Working With MIDI Files
Editing High Resolution Files
Printing sheet music from MIDI files
Setting-up your MIDI Player to play MIDI files
Music Files on the Internet
Recording MIDI Files
Creating MIDI CDs
Converting MIDI to Audio
Links to finding MIDI files on the Internet
Editing MIDI files
MIDI files can be edited to play on a MIDI Player piano. You can change the pitch and volume, or remove wrong or duplicate notes; even change which track the piano will play. If the original MIDI file was created with cello and tango accordion voices, all that is necessary for the piano keys to play your piano is to assign those tracks to Channel 1.
MIDI files are edited using Sequencer software. A sequencer can be thought of as a word processor for music. A very, very nice shareware program for PCs is gnmidi at www.gnmidi.com. Aria Maestosa is free at http://ariamaestosa.sourceforge.net/. A shareware MIDI editor for a Mac is Rondo available from www.fracturedsoftware.com/rondo/ . Anvil Studio, www.anvilstudio.com is a freeware program for Windows that edits both audio and MIDI files. More details and software programs will be covered in the Music Software chapter.
I personally have found it frustrating to edit MIDI or audio files on the cheap. My solution is to use a fast computer with 2-4GB ram memory. I like Pro Tools 8 LE that comes with the MBox and runs on either a PC or Mac. My favorite software package is Logic Pro Studio that only runs on a Mac.
Editing High Resolution Files Until June 2011, there was no way to edit the XP data that is created using the Disklavier Pro. Now, Zenph Sound Innovations is offering RePerform software to edit high resolution data. Go to www.zenph.com/zenph-software/reperform.html for a trial copy.
For more information about working with LX files, see:
Volume Control is one of the most common reasons to change MIDI data. Many MIDI files you find on the Internet were created using electronic keyboards and the velocity (or volume) is set to 100 or greater. That amount of pounding can also damage your piano action. You may find this unpleasant and your piano will play very loudly. Because the loudness on a piano comes from the force at which the piano hammers hit the strings, it is not like turning down the volume control on a stereo. Pianos can only play as softly as someone performing at the keyboard.
The Velocity values of individual tracks, or the global parameters of Controller 7 messages can be edited. For pianos, the ideal velocity numbers are between 30 and 80. The default value for PianoSoft disks is 100. Anything over 100 will eventually pound your piano action to pieces. Often MIDI files acquired on the internet are produced on electronic keyboards with the velocity values at 128. The Veloset program is a Windows based part of the free dkvutil software on this website that is good for editing piano-only MIDI files that do not have separate Ensemble sounds. The challenge is to turn the parts you want the piano to play down, but still leave the Ensemble tracks loud enough to hear. A program like MidiMod2 allows for editing the piano parts on Channels 1 and 2 separately from the other Ensemble sounds. Another way to edit these files is to use software that will lower the volume by a percentage like the Giebler utilities or gnmidi.
Printing Sheet Music from MIDI files
Each generation of software designed for this purpose gets a little better, but this is still a very labor-intensive task. Expensive scoring software does this best like Finale or Sibelius, but most Sequencers have Notation programs built into them. If you look at a MIDI file in a notation window you can see the scoring, but you would not necessarily be able to hand this to a pianist to play without some editing.
Perhaps the best explanation of how to do this comes from a post to the Disklavier Users Group on Yahoo from George Litterst, aka PianoBench@aol.com:
This can definitely be done if you do the right steps in the right order. The crucial issue is reclocking the MIDI file.
Any time a person makes a MIDI recording, they play to a metronome click. When the original recording of this particular piece was made, the pianist played to a metronome but did not listen to the metronome. Accordingly, any music software program that is used to open the MIDI file will look at the metronome data, assume that is where the beats are, and will then transcribe the recorded notes accordingly. Obviously, the notation will be a mess because the defined beats in the MIDI file have no true relationship to the music as it was performed.
It is important to note that the "quantization" feature that is available in many music programs will not be any help in straightening out this problem. When you use quantization, the notes get pushed and pulled to the nearest beats or sub-beats. If the beats of the MIDI file don't have any close relationship to the notes as they were played, quantization messes things up further.
To understand reclocking, it easiest to think about the process in reverse. Suppose you knew what the arrangement should look like in music notation, and you used a music notation program to enter the notes manually, clicking them onto the staff with the mouse. Of course you would end up with a beautiful score, but its playback would be horribly mechanical and boring.
