Tag Archives: MIDI

What if Mozart had MIDI?

After a professional development session this week, I was talking to one of our music teachers who does an excellent job of integrating technology into the regular band and vocal music course offerings. Classroom uses embrace composition, arranging, recording, sequencing, accompanying and theory instruction. Software packages used included packages for both Mac and Windows – Finale, Band in a Box, Garage Band and Sequel. This spun off into a conversation reminiscing about the ‘old days’ – meaning before MIDI, sound samples, loops, powerful notation software etc.

I told him about the WX5 MIDI wind instrument I had been playing over the summer (reaction = wow), he told me about new professional level sound samples he is using for some scoring work he is doing – cool.

As a technology user, it is easy to look at something as the next logical step of development. So yes, maybe a ‘cool’ factor to a new device or sound. Lets pause for a moment and step back. The changes in this technology area in the last dozen years is absolutely phenomenal = WOW.  Look at what you can do with  home/school level equipment and software. Truly amazing.

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Pictured above, are the WX5 MIDI wind instrument, an electric violin and an electric guitar equipped with a pitch to MIDI device.

Think of the impact Bach or Mozart had on the world of music. I wonder what would have happened to music development if this equipment was available in their time or they were alive now. One thing for sure, they would have as much fun with technology as we are!!!

Just wondering ….

~ Mark

WX5 – First Impressions

I finally had some time to sit down and spend a block of time with the Yamaha WX5 MIDI Wind Controller. There are some first time configuration tasks to complete before you can jump into make music mode. Most of the steps are fairly straight forward, but I did learn a few things about the device by actually reading the instructions (unlike me :-]).

 

WX5
WX5

 

 

Setup & Configuration Options:

Power – batteries or AC adaptor – I chose the AC adaptor. It is worthwhile noting that the unit does not come with the AC adapter when purchased. I was a bit surprised by this but did pick one up. I imagine that batteries may be best suited to a performance situation, but that will come farther down the road.

Mouthpiece – recorder or reed style – I choose the reed style as I anticipated this would be more like a clarinet/saxophone which is what I am used to playing.

Tone Generator – Yamaha VL70-m MIDI module or alternate MIDI module – The WX5 does not actually produce any sound on its own. It needs to send MIDI data to another device to create the actual sounds, much in the same manner as a number of MIDI keyboard controllers on the market. The VL70-m unit is designed to work with the WX5 and has a special connection port for the WX5 cable. The VL70-m unit comes pre-populated with 2 banks of 128 preset voices and has additional space for voice editing (6) and user created variations on internal voices (64). I will be using the VL70-m unit to start, but I do have other MIDI modules that would be interesting to try as well. 

Setting the sensors: The lip and wind sensors need to be adjusted to your own playing. The manual guides you through this process quite clearly. The factory default settings were quite accurate, so that minimized the work in this area. 

Fingering Mode Selection: There are 3 variations on saxophone fingering patterns and one flute option. I selected the saxophone ‘a’ setting which is similar to playing a tenor saxophone. 

There are other more advanced features which I decided to leave alone for now. Time to play!

Most of my first session was experimental to see what the unit could do and how it responded. Playing a few scales oriented my fingers to the note patterns on the unit fairly quickly. The air pressure required to produce a sound is quite light – certainly less than playing a clarinet or saxophone. There are additional adjustment in this area which I expect to explore as I think I would be more comfortable with a little more air resistance. Octave changes are executed through a series of 4 different left thumb buttons (-2, -1, +1, +2). This will take some getting used to, but many selections easily fit within a 2 octave range, so the current octave with a +1 option will handle these. I also experimented with many of the present sounds in the VL70-m unit – some very cool choices, and more to go.

So far, so good and FUN!  I am looking forward to trying some melodies played against some midi accompaniments done with Band in a Box (software). Stay tuned for a future update. Maybe I will record something simple and post a sample. 

Off for more WX5 time.

~ Mark

MIDI Wind Instrument

I have started to turn some of my attention to preparations for our summer computer technology & leadership forum for our staff – CATC By the Water. CATC (Computers Across the Curriculum) has literally become a word in our Board. As a member of the planning team and on site lead team during the event, I look forward to this annual summer event. It has a long history of success and I expect the same excellent results this year. The CATC By the Water wiki is now online (see links section) if you would like to learn more about it. 

Based on the Open Space Technology concept, each camper (teacher) comes with a self directed project to do. I too will bring a project to work on when breaks from official camp duties permit. Typically, I end up working on something in music technology area.

This year is looking as exciting as ever as I will have the opportunity to use some new to me amazing technology. I will be bringing a MIDI wind instrument to camp – a Yamaha WX5 to be more precise. The WX5 interfaces with standard MIDI sound modules as well as Yamaha modules designed specifically for the WX5. The unit requires some set up – mouthpiece style (recorder or reed),  breathe control sensors, sensitivity and key select mode (sax or flute). 

 

Yamaha WX5
Yamaha WX5

During the next few days I will have a chance to work through the setup and try the unit in more depth. In particular, I will be interested to see how the unit works with the Band in a Box and Finale software packages that are licensed for use in Ontario school systems by OSAPAC (www.osapac.org).

Stay tuned for an upcoming report on my experiences with the WX5 MIDI wind instrument.

~ Mark