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Beyond the MIDI Mockup

A workshop presented by Composer & Music Producer Jerry Gerber
in partnership with Manhattan Producers Alliance

and the San Francisco Center for New Music








































"Is that a real orchestra in his studio? Believe him when he says it's electronic,
but Jerry Gerber's 'Symphony #4 for the Virtual Orchestra is so artfully done, so musically
sensitive and convincing, that it emerges as one of the finest examples of
electronic orchestration that there is..." 


Electronic Music Foundation 


"Jerry Gerber possesses that rare combination of technical and musical knowledge together with the ability to
organize and communicate it clearly to the student.  I sought Jerry out because I wanted to improve my understanding
of the challenges of orchestration for virtual instruments.  He not only helped me to more clearly understand and how to get the
 best out of these remarkable but complex tools, he also was able to draw on his considerable background
in acoustic composition to help me expand my understanding of traditional orchestration and form,
both areas in which I have had a life long interest..."                        

Kevin Kern

(Steinway artist with 7 Billboard charting CDs)

"The symphony, cello sonata, and the songs just knock me out. The symphony particularly impresses,
and I believe Gerber has just finished a fifth. It takes large breaths, and it shows a big artistic nature willing to take risks.
The first movement – all eleven minutes of it – flows from first note to last and furthermore sports an unusual rhetorical structure.
The final minute or so is both a surprise and logical outcome. The second movement, a scherzo, dances in 11/8 time.
It's so well done that, had Gerber's note not informed me, I doubt I would have known.
The slow third movement is a hymn that moves from great sadness to great power."




Manhattan Producer's Alliance is a group of music professionals including
composers, producers and engineers dedicated to service, outreach and high
standards of music composition and production

The Center for New Music San Francisco, Inc. is a community
center for participants of new music in San Francisco


This workshop is offered to musicians with playing and writing skills who want to create the most artistic MIDI recordings possible with the technology they have available.  All participants may bring a laptop with their respective Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) installed, although it is not required.  The topics and techniques we will discuss are cross-platform and will enable musicians to create MIDI recordings with excellent performance values--music with expression, gesture, nuance, depth and subtlety.  DAWs that have a notation editor are preferred, but those more familiar with the piano-roll style of editing will still learn valuable information and new skills. Techniques and concepts learned will help the participants use their digital tools in a way that goes beyond the MIDI mockup.

Prerequisites:   All participants must play an instrument, read music, and have access to a DAW.  DAWs with a notation editor include:  Digital Performer (Mac/PC), Logic (Mac), Sonar (PC), Pro Tools (Mac/PC) and Cubase (PC).  Reaper, Ableton Live and Presonus Studio One also have MIDI capabilities, but do not have notation capability.

Workshop Introduction

Since the inception of MIDI, it is undeniable that our tools have improved immensely. Sample libraries are far larger, better recorded and integrated with software that is now capable of increasingly subtle, varied and intricate programming by the musician. The capacity of the computer to process and store large amounts of data is ever increasing. Our software synthesizers are truly amazing musical instruments, capable of expressing new, unique timbres that only a digital synthesizer can reproduce. The tools of this medium can be used for many diverse purposes including serious artistic expression and exploration, music education, a mockup for acoustic performance, in soundtracks for visual media and games, as a research tool in music and acoustics, as a life-path and artistic discipline. We don’t think of photography as a mock-up for painting, although it can and has been used that way, nor do we consider film as a substitute for live plays. So too a MIDI recording can be an end in itself.  Whichever is the best way for you to be involved with computer and audio instruments,  the real magic and power is in the imagination, the love of curiosity and experimentation, to risk, create and discover the infinite possibilities of arranging sound to communicate meaning. 

The MIDI mock-up idea arose out of three primary practical considerations: 1) the tight deadlines that compel film and TV composers to work very quickly, 2) the need of directors and producers of other media to be able to get an idea of what the composer is actually creating for the project, and 3) the habit and inertia of tradition bearing down on our ideas about music, sound and art in general. 

As a Stradivarius violin will not sound good if the person playing it has little or no playing skill, MIDI won’t necessarily sound good merely by flipping a switch or making a few mouse clicks. MIDI doesn’t make digital music creation and music production easy, it makes them possible. Like any medium, there are techniques and methods that can be learned, practiced and refined, and through these techniques we can create and produce music with vision, intention, gesture, dynamics, flow, groove—words to describe the unique power of music to thrill, calm, motivate, delight, seduce, entice and transcend our normal waking consciousness. Musicians have not been making music with electricity nearly as long as we have been making music with bone, metal, animal gut and wood. Yet electrons have always been within our bodies and minds and in the environment, even when humans were primitive savages living in caves, so we can accept electricity as organic to natural life. Music, both acoustic and electronic, is essentially about moving sound through air, and conveyed in those sounds are ideas, values, sentience and knowledge.

Audio Examples

Details, Details!, Details!!

I.              Introduction

A.   Earliest musical instruments
 1.  Earliest electric instruments
 2.  Earliest digital instruments                                                                                                                                                                                          

B.     The larger perspective of what we're doing here

       1.  The lure of beauty

       2.  Gravitating toward the new

       3.  Pursuing artistic expression  through creativity and imagination 

C.   Humanizing music technology

       1.  Randomness, variation, intention, phrase-shaping

       2.  Avoiding the dreaded "machine-gun" effect  

D.   The creative state of consciousness and how to awaken and exercise it

      1.  Quieting and focusing the mind

      2.  Transcending fear and a sense of separateness


II.            Basics

A.    Ports, channels, patches and banks

       1.  MIDI Messages, MIDI Time Code

       2.  Software synthesizers & sample players 

          a.  Operation often one of three types:

                1.  One instance, multiple simultaneous timbres, each assigned to a different MIDI channel (Kontakt)

                2.  One instance, one timbre at a time, patch-switching allowed (Tera, Massive)

                3.  Each instance can only hold and play one timbre. Additional timbres require additional instances (Rapture)

B.    Samples, sample-sets, instruments, articulation groups                                

C.   MIDI data/audio data 

III.           Sequencing Techniques

A.    Six parameters that define and shape a musical tone

      1.    Pitch

      2.    Timbre

      3.    Amplitude (velocity + volume)

      4.    Envelope

      5.    Length                                                                                                         

      6.    Location relative to the beat

B.    Phrasing

C.   Dynamics

D.   Tempo Maps


IV.          Working with Libraries & MIDI Orchestration

A.    MIDI controllers and your DAW

B.    Creating templates and organizing your library                                               

C.   Finding the best articulation for the phrase

D.  Transparency, weight, balance & blend

E.  Piston's seven orchestral textures

      1.  Orchestral unison

      2.  Melody & accompaniment

      3.  Secondary melody

      4.  Part writing (choral style)

      5.  Contrapuntal texture

      6.  Chords

      7.  Complex texture


V.             Rendering to Audio

A.    Using volume envelopes rather than compression

B.    EQ, exciters, compression, stereo imaging, peak limiting                            

C.   What about stems?

Also (not necessarily in order):

Listening to musical examples
wenty minute break
Individual help                                                                                                               


Beyond the MIDI Mockup will take place at the Center for New Music
in San Francisco at 55 Taylor Street on Saturday, May 18th, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Cost for the workshop:  $60.00
  Student or CNM membership discount: $40.00

Payment Options

Space is limited, so reserve your place in the workshop soon.
Any Questions?  Contact Jerry Gerber at 415.242.4003 or jerry@jerrygerber.com.

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