Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?
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Old 09-08-2014, 04:10 PM   #1
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Icon5 Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

I wasn't sure where to post this. I did search also, btw.

I only have software, and I read on here, IDM, the debates about software synths vs. hardware. But, when I use the software free or demo, there are always midi instruments.

A long time ago midi, I mean like 20 years ago, midi meant junky sounds. Nothing like instruments too much. I also realize midis are information, not the instruments or sounds.

So, my question is if using midi instruments is the same as playing an instrument, all things being equal?

When you all talk about hardware synths and software synths, is that what you are talking about? Or do you mean mostly square waves, vs. some other wave.

I thought I'd as in one post. Thanks for help. I'm trying not to duplicate the debate over hardware and software.

EDIT: For example, could Hans Zimmer or John Williams have created their music using modern technology and it sound the same?

EDIT: Scyn is correct. I should have said software instruments instead of MIDI. I just always see the folder "MIDI" and there are instruments in the directory.

Last edited by slowmo; 09-08-2014 at 04:37 PM..

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Old 09-08-2014, 04:30 PM   #2
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

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A long time ago midi, I mean like 20 years ago, midi meant junky sounds. Nothing like instruments too much. I also realize midis are information, not the instruments or sounds.

So, my question is if using midi instruments is the same as playing an instrument, all things being equal?
I think you can ask your question and replace the word 'midi' with soft-synth / virtual instrument / VSTi / software etc. The only way midi is relevant here is if you're talking about midi as a source of input - like a midi sequence in a DAW / sequencer that's playing the VSTi - then you could make a clear case for the midi information not being able to reproduce the nuances that come with playing an actual instrument. For string and wind instruments it's particularly difficult to get the same level of expression with midi information that you'd get from using your hands or mouth in subtle ways.

If you control a VSTi with a keyboard midi controller - then you're pretty much playing the piano. Whether the VSTi is able to reproduce the sound accurately is another story. Then again there's always sample-based VSTi's which are pretty good, sometimes too good - at reproducing the piano sound. If you're playing a violin VSTi with a midi keyboard then obviously you're not going to get the same level of expression as playing a real violin.

I'm not really sure if your question is about midi (as a source of input) vs. real instruments, or software instruments (or digital synths) vs. analog synths?
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Old 09-08-2014, 04:33 PM   #3
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

it isn't impossible to go to insane levels of detail with VSTI synths and DAW technology/piano rolls, maybe even more so since you can actually see what you're doing, it's just that most people who are into that sort of thing don't and instead focus on production and mastering bullshit. and 'sounds'(C)...

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Old 09-08-2014, 04:36 PM   #4
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

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Originally Posted by scyn View Post
I think you can ask your question and replace the word 'midi' with soft-synth / virtual instrument / VSTi / software etc. The only way midi is relevant here is if you're talking about midi as a source of input - like a midi sequence in a DAW / sequencer that's playing the VSTi - then you could make a clear case for the midi information not being able to reproduce the nuances that come with playing an actual instrument. For string and wind instruments it's particularly difficult to get the same level of expression with midi information that you'd get from using your hands or mouth in subtle ways.

If you control a VSTi with a keyboard midi controller - then you're pretty much playing the piano. Whether the VSTi is able to reproduce the sound accurately is another story. Then again there's always sample-based VSTi's which are pretty good, sometimes too good - at reproducing the piano sound. If you're playing a violin VSTi with a midi keyboard then obviously you're not going to get the same level of expression as playing a real violin.

I'm not really sure if your question is about midi (as a source of input) vs. real instruments, or software instruments (or digital synths) vs. analog synths?
I think you're right. I should have said software instruments.
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Old 09-08-2014, 04:43 PM   #5
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

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I think you're right. I should have said software instruments.
For pure sound-making ability and options I'd choose something like U-he zebra over an analaog synth any day. People who tell you analog sounds so much better would probably fail in most A/B comparisons between digital & analog.

For hands-on control and enjoyment - I'd choose a hardware synth over clicking with a mouse any day. That said - I don't really care if that synth is digital or analog - so long as it's fun to interact with.

