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Article - 'Making Midis' by Angroth

An item about Miscellanious posted on Jun 8, 2004

Blurb

From the first step to scaling. Some help for making midis.

Body

Getting Started
Well, firstly you need something you can use to make your midis. I recommend www.anvilstudio.com. Different people have different preferences but I choose this over others because it’s pretty simple to use, you can do quite a bit with it (mainly drums) and most importantly it’s free. Of course, if you want to do a few things like bending notes and implement .wav files into the midi, you’ll have to register it and pay a small amount of money.

A few things you might want to know about Anvil before you start.
- Right click on the piano keyboard where you input notes and you can switch between this and guitar frets. This could be handy if you know a little or a lot with guitars.
- Hold down shift when clicking on a note to select multiple notes to be played by the same instrument at the same time. Let go of shift to move to the next note/rest.
- The volume on the middle right is best at 100. If you make it all at 100 and use the volume sliders in the top right to change the overall volume, you’ll get a nicer, clearer midi.

Some Warnings For Beginners
Unless you actually know any scales, you’re probably better off only using the white keys (or on a guitar, whole notes eg C, D, E). You can also just use black notes (or all sharps / minors eg C#, D#, E#). Before long you’d find out that you can’t combine them too well most of the time. So for now, I would warn you to not mix them (unless you know what you’re doing).

Don’t use two Distortion Guitars to try and beef you rock song out. It will results in a strange effect that sounds almost cool but will probably ruin the song. I’m not sure if it does it with all instruments but I know it does it with the Distortion Guitar. It’s probably worth hearing the sound it makes, but know it’s not a good one.

When creating bass guitar (or other deep instruments) it will have more impact if you put the notes an octave lower (same notes but the next ones down on the keyboard) than the normal guitar or whatever you are using. I’ll mainly advise this for an instrument that will be playing the exactly the same (or the same missing a few notes). If the instrument jumps up and down it might be better in the same octave so that it stands out more.

Electric Guitar (clean) sounds awful when playing deep notes. The notes don’t even have to be particularly deep and it just sounds really bad. I wouldn’t advice doing this at all!

Actually Making The Music!
So now you’ll be making the music, with the few warnings and tips mentioned above. Before you make any of your own compositions it might be worth taking a peek at the structure of some other songs. Are you aiming for a small game loop or a full blown orchestral masterpiece? It’s worth doing some planning, even if only some quick plans and ideas in your head before you put any notes down. Checking other song’s structures might help you avoid a boring and repetitive midi. Most people’s first midi is quite bland, boring and repetitive. Obviously it’s all experimental and we all learn a lot by making these first few. I’m just hoping to let you miss out on the churning out of diabolical crap!

The default tempo for Anvil is 80. I didn’t bother changing this for any of my midis for a while but the tempo of a song can completely alter the atmosphere it will generate. I find if you use 80 for a tempo, 1/8th notes will produce something that is almost too slow but just about right. Whereas a tempo of 80 and 1/8th notes will make a fast upbeat song. Using those two as standards, you will be able to get a better grasp of how your songs might turn out.

If you’re having trouble coming up with new ideas, rehash your old ones, and make them better but slightly different. If you’re having trouble coming up with any ideas, start out by trying to replicate what other songs sound like, that should give you some ideas.

Slight Touches
Just a few tricks of the trade, you know.

If you want to beef your song up and make it heavier, make an extra track/instrument and make it Sawtooth. You’ll want to make it clone what the bass is doing. It’s held on but deep and distorted noise will crank up a rock song and make it surprisingly heavier while not being silly. It’s volume shouldn’t be loud enough to be able to distinguish it very well though. It needs to be below the guitars, about as loud as the bass (which is usually slightly quieter than the guitars).

Synth sounds have much more effect if you back them up with another synth. I used Choir Aahs for one of my intros and it sounded very dull and lifeless. Later, I added Voice Oohs (at the same volume I believe) and it made it eerily and surprisingly a whole lot better. I could hear the difference but it must have been there, it sounded much better.

Check your drums! I had a string of songs that weren’t very interesting or catchy because of the drums. The main snare type drum is best when placed at the start of each quarter note. Anymore snares and it’s just a classy extra jig! At least just for the main chorus/focus of the song you’ll want to have the snare hitting a very constant quarter beat (faster or slower depending on the tempo, I’m judging from around 80 to 100). Also, when the drums pick up, make sure you use some high hats. The drums will sound hollow without them.

