Help out a novice. MIDI. Korg Microstation


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Hello everyone. I am new here and am a novice keyboard player. Im a guitar player first but I love electronic music and i wanted a workstation mainly to use as a decent drum machine but also to have fun with and learn some things about synthesis and playing piano. So a couple years ago i bought a Korg Microstation. They only made them for a few years. After mainly using the unit for drum tracks for i have gotten really into using the sequencer of late and Ive been exploring all the different timbres and sounds that are offered. Im having a blast and im beginning to get much better at piano playing. The problem is that this thing is so tiny and the keys are so small. Its like a little toy. I am also a pretty large person with big hands and while i am sort of used to they keys at this point i know that i would greatly benefit from an 88 key full size keyboard. I have read about using a 88 key full size midi controller instead and using the korg as the source. I understand this in theory but the problem is i have no idea what MIDI even is. If someone could explain the very basics that would be great. How would this work? What would i need to do this? Just the midi controller and some sort of cord? And the Microstation is a miniature 61 keys. So if i midi out to the 88 key controller will it onky work on 61 keys? Or will the sound spread to higher and lower notes to fill 88 keys? Im confused about all of this.
 

Fred Coulter

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Two quick points.

First, with large fingers, you need normal sized keys. You don't have to buy an 88 note controller to get normal sized keys. Generally 88 note controllers are used by people who primarily play piano. (Like me.) That's the number of keys in a modern piano. You can play serious music on much smaller keyboards. I wouldn't get less than 61 keys (5 octaves), but that's my classical side coming out. If you're going to play one handed and creating multiple tracks in the studio, you could probably work with a four (or even three) octave keyboard.

Second, MIDI is a digital device interface. It describes what note you're pressing down and when you're releasing it. It also describes certain knobs that are being moved. It is not a way to describe the actual sound, although it can include patch numbers. Generally MIDI interfaces have one of two forms. Either there will be a round plug with 5 pins a quarter or a third of the way around the plug, OR the signals will be sent via a USB cable. Generally the old school MIDI connector is used to connect keyboards to each other, although you can get an adaptor for your computer. The USB cable is generally used to connect the keyboard to a computer, although I've heard that a few modules, etc., can talk directly via USB. From looking at the specs, it looks like you've got both options.

If I were you (but I'm not), I'd be looking for a four octave controller with traditional round MIDI out.

Whatever you pick, have fun with it.
 

SeaGtGruff

I meant to play that note!
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Korg didn't abandon the microSTATION exactly; they still have a similar product, but it's now called the microARRANGER. :)

The good news is, the microSTATION has actual MIDI In/Out ports, as opposed to USB-MIDI ports. That means if you get a MIDI keyboard with normal-sized keys that also has actual MIDI ports, you can connect it to the microSTATION without needing to use a computer as a go-between.

As Fred mentioned, you don't necessarily need to get a controller that has 88 keys, although of course you can if you want to.

What I would recommend is that you get a controller with a good many knobs and buttons and sliders and so on, because that will let you tweak and control the sounds from the controller without having to reach for the microSTATION. Of course, you could make all the adjustments on the microSTATION itself, it's just that it would be more convenient to be able to do that directly from the controller.
 
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Korg didn't abandon the microSTATION exactly; they still have a similar product, but it's now called the microARRANGER. :)

The good news is, the microSTATION has actual MIDI In/Out ports, as opposed to USB-MIDI ports. That means if you get a MIDI keyboard with normal-sized keys that also has actual MIDI ports, you can connect it to the microSTATION without needing to use a computer as a go-between.

As Fred mentioned, you don't necessarily need to get a controller that has 88 keys, although of course you can if you want to.

What I would recommend is that you get a controller with a good many knobs and buttons and sliders and so on, because that will let you tweak and control the sounds from the controller without having to reach for the microSTATION. Of course, you could make all the adjustments on the microSTATION itself, it's just that it would be more convenient to be able to do that directly from the controller.

Korg didn't abandon the microSTATION exactly; they still have a similar product, but it's now called the microARRANGER. :)

The good news is, the microSTATION has actual MIDI In/Out ports, as opposed to USB-MIDI ports. That means if you get a MIDI keyboard with normal-sized keys that also has actual MIDI ports, you can connect it to the microSTATION without needing to use a computer as a go-between.

