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Anyone Around Long Enough to Remember MIDI New?

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I still have my 1987 Yamaha TX81z, and it still works. So does my Roland MT-32 that I bought shortly after. The nice thing about MIDI hardware is as computer OS's come and go, good ol' MIDI with that 5 pin DIN connectors still work.

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On 1/26/2020 at 11:35 AM, David Baay said:

I graduated from college the year MIDI was introduced, but had no awareness of it for several years after that. I had worked a bit with voltage-controlled synths (including a Synclavier) in an electronic music class, but mostly just played acoustic piano, and was not into any kind of recording.

in '88, I moved to Florida from Colorado, and left the the family heirloom piano with my sister.  A month into piano withdrawal, I walked into a music store to see what the state of electric keyboards was, and found a Yamaha Clavinova set up with a Roland MC-50 sequencer. Twenty minutes later, I was totally absorbed in recording and layering MIDI tracks, and another hour after that, walked out of the store with a slim publication by Electronic Musician that was a thorough introduction to MIDI - I think out friend, Craig Anderton, might even have been a contributor.

A week or two later, I ended up buying a Roland RD-300s piano but no sequencer, having decided that a software sequencer would be the better way to go. Six months later, back in Colorado, I bought my first Intel 80286 computer and went looking for a MIDI interface. Cakewalk 2.0 for DOS came bundled with the MPU-401... the beginning of a great adventure.

I started my computer recording experience with the MPU-401 and a Voyetra MIDI interface--oh, and of course Cakewalk.

(oh, and don't get my started on SMPTE and trying to work with striped tapes to sync with my MIDI sequencer--what a Frankenstein's monster!)

Edited by razor7music

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19 hours ago, razor7music said:

(oh, and don't get my started on SMPTE and trying to work with striped tapes to sync with my MIDI sequencer--what a Frankenstein's monster!)

Ha! I haven't thought about SMPTE for years. It really bugged me to give up a precious audio track for SMPTE, but it let me do things I couldn't do otherwise.

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When MIDI first hit the streets I was still discovering I loved music with a Casio VL-Tone my dad bought me for Christmas.

By the time I was ready to move up to something rather more capable I started to buy magazines and become aware of what was out there (at least, professional stuff that wasn't in stores in the high-street), it was 1985, the DX7 was out, digital drum machines like the TR707 were quite the thing, and sequencers were still stand alone boxes - but within a couple of years would be losing significant ground to software.

First pieces of MIDI gear were a Casio CZ-101, followed by an Alesis MMT8 and Kawai R50 drum machine, and a MIDI->CV convertor for my Moog Prodigy...

What an incredible lifespan MIDI has had, compared to the other computer/digital interfaces over the same time period..!

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I was keeping abreast of the industry at that time, but did not get into it for real until 1985 when I got my first equipment which consisted of:

Yamaha CP-80M (Midi enabled full size electric grand piano, with a graphic EQ instead of tone nob)

Oberheim Matrix-12 with MIDI

Yamaha QX-7 sequencer

 

Just about that time, I started getting involved with PCs and DOS and was learning about Cakewalk and the MPU-401 thing, and my memory lapses, but can anybody tell us the year Cakewalk began and when it moved to Windows 3.1?

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1 hour ago, Toddskins said:

...can anybody tell us the year Cakewalk began and when it moved to Windows 3.1?

1987 was when I got v1.0 and even worked over the phone with Gregg to debug some things.  Had to get a super expensive Turtle Beach sound card too because it could support General MIDI.  I still wasn't back to playing guitar (when I broke my arm in 1984, the nerve had to grow back out) so, to satisfy my musical creation cravings, I bought a MIDI keyboard and Cakewalk.

I think it was 1991 when the first Windows version of Cakewalk came out.

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Turtle Beach Sound Cards were the best in their day.

Later the Sound Blaster with "Sound Fonts" captured people's attention and eventually the Turtles and Blasters were gone, but MIDI is still here.

 

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On 1/25/2020 at 5:09 PM, John K said:

Roland told MIDI developers to fork off. They were Roland and ruled the planet. MIDI was already dead under their power, and Roland's DCB protocol was the future.

Roland's DCB interface was already built into their hardware synths. Have a Juno-60 with DCB output. MIDI however took over and DCB was abandoned.

Wellll, actually.  Roland were one of the original companies who contributed to the idea in the first place, and hardware-wise, 5-pin DIN MIDI owes a lot to DCB. But don't just take my word. From Wikipedia:

"The MIDI Standard was born out of conversations between Oberheim Electronics founder Tom Oberheim, Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi and Sequential Circuits president Dave Smith at the Summer NAMM show in 1981.....Using Roland's DCB as a basis, Smith and Sequential Circuits engineer Chet Wood devised a universal synthesizer interface...."

