MU.LAB Free - MIDI Recording

MIDI recording

Recording from a midi device can be done from a midi controller which generates a binary stream of midi events. Or in the case of most studio programs, you can enter the midi events yourself one at a time in what is known as 'step entry' in a MIDI Editor. In the former case, the software proceeds at a fixed rate - the established Beats Per Minute (BPM) - and notes and controller signals are sent in time from the midi controller to the software where they are recorded as they arrive and placed in a list of events. If you don't have a controller to generate the binary data for these events you must resort to step entry. You pick the exact time to place the event; describe the type of event; and enter the values that needed to fully detail the event e.g. pitch, velocity, strength, channel, patch, bank, etc. The result is called an event list and in most software (because of the format of a midi file) is separated into a separate list of events for each channel.

A list of midi events can be called a sequence (and is so named in MU.LAB). A track may have a single sequence (clip) or the sequence can be broken into multiple clips. Each clip can be programmed to respond to specific channel or to all channels.

Most midi equipment and software is created to handle 16 channels of midi data for each port. There may be more than one port which allows for more channels e.g. 32 or 48 or more. When defining the MIDI Input ports to audio software (like MU.LAB) each input port that will be used must be defined in the setup. Ports that exist, but are not defined, will not be available.

In most Midi files, an instrument (patch) is assigned to a channel, but this is not a hard and fast rule. The instrument can be changed as often as needed, however for practical reasons (as you will see) it is not easy to change a VST Player in mid-stride unless provisions for this have been established by the VST module. In MU.LAB you can further assume that each MIDI track, known as a sequence, will be assigned a specific player. Some players have the ability to detect 'patch changes' but this depends on the VST features built into the VSTi module. Most hardware synths can are built to detect patch changes and are polyphonic (accept and play multiple sounds at once).

One other idiosyncrasy is that a common set of rules, called General MIDI specifications, has been published (for many years) and most midi gear and software now adhere to this spec. Certain Bank and Patch numbers have been assigned to specific instrument sounds and channel 10 is reserved for drums. Most VSTi modules do not adhere to the General MIDI spec. But you will probably hear about General Midi (GM) from time to time.

Connecting a MIDI Keyboard

Make sure your MIDI keyboard (or other controller) is turned on and connected to the MIDI input port defined earlier to MU.LAB as the MIDI IN port. If you are not sure how to do this, your equipment guide should be able to tell you. Here are some general guidelines:

GAME PORT: Many soundcards are equipped with a 15 pin 'game port'. This usually doubles a MIDI INPUT/OUTPUT port. To use this port, you must acquire an adapter cable that connects the game port to your keyboard. In this case the MIDI OUT port on your keyboard must be connected to the cable/adapter marked MIDI IN. Get it? The MIDI OUT signals are sent to the MIDI IN place on the computer. This is the MIDI input port defined to your software.

TIP: Voyetra sells a Game Port/MIDI Adapter cable available at most large computer stores for about $20. If possible, try to find at least an 8ft cable so that you can maneuver your keyboard to a comfortable spot.


MIDI PORTS: Many other sound cards are equipped with a standard MIDI IN and a MIDI OUT port. For this, you need a MIDI cable with a 5 pin standard MIDI connector on each end. The cable is wired so that each end is a male connector and are unmarked, so they work either way. The trick is to connect the MIDI OUT from your Keyboard to the MIDI IN port on the sound card. Once connected, you should label the cable end e.g. KEYBOARD MIDI OUT and the other end COMPUTER MIDI IN. This way there will be no confusion if you have to disconnect the cables.

This is a MIDI Cable

TIP: These cables can be obtained from any reputable Music store that handles electronic music instruments. They run about $12 for a 10ft cable and are all wired the same. Guitar Center always has a good supply of MIDI cables. If your Keyboard also contains a synthesizer (it makes sounds on its own), It probably also has a MIDI IN port and can be used as an external synthesizer. Buy two cables - they are sometimes sold in pairs. Or make your own cables - Instructions.

USB MIDI: Newer MIDI Controllers can be powered by USB and the USB cable also provides a path for the MIDI IN and MIDI OUT signals. If your Keyboard controller has a USB port, there will probably be a CD disk with the MIDI drivers for the Keyboard. This driver needs to be installed in order for the ports to be activated (recognized by your OS) and then selected as a MIDI Input device. Install the driver, then connect the keyboard with the USB cable. The device will then appear in a list of MIDI ports to be selected by your software. WARNING: The device is not available unless the driver is installed; The keyboard is connected; and the Keyboard is turned ON.

TIP: Although the USB approach seems to be the state-of-the-art way to connect your keyboard, it is not a permanent port, so without the keyboard connected, you may experience problems when your software fails to find a port. Also this is a rapidly changing technology with new 'driverless' USB adapters, wireless connections, etc. being introduced. Check the keyboard manufacturer site to look for updated drivers for your USB MIDI Interface.

