Re: Midi vs Real Tracks (cont'd) #RealTracks

D F Tweedie

Bob, I overwhelmingly defer to your opinions, but I think you are being slightly harsh.

'Humanizing' and groove are not antithetical. They can be complimentary. 'Humanizing' randomization doesn't have have to be mindless.

A well done MIDI file can have a great groove with the drums and other tracks properly in their respective pockets. It can of course depend if those drums and instruments were played in or programmed.

With programmed files the note velocities and note lengths may be too exacting and repetetive. So you keep the note starts almost untouched with maybe a range of -3 to +10 ticks and a slightly larger range of maybe -5 to + 15 ticks for note ending and velocity. Your still will probably be more exacting than a human player but you'll have a better feel over all.

I think all tools and techniques have their place ... and any can be used inapproriately.

On Tuesday, February 9, 2021, 10:13:35 PM PST, Bob 'Notes' Norton <norton@...> wrote:

I'm not fond of humanizing at all. "Humanizing" moves the notes around in a random fashion controlled only by how much you let them vary from their starting point. To me randomizing does nothing but increase the slop factor.

For most modern popular forms of music, the musicians do not play in sync with the tempo as if they are step-entered, but whether consciously or unconsciously play certain notes intentionally either ahead or behind the beat. It's consistent and not random at all.

Example 1: Swing is somewhere between a triplet and a dotted eights / sixteenth note rhythm. But how much? Some gentle swings are closer to the triplet and some are closer to the dotted eighth / sixteenth. It depends on the song and the interpretation of that song. And if mixing two real tracks with different swing factors, what you get is a sloppy band.

Example 2: Beat 2 and 4 of a 4/4 tempo song. Sometimes beat 2 and 4 are rushed ahead of the beat, sometimes they lag behind the beat. And again how much ahead or behind? The entire band needs to be together. So if mixing two real tracks that don't have the 2s and 4s in the same place, you get slop.

Example 3: Beat 2 of a 3/4 song is often rushed ahead of the beat. When I was in school band, the band director played different recordings of Strauss Waltzes by different orchestras to demonstrate how different conductors rushed that second beat by different amounts. It was my first introduction to what we call the groove in popular music.

Example 4: Eighth notes are often not played exactly equal either. When you step enter a single stroke roll on a snare drum it sounds like a machine drum. Real drummers have one hand stronger than the other so one is more aggressive than the other. Plus one hits harder and on a slightly different part of the drum head. Similarly guitarists usually have more force on a down-stroke than an up-stroke. I could go on and on.

Example 5: When the bassist and drummer are in sync, if the bass player plays a microsecond ahead of the kick drum, it emphasizes the notes of the bass line. Conversely if the bass lags the kick drum a hair, the thud of the kick drum is emphasized. Crash cymbals are usually hit a hair early for that same reason. Humanizing would ruin all of this.

Leilani and I took ballroom dancing because what better way to see which beats or sub-beats should be rushed or delayed than to dance the appropriate dances? When the groove is right, it moves the dancers, when the dancers are moved, they have a great time, and when they have a great time, they re-hire the band. The result was when we worked on the cruise ships, there was a 20 piece orchestra that played ballroom dance music, but the ballroom dancers would come to dance with us.

Leilani already knew how to do most popular dances so we had that under control from the start.

In the recording studio, the drummer sets the groove. The drummer is the king/queen of the groove, and all the other players must listen to the drummer's groove and sync in with it, if not, they won't be called back for another session. If two different real tracks are playing to a different groove, you get beautiful tone but not beautiful music.

Humanizing is randomizing. The groove is deliberate, and it breathes life into the music.

There is a lot that takes these notes and turns them into something that touches the listener. Rhythm is one piece of the puzzle, perhaps the most basic. After that we have dynamics, phrasing, ornaments, and quite a few others. Having a life of music is a life of learning, and that's one of the things I love about it. No matter how much I learn, there is always a new discovery ahead, whether I make it on my own, I learn it from a master, or I learn it from a student (and a good teacher always learns from students).

Bob "Notes" Norton • owner, Norton Music •
BiaB user styles with live entered parts for that live music groove for musicians who want BiaB to sound like real musicians and not robots.

On 2/8/2021 8:50 PM, D F Tweedie via wrote:
Almost all competent DAWs contain MIDI plugins or features in the track headers to introduce 'humanizing' into the MIDI playback of a track. They do this by including parameters, for examples, that permit you to choose ranges for timing, note length, velocity, etc., in random manner that changes 'mechanical' note entry into something more interesting.

This does not take into account the additional 'massaging' that can be accomplished through a DAW's MIDI editor.

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