Sunday, November 20, 2011

Microtuning Virtual Instruments - Part 2

This article is intended for computer musicians and composers who are getting started with making microtonal and xenharmonic music using MIDI controlled virtual instruments that feature full-controller microtuning, and seeks to define what it means to be able to fully microtune an instrument to any conceivable intonation system.

Microtuning Virtual Instruments - Part 2 | MIDI Pitch Microtuning

With the profusion of alternative electronic musical instrument controllers we have available today, I've been compelled to consider other, and perhaps more all encompassing terms, for what many microtonal composers, theorists and musicians have long called full-keyboard microtuning. Possibilities could be something like 'full-controller microtuning', or even more to the point, MIDI Pitch Microtuning.

For purposes of discussion, this article will use MIDI Pitch Microtuning, or MPM, to indicate what is one of the most important features required for any virtual instrument that is intended for serious microtonal and xenharmonic music composition.

But what exactly is MIDI Pitch Microtuning?

Well, it's very simple, and there is a strict definition for this feature...

MIDI Pitch Microtuning enables musicians and composers to arbitrarily re-tune, or microtune, each and every MIDI Note to any desired frequencies, thereby changing the underlying intonation system of the musical instrument.

Any full implementation of MPM does this by default, and with extreme high precision, is able to remap every MIDI Note to entirely new pitches – and importantly – it remaps the pitches without the need to offset or transpose the oscillators of the instrument to achieve these target pitches.

It's important to recognize that any virtual instrument that does not meet this simple criteria of being able to arbitrarily re-tune every MIDI Note – without the need to offset oscillator pitches – does not feature, by definition, MIDI Pitch Microtuning.

In upcoming articles, there will be discussion about various popular microtuning formats, such as TUN, Scala SCL/KBM and MTS. There will also be information on how to create these microtuning files for your virtual instrument and how to use the keyboard mapping features of Scala.

Stay microtuned,

j:l

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