Recording a MIDI track

Start MU.LAB and click on the new session button. This gives you a clean slate to write on. One way to create a midi track is to use the pencil tool and drag a track onto the composer area. Just start at bar one and drag to the right. When you stop, MU.LAB will prompt for the track type so select Sequence. When you select Sequence, a drop down box will be presented for selection of the sequence by name. The default is NEW sequence. Click on the track to select it and select a Rack as a target in the Upper right corner. If you selected Rack A, then insert the mda-piano VSTi into the slot in Rack A. If the track remains selected, this will be the target of the NEW midi sequence.

Now, play a few notes on your keyboard. You should hear the piano at the Audio output and you should see the level indicator light up in the Rack mixer strip. If you don't see this, something is wrong with your setup and you need to fix it before going on. Reread the section above about connecting your keyboard controller.

To begin recording a midi sequence, you must first setup for Midi Recording

On the transport bar: The midi record indicator must be red (a picture of a tiny note).
- The measure number is 1.1 (click rewind or position to a measure that your recording will be entered.)
- The BPM is set to your liking
- The metronome icon is red. (Click it until it is red)

You are ready to record:

Press the Record Button (circle above the little midi record indicator). You will hear the metronome count off 4 beats then on the next beat begin playing in time to the metronome. When you are finished, click on the start/stop arrow. The program will request that you enter a name for your midi sequence. YOU MUST ENTER A NAME. If you press Escape or press Enter without naming the midi sequence, it will be discarded.

If your track was selected, a representation of your midi sequence will appear. Otherwise a new track will be created to hold your sequence. You can click the rewind (double arrow left) and back up to the first measure or click on a specific measure to position the play and then Click on the start/stop button to hear your midi sequence played back.

Note: A quick way to record is just punch the record button - new track will be created to hold your new sequence.

If you are not satisfied with the recording, then simply click on the track - it will darken. Then press the delete key - Poof, it's gone.

Rewind to the beginning and click on the record button to start recording again.

If you decide that some parts of the recording are worthwhile keeping, the just mute the track (click on the little speaker to the left of the track), rewind and click on Record button to lay down a second track. At the conclusion of assigning another name to the new midi sequence, a 2nd track will appear. You can play the tracks you want by muting those you don't want to hear. It can be confusing to listen to a previously recorded track while recording a new track.

Step Editing

MU.LAB Free MIDI Editor

Double-clicking on your midi sequence will open the midi editor. This is known as a step time editor. All of the notes are displayed on a grid as if in a piano roll. The vertical axis on the left is representative of pitch or keys on a keyboard. The horizontal axis represents time expressed in measures and beats. The beats are broken into 1/16 note time intervals. By examining your notes, you can tell if the timing is correct. You can zoom in or zoom out on this grid by using the +/- buttons at the lower right of the grid. It is very helpful to zoom in on the grid making the notes larger to more precisely position the notes.

This display allows you to adjust notes, if needed. Tools in the small box at the right are for adjusting your notes. Click on a tool to select it:

- The arrow allows you to move a note forward, backward, up, down and extend the length of a note (or shorten it).
- The pencil tool allows the entry of new notes.
- The eraser tool removes notes.

Choose a tool and then click/drag to change the notes.

Beneath the note display is a note velocity display. The vertical bars represent velocity (strength) of each note. You can adjust the velocity of a note by dragging the vertical bar directly beneath each note.

If you have recorded multiple tracks and have some good and bad parts and want to make one track that contains all the good parts, there is an easy way to do this. It is called cut and paste. You will use your special keys to delete bad sections of the midi sequence; copy good sections of the midi sequence; and paste the good sections where the bad sections were. It's like this:

1. With the arrow tool, drag a window around the bad notes to be removed. The notes will be darkened. Press Ctrl/X (Cut).
2. With the arrow tool, drag a window around the good notes to be used. The notes will be darkened. Press Ctrl/C (copy).
3. place the cursor on the measure at the beginning of the notes to be pasted (a vertical line appears). Press Ctrl/V (paste).

NOTE: You may move between multiple tracks in between cutting and pasting. Simply close the editor on one track (Close in the upper left corner) then double-click on the other track to be worked on to get back to the editor.

TIP: If you make a mistake and cut or paste the wrong notes, just click on the EDIT button in the upper right corner and select the Undo operation. You can step back in time by Undoing many operations in reverse sequence. So if you messed up, Undo is there to right your wrongs. You can also Redo if you got carried away with the Undo. Check it out.

TIP: If you don't have a keyboard and you want to enter midi notes one at a time using the step editor, it is possible, but tedious. Choose a target from the Window at the upper right. Choose the pencil tool click on an empty track in measure 1 and drag to the right as many measures as you want to start with. Then a prompt appears and choose - Sequence. Give it a name. This establishes a MIDI Track. Double-click on the track and you will be presented with a blank grid to work with. Use the pencil tool to enter notes, the arrow tool to adjust, and the eraser to remove clinkers. Clicking on the vertical keys to the left will let you hear the sound of each note at that pitch.


