My first piano lesson was the day before my fifth birthday. I often combined computers and music, like in my live performance software PatchMaster and SeaMaster. Both stem from an older program I wrote called KeyMaster I originally wrote on the Commodore 64 and used on stage for years. I later ported it to the Atari ST and rewrote for the now-defunct BeOS.
My MIDI reference has moved here. It’s not a tutorial. Rather, it is intended as a quick overview and a reference guide.
I performed in bands from 1980 to 1993, and started playing out with a band again in 2013. Everything from progressive rock to dance pop to electric jazz; covers and originals. Here’s a video of Miles at Connelly’s in Times Square, New York City in 2013. I’m the guy with the beard and glasses stuck to the side of the stage. There’s also another group of us that gets together every week or two to jam and learn songs from the ‘70’s - today that we like and can put our own spin on.
I write different kinds of stuff. Most of it is funk/dance/pop, but I also dabble in orchestral, Sondheim-esque pieces, game show themes, thirty-second newsroom background music, and whatever else tickles my fancy.
Perhaps some day I’ll post some snippets of my music. Aside from the typeset pieces below and the sequencer and MIDI files of the music I’ve done on my own, I only have one crappy cassette of a bunch of works-in-progress from the late ’80s. It’s dated but good stuff. The sound quality is horrendous. Also, the tape broke so I’ll need to repair it one day.
Here are three pieces I composed that I’ve typeset using LilyPond.
Here’s a tech-head’s view of the tools I use to create my music.
Korg Kronos X 88
- A big honking seven-foot rack, affectionately called the “Think Tank”.
Most of the equipment in it was originally mounted in a homemade, rolling,
chest-high rack along with a Commodore 64 running my own real
MIDI performance software.
PatchMaster is the current incarnation of that
software. It runs on Mac OSX, Linux, Windows, and on
- Kurzweil K2000RS (R = rackmount, S = sampling)
- Kurzweil 1000PX
- Mackie LM-3204 mixer
- Yamaha MV802 mixer
- Emagic AMT8 MIDI interface
- Korg DRV-2000 digital reverb
- Crest Audio FA901 power amp
- Two rack-mount power strips
- Custom patch bay with 12 1/2”, 6 MIDI, 4 XLR, 2 1/2” TRS
- Akai ME10D MIDI “digital delay” (echoes MIDI data, optionally transposing it up/down one octave)
Chapman Stick, 12-string Grand Stick—5 bass, 7 treble, classic tuning (I’m finally getting serious about learning to play it.)
Moog Etherwave Theremin
Ibanez SR505 5-string bass
Fender Stratocaster with one humbucker and two single-coil pickups
Akai MPD 32 USB/MIDI pad controller
Yamaha U3 upright piano, but it’s in the living room along with the ukelele, mandolin, and recorders but far away from all the electronic gear
Apple MacBook Pro laptop
- Guitar/Bass Amps:
- Line 6 LowDown LD400 Pro (2x10”)
- Fender Frontman 15R practice amp that I found at the town dump in full working condition
- A pair of M-Audio AV 40 monitors
- JBL EON 515XT powered speaker
- OAP T-122B wedge (70 lbs, a pain to carry around)
- Home-made (by someone else) piece of crap
- Three empty six-space racks from the olden days of live performance
I wrote my own real-time performance program called KeyMaster that I used live from 1986–1993. Its first incarnation was on a Commodore 64, later ported to the Atari ST. I half-heartedly started a Macintosh version. The next was the BeOS version. For the latest instantiations see the cross-platform PatchMaster and KeyMaster, a Mac OS X-only simpler version that is more responsive. There’s also the newest incarnation, SeaMaster, a version of PatchMaster written in C and using the PortMidi library.
Apple’s MainStage 3 is useful when I play with friends. We rent a rehearsal room once a week or so, and though the keyboards are the same in the different rooms we rent it is nice to have the same sounds, splits, transposes, etc. with me on my laptop.
Korg KRONOS Editor (link is to the KRONOS support/downloads page).
REAPER Digital Audio Workstation.
LilyPond for music notation typesetting.
Tracktion 3, which I don’t use any more.
This is not a complete list of all the music software I have. Since switching to Mac OS X, I’ve downloaded a number of utilities such as MidiPipe and SimpleSynth for testing MIDI apps I write.
Just for fun, here’s a list of my old gear. I can’t remember everything I’ve ever owned — I started playing in bands in the late ‘70’s — but here’s what I remember that’s not in my current setup:
- Yamaha DX7
- Yamaha TX81Z (2)
- Yamaha RX5 drum machine
- Yamaha CS-5
- Alesis D4 drum synth
- Roland SuperJupiter
- Roland Jupiter-6
- Korg CX3 organ
- Farfisa organ
- Moog Memorymoog
- Moog Source
- Kurzweil 2000
- Fender Rhodes
- Yamaha CP 70 electric grand (it was the singer’s, but I got to use it)
- Opcode Studio 5 MIDI interface
- Roland Axis strap-on MIDI keyboard
Here are the bands and orchestras I’ve played in over the years. Believe me, you’ve never heard of any of them.
- Starfire (electronic piano, junior high)
- RI Youth Orchestra (contrabass, junior high, high school)
- All-State band, orchestra, jazz band; One year, both orchestra (contrabass) and jazz band (electric piano, high school)
- Just Once (electric piano, trumpet, high school)
- Once Again (electric piano, trumpet, high school)
- King Lizard Revival Jass Band (trumpet, high school) (“Jass” is the original spelling of “Jazz”)
- Camelot (conductor and music director, high school)
- Guys and Dolls (conductor and music director, college)
- Sinequanon (keyboards)
- Artisan (keyboards)
- Perfect Stranger (keyboards)
- Shy264 (keyboards)
- Boys With Toys (keyboards)
- Optional Stop (keyboards)
- Uncommon Ground (keyboards)
- Miles… (keyboards)
- Unnamed (keyboards)