Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Do you play music yourself? Then this is your place-to-be!
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MIDI or DAW?

Stick with Anvil Studio and Synthfont; you push MIDI beyond its potential
0
No votes
It's time to move on to FL Studio or some other modern DAW; MIDI is past its prime
1
100%
 
Total votes: 1

Alec Taylor
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Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Post by Alec Taylor » Fri Mar 31, 2017 6:44 am

I just want some quick input here, so I made a poll.

MIDI is pretty well frowned upon in the "serious" music-making world, but it's really all I've ever known. Until recently, it's been pretty obvious that I use MIDI to record, but with Polyphonic Pulse and SunShade Reigns I've been able to get past the limitations of MIDI and really make some more "professional" sounding material. However, MIDI is an absolute pain in the ass, and it was absolutely time consuming to get the MIDI instruments converted back to "real" instruments and produced in a satisfactory manner. I know that modern DAWs like FL Studio use VSTs and samples that are much more realistic and streamlined, but I've already tried using a DAW in the past (Rainware Installation), and a lot of it has eluded me. However, one of my idols, Tee Lopes, has a few videos on his YouTube and Twitter showing how to use FL Studio better, and I've spoken with him on Facebook and learned a lot about how it works. I think I can really accomplish so much more with it, but I'm already so advanced at MIDI that I feel like using FL Studio for a new project will be a step backward due to my inexperience.

So here's what I ask. If you guys think I've been successful in surpassing the bland MIDI sound with my recent projects and can make my music sound more alive, then I'll stick with it. But if you guys think I can reach my full potential by modernizing my methods and pushing myself to learn the new software, I'll go full steam ahead with it.


And don't give me that middle-of-the-road "don't hurt anyone's feelings" approach of "don't do what other people expect, do what feels right to you", because if I knew what felt right, I wouldn't have bothered typing any of this us. I have a lot of ideas for my next major project that MIDI might be able to pull off, but might also be easier with something more modern if I can figure it out.
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Re: Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Post by The Silver Lining » Wed Apr 05, 2017 6:54 am

You ask for honesty, we deliver honesty!

I'd go for it. Personally, I do not like working with MIDI, and the reason is very simple: unless you're an absolute pro at finding and tweaking your sound, MIDI will almost always sound artificial.

Your music shows this fairly well: you optimally use MIDI the way it is supposed to be used. Since MIDI is essentially just a data stream that doesn't concern itself with how it will sound in the long run, it lends itself to perfect and pristine sounds. There is virtually no noise, no quality loss at any level, etc. Your music in particular is always full of interesting chords and unexpected melodies, and this works well because you manage to make every tiny note perfectly audible and distinctive. That's something that MIDI works really well for.

Something your music lacks, in my opinion, is audible emotion. And that's what I consider to be the disadvantage of MIDI. There is more to music than just rhythm, melody and volume. When a pianist plays the piano, he'll be paying attention to things that MIDI simply does account for, and it's these things that make music sound like it's coming from a living being. And there's even things that happen without the pianist paying attention to it, such as how the strings resonate with each other. For me, this is the main reason for almost never using MIDI: even though my piano's sound quality sucks, it does manage to pick up some of the feeling that I'm trying to put into it. Songs like "Mother" and "The Girl (...)" from my album would not work with MIDI at all, and even though I mixed (read: compressed) the life out of these piano parts, they still sound more alive than they would have with MIDI.

I'm aware that I sound like I'm pushing my own agenda onto you. MIDI and DAW recordings each have their own advantages, but what I'm trying to say is that you should give DAW a try and see where it takes you. I know that your most recent albums contained personal messages, and I think these messages will be more noticeable if you manage to record them well with a DAW.

Lastly, please do not fall for the "sunken cost fallacy", as they call it. You're right when you say you're good at using MIDI, but this should not be a reason to continue using it. Switching to full time DAW usage will cause its own learning curve, but I really think it will be worth it.
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Re: Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Post by Alec Taylor » Wed Apr 05, 2017 5:27 pm

Thanks for the honest feedback, Silver. I appreciate all of it deeply!

To further explain why I've stuck with MIDI this long, I must turn to an idol of mine. He's a game developer that sticks to using an older development software, Multimedia Fusion, rather than moving on to something more modern and advanced like Unity, because he's got tons of experience with MMF and feels like he's better off staying where he's at and using its limitations than trying to learn a new software and having his new products look like amateur projects. That's sort of where I'm coming from; my music has evolved drastically since I started way back in 2009, and part of me is nervous that any new project made in something like FL Studio or Cubase or whatever is going to sound "worse" due to my inexperience.

But I am going to start learning it anyway because I want to take that next step. I have to put a ton of effort into the MIDI process to get it sounding more "alive" (because I am aware of the sterile sound it has). I write the music in a MIDI software, Anvil Studio, then run the MIDI through another program, Synthfont, where I used soundfonts and samples to take the sterile MIDI voices and convert them into actual instrument sounds, where I then export those tracks as WAV files, import them into Audacity, and do the final mix there. It's a lot of fucking work, and since I do a couple rounds of demos for each song now, I end up doing that whole process, instrument by instrument, for every song on a project two or three times. With something like SunShade Reigns, which started off as 24 songs... yeah, you can see why I want something simpler and more streamlined.

