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Chapter 2 Contents

Recommended Technologies



Unless you are an independent user of this text, a classroom will be the environment of transmission of the materials.  While each college or university will have different types of computer labs, they likely will have one that has already been used for music technology or one that could be easily adapted for this purpose.  While all institutions have limited resources, they could use a condensed version of delivery methods, i.e. students have their own computers and software, or they may be limited to using an audio program that comes with their computer such as Apple’s GarageBand.  If using a machine not running a version of MacOS, consider downloading a free audio workstation such as Pro Tools First, Ableton Live Lite, Reaper, or Cubase LE. 


Ideally, and for higher delivery and better student outcomes, a classroom or lab should include the following:


• An Instructor workstation with a computer, 88-key controller (with 

  pedal), MIDI interface, data projector or SMART Board, a class-

  share folder capability, and a quality audio system.


• Student workstations with a computer, MIDI interface, keyboard 

  controller (with pedal), and an array of audio software programs.


Either a PC or Macintosh could be used although the Logic Pro software can only be used on the Mac platform since it was built on the foundation of GarageBand, which was formerly C-Lab Notator, and one of the first MIDI sequencing programs.  Arguably, Macs are the industry standard for audio software.



The choice of headphones impacts not only the quality of the sound but also the care and safety of ones hearing ability.  Poor headphones can lead to auditory damage since there can be spikes in audio levels as a result of user errors.  That is; unwillingly creating a transient because of complex manipulations of the audio data.  For example, inadvertently creating an audio feedback loop when using a digital signal processor.


Furthermore, headphones can have a dramatic effect on the quality of the mix.  When low-cost headphones are used in the mixing process and the final mix is played on a three-way high-fidelity system, the results can be disappointing.


It is therefore recommended that students invest in quality headphones to ensure the best musical outcome and the preservation of their hearing.


The following headsets are of high quality for mixing and audio production:


• Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

• Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

• Sony MDR-7506

• Extreme Isolation EX-29

• Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro

• Focal Spirit Professional

• Shure SRH 1540

• Beyerdynamic DT990 Pro

• AKG K 701.



Software choices increase on a yearly basis.  In an effort to assist the reader, some of the best and most user friendly are listed here (prices are at date of publication and student pricing may be available):


• Logic Pro X  (app. $279.99).  It is user friendly includes an enormous library 

of virtual instruments, loops, ethnic instruments, percussion patterns and a 

vast array VST digital processing plugins (DSP).  It is surround sound capable. 

    Can only be used with Mac.


• Pro Tools  (app. $779 standard version and $1,299 ultimate).  Known as the

industry standard for sound effects, music editing and music recording for 

film.  It comes with many plugins and effects although additional plugins can 

be very expensive because of their proprietary format.  Not as great a 

sequencer as Logic and needs and an iLok dongle to run.  It is 11 point 

surround capable.


• Cubase (app. $150 Elements, $466 Artist and $844 Pro.  It has exceptional 

MIDI capabilities and comes with a host of MIDI editing abilities, MIDI effects, 

and sound libraries.  It is known for its stability but also has a steep learning 



• Ableton Live (app. $119 Intro, $539 Standard and $899 Suite).  It has an 

intuitive dynamic configuration and workflow.  It is great for beat-making, 

looping and editing.  It comes with a native sampler and versatile tools for 

crafting and editing virtual drum performances.  It was made with a live 

musician in mind and therefore is may not be as suitable for a MIDI film music 

workstation.  Nonetheless, it could work well based on the background of the 

user and their chosen genre for exploration.  The non-linear layout may 

confuse people familiar with other digital audio workstations (DAWS).


• Reaper (app. $82.57 discounted license and $309.65 commercial license).  It 

has a simple design that uses minimal processing power and is very stable.  It 

comes with a limited selection of digital processing tools.  Users get a 60-day

free trial after which they are recommended to purchase a license.


• Presonus Studio One (app. $135.40 Artist and $541.79 Professional).  It has 

drag and drop features which make music making less technical.  It has many 

advanced MIDI editing tools that aim to be extremely user friendly.  It is less 

functional for composers wanting to view their scores.