Taking It A Step Further
So, by this point you should have made a few midis and had a bit of experience. Now you’ll have the burning desire to make something that sounds like you really have learnt something and I can help you accomplish that. Below I will show you 15 of the 90 scales and all of the notes contained within in them. With this you will easily be able to have either some fast solos in your songs, or enhance you riffs and generally just make better melodies for you songs.

My favourite scales are: Major Scale, Augmented Fifth Scale, Spanish 8 Tone Scale and Be-Bop Scale.

Major Scale
C: C, D, E, F, G, A, B
C#: C#, D#, F, F#, G#, A#, C
D: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#
D#: D#, F, G, G#, A#, C, D
E: E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#
F: F, G, A, A#, C, D, E
F#: F#, G#, A#, B, C#, D#, F
G: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#
G#: G#, A#, C, C#, D#, F, G
A: A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#
A#: A#, C, D, D#, F, G, A
B: B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#

Pentatonic Major Scale
C: C, D, E, G, A
C#: C#, D#, F, G#, A#
D: D, E, F#, A, B
D#: D#, F, G, A#, C
E: E, F#, G#, B, C#
F: F, G, A, C, D,
F#: F#, G#, A#, C#, D#
G: G, A, B, D, E
G#: G#, A#, C, D#, F
A: A, B, C#, E, F#
A#: A#, C, D, F, G
B: B, C#, D#, F#, G#

Blues Major Scale
C: C, D#, F, F#, G, A
C#: C#, E, F#, G, G#, A#
D: D, F, G, G#, A, B
D#: D#, F#, G#, A, A#, C
E: E, G, A, A#, B, C#
F: F, G#, A#, B, C, D
F#: F#, A, B, C, C#, D#
G: G, A#, C, C#, D, E
G#: G#, B, C#, D, D#, F
A: A, C, D, D#, E, F#
A#: A#, C#, D#, E, F, G
B: B, D, E, F, F#, G#

Minor Scale
C: C, D, D#, F, G, G#, A#
C#: C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A, B
D: D, E, F, G, A, A#, C
D#: D#, F, F#, G#, A#, B, C#
E: E, F#, G, A, B, C, D
F: F, G, G#, A#, C, C#, D#
F#: F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, E
G: G, A, A#, C, D, D#, F
G#: G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E, F#
A: A, B, C, D, E, F, G
A#: A#, C, C#, D#, F, F#, G#
B: B, C#, D, E, F#, G, A

Melodic Minor Scale
C: C, D, D#, F, G, A, B
C#: C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A#, C
D: D, E, F, G, A, B, C#
D#: D#, F, F#, G#, A#, C, D
E: E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D#
F: F, G, G#, A#, C, D, E
F#: F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, F
G: G, A, A#, C, D, E, F#
G#: G#, A#, B, C#, D#, F, G
A: A, B, C, D, E, F#, G#
A#: A#, C, C#, D#, F, G, A
B: B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A#

Harmonic Minor Scale
C: C, D, D#, F, G, G#, B
C#: C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A, C
D: D, E, F, G, A, A#, C#
D#: D#, F, F#, G#, A#, B, D
E: E, F#, G, A, B, C, D#
F: F, G, G#, A#, C, C#, E
F#: F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, F
G: G, A, A#, C, D, D#, F#
G#: G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E, G
A: A, B, C, D, E, F, G#
A#: A#, C, C#, D#, F, F#, A
B: B, C#, D, E, F#, G, A#

Pentatonic Minor Scale
C: C, D#, F, G, A#
C#: C#, E, F#, G#, B
D: D, F, G, A, C
D#: D#, F#, G#, A#, C#
E: E, G, A, B, D
F: F, G#, A#, C, D#
F#: F#, A, B, C#, E
G: G, A#, C, D, F
G#: G#, B, C#, D#, F#
A: A, C, D, E, G
A#: A#, C#, D#, F, G#
B: B, D, E, F#, A

Blues Minor Scale
C: C, D#, F, F#, G, A#
C#: C#, E, F#, G, G#, B
D: D, F, G, G#, A, C
D#: D#, F#, G#, A, A#, C#
E: E, G, A, A#, B, D
F: F, G#, A#, B, C, D#
F#: F#, A, B, C, C#, E
G: G, A#, C, C#, D, F
G#: G#, B, C#, D, D#, F#
A: A, C, D, D#, E, G
A#: A#, C#, D#, E, F, G#
B: B, D, E, F, F#, A

