My MIDI Tips

Here are some of my tricks for making realistic sounding MIDI tracks:


  • Invest in a quality MIDI sequencing program (there are many)
  • Find a good source for instrument sounds (beyond just the standard GM set)
    • Some of my favorites include
      • Dimension Pro
      • Native Instruments
  • Layer certain instruments to fatten the sound
    • Two of my favorite instruments to double include
      • Bass guitar to make it fatter, warmer
      • Acoustic guitar to make it sound fuller
  • Volume versus Velocity
    • Volume controls the entire track
    • You can vary velocity for each note within a track
  • Transposing to match instrument ranges
    • Transpose to match the range of a given instrument
    • Make sure your bass guitar sounds like a bass guitar
  • Guitar strums – delaying successive notes of a chord (de-quantizing)
  • Finding the right instruments for your song
  • Using keyboard accompaniment sheet music to find instrument parts
  • Bringing lead instruments in and out during the song (i.e. arranging)
  • Doubling the melody line to make it stand out
  • Using tempo changes to match the song’s feel – make it more human
  • Doubling the bass / guitar / organ and other instruments
  • Quantizing the notes to improve the rhythm & match the sheet music, and then…
    • De-quantize (aka randomize) certain notes to humanize the track
  • Use MIDI plug-ins to enhance your final sound –
    • Sound effects include reverb, compression, noise gate
    • Other include DBX, surround, equalization, and many others


“We regularly use MIDI tracks to back our choir in a live worship setting.  What are some tips for making MIDI tracks work smoothly in a live music setting?”

 MIDI tip #1: Run MIDI music through a volume pedal for expression & control 

Some problems with using some MIDI tracks –

  • Erratic volume (start off levels, all tracks are not equal)
  • Loud count off clicks
  • Lack of dynamics – constant level sounds too mechanical
  • No fading in or fading out
  • No fail safe device in case of big mistakes

Volume / Expression pedal is the answer!

Church organists have been doing it for years.  Simply place the volume pedal between the computer’s output and the mixer’s input.  Keep one foot on this pedal to control music level much like you would control the acceleration of an automobile.

Using a volume pedal will:

  • Give you hands free volume control of the music tracks
  • Add dynamics to match the song’s movements (aka “expression”)
  • Provide fade in to tamp down click sounds
  • Provide fade out in cases of the need to stop gracefully
  • Give you a way to kill sound in panic situation

Stereo volume pedal is best for two-channel music:

  • Run music only through it (I keep my keyboard & voice separated)
  • High quality cables a must
  • I run from laptop through the pedal to a mixer


Here is a place you can go to get some actual training along these lines: ==>  Groove3 – MIDI Basics & Production Bundle

Give it a try!  Meanwhile, let me know if any questions.  Happy singing!

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