If you wanted to make the playback sound just like your the pianist's recording, you would have to do three things: (1) edit the note-on velocity of each note to match the way that it was played it, (2) add pedal information, and (3) add tempo changes every beat to reflect the human ebb and flow of the original recording.
#3 would be challenging and time consuming, but it would be necessary. The result would be that your score would look square, boring, and mathematically perfect, but it would play with the tempo flexibility used by the original artist.
The purpose of reclocking the file is to achieve the same result: a score that is square, boring, and mathematically perfect but which plays with the original tempo flexibility imparted by the artist.
When you reclock a file, you go through a process of telling a sequencing program where the true musical beats and barlines are in the MIDI file. This is done in different ways by different programs.
I happen to use Digital Performer for the Macintosh. DP has a feature called "Adjust Beats." I set up DP to show me the recorded music in piano roll notation. In this view, I see all of the notes laid out on a grid. When I turn on the adjust beats feature, I can drag the beat markers on the grid to the notes to which they musically apply. DP then moves the notes around to line up properly on the rigid grid AND DP creates a tempo map that preserves the tempo nuances of the original performance.
When using this feature, I have to drag every beat marker to the correct note.
I could do this another way in DP. The other way to do it is similar to the way that some of the Cakewalk sequencers do this (using a Cakewalk feature called "Fit Improvisation"). What you do is create a new track and set it to record. Then during the recording, you listen to the original performance and simultaneously tap a key on your MIDI keyboard. The idea is to record one note for every beat in the music and to record each note so that it coincides with the musical beats of the original performance. This new beat track enables the program to reorganize the MIDI data in the file, line things up properly, and compute a new tempo map. After this is done, the beat track is discarded.
The second way of doing things is not as accurate, but it can be faster.
Once you have reclocked the file, you can further quantize the notes in any program if you wish.
Before importing the notes into a music notation program, I generally view the notes in piano roll view in my sequencer and select the notes that I deem to be left hand notes and cut-and-paste them into a separate track. Having the left- and right-hand notes in separate tracks will result in a cleaner transcription by the music notation program.
Setting up your MIDI Player to play MIDI files
It is important to check your Owner's Manuals, usually the Advanced Manual under the chapter dealing with Import Files, to make sure your piano is set up to play whatever MIDI data is located on Channel 1 and 2. On a Disklavier, these settings are usually the Default settings anyway, but you can check them by pressing Function on the Control Box, choose MIDI Setup, then Piano Part. The Piano Part should be set to Rcv Ch=01, then set the Piano Receive Channel to Prg(All) or better, L=Prg and R=Prg.
If you are planning to put MIDI files on a floppy disk and use the MIDI Player's floppy disk drive, make sure you are using compatible formats. A disk (or folder in new models) should only contain files of a single file format. Don't mix MIDI 0 with MIDI 1 or ESEQ on the same disk or folder. If you plan to connect a computer to your MIDI Player, refer to the section, Connecting a MIDI Player to a computer.
Not all MIDI files are created to play on a piano in an optimum fashion. In fact, once you start editing some of the free files you find on the internet, you start to realize what you pay for when you purchase them from Yamaha, QRS or PianoDisc. You can use a software program like gnmidi, and select from the pull-down menu choices "prepare program for PianoDisc" to convert any MIDI file to one (MIDI 0 file) that automatically puts the MIDI data on Channel 1 so it will play your piano keys. Sometimes the MIDI file will produce a poor piano performance and will need editing. See section on Editing MIDI files.
Music Files on the Internet
There are countless music files on the Internet, but only those in a MIDI format can play the keys on your Midi Player piano. Other types of music files on the internet are audio files like WAV, MP3, Real Player files, etc. These will NOT play the keys on your Midi Piano, but the Digital Audio files (.wav) may play through the speakers on your system. NOTE: CDs manufactured for player pianos contain both audio data (people singing and/or orchestra accompaniment) as well as the MIDI encoding that will play the keys on your MIDI Player.
Sometimes you may download a MIDI file from the internet, put it on a floppy disk, and find it doesn’t work in your piano. If your disk drive on the Midi Player will not even read the disk, the file is probably in the wrong format. Most of the MIDI files you will find on the Internet are in SMF format 1. Refer to the Chart: Disk and File Formats to determine the correct file formats for different Midi Players. Only files of the same type should be placed on a floppy disk. A disk should contain only SMF-1 files, or SMF-0 files, or ESEQ files.
