Digital Sound & Music: Concepts, Applications, & Science, Chapter 6, last updated 6/25/2013
Figure 6.2 Software interface for MIDI controller from Apple Logic
A means to transmit MIDI messages: a cable connecting your computer and the MIDI
controller via MIDI ports or another data connection such as USB or FireWire.
A means to receive, record, and process MIDI messages: a MIDI sequencer, which is
software on your computer providing a user interface to capture, arrange, and manipulate
the MIDI data. The interfaces of two commonly used software sequencers – Logic (Mac-
based) and Cakewalk Sonar (Windows-based) are shown in Figures 1.29 and 1.30 of
Chapter 1. The interface of Reason (Mac or Windows) is shown in Figure 6.3.
A means to interpret MIDI messages
and create sound: either a hardware
or a software synthesizer. All three of
the sequencers pictured in the
aforementioned figures give you
access to a variety of software
synthesizers (soft synths, for short)
and instrument plug-ins (soft synths often created by third-party vendors). If you don’t
have a dedicated hardware of software synthesizer within your system, you may have to
resort to the soft synth supplied by your operating system. For example, Figure 6.4
shows that the only choice of synthesizer for that system setup is the Microsoft GS
Wavetable Synth. Some sound cards have hardware support for sound synthesis, so this
may be another option.
A means to do digital-to-analog conversion and listen to the sound: a sound card in the
computer or external audio interface connected to a set of loudspeakers or headphones.
Figure 6.3 Reason’s sequencer
Aside: We use the term synthesizer in a
broad sense here, including samplers that
produce sound from memory bands of
recorded samples. We’ll explain the
distinction between synthesizers and samplers
in more detail in Section 7.1.6.