MIDI Instrument Guide
MIDI instruments have emerged as a must-have tool in today’s music production world. In this article we’ll dig deep into the various benefits MIDI instruments bring, the existing types and most importantly we will have answered, what is a MIDI controller? Firstly though, MIDI!
What is MIDI?
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and is a protocol that enables electronic musical instruments, computers, and other devices to communicate and control one another.
MIDI does not transmit audio signals, but rather it transmits digital data such as the pitch of a note, duration, velocity, and control messages such as pitch bend, modulation, and sustain. The humble MIDI file has also become incredibly beneficial to new producers as it perfectly captures the nuance of a great performance (piano perhaps) but then allows us to decide what instrument that chord progression is played on. The use of MIDI has also led to the evolution of MIDI controllers.
What is a MIDI controller?
MIDI Controllers are devices that transmit MIDI signals to either play notes, change parameters, manipulate automation or affect software, like plugins.
The options are endless, covering a huge range of styles from the Ableton Push to the Akai MPD, a simple single-channel USB mixer to our very own Cmpsr (link) design. So, you might be asking yourself, what are the benefits of a MIDI controller? Well, read on.
MIDI instruments provide an interactive and tactile way to experiment with music. With far more control than a regular mouse and keyboard, we’re able to use both hands to turn multiple dials at the same time, move with the music and create far more expressive results.
‘MIDI instruments can breathe life into your session and fuel your creative fun.’
Precision in Music Production
The precise control MIDI instruments offer when using virtual instruments lets you create accurate and expressive performances.
A few key examples would be when recreating the volume envelope of a violin, capturing a great piano performance or adding a live-feeling to a drum groove.
Enhancing Workflow Efficiency
MIDI instruments can be incredibly helpful with everyday DAW tasks.
We’re talking recording, editing, and arranging musical ideas with the feel of a real instrument or mixing console.
Types of MIDI Instruments
There are various types of MIDI instruments, each with its unique traits. Let’s look into each one and highlight a few pros and cons.
Resembling traditional piano keyboards, MIDI keyboards are good for playing melodies, chords, and bass-lines. They often come with additional controls for modulation, pitch bend, and more.
Cons: The barrier to entry can be quite high if you can’t play a piano or don’t understand theory. Something worth thinking about before buying.
Featuring a grid of touch-sensitive pads, pad controllers can trigger drum samples, loops, or one-shot sounds, making them good for creating beats and finger drumming. They often include knobs and sliders for managing effects and parameters.
Cons: Some new producers may find it difficult to play in time plus the controller doesn’t make it easy to play melodies or chords.
CMPSR: A fresh take on the MIDI controller market
Ok, so we’re slightly biassed on this one. 😅
Our very own MIDI controller CMPSR takes a new, fresh approach to MIDI control and what a traditional MIDI instrument should look like.
We’ve combined a joystick controller that allows producers to easily input notes and sounds with a single gesture. Lowering the barrier to entry (anyone can play one) we’ve also loaded the instrument with chords and notes that can trigger anything from a soft synth to a Eurorack modular synth, an iPad or even a mobile phone.
As we know it can be difficult to understand theory and keys, CMPSR is loaded with an always-in-key design meaning you can perform away without the fear of playing a wrong note.
We’ve found this to be a great choice for beat makers and producers seeking a new approach to MIDI control that’s a little different to what came before.
Selecting the Right MIDI Instrument
When choosing a MIDI instrument, keep in mind:
✔️ Considering Your Production Style
Think about the type of music you produce and the virtual instruments you use to decide which MIDI instrument suits you best.
✔️ Assessing Your Budget
MIDI instruments have a wide range of prices. Consider your budget before making a selection.
✔️ Checking Features and Functionality
Look for MIDI instruments with features that match your workflow and production style, such as onboard controls, software integration, key/scale/chord engines and portability.
✔️ Evaluating Ease of Use
You should be able to get creative with your MIDI controller with minimal fuss. MIDI Controllers are all about excitement and creativity – we’d hate to lose that!
MIDI instruments have revolutionised the way we create and control music, providing an efficient and expressive way to work with both virtual instruments and your DAW.
Understanding the different types of MIDI instruments available and selecting the right one for your needs can elevate your music production skills and streamline your creative process. Whether you’re drawn to a traditional MIDI keyboard, a pad controller, or our very own CMPSR, the right MIDI instrument can unlock unprecedented levels of creativity and productivity in your music-making endeavours.
What is a MIDI controller?
A MIDI controller / instrument is a device that sends MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) data to a computer or other MIDI device to play virtual instruments, change parameters or control software.
Why should I use a MIDI instrument?
MIDI instruments provide precision, flexibility, and efficiency in music production. They offer a hands-on, expressive way to create and manipulate music, surpassing the capabilities of a standard computer keyboard and mouse.
What types of MIDI instruments are there?
There are several types of MIDI instruments, including MIDI keyboards, pad controllers, and innovative devices like the Cmpsr. The choice depends on your specific needs, budget, and production style.
How do I integrate a MIDI instrument into my workflow?
You can integrate a MIDI instrument into your workflow by connecting it to your computer, configuring your digital audio workstation (DAW) to recognise it, and assigning virtual instruments and parameters to its controls.
What’s special about CMPSR MIDI instrument?
CMPSR is an innovative MIDI instrument that combines joystick control with an always-in-key design and onboard chord engine, what’s not to love? This provides dynamic and expressive control over virtual instruments, on your laptop, desktop, or mobile phone offering a fresh approach to MIDI control.