Studio Integration

One of the biggest reasons for the personal studio's explosive growth during the 15 years EM has been around is the establishment of the MIDI specification.
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One of the biggest reasons for the personal studio's explosivegrowth during the 15 years EM has been around is the establishmentof the MIDI specification. Before, some musicians bought a fewexpensive synthesizers and perhaps a step sequencer. With luck youcould get your hands on a MIDI guitar, but many early units werenot ready for prime time.

Different companies' products rarely worked well together, sointegrating gear was a crapshoot. Synthesists had fun, but we werethe few, the proud, the masochists. Manufacturers fought for sales,and they rarely agreed on anything — from CV values andnomenclature to the program-numbering system when programmablesynths arrived.

MIDI changed that, though not all at once. It opened the door tothe modern sequencing era, sound modules, programmable effects,fader boxes, and instrument controllers. Some additions to the MIDIspec — such as General MIDI, Standard MIDI Files, and MIDIShow Control — broadened MIDI control's influenceconsiderably.

Given that MIDI opens so many doors, it should be no surprisethat today's electronic musicians buy a variety of mainstream MIDIcontrollers — not just keyboards but MIDI guitars, windcontrollers, and an assortment of percussion instruments. ExoticMIDI controllers are available too; we did a major article aboutexotic controllers (MIDI and non-MIDI) in our August 2000 coverstory, “The Outer Limits.”

EM boasts MIDI wind-controller expert Scott Wilkinson,string-controller wizard Marty Cutler, and MIDI percussionist GinoRobair. Cutler and Robair wrote the aforementioned story aboutexotic controllers, and they were champing at the bit to do asimilar story about their favorite mainstream controllers. So I letall three editors out of their cages and sent them out to get thestory of today's MIDI string, wind, and percussion controllers. Ithink you'll agree that their article (“In Control,” p.64) is a must-read for musicians interested in those types ofcontrollers.

Such established formal standards as AES/EBU, S/PDIF, wordclock, and SMPTE time code and de facto standards such as ADATOptical and Tascam TDIF have helped fuel the digital-audiorevolution. DirectX, the VST plug-in format, the WAV and MP3audio-file formats, and ASIO audio-card drivers have been a hugehelp to computer-based musicians. Digidesign's TDM is thecenterpiece of a thriving development community, although it is notan open standard.

All this and the concurrent growth of codevelopment alliancesbetween manufacturers makes our lives as recording musicians awhole lot better. It also helps the music industry grow in moreways than we can count. Today it is a given that manufacturersshould think about ways to make their products “play wellwith others.” Larry the O alludes to this in his “FinalMix” column (“Playing Card Games,” p. 210).

But achieving tight studio integration is as much the studioowners' responsibility as it is the manufacturers'. We end usersneed to think in terms of purchasing gear with integration in mind.In future issues, we'll address the concept of creating a studio sowell integrated that it can be treated as a single device.

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