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Tech: Training using MIDI files

GUEST,Grishka 02 Apr 13 - 08:32 AM
GUEST,leeneia 02 Apr 13 - 11:50 AM
GUEST,leeneia 02 Apr 13 - 12:02 PM
JohnInKansas 02 Apr 13 - 12:52 PM
GUEST,Grishka 02 Apr 13 - 04:50 PM
Bill D 02 Apr 13 - 05:13 PM
Joe Offer 03 Apr 13 - 05:09 AM
GUEST,Grishka 03 Apr 13 - 10:43 AM
GUEST,leeneia 03 Apr 13 - 05:47 PM
JohnInKansas 03 Apr 13 - 10:03 PM
pavane 04 Apr 13 - 05:51 PM
GUEST,Grishka 05 Apr 13 - 12:56 PM
JohnInKansas 05 Apr 13 - 09:10 PM
GUEST,Grishka 06 Apr 13 - 01:05 PM
JohnInKansas 06 Apr 13 - 04:57 PM
GUEST,leeneia 06 Apr 13 - 05:30 PM
GUEST,Grishka 06 Apr 13 - 07:39 PM
andrew e 06 Apr 13 - 08:56 PM
GUEST,Grishka 07 Apr 13 - 06:11 AM
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Subject: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 02 Apr 13 - 08:32 AM

Many of us are involved in choral or other harmony singing. Technological training aids are often deemed helpful and even necessary, whether welcome or not. Some time ago I discovered the site with John Hooper's choral MIDI files, an immense achievement for classical choral music, free and in very respectable quality - kudos to John!

On one page he lists software that can be used for training purposes, which should be of interest also to non-classicists.

Who has experience with the software listed there, or other such software? (I recently experimented with "vanBasco's Karaoke Player", at Bill D's recommendation, and found it particualarly suitable for the eponymous karaoke purposes.)

Who uses MIDI files for training (vocals), and how, and how successfully?

My personal problem is that I want to deal with singers who are much less computer literate than I am (and in fact I do not really feel an expert myself). We need an approach that is both intuitive and versatile.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Apr 13 - 11:50 AM

Last summer I sang the alto part in Vivaldi's 'Gloria', and I sang along with MIDI files of my part at home. It worked well. Not only did I learn the parts, but I could hear the quality of my voice improving as I got back in practice.

My cat would curl up on a nearby chair and listen, so now she knows the parts too.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 02 Apr 13 - 12:02 PM

I'll add that I practiced using the parts at a site call Cyberbass.

I think that the best way to help a new computer user is for both of you to be at your computers and on the phone with one another. You bring up the site on your computer while they bring it up on theirs, then make sure they've got it working. Allow the new person time to write down the steps taken so they can do it later on their own.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 02 Apr 13 - 12:52 PM

I don't have experience with any of the software Hooper discusses, but it appears that he's "recording midi" from an instrument he plays the tune on. This generally gets a decent sounding playback with any program that can play midi, but also nearly always produces lousy scores full of maggots and spiders in notation programs that show the score as the music plays.

Going the other direction, a midi made from a score that you entered in a notation program will generally sound "stiff" in playback, since what you write in notation isn't really what you play. A score is just "hints" about the music. The player has to "make it swing."

(Most reasonably functional notation programs will make a score for any midi you import into them, and can "save as" a midi from any score you can open in the program.)

Assuming your people have a computer and can do simple things with it, a program I've used "since forever" is one called "Midi Colors" that I got as a free download from PC Magazine (Ziff Davis) back when I think I was running Win95. It works just fine in Win7, and the last time I looked (a few months ago?), it was still available, but they now want something like $9.95 per download (volume discounts available).

It's a Windows program. All that's required is that you be able to drag the midi file from Explorer onto the desktop icon for the program and click the play button. It displays each midi voice for up to about 5 (possibly 8?) separate voices on a separate "piano keyboard," with an "all voices" keyboard at the top. The keys being played light up as you go on all the keyboards.

