Learn about MIDI basics, how MIDI is different from audio, and what kind of tracks are available in Pro Tools for working with MIDI data.
- [Man] Music production in Pro tools commonly involves work with MIDI data in a session. When using MIDI, you'll be able to take advantage of the myriad of virtual instruments available for Pro Tools, ranging from classic syth sounds, to electronic drums, to life-like strings, horns and orchestral sounds and everything between. The term MIDI stands for "musical instrument digital interface." A protocol for connecting sound modules, performance controllers and computers so they can communicate with one another. MIDI files are fundamentally different from audio files in that the information they contain does not represent sound waves, but rather performance information.
What notes to play, when to play them and for how long. Like a piece of sheet music, a MIDI file is a set of instructions for a musical performance. How the performance sounds depends a whole lot on what instrument is used to play it. Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" will sound much different when played on the trumpet than when played on a piano, even though the notes are the same. We can change the virtual instrument used with a MIDI file at anytime, thereby changing the sound source in our Pro Tools session. Remember, a MIDI file contains no sound of its own.
And one other point to note here is that MIDI files are saved within the Pro Tools session, whereas audio files are saved within the audio files folder. The reason for this difference has to do with the file size. MIDI files are typically orders of magnitude smaller than equivalent audio files of the same duration. So embedding them within the .ptx file will not cause the session to bloat the way embedding audio files would. Now Pro Tools provides two types of tracks for working with MIDI data, MIDI tracks and instrument tracks.
Lets take a look. Here's a session I prepared with a MIDI in the clip list and I've also included an audio track with a vocal clip on it and an AUX input track that serves for the click. So lets create some new tracks. Now if no tracks are selected when you create new tracks, Pro Tools will append the new tracks at the end of your session. If you'd like to create your track in the middle of a session, you can first select a track by clicking on its name plate. Pro Tools will then create your new tracks adjacent to the selected track.
Here, I've selected the vocal track for that purpose. Now remember, to create tracks you can go under the track menu and choose the "new" command or you could use the keyboard shortcut, "cmd, shift, N" on the Mac or "ctrl, shift, N" on Windows to open the new track's dialog box. Here, we'll configure the first row for a MIDI track and then add a row by click the plus sign and in the second row, we'll be adding an instrument track. And right away, you can notice a difference.
On the MIDI track, we don't have a selector for choosing whether the track will be mono or stereo. This is because MIDI do not route or play audio, so they can't be mono or stereo anymore than a piece of sheet music can be. But as we'll see, instrument tracks do include audio routing and we typically use stereo tracks for these. So lets click create to add the tracks and when we do, they're created next to the vocal track. As a reminder, that's because I had that track selected first.
In the edit window, the tracks look very similar. Both allow me to work with MIDI data. I could record MIDI onto either track, but for now, I'll just drag the clip from the clip list onto each track. Placing a copy, first on the MIDI track and then another second copy underneath of it, on the instrument track. And now, you can see, they look virtually identical. At this point, the tracks both essentially function the same way, giving me a place to work with MIDI data. And neither currently makes any sound during playback.
Even though you can see metering on the MIDI track, only thing we hear is the click from the click track and the vocals from the audio track. But switching to the mix window, we see another difference: the instrument track includes inserts and sends just like any audio tracks or AUX input tracks we have in this session. The inserts section on an instrument track allows us to add a virtual instrument to the track to serve as our sound source. From there, we can do other audio processing to the signal.
We'll explore the virtual instrument option later in this chapter. So as a quick recap: MIDI files contain performance information and do not play audio by themselves. The MIDI files are small and are embedded inside the Pro Tools session. Pro Tools provides two types of tracks for working with MIDI data, MIDI tracks and instrument tracks. Both can be used for recording and editing MIDI data, but instrument tracks also include audio routing and processing abilities.
- Getting started with Pro Tools menus, windows, and edit tools
- Creating a session
- Creating a click track
- Recording audio
- Importing audio and video
- Recording, viewing, and editing MIDI data
- Selecting and navigating within tracks
- Adding markers
- Editing clips
- Creating fade effects
- Mixing tracks and adding automation
- Backing up a session
- Bouncing a mix to disk
Skill Level Beginner
Q. This course was updated on 03/23/2017. What changed?
A. Challenges and solutions were added to chapters 3–10 and three videos were updated in the first couple chapters.