It was a long time ago. I was living in Sunnyvale, California, USA, not far from Sequential Circuits' headquarters. I was also an avid reader of not only Electronic Musician, but Polyphony, the self-published 'zine that @Craig Anderton published before EM began. I think I may still have a cache of back issues of Polyphony around somewhere. Craig probably named the magazine that because at the time it seemed like an unobtainable goal, like nirvana.

I worked across the street from Atari, which was just then about to implode. The ST400 and ST800 were the systems to have for musicians, though.

I attended the 1982 US Festival and met Bob Moog, who, between having lost and regained control of his company name, had taken a gig doing something or other with Fairlight, IIRC. He gave a lecture and demonstrated the Fairlight System at the festival. My first exposure to musical sampling, so I can say "Bob Moog was the one who introduced me to sampled instruments."

Mattel showed off their Synsonics drum machine at the US Festival as well. I wanted one immediately! 5-pin DIN, no MIDI. Never got one, but I did get a TR-606 a couple of years later. 5-pin DIN, no MIDI. Sold it on eBay 20 years ago for a small profit.

A few years later I veered off into San Francisco and the underground music scene of the day. The groundwork was being laid for the grunge wave that was (to us at least) a rebellion against corporation-approved-and-packaged pop of the early and mid-80's. Which had been characterized by both big synth sounds and by pop metal shred dudes with MIDI-controlled guitar rigs. The hip music world went low tech for a good while and I happily went right along with it.

I didn't become interested in MIDI or electronic music again until around 1999 when the rave scene was in full bloom in the San Francisco area and I started digging deep house and downtempo electronic sounds as well as the Big Beat thing that Fatboy Slim got up to. Now that stuff is retro and I still like it.

It's fun to be able to jump from writing and recording totally "live rock band" songs to composing "ambient electronic" to something else that is inspired by Air or Nine Inch Nails all centered around the same music-making software.

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First midi gear I bought was a Korg Poly 800. I still have an original firmware ver 1 TX81z Yamaha, about to upgrade to 1.6. How the times are a changing, always exciting :).

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Hey Starship,

Just saw this and thank you for your information, if correct. Always thought the DCB vs MIDI was a war and had no idea that Roland was in the MIDI development phase.

There were articles at the time about the standoff, battle for supremacy. Was a coin flip at the time while the peanut gallery waited to see what side the dime would fall on.

Attended a Roland presentation by a rep on the Juno 60. The unveiling was mind blowing because a synth could actually do 6 notes polyphony.  ELP albums were the standard with synthesizers only mono, because it was all we could do to process a single note. May remember that for a couple years, any new video for anyone who was cool, had to have a Juno 60 on board. Got the rusted hardware beast and still makes some beautiful sounds.

The Rolland guy said that MIDI was a passing fad. Defective and full of flaws. DCB as hard wired into the Juno 60 was the future, and that DCB would bury MIDI.  He predicted that within 5 years, no one would even remember MIDI.  Every high end hardware synthesizer built on the planet would be DCB.  MIDI was a flawed temporary distraction from the Roland vision that everyone would adopt.

Off topic, but so bloody old, had to join the musician's union back in the late 1960's when they had a mafia control over what you did or could not did in public. It was illegal and you were fined severely if you used a synth on stage. Reason was that a synth playing strings denied employment to a group of physical violinists.

Hope all are well,

John

 

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26 minutes ago, John K said:

The Rolland guy said that MIDI was a passing fad. Defective and full of flaws. DCB as hard wired into the Juno 60 was the future, and that DCB would bury MIDI.  He predicted that within 5 years, no one would even remember MIDI.  Every high end hardware synthesizer built on the planet would be DCB.  MIDI was a flawed temporary distraction from the Roland vision that everyone would adopt.

Probably the same guy that said computers wouldn't catch on or that nobody will be willing to carry their phone around with them all the time. 😆

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2 hours ago, John K said:

Attended a Roland presentation by a rep

Cheers, John.

Sounds like the rep was being kinda unscrupulous and misrepresenting the true position of the parent company at the expense of making sales. Maybe that's part of why Roland USA is now a big thing. 😀 I'll bet that if you had confronted him a year later he would have claimed ignorance of how much Roland had already thrown their weight behind the new spec. Since MIDI is literally a refinement of DCB (according to the Wikipedia article, anyway), if it were "defective and full of flaws," that wouldn't speak too well of DCB!

By now I'm sure you know about lead times and how long it takes for a company to get an electronic product into production from conception to delivery. Back then it was even longer, so for Roland to be selling MIDI-capable gear as soon as they were after that rep's spiel....however the math works out.

At least anyone who bought into DCB was able to get a converter box.

In my imagination, the legendary lunch discussion at NAMM between Kakehashi (Roland), Oberheim, and Smith (Sequential) may have started with the idea of the other two companies licensing DCB from Roland. Now if I'm Tom Oberheim and Dave Smith, I'm going to balk at that because Kakehashi (or forces at Roland) may decide to change the spec to favor their interests.