Each individual voice can be turned on/off by clicking a checkmark in a "mute" box at the end of the keyboard for each individual voice so you can separate what each one is doing, or how any pair or trio of them fit together, visually and in the playback. Tempo is just a number in a "scroll box" - arrows to scroll the speed up or slow down from 0.1 (10%) to 10 (10x) the speed of the original.

It's for playback and visualizing ONLY. Can't make a midi with it, but it seems to play them all, with the only requirement being that your computer has midi capability turned on.

For those who might be interested in it, my version came with complete "source code" so you can look at how the program was made. (I didn't check the last time I looked it up, but I'd expect you still get the code.) The whole package is only about 200 KB (you don't get to type a "K" very often anymore for any software).

There probably are "more modern" programs to do the same or similar things and that may do other things as well, but my main reason for describing it is that for "unsophisticated" students, the piano keyboard display of the notes being played and the simple way to separate individual voices (voice parts if have the soprano, alto, tenor, bass each in a separate "voice" in the midi) would seem suited to your purpose and might be features to look for.

The keyboard display should be fairly universally understood, even if they don't play a piano fluently, and probably is more likely than other kinds of display to be a help if they don't all read notation

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 02 Apr 13 - 04:50 PM

Thanks so far. I have taken a short look at Cyberbass, a commercial site, not too cheap.

The quality of MIDI files can indeed vary. I found Hooper's files well quantized, more than sufficient for the purpose I have in mind. (Printing sheet music is a different topic - of course I possess dedicated software for that, and so does Leeneia and do most of us.)

The sort of training I have in mind does not need any visualization, since singers should basically look at their sheet music while listening to the MIDI sound to learn their parts. (My singers are all decent music readers, but difficult music does require some training.) (In contrast, the typical karaoke singer already knows the song and just needs some memory aids, primarily for the lyrics.)

John, according to your description MidiColors is in the correct genre, it sounds similar to the "vanBasco's Karaoke Player" recommended by Bill D, and to the other software mentioned on Hooper's site. Tempo modification is a basic requirement, and so is some kind of emphasis for the voice to be learned, possibly of a variable degree. Some of those programmes seem to be quite sophisticated in that respect, which again may be too much for my computer-illiterate music-literate singers. The problem is not so much downloading the software, installing it, and opening a MIDI file with it (well, it might be a problem, but it can be solved as you describe, Leeneia), but handling and operating it in a situation when they need their concentration for their music parts.

Who can report practical experience? Who has tried software that is particularly easy to understand and to operate, and musically successfull? What about Linux software?

Leeneia, how exactly do you proceed at Cyberbass - just play the MIDIs and sing along?


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: Bill D
Date: 02 Apr 13 - 05:13 PM

van Basco is good because you can change keys & tempo with it.

This one, which I found last Fall, can edit and compose midis

http://ariamaestosa.sourceforge.net/


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: Joe Offer
Date: 03 Apr 13 - 05:09 AM

I have been known to upload a particularly difficult part to my cell phone for use as a ringtone. My wife took over one of my old phones, and it still plays the bass part for "Gaudete."

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 03 Apr 13 - 10:43 AM

Joe, I hope your wife has not turned into a bass singer by constant listening (or by those invisible rays). Does she now reach for her handbag whenever she hears "Gaudete"?

Constant listening to the isolated part may help a lot, but we hope for more: training in the harmonic context, slower tempo, fermata stops, transposition etc.

A first glance at some of the websites listed on Hooper's page looks quite promising. "MidiPlay" looks very versatile and luxurious (judging from the screen shot), "VocisMagis" promises to work on Linux as required by some (- which other software does?). I will try these out when I have the time.

As for "Aria Maestosa", Bill: many such so-called "MIDI sequencers" exist, for each and every taste. Regular users of notation software will probably use that to create their MIDI files as well, so they do not need a(nother) MIDI sequencer. (I think I wrote that before.)

