Guide for ST electronic musicians
The built-in MIDI ports on the Atari ST are your keys to entering a world of musical adventure beyond the wildest dreams of Beethoven or even Jimi Hendrix. MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a hardware and software protocol that links computers with electronic musical instruments and sound processing devices. With MIDI, you can set up a system to meet any musical need-from a simple computer-controlled player piano to a professional recording studio.
And it's not lust for keyboard players: the range of MIDI instruments has grown to include drums, woodwinds, brass and guitars. By the way, MIDI is not just for the ST crowd. Hybrid Arts sells an interface (MIDI Mate) for Atari 8-bit computers.
MIDI has a specialized vocabulary and equipment, but numerous sources of help are available to guide new users (and even experienced MIDlots). This guide contains some of the best help sources I've found to answer my questions and stay abreast of current developments. The resources range from books and magazines to dedicated bulletin board systems and organizations. Addresses and phone numbers for these resources are provided at the end of this article.
The single best book for an overview of MIDI and its applications is "Music Through MIDI" by Michael Boom ($19.95, Microsoft Press). This thoroughly covers the MIDI language and main types of equipment. Four detailed interviews with MIDI users provide an excellent understanding of how MIDI fills a variety of musical needs. As a bonus, the author is an excellent writer.
A more technical but equally good book is "The MIDI Book" by Steve De Furia ($14.95, Hal Leonard Publishing). This gets into more detail on setting up MIDI systems of varying sizes and functions. De Furia has written several follow-up books in this series: "MIDI Resource" ($17.95), addressing the MIDI standard; "MIDI Implementation Book" ($19.95), regarding MIDI implementation on various instruments; and "Secrets of Analog and Digital Synthesis" ($14.95), techniques for creating sounds with synthesizers
Several magazines are available that deal with MIDI. The most authoritative is Keyboard (GPI Publications) which regularly features application articles, current events, educational columns and comprehensive reviews of equipment and software. Electronic Musician (Mix Publications) tends to focus more on do-it-yourself projects, both programming and equipment. Also worth checking are Music Technology (Music Maker Publications) and Music, Computers & Software (Keyboards, Computers & Software, Inc.). The latter publishes a yearly buyers guide to MIDI products.
There are several magazines aimed at particular instrument brands. These include Aftertouch (in Northridge, California) for Yamaha equipment, Cozmosynth (B. B. Publications) for Casio, and Transoniq Hacker (in Portland, Oregon) for Ensoniq. All provide information on new products, equipment application notes and patches for creating new sounds or effects. And for Atari users, Antic and its sister publication START regularly feature articles on MIDI products and software, as well as publishing original MIDI programs.
For up-to-the-minute information or quick answers to problems, nothing beats the telecommunications grapevine. This is a great source of hands-on experience to tap before investing in new equipment or software. The user base ranges from novices to professional MIDI programmers. Quite often users' software questions will be answered by the original programmers.
Of the national information services, CompuServe and GEnie have the most active MIDI forums. Common to both are large libraries of files containing patches, pro-recorded music, reviews and tutorials.
The best dedicated BBS is Midwest MIDI, the home of both MIDINet and the International Electronic Musicians User Group (IEMUG). MIDI-Net is an echo mail conference dedicated to MIDI that operates throughout the United States and in Canada and Europe. Callers log on via local BBS nodes which all feed into a central message bonk. Check with Midwest MIDI for the location of the nearest node to you. Besides the message base, there are many music and information files in its download library.
Other good boards to try are East Coast MIDI, MIDI World Network and TACE BBS. At the professional level is PAN, the Performing Artists Network serving all facets of the international music industry. This service, however, has a $150 sign-up fee plus hourly charges.
Among the better known national users groups are the International MIDI Association (IMA), International Electronic Musicians User Group (IEMUG) and Canadian MIDI User Group (CMUG). All feature regular newsletters, discount pricing on selected products and services, and a large user base to draw on for help.
At the local level, many cities have MIDI users groups, typically centered
around music equipment stores, that provide regular product demonstrations
and "how to" sessions. Now that Atari has aggressively committed itself
to the MIDI market, you should start seeing a lot more of our favorite
computers at these stores.
16011 NE 36th Way,
Box 97017, Redmond, WA 98073.
Hal Leonard Publishing Corp.,
P.O. Box 13819,
Milwaukee, WI 53213.
20085 Stevens Creek,
Cupertino, CA 95014.
Mix Publications, Inc.,
6400 Hollis Street, #12
Emeryville, CA 94608.
Music Maker Publications, Inc.,
7361 Topanga Canyon Blvd.,
Canoga Park, CA 91303.
Keyboards, Computers & Software, Inc.,
190 East Main Street,
Huntington, NY 11743.
P.O. Box 7938,
Northridge, CA 91327.
353 Corbett Canyon Road,
Arroyo Grande, CA 93420.
5047 SW 26th Drive,
Portland, OR 97201.
Antic Publications, Inc.,
544 Second Street,
San Francisco, CA 94107.
Midwest MIDI BBS,
East Coast MIDI,
MIDI World Network,
(215) 489-4640 (voice).
International MIDI Association (IMA),
12439 Magnolia Blvd.,
Suite 104, North Hollywood, CA 91607.
Musicians User Group
(IEMUG, c/o MidWest MIDI Consultants, Inc.,
P.O. Box 30995,
Midwest City, OK 73140.
Canadian MIDI User Group (CMUG),
c/o Eric Borager,
Bolleville, Ontario, Canada K8N 5B6.