a home MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) studio has never been
easier or (cheaper) with the myriad of software and hardware available.
Composing music has been simplified by the development of an efficient
graphical interface used by programs such as Apple's GarageBand. In this
two part report, I'll review both the internal and external aspects of
constructing a MIDI system.
component of a MIDI studio is a Macintosh with at least a G4 processor
and 10GB of free disk space. A system running Mac OS X version 10.3, Panther
Edition, is best, because Panther already includes some of the needed
programs for the setup. Some recommended software and plug-ins needed
to get started are:
GarageBand This music creation tool is included as part
of the iLife software bundle that comes with new Macs or can be purchased
separately for under $50. GarageBand has an orchestra of instruments
at your fingertips with its easy-to-use controls. The best part of this
program is that it's versatile and can be adapted for either amateur
or expert use. Apple has included professionally engineered loops to
help construct tracks, plus GarageBand has an extra complementary program, GarageBand
Jam Pack 2: Remix Tools with even more custom instruments and controls.
A more in depth review of GarageBand will be featured in Part 2 next
MIDI Setup This utility is built-in with Mac OS X and is accessible
by going to Applications->Utilities->Audio MIDI Setup. It's designed
to configure the Mac's audio devices and/or add a MIDI device (like
a keyboard). Under the MIDI device tab, equipment connected to the Mac
can be added by clicking on the "Add device" icon, then named
by double-clicking on the icon to reveal the options menu. From there,
details for each device can be defined.
gear to the Mac is fairly easy with the appropriate hardware. Most major
music equipment manufacturers will include, or offer as an accessory,
the necessary cables to integrate with a computer system. If not, here
is a list of tools to help:
The Uno cable works as a converter for the MIDI signals between
your computer and electronic keyboard. It runs through the USB port and
has both MIDI In and MIDI Out connectors, plus its compact design makes
For multiple connection options, M-Audio has designed this all-in-one solution
for linking a bass, guitar, keyboard and microphone to the computer. Fast
Track runs on its own software, GT Player Express, to manage sound effects.
Compatibility may vary, so check against the instrument's manufacturer specifications.
is a MIDI-ready instrument with a full-size keyboard. Having a plug-and-play
interface, it's a great tool for beginners, and it runs off of the USB
connection without needing a separate power supply.
base equipment, your MIDI studio should be set for composing. Tune in
next month for the how to on GarageBand and learn to make your own custom
tracks. Until then, dust off that keyboard or pull that guitar out of
the closet and get plugged in.