MIDI and MOD: Music on a Mac
The Mac was seen as a toy in its infancy, but a few industries found a use for it, and it caught on. The music industry was one of them. They came up with a great technology, called MIDI. There is an similar upcoming technology called MOD.
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. Any composer can tell you that this is a great thing. To use it, three things are needed. The first one is a MIDI-compatible keyboard. (Today, most decent keyboards are) Second, you need a MIDI interface. This is just a small box that, in its simplest form, attaches the keyboard to the Mac. The last thing needed to do MIDI is the software. More specifically, a sequencer.
The sequencer records what you play on the keyboard. It records information, such as what note was played, how long it was sustained, and whether or not the pedal was down. All the information about the note is put in number form in a chart that is very hard to read. But you can edit any of it! You can, for instance, put crescendos in the middle of a note. You need to do this when you are working on different instruments besides a piano. You can play back the song from the sequencer and you will hear it from the keyboard’s speaker.
As this is supposed to be a great technology, you can record multiple tracks and play them together. This is much like a multi-track tape recorder. Each track can have a different sound, but that requires the keyboard to be able to play more than one sound at a time. They call this being multitimbril. This lets you create an orchestra from your Mac.
When you go to buy your keyboard (The musical type, not the computer variety) you will want to keep several important things in mind; If you get one with poor quality sounds, your compositions will always sound bad. Usually, the more money you spend, the better the sounds are. As said earlier, you have to get one that is multitimbral. The most important thing to remember is that it has to be MIDI compatible. If it’s not, then you wasted your money.
If you just want to hear a MIDI file, all you need is Quicktime 2. Go into any Movie playing application and select open. Choose to open your MIDI file and you will get a Save As… dialog box. Name it whatever and click save. This saves your MIDI file as a QuickTime movie. Then you will see a movie window with just the control bar. Play the movie and you will hear the MIDI file.
The next type of file is a MOD file. This has been around for a long time on Amiga computers. This is very similar to a MIDI file, but it includes a sound sample for every instrument in that particular song. This is very helpful because you don’t need a good keyboard to hear the sounds. The sound is very small and the resulting MOD file is also very small. That means a small MOD file could actually play for a few minutes.
There are many shareware programs that are made for playing and editing MOD files. Some of them even let you create your own with an on screen keyboard. This is a great way to create your own songs without going through the trouble of buying expensive equipment. But many don’t and then you do need a keyboard and a MIDI interface.
You can find any of these things online. If you’re on America Online, Keyword: mms brings you to the Macintosh Music and Sound Forum. Here there are hundreds of MOD and MIDI files. It is also a great place to find sound samples and sound applications.
Both MIDI and MOD files are able to be used on any platform. So, you could create something on a Mac and a person using any other computer platform could hear it. It’s great for any musician that works with both types of computers. MOD files are better for anyone that doesn’t want to buy the equipment and make their own songs. MIDI is, for now, more popular and is widely used. If you are interested, search on an online service and you will find hundreds of files and applications to get you started. These aren’t the only ways to get music on a Mac. Programs such as Finale are made more for the composer that needs to write music down on “paper.” But MIDI and MOD are both very easy to setup and use and require little or no musical ability. Music is a great thing to hear. These are two fantastic ways to hear it!