Good dedicated sequencers allow the creation of more realistic MIDI files, but this is not necessarily desirable for training. In particular, extreme dynamics, reverb etc., and very short notes may hinder the training success.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 03 Apr 13 - 05:47 PM

Hello, Grishka. I'm out of town and can't check in regularly. You asked how I proceeded at Cyberbass. Well,I had my booklet of sheet music (for Vivaldi's Gloria) so I selected the alto part for a particular piece, read the music and sang along with the MIDI file which was being played by the Cyberbass site.

Obviously we added swing and fermatas etc when singing together, but using the computer was VERY helpful with the big job of learning how it goes.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 03 Apr 13 - 10:03 PM

If your lessons are, or could be, done in a church or other auditorium that has an organ, you might find that the organ plays midi files. Many such do allow the organist to record and play back parts or complete performances, and and will play any midi you have recorded on the appriate medium. Some have very complete "voicing" that can replicate as other instruments, although some only have "common organ voicings."

Some organists I've known have used the feature to play "duets with themselves" by recording the "hard parts" in practice so they can make corrections and adding the fun part in the performance. (It's only "cheating" if someone finds out you're doing it?)

I haven't seen much on this feature recently, and older organs generally used "floppy disks" for the recording that may be a little hard to find, but the connected sound systems might minimize the need to haul other equipment in and out for training sessions.

It would be advisable that you speak to the organist before playing with their "personal toy" since some have "proprietary feelings" on the subject; but if the equipment is there they shouldn't object to it being used, and might be willing to offer help with it.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: pavane
Date: 04 Apr 13 - 05:51 PM

My MIDI program HARMONY does have a few features you may find useful - for example you can have several voices, and select which ones to play. it can display words aligned to the notes. You change the key and tempo, edit the score, and so on. For Windows only.

Site URL is
http://www.greenhedges.com


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 05 Apr 13 - 12:56 PM

Leeneia, that was a MIDI containing only the alto part? The Cyberbass site seems to offer playing free of charge, but to charge for a file to download. By chance the Hooper site mentioned above has files for Vivaldi's "Gloria" as well, free to download; I could not detect any flaw in the quality.

Listening to one's own part is often not sufficient. We want to hear the other parts as well, but more softly, to get the harmonies into our ears.

(John: most of us do not own a church, so we have to use our computers. The software should replace the choirmaster as a trainer.)


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 05 Apr 13 - 09:10 PM

Grishka -

If anyone "owned" a church they'd probably have to pay taxes on it.

Most churches are willing to support outside activities of interest to their communities, and allow unaffiliated or "loosely connected" groups and individuals occasional use of what they have. When you're looking for a cheap way to do something, the best option sometimes is something that most of us wouldn't think of on the first pass; and the midi capabilities of the big (and some little) organs is not well known by many. (Unfortunately, the "unknowers" includes quite a few church organists, if my experience is any indication.)

In my area, a few decades ago, quite a few barrooms featured an organ (usally of course a Hammond while that was the fashion) in lieu of a piano, just because the smaller sizes were lighter and often a little more versatile with respect to what a drunken pianist would think they could get out of them (and sometimes most importantly they could be unplugged, or the circuit breaker mysteriously tripped.) I haven't heard of any here recently, but not every place lives in the same century. The earliest home/bar ones probably wouldn't have midi playback, but it's been fairly common for some time in lots of the newer ones.

Just another rock to turn over to see if there's anything under it.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 06 Apr 13 - 01:05 PM

John, I always thought the point of owning a church were not to pay taxes - in some countries. There is no shortage of devices that play MIDI files, and most are less bulky, and less expensive if you already own a computer. Besides, church organs are generally not singer-friendly, in particular when operated by a lover of "rich" registration.

