guts, I'd say the no-holds-barred looper to have would be the rackmountable Loopertronics baby ; }
     

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