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Banjo too
MIDI's, MP3's
& Soundfonts
 

The music that you hear on the opening page is an example
of my MIDI files, this being "Hot Burrito Breakdown".

 

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Banjo tooThe MIDI Files
 

These files have been sequenced using a Roland SCC1 soundcard (See "More about MIDI" below.). I have also sequenced a few files using Creative's AWE32 Gold sound card with my own "Country Band" soundfont (see below). I'm still working on this but it will be available eventually. Any assistance or advice in its advancement would be gratefully accepted and anyone interested in trying out this soundfont prior to its final completion (if that's possible) should give me a call.

 
"Hot Burrito Breakdown" - Bluegrass instrumental based on the Berlyne/Bush composition performed by "Country Gazette".
"Sweet Moments" - A little country swing.
"Monroe's Hornpipe" - A Bluegrass instrumental from the pen (NOT the uncle) of Bill Monroe.
"Nobody Knows About My Cares and ....
Nobody Cares About My Nose, Rag"
....... is a serious experiment in MIDI pedal steel guitar simulation and taken from "Winnie" Winston and Bill Keith's "Pedal Steel Guitar Guide". I played it to "Winnie" when he visited Israel a while back and he thought it "pretty good".
"Jerusalem Ridge" - Another Bill Monroe instrumental.
"Are You From Tzora?" - The Tzora Folk Club theme song based very loosely on the "Blue Sky Boys" classic, "Are You From Dixie".
 

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Banjo too
The MP3 Files
(Lynn's Solo Stuff)
 

Here are some of my solo multi-tracked recordings. The following are what I call doodling - the results of experimenting with the audio and wave editing programmes at my disposal. These songs have a MIDI accompaniment re-recorded as an audio file with the addition of a real guitar and my voice(s) and were executed on my computer.

 
"Break My Mind"
"Hitch-hiker"
"Horizon Dawn"
 

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Banjo too More about MIDI
 

Important Note.

The other day I was at a neighbour's house, configuring her computer so that she could hear the music on my homepage. When I'd finished I was horrified to hear for the first time, my music files played back on an inexpensive sound card. She thought it sounded "alright" but I considered it an absolute disaster.

Many musicians who "sequence" music files use hardware that is from the reasonably priced (me for example) to really expensive equipment. We all, I'm sure, spend hours perfecting our masterpieces, usually for self satisfaction and played back on our own equipment it sounds the way that we intended. Each sound card has a set of musical instrument and percussion sounds which, even though there is an industry "standard", vary between the manufacturers - some are quite good, others excellent and the cheapies are pretty basic in that the sound quality is minimal and the instrument "samples" used are unrealistic. When someone plays back a MIDI file on inferior equipment it can never sound the way the sequencer intended and while it could be considered acceptable as just a background jingle on a computer, the intention is that it be treated as a serious attempt to reproduce a particular style of music, where the timbre of the instruments is of some importance. While I don't contend that my files are perfect examples of Bluegrass Music, on my equipment they sound a little more than acceptable to me.

If you want to hear the files as they were intended, you will have to invest in a better sound card in order to use the more realistic instrument sounds that they offer - see the Soundfonts section below for more details.

So that you can compare your sound card with mine, I have prepared an MP3 audio file of one of the MIDI files included on this page.

 
"Hot Burrito Breakdown" - The MIDI file will play the music through YOUR soundcard.
"Hot Burrito Breakdown" - The MP3 file is effectively a recording from my soundcard converted to AUDIO format which will reproduce the sounds on YOUR computer as I intended ....
Is there is a big difference in the sounds?
 

If you don't have the foggiest idea
of what I'm talking about, then read on ....

 

Your sound card will usually reproduce sounds of two basic types;
(1) audio files such as WAV, MP3 or music from a C.D. and
(2) MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) files which have a variety of extensions depending on the sequencing (recording) program being used but they can generally be converted to a file with a MID extension.
Audio files can roughly be equated with tape or cassette recordings in that a sound can be recorded on the computer and played back as is. Obviously there are means of editing and changing the recordings but they are usually intended for the average computer user and shouldn't require any further manipulation.
The MIDI part of the sound card is like a Keyboard (Organ or Synthesizer) instrument without the actual keyboard, where the user can select the instrument sounds coming from the instruments speakers. Several sounds can be use simultaneously so that the equivalent of the playing of a solo artist, small ensemble or full orchestra can be reproduced. The instrument sounds are "sampled" from various sources, generally real instruments or "manufactured" digitally and stored on a chip on the sound card. On a basic sound card these samples are fixed and cannot be changed so that however good the MIDI file your playing, it will never sound better than the sounds on the sound card ... a bit like a concert pianist playing on a toy piano as compared to a "Steinway". If the stored sounds don't sound like real instruments, then you're stuck with it.

A better quality sound card will have better sound samples. The Roland SCC1, which I use together with a Roland MT120 for performances, is the only sound card that I've heard so far that has a banjo suitable for the reproduction of bluegrass/country music. With this standard of hardware, it is also possible to manipulate the stored sounds by adding commands at the beginning of each instrument track. In this way it is possible to control the stereo panning of EACH instrument, add reverberation (echo) and chorus effects, adjust the speed, depth and delay of instrument vibrato and alter the frequency cut-off, resonance, attack, decay and release time of each instrument or even each note if you're really fussy. You, as a listener, do not have to do anything special in order to hear these effects as they are programmed into the MIDI file.

Which brings us to ........

 

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Banjo tooThe Soundfonts
 

The more expensive or later versions of sound cards from "Creative" have yet another advancement in that they makes use of "Soundfonts". In the same way as your word processing program uses different "type faces" or fonts for writing styles, these sound cards use different sounds that can be loaded into the sound card's memory (or into the computer's memory with later models). This means that instead of using the standard sounds normally provided with the sound card, you can use a set of sounds (or several sets) from an infinite number available from commercial sources, freebies that you can download from the Internet or you can even make your own. Each of the sound fonts is a separate file containing at least one and up to several HUNDRED instrument sounds. These also vary in quality depending on the samples used. An example would be that somebody lucky enough to have access and permission of course, to use samples from the playing of a well known artist, could have that artist's unique sound captured on his sound card. My favourite example is that you can sample yourself blowing a "raspberry" into the microphone and then, after adding it to a soundfont, play it back over the whole keyboard. I have seen C.D. sets of sampled instruments and sound effects advertised as available from such sources as the B.B.C. and The Library of Congress.

The soundfont samples are not limited to single notes. It can be a guitar chord or riff, a spoken or sung phrase or a sound effect. These have their own problems when used as a "general" instrument sound and are usually used for a specific song. These special soundfonts are associated with the MIDI file and can be loaded automatically into the sound card memory with that file. Musicians who use their own soundfonts in this way would normally package the soundfont with their MIDI file and make it available from a commercial source such as a C.D. or downloadable from the Internet.

 

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Banjo too
The Country Band Soundfont
 

I am currently working (when time permits) on a "Country Band" soundfont set which may be of interest to those of you who already have a "Creative AWE16/32" or a "Sound Blaster Live!" soundcard. So far, this includes a very nice Flat Top Guitar (1965 Epiphone Texan), a Fender 5-String Banjo and a Dobro, all sampled from my own instruments. What I'd like/need is a good sample of a Gibson F5 mandolin (or the equivalent) and a pedal steel guitar, both instruments having been giving unsatisfactory results with the samples (not my own) that I've been using. If any one can help I'd be VERY pleased to hear from you.

More details to follow in due course.

 

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