I think you'll find very few people here with an analog-messiah complex. Maybe when it comes to processing units...but not so much with synths .
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Old 09-08-2014, 04:58 PM   #6
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

What about licensing though? I didn't make the original sound. I saw places releasing "Hans Zimmer Percussion Pack." There are also many, many software instruments, I mean the paid ones from "big" companies. Can you use those and not be stealing, pirating? I'd hate to make a song based upon one of these and someone say, "Oh that was just for your personal edification. You can't sell those."
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Old 09-08-2014, 05:17 PM   #7
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

If you pay for a software instrument (VSTi) you can do whatever you want with it. You could play one note and sell it for $100. Just how you can walk into a store, buy a casio keyboard, play one note and sell it for $100.

However sample packs (individual sound files) sometimes have different t&c's attached to them and differ from one company to the next.
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Old 09-08-2014, 08:07 PM   #8
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

An acoustic guitar is a wooden instrument with strings. These strings when struck vibrate which create sound. That sound gets amplified by the hollow chamber in the guitar itself. The model, as well as the type of wood and what not variables determine how the guitar sounds so no. Not to mention the numerous ways on how to operate the strings. Midi or VST's or whatever software does not sound like the real thing. Even though how detailed they might be. Zimmer and Williams use orchestras. There is no way in topping that with electronics but you can get very close but probably should think of electronic music as a genre of its own and not a tool which should simulate other genres or instruments.

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Old 09-08-2014, 09:13 PM   #9
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

A majority of people couldn't hear if it was a multi-sampled library or something recorded/played in real-time by real people.
A majority of people can't hear the difference between a good analog emulation VSTi and an analog synth made by manufacturer [X].

Hans Zimmer used u-he Zebra2 VSTi for this one, and real strings :

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Old 09-08-2014, 09:24 PM   #10
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?


Not a real guitar...if you couldn't see what he was playing would you know it wasn't?
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Old 09-08-2014, 09:41 PM   #11
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

^Nice!


Would you know this guy (Stanley Jordan) plays one synth (via midi guitar) and one guitar at the same time, if you weren't looking?

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Old 09-08-2014, 10:00 PM   #12
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

I don't think it's a case of not knowing, I think it's mostly a case of the listener not giving a shit.

As far as differences, I think most can be emulated damn well. Components will drift and go about weird over time, but with LFOs, blah blah, you can make it as close or as far from the "Original" synth as you like.
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Old 10-08-2014, 12:22 AM   #13
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

[QUOTE=Evelon;1264587]A majority of people couldn't hear if it was a multi-sampled library or something recorded/played in real-time by real people.
A majority of people can't hear the difference between a good analog emulation VSTi and an analog synth made by manufacturer [X].

That's true. Mostly music is being listen to in the background anyway. Unless people listen attentively they will notice but I doubt they would be bothered discovering the string isn't real.

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Old 10-08-2014, 06:16 AM   #14
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

Libraries are always going to be many steps ahead of softsynths, but I like to look at the whole debate as a difference rather than a better / worse comparison. Real instruments have real color, and those that exist on a computer beg for you to colorize them yourself.
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Old 10-08-2014, 08:48 AM   #15
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

Slighty off topic but people already went there (this thread wasn't supposed to be about synthetic recreations of so-called 'real' instruments even if the OP didn't realize it at the time) so I'll add: reproducing the sustain of a real instrument electronically and has always been possible (well not ALWAYS always, but the super old moogs could do it flawlessly) and almost trivial to do and no, you can't tell the difference. When people say synth instruments sound shitty they're referring to the attack and for some instruments this is incredibly hard if not impossible to recreate, part of the reason multi-sampled libraries and hybrids are more popular (not to mention the incredible abundance of harddrive space available).

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Old 12-08-2014, 01:58 AM   #16
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

no, and most people stopped trying to emulate acoustic instruments back in the 1980s to 1990s.

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Old 12-08-2014, 02:13 AM   #17
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

Honestly the people that worry about this kind of thing are people that make music, not the ones who listen to it purely for entertainment.
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Old 14-08-2014, 01:44 AM   #18
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

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no, and most people stopped trying to emulate acoustic instruments back in the 1980s to 1990s.
If that were true then nobody would use Kontakt, imo
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Old 14-08-2014, 02:05 AM   #19
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

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If that were true then nobody would use Kontakt, imo
pretty sure the vast majority of kontakt libraries are multisampled

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Old 14-08-2014, 02:51 AM   #20
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Re: Does a midi instrument sound like a real instrument?

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Originally Posted by Son of Akira View Post
pretty sure the vast majority of kontakt libraries are multisampled
I know they are, but it's still a VST that's capable of emulating something. One shot keys don't always sound realistic but some Kontakt libraries (like V-Metal) do a really good job.

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