As Fred mentioned, you don't necessarily need to get a controller that has 88 keys, although of course you can if you want to.

What I would recommend is that you get a controller with a good many knobs and buttons and sliders and so on, because that will let you tweak and control the sounds from the controller without having to reach for the microSTATION. Of course, you could make all the adjustments on the microSTATION itself, it's just that it would be more convenient to be able to do that directly from the controller.
Awesome. So if I were to MIDI out to an 88 key controller, more notes/additional octaves would be added? (Not including drum kits) Or would it still only be 61 keys worth of notes?
 

Fred Coulter

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Actually, you would MIDI out FROM the 88 key controller and TO the microSTATION MIDI in. Since I don't own a microSTATION, I can't say for sure, but you would probably be able to use all 88 notes. Quick question: is there an octave up and/or down button? If so, that makes it far more likely.

Don't laugh about the confusion on how to hook up MIDI from on device to another. It's probably the biggest thing people get wrong when they start experimenting with MIDI.
 
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There is no octave up or down button or switch which is unfortunate. However i believe there is a way to do so through some complex settings that are currently beyond me. I love this keyboard but it is incredibly small and has a tiny display despite its big features. It is very difficult and tedious to navigate at times and there are still some things that are lost on me. I think this is why they no longer make it. Difficult to use as a novice even though it was a good price
 
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There is no octave up or down button or switch which is unfortunate. However i believe there is a way to do so through some complex settings that are currently beyond me. I love this keyboard but it is incredibly small and has a tiny display despite its big features. It is very difficult and tedious to navigate at times and there are still some things that are lost on me. I think this is why they no longer make it. Difficult to use as a novice even though it
There is no octave up or down button or switch which is unfortunate. However i believe there is a way to do so through some complex settings that are currently beyond me. I love this keyboard but it is incredibly small and has a tiny display despite its big features. It is very difficult and tedious to navigate at times and there are still some things that are lost on me. I think this is why they no longer make it. Difficult to use as a novice even though it was a good price
If it would work for 88 keys than thats what I would like to do so i could get as close to the feel of piano as possible. Otherwise I would still get a 61 key controller just for the key size upgrade. Thanks for all your help
 

SeaGtGruff

I meant to play that note!
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Do you have all of the documents for the microSTATION? You may have whatever came in the box with it, but often additional documents are available in PDF from the company's web site. You can get them all here, including software and drivers for using the microSTATION with a computer:

http://www.korg.com/us/support/download/product/0/87/

It looks like you'll want to grab the MIDI Implementation and Parameter Guide documents, but be warned that they look like deep reading. The MIDI Implementation documents-- which are two plain text files zipped together-- will probably freak you out if you aren't extremely familiar with MIDI, especially the technical aspects of it.

Anyway, it looks like you can use all 128 MIDI Note values, so with an 88-key controller you can certainly get the full range of a piano, plus more than an octave below and above the range of a piano keyboard, as shown on the following picture I drew a couple of years ago to illustrate how the ranges of 61-note, 76-note, and 88-note keyboards compare to MIDI's 128-note range. From top to bottom, the picture shows an 88-note piano keyboard, the 128-note MIDI range, a typical 61-note keyboard, and a typical 76-note keyboard:

upload_2016-10-5_13-3-56.png
 

Fred Coulter

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I was looking at the keyboard diagrams -- very nice, by the way -- and wondered if a 128 note keyboard was even usable (assuming a normal twelfth root of two scale). Assuming that people hear notes from 20 Hertz to 20,000 Hertz, the keyboard would produce notes outside of human hearing. And that's without the normal loss of upper frequencies that we all suffer from.

Rather than worrying about A = 440 or any other such arbitrary tunings, I'm assuming that the bottom C sounds at 20 Hertz, the bottom of human hearing. In order to keep the math easy, I'm also assuming that a perfect fifth at the top is, in fact, a perfect (3:2) fifth. The following table is a bit ugly. But the top half octave is above human pitch sensitivity. (Also, I never remember which A is 440. It's either the one above middle C, or the one below middle C.)

Octave Hertz
0 (C) 20
1 40
2 80
3 160
4 320
5 (middle C) 640
6 1,280
7 2,560
8 5,120
9 10,240
10 20,480
10.5 (G) 30,720

Which is one reason why I can't find a 128 note MIDI controller on the Sweetwater site.


