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Stand alone MIDI Multitrack - Is there such a thing?

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  • Stand alone MIDI Multitrack - Is there such a thing?

    I am looking for a simple non computer based multitrack midi recording device. I would like to lay down tracks of midi backing tracks that I could then take to a studio to finish by using their extensive sounds and then adding audio (vocals etc). I am not good with computer recording. Are all the digital multitrack recorders just record wav files? For example the Zoom R8 has drums and other sounds built in. That would be perfect if I could save them as midi. Any suggestions?

  • #2
    What you are looking for is a hardware MIDI sequencer... they come in various formats, including models that are built into keyboard workstations. A discontinued model that may appeal to you is the Alesis MMT-8. They go for relatively low prices on Reverb and EBay. Yamaha and Roland have both made various hardware sequencers over the years too.

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    • #3
      Thank you - I see a few of them for sale. I looked at a manual online but I can't seem to see what type of media is used to save this to. Not sure how old a unit like this is. Can I save my files to a usb? CD? Floppy drive?


      • #4
        Hardware MIDI sequencers are really an obsolete technology. I may still have one in my garage that I never used. The ones I'm aware of used 3.5" floppy disks for file storage. I doubt you'd find one that used USB.

        If you need a modern device, then there are standalone "hard disk" audio recording devices that also record/sequence MIDI. I'm pretty sure a sampler (Akai, Roland) can be used to record and playback MIDI sequences from and to external MIDI devices.

        I understand the frustration you're having with computer recording, but it's hard to avoid to these days.

        This space left intentionally blank.


        • #5
          I was looking at the Zoom R8 multitrack but they said their format is wav and not midi files


          • #6
            You need to realize what you're recording when you're using midi. There is no sound involved. All you're essentially doing is recording keystrokes, triggers, Key duration, pitch, touch, and stuff like that. The easiest way to think of it is like the old player piano's. They used a roll of paper with hones punched in it and the holes triggered the piano keys to work.

            When you record midi, all you're doing is punching holes in the paper and creating a very basic computer sequence by linking them to a clock
            There is no sound involved when making this piano roll.

            You only get sound when you load the paper onto a device that provides the voice. It can be a Keyboard, as Phil suggested, which provides a voice for the playback as well as providing a method of creating a paper roll, as primitive as that may seem.
            You can also use a computer loaded with Virtual instruments and an interface. The virtual instruments are triggered by the sequence (paper roll) you recorded and you can choose any voice you want. The interface is what connects to the speakers and converts digital to audio. Without that you don't hear jack.

            Most of the stand alone midi sequencers pre date personal computers are pretty much museum pieces now. besides being antique, when's the last time you saw a computer with a floppy disk? Moving the data becomes a nightmare.

            This leaves you with two main options. You can buy a keyboard that incorporates recording musical compositions internally via multitracking. I know some keyboard players with good gear and the capabilities some new keyboards have will totally blow your mind. you get what you pay for however.

            If you simply want to use a stripped down midi keyboard, your best and cheapest option is a computer. You want it to be stand a alone, its called a laptop or notebook with an interface that takes midi. Some older laptops you could even run a joystick midi adaptor and use the internal sound card because midi doesn't take that much resources. I would suggest using new however. No sense in using both obsolete hardware and software. you probably couldn't get anything worthwhile running on anything running XP or older anyway.

            You may even able to do some on a cell phone. I have a few programs on my iPhone which will let me build rhythm tracks.
            I haven't messed with it much because I find midi as boring was watching the grass grow. Its not like playing an actual instrument. It can sound OK, but all you're doing is building a sequence which isn't too much different then writing down musical notes. The composing end of writing it does take an in depth understanding of the notes and timing, but it doesn't hold a candle to playing those notes in real time for me.


            • #7
              I did a lot of MIDI recording in the late '80s after the DX7 came out. I had a Yamaha QX21 then bought a Roland MPU-401, a PC and a very early text based MIDI sequencer version of Cakewalk.

              In those days I found it a bit of an ordeal to get everything setup and to manage the recording process - which often resulted in the musical idea getting lost or compromised in some way.

              you might find this article interesting...
              I am the Awareness in which all of this takes place.