An integral part of the MIDI workspace is the keyboard controller that allows one to enter MIDI data.  Keyboard sizes range from two octave mini controllers to the full complement of 88 keys (seven octaves+).  Not all controllers have weighted keys, pitch bend, or modulation controls.  The latter two come in the form of a joystick or wheels.  Many several controllers have built in pads for executing percussion patterns, controls for panning, and other data controls.  These are most useful for the student workstations, allowing additional tacit control of data and not just on-screen manipulation (dynamic configuration).  Choosing a controller should be based on the level of proficiency one has on a keyboard.  The following are recommended controllers:


Roland has a large array of controllers and synthesizers (which can also be used as controllers).  However, some do not have the 5-pin MIDI connectors and just a USB port for sending note data.  They range from 88 keys (weighted or not, without modulation or pitch wheels) to smaller configurations for note data only.  The Roland Pro 800 features a great assortment of MIDI data controls while the Roland RD-700 does not but in lieu of it has 88 weighted keys, modulation and pitch bend, a large library of sounds, and is expandable with use of additional instrument cards.


Illustration 2.15:  The Roland 800 Controller


Yamaha P-series, like Roland has a large array of controls. 


Illustration 2.16:  Yamaha P-series weighted-key keyboards.


This series is built with a pianist in mind.  All 88 keys are weighted.  However, there is no wheel or other expression devise which means that data manipulation will need to be done on screen.


If pure MIDI data entry is required then the following are recommended for classroom workstations.


M-Audio has a number of controllers that offer a variety of MIDI options including x/y pads for triggering percussion sounds, pitch and modulation, as well as other MIDI controls such as glissandi and panning.  The M-Audio Code 61 is the only controller with 61 keys (non-weighted) in this category.


Illustration 2.17:  M-Audio Code 61



• Alesis also has a large selection of MIDI controllers that include pads and pitch/modulation wheels plus other data entry capabilities.  {more}


Illustration 2.18: Alesis Keyboard Controller



• AKAI have a large selection of MIDI controllers, yet none have 88 keys.  Their keyboards have custom semi-weighted keys.  Their strength is the large amount of programming possible for custom MIDI assignments (data controllers).  They are also very good for portability and travel. 

Illustration 2.19:  AKAI MPK249



 • Komplete Kontrol, controllers starting at 25 keys up to 88 keys (weighted).  Perhaps one of the most versatile controllers on the market.  It offers complete integration with Komplete instruments and effects, and Native Kontrol standard (NKS) instruments, which have a large variety of ethnic instruments as well as traditional ones.  {more}


Illustration 2.20:  Complete Kontrol


MIDI Interfaces

Microprocessors will be required for each workstation to connect the computer with the MIDI interface allowing transfer of data to the software.  Though there are a number of interfaces on the market, the Tascam MKII is one of the best.  It has both XLR and phone inputs with RCA outputs and phantom power along with volume, monitor mix controls, and headphone jack.


Illustration 2.21: TASCAM MKII











Virtual Instruments

• East West Quantum Leap.  Their Hollywood Orchestra has a large library of strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion, each with a multitude of options for envelope control.  These instruments respond well to MIDI expression and volume changes.


• Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2 is an extremely versatile software synthesizer that features over 12,000 original sounds that can be modified and DSP’d.  It is limited to 8 MIDI channels, however, MIDI tracks can be converted to audio tracks if needed.


• Keyscape has meticulously sampled pianos and keyboards.  The Keyscape software was designed with experienced pianists in mind. This software would work best with a high-quality audio system, a fully weighted, 88 key controller, possibly with pedal inputs to give the user as close an experience as possible to playing on an acoustic piano. 


• Native Instruments has released some of the most widely used virtual instruments whose realism lends itself well for film-scoring. They also combine well with the Kontakt virtual instruments providing a larger palette of colors.  


• Spitfire Audio has numerous sound libraries with the contemporary composer in mind including a diverse selection of chamber, orchestra, and electronic instruments.


• SONiVOX has excellent sounding orchestral instruments.  While not the most complex or detailed type of software, the ease-of-use that comes with many SONiVOX instruments may lend itself to those beginning to learn about MIDI and virtual instruments.  


• Vienna Symphonic Libraries are costly but are some of the most authentic sounding, detailed, and nuanced virtual orchestral instruments one can find.  They are used by high level film composers and are considered industry standard libraries.


• Garritan Personal Orchestra is a selection of over 500 sounds made with the novice composer in mind.  Incredible value for the price.


• Roland Cloud.  This collection mainly features re-creations of analog and digital synthesizers on a cloud-based subscription service.


• ProTools Expert has compiled a more comprehensive list of virtual instruments and libraries for the film-composer.  View them at:

Roland 800
Yamaha P series
M audio controller
Alesis controller
Akai controller
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