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Topic: Transcribing Freely-timed performances with MIDI: Best method?

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  1. #1

    Transcribing Freely-timed performances with MIDI: Best method?

    Here is what I want to do (and I'm having a hard time doing it efficiently):

    Suppose I have an audio recording of a freely timed, improvisatory piece of music that fits, more or less, into a time signature like 4/4. It speeds up, it slows down, sometimes it swings, sometimes it doesn't, it uses heavy rubato, but it still feels like 4/4.

    Now suppose I want to transcribe this using MIDI notation. I load up an appropriate program, load in the .WAV file of the performance (or even a video), and start entering MIDI notes to correspond with the transients of the notes in the audio.

    In the software, I see that my MIDI notes are way off the beats, of course, since the player is using a highly idiosyncratic 'internal' metronome. Of course I can edit the MIDI notes, and move them to match the beats, BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT THE PLAYER PLAYED. Suppose his 'one' is late and his 'three' is early. I can enter that as played.

    But what if I want to change the program's BEATS to match the MIDI notes, and not the other way around? In other words, instead of moving the MIDI notes to match the counts, move the counts to match the existing MIDI notes? So when the piece plays back, the 'metronome' will sound drunkenly out of time – but a transcribed score using these notes would show all the notes in their proper places; only the PLAYBACK would perfectly reflect the actual transcribed rhythm. In other words, I want 'one' to be notated as 'one' NO MATTER HOW EARLY OR LATE IT IS PLAYED. I mean, even if it's a whole goddamned MEASURE early or late. I want to control when 'one' is called 'one' – not leave it to the software.

    Sibelius does this in a way; if you load in a MIDI score, Sibelius will render it regularly but play it back with the original timing with its 'Live Playback' feature – UNLESS the performance is so far out of regular time that Sibelius can't handle it, which is certainly the case with the kind of music I'm doing.

    Is there another way?

  2. #2

    Re: Transcribing Freely-timed performances with MIDI: Best method?

    Sounds like an impossible thing to ask, getting a process for marking regular time to effectively mark completely irregular time, but here's a few brainstorming ideas.

    1. You could use regular 4/4 and just set a new tempo for every single beat.

    2. Make the time signature just mark time ... use a 1/4 time signature with crotchet (quarter note) = 60 (or 5/4 ror 10/4 even at the same tempo if you prefer) so that the bars just mark the exact passage of time in seconds, and notes are placed freely accordingly.

    3. Could you use a completely regular tempo or occassional temp changes as suits different sections, and use SMPTE markers to tie it to the internal metronome of your real player?

    Peter

  3. #3

    Re: Transcribing Freely-timed performances with MIDI: Best method?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Jeffrey Gale View Post
    1. You could use regular 4/4 and just set a new tempo for every single beat.

    2. Make the time signature just mark time ... use a 1/4 time signature with crotchet (quarter note) = 60 (or 5/4 ror 10/4 even at the same tempo if you prefer) so that the bars just mark the exact passage of time in seconds, and notes are placed freely accordingly.

    3. Could you use a completely regular tempo or occassional temp changes as suits different sections, and use SMPTE markers to tie it to the internal metronome of your real player?
    Thanks for your suggestions -- 1. sounds like it would be far too much work for long pieces, and what if the tempo changes within the measure? 2. I'm not sure I understand this one but I will fiddle with it. 3. sounds interesting -- I will have to read up on SMPTE as I've never worked with it before

    B

  4. #4

    Re: Transcribing Freely-timed performances with MIDI: Best method?

    This sounds like a job for tap-time! If you load the audio file in your DAW, line up the 1st downbeat with a barline, set up a midi track and tap in 4s throughout as if you were conducting or counting, you will be able to make a tempo map of the piece. The way to turn that tapped midi part into the new tempo varies between different sequencers; which one are you using?

  5. #5

    Re: Transcribing Freely-timed performances with MIDI: Best method?

    How would you do it not using MIDI. I have just had the same problem, in order to get an accurate representation I let the midi score so the exact lengths, it just looked stupid and would have been completely unplayable, so I made a separate copy and quantized this and then printed; Remembering that many players put in this speeding up, slowing down, etc themselves and rarely play exactly to time.
    Derek
    Things may come and things may go but the art school dance goes on forever
    NOW WITH Cubase 5, JABB,GPO, Fender Strat, Ibanez RG, Yamaha Fretless Bass, Framus Archtop, The Trumpet and Mr T Sax, together with GREEN SEALING WAX


  6. #6

    Re: Transcribing Freely-timed performances with MIDI: Best method?

    Quote Originally Posted by buckshead View Post
    How would you do it not using MIDI.
    The midi only translates into a score if it is recorded against bars and beats. If you have already played in the midi, I'm afraid I would suggest scrapping it, setting up a tempo map with tap time (or whatever way your sequencer let's you tap in a tempo) then play in the midi against a tempo map that matches the original audio. Complex subject - I hope I am understanding you correctly and making sense!

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