Order of the Cynthian Palm

Thoughts on Sequencing for the Piano

Ideally, piano music is best sequenced in a real performance using a good full MIDI keyboard such as the Yamaha Clavinova or a regular acoustical piano which has been adapted for MIDI. (Both options are rather expensive and require good to excellent keyboard skills.) Failing that, one can get good-enough results using the regular step-entry method.

It should go without saying that all of the volume changes in a piano MIDI file are achieved by velocity alone (unless special effects are wanted.) but, in a concerto or other concerted work, if the controllers 7 (volume) and 11 (expression) are used in the other tracks, they should both be set for the piano at the beginning or the balance may suffer, as in the file in question.

The sustaining pedal controller (#64) is a special problem and, though an integral part of piano playing, a MIDI file can easily be ruined by a poor use of pedal, as can a live performance. There are a few things to bear in mind: 1. except possibly at the beginning of a piece, the pianist pedals after the note is played (not with it.) and, if a legato effect is wanted, it's held into the next note or chord, lifted and normally put down again. (syncopated or legato pedal.)

2. Bass notes often need to be sustained by use of the pedal even in cases where pedal is not marked, and in these cases it is a mistake to lift it too soon. In a real performance, lifting the pedal gradually can be much better than suddenly as the ear can, in that case, imagine these notes continuing to sustain but this effect mostly can't be used in a MIDI file. But there is a good deal of tolerance in blurring the upper notes and only your ear can be your guide. One of the drawbacks to most midi setups is that CC64 is an on (64-127) and off (0-63) switch so subtle half-pedal effects are usually not possible on most setups, including mine. The sostenuto pedal #66 (middle pedal) is a selective pedal which holds only the notes being sustained at the time of its application, but the use of this controller may not work in all setups. (It does work on my sound module.)

Bass notes written as fast (small) or grace notes before a chord are mostly sustained by the pedal. This is an effect akin to quadruple stopping in the strings and can considerably increase the sonority of these chords.

The sustaining pedal frequently has its own track (with the same channel as the piano track) but can also be put on the same track. It may be inserted with the mouse or with a MIDI pedal while the file is playing.

I've heard, in some files, the two hands with their own "panning" (stereo placement.) assuming that each hand is placed in its own track, but this, to me, is an artificial effect akin to sticking your head in the piano (hopefully with ear plugs!) while it is being played and hearing the right hand from the right etc. It may be done effectively at times. Of course, if two pianos are playing, these should be separately panned to the left and right.

About tempo: Variations in tempo in a step-entry file are normally done with the tempo track but, frequently, moving notes around slightly can be effective as well. Randomizing is also a useful tool since a real player's hands and fingers are not exactly together. But take care to avoid "retriggering" (In repeated notes, moving a note so that it sustains into the repeated note will make the latter disappear after exporting to a standard MIDI file.). Also see tempo page.

Edward Gold

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