Augmented Scale
C: C, D#, E, G, G#, B
C#: C#, E, F, G#, A, C
D: D, F, F#, A, A#, C#
D#: D#, F#, G, A#, B, D
E: E, G, G#, B, C, D#
F: F, G#, A, C, C#, E
F#: F#, A, A#, C#, D, F
G: G, A#, B, D, D#, F#
G#: G#, B, C, D#, E, G
A: A, C, C#, E, F, G#
A#: A#, C#, D, F, F#, A
B: B, D, D#, F#, G, A#

Be-Bop Scale
C: C, D, E, F, G, A, A#, B
C#: C#, D#, F, F#, G#, A#, B, C
D: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C, C#
D#: D#, F, G, G#, A#, C, C#, D
E: E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, D#
F: F, G, A, A#, C, D, D#, E#
F#: F#, G#, A#, B, C#, D#, E, F
G: G, A, B, C, D, E, F, F#
G#: G#, A#, C, C#, D#, F, F#, G
A: A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G, G#
A#: A#, C, D, D#, F, G, G#, A
B: B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#, A, A#

Chromatic Scale (I sometimes call this the Moronic Scale)
C: C, C#, D, D#, E, E#, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, B#
C#: C#, D, D#, E, E#, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, B#, C
D: D, D#, E, E#, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, B#, C, C#
D#: D#, E, E#, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, B#, C, C#, D
E: E, E#, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, B#, C, C#, D, D#
F: F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, B#, C, C#, D, D#, E, E#
F#: F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, B#, C, C#, D, D#, E, E#, F
G: G, G#, A, A#, B, B#, C, C#, D, D#, E, E#, F, F#
G#: G#, A, A#, B, B#, C, C#, D, D#, E, E#, F, F#, G

A: A, A#, B, B#, C, C#, D, D#, E, E#, F, F#, G, G#
A#: A#, B, B#, C, C#, D, D#, E, E#, F, F#, G, G#, A
B: B, B#, C, C#, D, D#, E, E#, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#

Whole-Half Scale
C: C, D, D#, F, F#, G#, A, B
C#: C#, D#, E, F#, G, A, A#, C
D: D, E, F, G, G#, A#, B, C#
D#: D#, F, F#, G#, A, B, C, D
E: E, F#, G, A, A#, C, C#, D#
F: F, G, G#, A#, B, C#, D, E
F#: F#, G#, A, B, C, D, D#, F
G: G, A, A#, C, C#, D#, E, F#
G#: G#, A#, B, C#, D, E, F, G
A: A, B, C, D, D#, F, F#, G#
A#: A, C, C#, D#, E, F#, G, A
B: B, C#, D, E, F, G, G#, A#

Half-Whole Scale
C: C, C#, D#, E, F#, G, A, A#
C#: C#, D, E, F, G, G#, A#, B
D: D, D#, F, F#, G#, A, B, C
D#: D#, E, F#, G, A, A#, C, C#
E: E, F, G, G#, A#, B, C#, D
F: F, F#, G#, A, B, C, D, D#
F#: F#, G, A, A#, C, C#, D#, E
G: G, G#, A#, B, C#, D, E, F
G#: G#, A, B, C, D, D#, F, F#
A: A, A#, C, C#, D#, E, F#, G
A#: A#, B, C#, D, E, F, G, G#
B: B, C, D, D#, F, F#, G#, A

Whole Tone Scale
C: C, D, E, F#, G#, A#
C#: C#, D#, F, G, A, B
D: D, E, F#, G#, A#, C
D#: D#, F, G, A, B, C#
E: E, F#, G#, A#, C, D
F: F, G, A, B, C#, D#
F#: F#, G#, A#, C, D, E
G: G, A, B, C#, D#, F
G#: G#, A#, C, D, E, F#
A: A, B, C#, D#, F, G
A#: A#, C, D, E, F#, G#
B: B, C#, D#, F, G, A

Augmented Fifth Scale
C: C, D, E, F, G, G#, A, B
C#: C#, D#, F, F#, G#, A, A#, C
D: D, E, F#, G, A, A#, B, C#
D#: D#, F, G, G#, A#, B, C, D
E: E, F#, G#, A, B, C, C#, D#
F: F, G, A, A#, C, C#, D, E
F#: F#, G#, A#, B, C#, D, D#, F
G: G, A, B, C, D, D#, E, F#
G#: G#, A#, C, C#, D#, E, F, G
A: A, B, C#, D, E, F, F#, G#
A#: A#, C, D, D#, F, F#, G, A
B: B, C#, D#, E, F#, G, G#, A#

I would have liked to have typed up more scales but I feel like dying after doing all those, no human could finish them all in a day. Fear not, my next article will be finishing off those scales!