Although in terms of emotional music, I'm probably getting close to not doing that any more. I'm embraced the soundtrack trope people have placed me into, and I'm working with that to really create something different. But I've seen what modern software can do, and I'm ready to embrace it (I think).
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Re: Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Post by The Silver Lining » Wed Apr 05, 2017 5:40 pm

Holy damn Alec, that sounds like a pain. I've gone through hell and back again in order to try and record something nice, but it was never that bad. :D

In fact, it makes me glad I never tried particularly much to use MIDI for anything.
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Re: Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Post by Alec Taylor » Wed Apr 05, 2017 6:39 pm

MIDI can be super simple to use, but it sounds so cheap and lifeless in its base form. I go through great pains to make it sound more organic and alive. I think I've succeeded, but it's just so much work.
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Re: Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Post by Artisan » Wed Apr 05, 2017 8:22 pm

Hey, I used Multimedia Fusion 2! I made four shitty games then a fake review of them pretending I was someone else who happened upon them. Everyone says it's really funny but I don't remember the name of the video. Making those games was a much better alternative to doing the required course work in it.

Anyway, I have never understood MIDI and the MIDI project that I had to do for my audio class consisted of bass and drums (for Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic - which has about seven or eight layered keyboard parts). So I can't help you there. If you're comfortable with MIDI, keep using it, because you're getting great results. But if you have an interest in DAWs, start researching. Hell, for all the shit that gets flung at it for being free, Audacity is an exceptional program. The built-in effects suck moose balls if you don't use extremely subtle settings (the absolute worst-sounding compressor I've ever heard) but in terms of just getting stuff recorded, it's really good. Very user-friendly too. People will laugh at you for using it, but in the end, it all comes down to how you use it. What's better: good results out of "bad" equipment, or bad results out of "good" equipment? I will say that I have never had results out of Pro Tools that sounded anywhere near as good as my results in Audacity. Pro Tools is "better" because it costs $24,000? Knock it the hell off. Listen to the results.

But anyway. Yes. If you get good results out of MIDI - which I would definitely say you do - don't totally abandon it. But if you want to explore, go for it.

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Re: Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Post by Alec Taylor » Wed Apr 05, 2017 10:12 pm

I used Game Maker for game development, and if I were any good at programming physics engines and RPG elements, and could do sprite art, I'd be set for that! But alas I suck.

Very different response on the issue, though. One person pushing for my to move on, another suggesting I continue to perfect my current methods. There's definitely pros and cons to both... if anything, PT2 is going to have its musical aspects still be MIDI (because the recording methods won't matter in the long run for what I have planed), but Project Antipode might be with a DAW. Then I can judge both in hindsight and see how it goes.
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Re: Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Post by Artisan » Wed Apr 05, 2017 11:49 pm

It's definitely good to know how to use a DAW. But you're good with MIDI and it suits your style, so don't completely abandon it. That's what I was getting at.

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Re: Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Post by Alec Taylor » Thu Apr 06, 2017 3:16 am

Do you think it's possible to mix both and avoid an uneven sound? I must admit, one of my MIDI soundfonts has a setting called "Ice Organ" which I can't find it anywhere else. I'm in love with the sound, I want to explore it in new ways as a textural instrument. I guess I need to learn more about how DAWs work to see if merging methods in some cases would even be feasible.
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Re: Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Post by The Silver Lining » Thu Apr 06, 2017 5:40 am

I want to clarify that I didn't mean you should stop using MIDI. I'm highlighting some disadvantages that may convince you to spend more time with DAWs, but after getting acquainted with DAWs you should really focus on using whatever fits each song best.

Mixing and matching is possible. In my song "Mother", the ambient-sounding synth in the background was done with a MIDI keyboard recorded through Propellerhead Reason. It's not a lot and it's not very audible, but I think it's a small example of how it can sound okay with music that's recorded through a DAW.
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Re: Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Post by Alec Taylor » Fri Apr 07, 2017 8:23 pm

I really just love the "Ice Organ" setting I've found. It's very prominent on "December Skies", featured in "The Nature of Dreams", and also appears on my cover of "Sky High Zone". But I think I'll make the leap into the world of DAWs very soon. Moving blows ass, and it's hard to find the free time to do anything besides just pack and stress.

There's so many out there, like FL Studio, Pro Tools (no thanks), Cubase, and so on. I obviously don't want a program that costs thousands of dollars, and free is my end goal. I want to focus on soundtrack material for the time being, as art/progressive rock has played out and vaporwave is too strange for my brain to wrap around.
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Re: Poll: MIDI or DAW?

Post by Alec Taylor » Sat Apr 15, 2017 5:38 pm

I've done a lot of thinking about this, weighing the pros and cons of each, and I think I'm going to stick with using MIDI technology.

I know MIDI has its restrictions, but I've largely overcome them most of them as I continue to get better at using both Anvil Studio and Synthfont. I'm continuing to learn more and experiment with different soundfonts and VSTs, and am continuing to discover more and more features in my software that were previously foreign to me. My software can go beyond what I've been using it for, and I think I'm on the brink of a major breakthrough in terms of breaking the limits of MIDI. I've gotten so close to make any instrument I want sound fluid and alive, and the ones that I haven't been able to crack will be happening soon. I've even found ways to experiment with dynamics to get the ebb and flow of each track sounding more natural as well.

I've basically spent the last month since SunShade Reigns release researching everything I can about DAWs and exploring the various unused features of my current programs, and I think I can pull this off. I know that my music has that "video game" timbre to it, but if you listened to Polyphonic Pulse, then you know that this is exactly what I want. Project Antipode is a video game soundtrack (sort of), so I'm going to embrace my limitations and use them to define my sound.
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