Friday, May 25, 2012

Fixing MIDI Notes that Sound "Off Key"

The Recording Problem:
It's hard to believe but yes--- a MIDI note that is exactly right, "on key", CAN sound off-key. Here is why, and here are two easy ways to fix the problem quickly.
The WHY:
Think about how a guitar string sounds when plucked: If the string is perfectly tuned, it sounds perfect when you first pluck it and a tuner confirms that the note is on key. However, within seconds, the tuner needle indicates that the note is going off-key. The same happens with wind instruments: As sax and flute players --or a singer's vocal cords-- lose air, the sustained note becomes weaker and begins to drift off key.
----- Likewise, a MIDI note can have an apparent (not scientifically real) change to the human ear that "sounds off." There's some biological reason that doesn't matter.... You can fix it :)
How to fix your MIDI note:
Let us assume your track is for flute or sax.... these lead instruments often have a sustained note that sounds great at first but quickly irritates.
1. Easiest fix: Lower the volume of that single sustained note to be below the shorter notes before and after it. This creates a blend so that the human ear doesn't notice that specific sustain so much.
2. Professional fix: Pull up your Volume control and add 1 automation volume point at the beginning of the long-sustained note, and 2 points at the end. Slightly lower the 2nd point (the 3rd point puts the volume back before the next note).
3. Really professional fix: Get a recording program with instruments that can re-create the natural wavering of wind instruments.

This blog is for the home studio preparation of music to be published or taken to a professional studio, so Fix #3 is more expensive than most of us can do. Fixes 2 and 3 provide a very nice alternative. Much joy to you in finding work-arounds to fix those tiny little glitches most people wouldn't have noticed... and Congratulations on your music skills in hearing when a MIDI note sounds a bit "off"!
©2012 DianaDee Osborne