A "home organ" should nowadays not be regarded as an instrument, but as an input device for arbitrary sound generators. That is a different topic.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 06 Apr 13 - 04:57 PM

Grishka -

It sounded like you thought I meant YOU should own a church. Some places do charge "personal property" taxes for things like that when they're "privately owned."

Most churches get a free ride, although in a few places nonprofits do actually pay some of what are sometimes called "in lieu" property taxes in the US. That's especially common in "university towns" where a college has all the property and it's the only "tax base" the town has. Most major universities do make some contribution to local expenses even if they're assumed to be "non profit" (the only valid reason churches are generally exempt from property taxes and the rest of the population has to pay the church share).

"INSTALLED ORGANS" are just like any other midi playback device, and play whatever's in the midi file, but have the advantage of generally being hooked into an existing sound system in a space large enough to get a fairly large group together. You wouldn't necessarily have to have an organist who "pulls all the stops" to drown out the voices. Your midi file determines "what comes out" regardless of what devices you use.

Obviously if you're teaching to a small group there are simpler devices to use, and taking a group to the device may be as much trouble as taking a playback device to the group session.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 06 Apr 13 - 05:30 PM

This is how a choir made up of non-music-majors works. First, people have to learn their parts. To learn their parts, most members have to hear them repeatedly. This used to mean that somebody made tapes or CD's of the individual parts. We listened to them at home or in the car until we had our parts down.

At rehearsals we bring it all together and refine it.

With luck, one can find a part online and spare the director the task of making those learning CD's.

A few people might be able to teach themselves using a piano, but most need to hear a recording of some kind.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 06 Apr 13 - 07:39 PM

John, in principle we proceed as Leeneia describes; the singers, though very proficient and good music readers, must learn their parts individually at home, since my arrangements tend to be much more difficult than the few ones I uploaded to Mudcat as contributions to discussions.

For common rehearsals, an ordinary piano suffices.

CDs have the disadvantage that the only thing the singer can influence is the volume. The same applies to MIDI files when played straightforward, e.g. using the Windows Media Player. We want to control some parameters during the individual training, particularly including the relative volume between the singer's own part and the rest of the arrangement. Some time ago I tried "vanBasco's Karaoke Player" and found it usable for the purpose; now I am looking for alternatives (also for Linux), and reports from persons who used them.

Of the contributors to this thread, only Bill D seems to have any experience with that sort of software. --

Like many Mudcatters, I sometimes feel like founding a church, not only to save taxes, but mainly to preach when nobody can escape. I am not sure whether I'd use MIDI files or play myself. In either case, my congregation will not be allowed to delay the tempo, otherwise I'll sack them and elect a new African-American congregation.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: andrew e
Date: 06 Apr 13 - 08:56 PM

I direct and arrange for A Cappella choirs.
I use Finale and choir members can play and print the files which I send via email using the free Finale Notepad.
I make files with individual parts highlighted.
Speed can be adjusted and you can start from any bar/measure you want.


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Subject: RE: Tech: Training using MIDI files
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 07 Apr 13 - 06:11 AM

Andrew, that is certainly a feasible method. The advantage is that users can see the "original" sheet music on the screen, with a cursor showing the current position. However: If you "highlight" the parts yourself, it takes some work and is not likely to please all singers. Will they be able to do it themselves, also adjust the speed, so that it survives any change inside the file, e.g. ritardando and crescendo? (That is the idea behind the special training software.)

Finale Notepad is a full Finale, artificially "crippled"; not everybody's taste. The "computer semi-literate" musicians I mentioned above will probably be dissatisfied, and may even ruin their file copies. (Is your choir by chance the "Silicon Valley Choral Society"? Male voices only ;-)?)

The Windows software "MidiPlay" mentioned above displays (sort of) written music as well, though probably with improper orthography of accidentals, since these are not conserved in MIDI files. I consider testing it, but I am not convinced yet. Unless singers want to learn their part by heart (as typical "karaokists" will do), they had best look at their sheet music while training.


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