Extended MIDI Edits

MIDI sequences can be altered in more ways than discussed above. By right clicking on the grid in the MIDI Editor, a sub-menu becomes available for additional operations on the midi data in this sequence.

Rename - Change the name that appears for this sequence
Delete - Delete this sequence
Quantize Notes - Set notes to start at Grid lines
Modify Times - Change the start time of an event
Transpose notes - Select a group of notes, then click transpose and type the number of steps to transpose the selected notes up or down
Modify Keys - Change the musical key of a sequence
Modify Velocities - Change the strength of Midi Note events
Modify Value 2 - Change thefirst Parameter of all events selected
Legato notes - Select a group of notes, then click legato. Notes are extended to end when the next note begins.
End Notes at - End selected notes at a specific Bar, beat , tick
Quantize Lengths - Set the duration of notes to the grid
Modify Lengths - Change the duration of notes
Make Triggered Notes - Removes duration from a note event (Note Note Off event sent)
Edit>Select Grid - Allows for 2,3,4 beats per bar and sets grid division as fine as 1/64th notes.
Zoom selected - Select a group of notes, click on Zoom Selected to maximize the grid
Edit in List Editor - For precision the details of each note in the sequence is listed and subject to modification.

You can also Save a Sequence (MuSequence file type) to the disk and then later load it to a track. Use Save Sequence and Load Sequence to accomplish these two functions. This does not save in Midi File Format and is only used internally in MU.LAB.



Recording a MIDI track with an Audio Track

The metronome really sucks. There are thousands of audio loops available and we may even want to use a few in our composition. One of the options is to load a backing track from an audio library into MU.LAB and use the track as a timing track in order to record a midi sequence at the same speed. As in most studio programs both midi tracks and audio tracks are supported. (In MU.LAB the tracks are either Sequence Parts or Audio Parts.). So let's go ahead and load an Audio file into a new session and then lay down a MIDI Track using the Audio as a timing track instead of the Metronome. Download this 2MB audio file - 120primitive.wav - and save it in the MU.LAB Free folder. Right click on the link and select Save Target as .. or Save Link as .. (Review Lesson 1 if you don't know how to do this.)

Open a new MU.LAB session by either clicking on FILE button and selecting new session or restarting MU.LAB and clicking on new session button. With a blank composer page, use the pencil tool and starting in measure 1 of an empty track, drag the outline of a part all the way to the start of measure 13 (thru 12 bars). Then select Audio part from the popup. This will open an explorer window. Search for the file 120primitve.wav. and open it by highlighting it and clicking on OK. You will see the representation of this audio file by its outline on the audio track. This was recorded at 120BPM.

Loop the track. Select the Audio track by clicking on it. Select Rack B as the Output device. (This connects the Audio track to the Audio Output and provides a path for adding effects if any are needed.) You can control the volume of the Audio track using the Slider on Rack B. Right click in the measure numbers above the tracks and select Loop Selected Parts. The measure numbers above the tracks will be displayed in Red. Play the track through a couple of times to get the rhythm of the track then click on start/stop arrow to stop the play. As before create a Midi track with output to the mda-piano in Rack A. (This should be easy now). You can now play along with the backing track. Make sure the BPM setting is at 120 BPM.

You can turn off the looping at this point because MU.LAB doesn't handle recording in a loop very well (e.g. midi events get stuffed on top of each other when the loop repeats). So right click on the measure numbers and toggle the loop off.

Now setup to record a MIDI track:

On the transport bar:
- The midi record indicator must be red (a picture of a tiny note).
- The measure number is 1.1
- The BPM is set to 120 BPM - The audio track was recorded at 120 BPM
- The metronome icon is grey - we do not want to hear the metronome

Are you ready to record? Click on the Record circle. Listen for 4 beats of the metronome and the play along with the audio track. After 12 bars, click on the start/stop arrow. Give your track a name. You now have a midi track that will play along with an audio track. You can play this and listen for clinkers, then double click on the MIDI Sequence to correct any errors.



MIDI events are binary signals that describe musical events and can be transmitted from one device to another. They act as commands that direct sonic devices to act according to the commands received. Synthesizers are programmed to respond to midi events.

MIDI events are in sequence in a list and can be recorded in time from events transmitted by a midi controller or by entry in step time.

Each midi track is a sequence of midi events and is assigned to a specific target. A target may be a hardware synth or a VST (mixing strip).

MIDI cables connect your Keyboard controller to your computer MIDI IN port - either a midi cable or a USB cable.

To Record, make sure a Rack target is selected; set the measure to the beginning of a track and with the little midi note lit, press the Record button. Press the Start/Stop to end recording and give the track a name.

Double-click on a track to edit your sequence.