Unless you have speakers attached to your MIDI Player, and they are turned on, you may not hear anything while the MIDI file is playing. It may be that no MIDI data is assigned to Channel 1 or Channel 2, and/or the audio or tone generated part is playing. Only MIDI data assigned to these channels will play the keys on your piano. If you have speakers attached to your system, you may hear other musical instruments, but the keys are not playing. The use of Sequencer Software enables editing to correct this. Yamaha Disklaviers have software built into them that will reassign the channel assignments. Refer to the Owner’s Manual.
Playlists are very handy when you don't want to change the disc every 20 minutes, or want to organize just the songs you want to hear. There are several ways to create Playlists for your MIDI Player depending upon how old it is. You can connect the MIDI Player to a computer via a MIDI interface, use a Jukebox program, the drop the files you want to hear into the playlist. Details are in two sections Connecting a MIDI Player to A Computer and Music Software for MIDI Players sections.
For Yamaha Disklaviers, the hardware upgrade DKV-850 Control Box (same as the E3 Disklavier) offers a selectable option to create playlists from any songs already entered into the internal memory. The MarkIV Disklavier also does this.
The newer models of MIDI Players from PianoDisc, QRS PIanomation, and Yamaha Disklavier will also play songs from playlists on Smart Phones, MP3 players, and other hand held devices that have an audio out jack (headphone jack) and running appropriate software.
Recording MIDI Files
In order to make keyboard recordings, there must be some kind of sensor that reads key movements. Almost all Disklaviers have a Record feature with optical sensors built in under their piano keyboards. Along with hammer and pedal sensors, Disklaviers provide the most accurate keyboard recordings. Disklavier Pro models are also capable of high resolution recordings. There are other ways to record piano performances using MIDI sensors that can be retrofit into any piano.
PianoDisc has the MIDI Controller Retrofit system. See www.pianodisc.com for details. QRS Pianomation also makes PNOSCAN, a MIDI record strip at: http://qrsmusic.com/pianomation-p.asp?pid=3382
Creating MIDI CDs
Newer MIDI Players today are doing away with floppy disk drives and using special CDs that encode audio as well as the MIDI tracks that play the piano keys. You can burn entire libraries of MIDI files from your computer to a special CD that will play your piano. See MID2PianoCD in the Music Software for MIDI Players Chapter.
Converting MIDI to Audio Files
Sometimes, you might want to make audio files of your MIDI Player performances to listen, say, on your car stereo. This process has certainly become much easier since the original MIDI Player Tools was written in 2003! I tried the following procedure on a PC using the latest version of iTunes and it worked. Import the MIDI files that you want on a CD into your iTunes library. Then select the Music Library and create a new playlist. Drag the MIDI files you want on the CD into the Playlist. Then select the Burn option to write them to CD. I used the Audio file option, instead of the MP3 CD option, because my car stereo only plays regular old CDs. The MIDI files were converted to audio files on the CD. It was playable on my computer by iTunes, Windows Media Player and Winamp!
I am assuming the above process used the piano synthesized sound on my computer's soundcard to produce these audio files of a piano playing. They were all right, but sounded tinny to me. For a car stereo in traffic it is probably all right.
However, to get a REALLY GOOD piano sound, run the MIDIs through a Virtual Piano explained in the Music Software section. Virtual instruments are not cheap and they require really fast computer processors. I prefer this method when I want to distribute a high quality CD of piano performances someone has recorded on my own Disklavier. I even prefer this method over setting up microphones and making a true digital audio recording, explained in the Making Recordings of Your MIDI Player section.
The MarkIV Disklavier will also record a song as audio data. You can even choose which voice from the Ensemble sounds in the tone generator to use. See page 55 in the Owners Manual.
Links to finding MIDI files
MIDI files can be purchased from the various manufacturers of midi players. Many of these files are encoded to only play on specific products, so be careful when ordering.
PianoDisc - http://secure.pianodisc.com/iwwida.pvx?;products_no_tree?comp=pia
QRS Pianomation - http://qrsmusic.com/music.asp
Yamaha Disklavier - http://www.yamahamusicsoft.com/en/pianosoft-info
Live Performance LX - (Zenph Studios) http://www.zenph.com/the-music.html
Spencers E Rolls - http://www.spencerserolls.com/
Warren Trachtman - http://www.trachtman.org/
Terry Smythe - http://members.shaw.ca/smythe/archive.htm
Robert Kuhmann - MIDI and ESEQ files at:
Cyberbass - choral sites,
http://www.ragtimewest.com/li00002.htm a page with lots of links!