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MMD > Archives > July 2005 > 2005.07.29 > 06Prev  Next

Piano Sound Synthesizers for Playing MIDI Files
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  Using the Cakewalk Pro (v 2.00) program and the 21.656 Mb
Steinway Sound Font Bank in Windows 98 (Second Edition) with a Sound
Blaster AWE64 sound card, a note (C4) that is held 'on' (or played) for
a period of four measures -- four tied whole notes (at a tempo of 100)
-- decays at a normal rate, considering the size of the piano, of eight
seconds.  At that point, the note is just barely audible at a normal
listening volume.

When playing the file (one-note.mid) on the Sound Blaster Creative MIDI
player in the same computer, the decay rate remains the same as it did
in Cakewalk.

However, playing the same file in my computer with the Windows XP Pro
operating system and the generic Microsoft sound card, the result was
quite different.  Not only was the sound of the piano more like an
organ (lacking a nice attack and a rich piano sound), the note only
lasted for about three seconds.  However, it did still decay as

Clearly, the difference between realistic sounding MIDI music and
'plastic' sounding MIDI music centers around the sound card and the
sound font bank.  But this is nothing new.  Those who became involved
with MIDI music, sound cards, and sound font banks back in the early
days were constantly upgrading to better cards and better banks in the
pursuit of realistic sounding music.  Although I stopped upgrading my
computers after I had found a combination that satisfied my tastes (and
pocketbook), I've heard from others that better cards and better banks
are available.

I've wondered why computer manufacturers don't go to much effort to
provide generic sound cards that can produce realistic sounding MIDI
music.  As it relates to 'listening' to music, my feeling is that MIDI
music is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

On the other side of the coin, as it relates to operating MIDI-controlled
instruments of every type, MIDI will probably be around for a very long
time.  This is because MIDI offers so much in terms of note control
(velocity, duration, multiple tracks, etc.) And, in that regard, the
music that is produced comes directly from a real instrument, and the
sounds that are heard rely solely on the capabilities and limitations
of that instrument.  In other words, if a MIDI-capable electronic
keyboard has good sound font banks, the sounds it makes can be extremely
life-like.  On the other hand, if the banks are small and cheap, the
sounds will be comparably 'thin' and cheap.

Bottom line: As with anything, you get what you pay for.  Want better
sounds?  Spend more money!

John A Tuttle
Brick, New Jersey, USA

(Message sent Fri 29 Jul 2005, 15:33:01 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Files, MIDI, Piano, Playing, Sound, Synthesizers

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