It's a great idea to have everything able to connect to everything else, all those companies are starting to have "systems," and they are willing to admit that some artists prefer workflow and sound from one company's box over another, and ultimately it will be good for the industry as a whole. So Kakehashi compromises: okay, let's do an open standard, but let's make it pretty close to my DCB so that it will be easy for us to retrofit existing product. Sends the schematics off to Smith in California and after hundreds of FAX exchanges between California and Japan, it's on. Then they need to define a data protocol. Yamaha buys in, hey this will be great for the new low cost FM synth we want to introduce....

And every keyboard salesman everywhere begins to have nightmares where people are asking them "does it have MIDI?"

My main MIDI input controller is a Kawai K1 that my ex gave me when she moved out. It has this annoying "feature" where it sends All Notes Off (aka "panic") whenever the last key is lifted. So any patch with a long release is suddenly chopped. They considered this so important that there is no way to turn it off in the synth, I have to use a MIDI plug-in to filter it.

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On 2/11/2020 at 7:19 AM, Tony Carpenter said:

First midi gear I bought was a Korg Poly 800. I still have an original firmware ver 1 TX81z Yamaha, about to upgrade to 1.6. How the times are a changing, always exciting :).

My friend had the Poly 800 and I liked it so much I wanted one but they were gone by then, so I got the Poly 800II. Some great New Wave patches in that thing!

Edited by razor7music
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Did any of you ever use MIDI Quest?  ( Current link )

I really liked how I could rearrange all of my patches, save the entire thing, then make a new one (and save that too!).

If and when I get to do it all again, I'm thinking all I need are a couple of "real" keyboards (and, maybe, a controller with lots of knobs and sliders) then a bunch of the rack-version synths or software synths.

Then, using the sofware above (or some newer one), I could save the setups I come up with instead of having to hunt for "that" sound each time.

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On 2/12/2020 at 10:26 AM, craigb said:

Did any of you ever use MIDI Quest?  ( Current link )

I really liked how I could rearrange all of my patches, save the entire thing, then make a new one (and save that too!).

If and when I get to do it all again, I'm thinking all I need are a couple of "real" keyboards (and, maybe, a controller with lots of knobs and sliders) then a bunch of the rack-version synths or software synths.

Then, using the sofware above (or some newer one), I could save the setups I come up with instead of having to hunt for "that" sound each time.

If I'm not mistaken, this has been around for many years. I think I messed with a free version years ago. I haven't used outboard midi equipment in years, but still interesting - thanks.

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I can't resist adding to this year-old thread...

In 1982 my last band split up and I couldn't face trying to build yet another one. I emigrated from the UK to Australia and started a hassle-free, music-free life, despite some gentle pushing from people to start a new band. So the advent of MIDI in 1983 passed me by.

In 1987 I was living in the UK again and had heard of MIDI by this time. 'A good idea,' I thought. I saw that this could make me independent of other musicians, so I went shopping for a synth in Rose-Morris on Denmark Street in London. The salesman was keen on selling me an Elka (it could have been an EK44, I cannot really remember), and I was close to buying when I asked him about another synth on show nearby. It was the ESQ-1, and when he mentioned the built-in sequencer, that was the one for me. I had a flight case made for it at Rod Argent's shop just across the street. My first MIDI experiments consisted of just hooking up my synth to friends' synths and amazing ourselves that we could control one from another. Nothing ever came of these random MIDI activities but the fun was immense. All my recording was audio.

It was only in 1999, back in Australia again, when I decided to go digital and re-recorded all my synth material using a Sound Blaster card and PC with Cakewalk. The software could capture the MIDI output from the synth, then play the MIDI back to the synth one track at a time, while recording the resultant audio. This way I was able to retain full 8-note polyphony on each track. Still, when I listen to that material now I am not that happy with it. Apart from the songs themselves, I never used EQ, filters, compression or any effects, not even reverb. I am tempted to redo everything, but I'm resisting. I may just do one or two tracks to demonstrate to myself the difference.

As others have said, it is a real endorsement of the original MIDI specification that it remains useful nearly 40 years on when so many other standards have ended up being obstacles to progress.

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Posted (edited)

'85 for me. TR-505 and Juno 2 keyboard. As a starter, with some off brand MIDI Sequencer for the IBM PC. After the sequencer company went under I bought Voyetra Sequencer Gold Plus before getting Cakewalk PA3 and on and on and on.

Edited by Bapu

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35 minutes ago, Bapu said:

'85 for me. TR-505 and Juno 2 keyboard. As a starter, with some off brand MIDI Sequencer for the IBM PC. After the sequencer company went under I bought Voyetra Sequencer Gold Plus before getting Cakewalk PA3 and on and on and on.

Careful now. You're getting dangerously close to being OT. (On Topic)

 

My fist entry into midi was ... I can't remember.

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I remember owning a rack mounted Ibanez dual digital delay DD1000 that even though I bought it new, it was pre-MIDI!

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