As a side note, the reason I refer to the twelfth root of two is that it is the basis of our current, equal tempered scales. The twelfth root of two is approximately 1.05946309436. The frequency of a note one half step higher is 1.05946309436 greater than the lower note. This means that the note an octave higher is twice the frequency of the lower note.

Before we adopted equal temperament, there was a bunch of attempts at decent tuning systems, almost all of which started by using the perfect fifth, or a ratio of 3 cycles per second for the upper note for each 2 cycles per second for the lower note. This produces really great fifths. Unfortunately, you can't continue moving up that way. By the time you circle through the entire circle of fifths, you're too high.

Key Frequency Should be
C 20.0000
G 30.0000
D 45.0000
A 67.5000
E 101.2500
B 151.8750
F # 227.8125
C # 341.7188
G # 512.5781
D # 768.8672
A # 1,153.3008
F 1,729.9512
C 2,594.9268 2,560

This is also why you can't tune your Fender Rhodes Piano by tuning perfect fifths and octaves. (I tried, when I was much younger.)

And it wasn't Bach who pushed equal temperament with his music. He was pushing for "Well" Tempered Clavier. In other words, one of those pre equal temperment scales. One that he liked.

This is only an issue for keyboards. (And not all keyboards, either.) Other instruments can vary their pitch slightly while playing. Good players will make the chords sing. It's only (most) keyboards which can't slightly change the pitch while playing. And because of harpsichords, organs, and that new comer the piano that we're basing scales on the twelfth root of two.
 
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Do you have all of the documents for the microSTATION? You may have whatever came in the box with it, but often additional documents are available in PDF from the company's web site. You can get them all here, including software and drivers for using

It looks like you'll want to grab the MIDI Implementation and Parameter Guide documents, but be warned that they look like deep reading. The MIDI Implementation documents-- which are two plain text files zipped together-- will probably freak you out if you aren't extremely familiar with MIDI, especially the technical aspects of it.

Anyway, it looks like you can use all 128 MIDI Note values, so with an 88-key controller you can certainly get the full range of a piano, plus more than an octave below and above the range of a piano keyboard, as shown on the following picture I drew a couple of years ago to illustrate how the ranges of 61-note, 76-note, and 88-note keyboards compare to MIDI's 128-note range. From top to bottom, the picture shows an 88-note piano keyboard, the 128-note MIDI range, a typical 61-note keyboard, and a typical 76-note keyboard:

View attachment 717
All I have is the instruction manual it came with but it doesnt seem to mention much about midi. I will take a look at the pdfs and try to get a grasp of midi. Thank you so much for your help.
 

SeaGtGruff

I meant to play that note!
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Assuming that people hear notes from 20 Hertz to 20,000 Hertz, the keyboard would produce notes outside of human hearing. And that's without the normal loss of upper frequencies that we all suffer from.
I've wondered the same thing! I can't explain the high notes, but the low notes are audible because they (normally) contain a lot of harmonics-- assuming we aren't talking about pure sine waves. I guess the high notes are there for the benefit of dogs!
 

SeaGtGruff

I meant to play that note!
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(Also, I never remember which A is 440. It's either the one above middle C, or the one below middle C.)
It's the one above Middle C. I like to remember it as "A4 = 440 Hz." Of course, some people use different octave numbers-- e.g., Yamaha refers to Middle C as C3, and some MIDI fanatics think MIDI note 0 should be called C0 (in which case Middle C becomes C5)-- but the official octave numbering defined by "scientific pitch notation" puts Middle C at C4.
 

SeaGtGruff

I meant to play that note!
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All I have is the instruction manual it came with but it doesnt seem to mention much about midi. I will take a look at the pdfs and try to get a grasp of midi. Thank you so much for your help.
You're welcome! But prepare to have your mind blown by those documents I mentioned, as they're definitely written for people who need/want technical information about the microSTATION's MIDI capabilities and sound parameters. The good news is, you won't need to know all of that for what you want to do-- but you'll want to have it handy for future reference, especially if you're interested in digging into the microSTATION's synthesizer potentials.
 

John Garside

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Middle C, otherwise known as C4, because it's the fourth C from the left on a standard piano, is MIDI note 60 and it's frequency is 261.626 Hz (based on equal temperament with the A above at 440 Hz).
So C3, MIDI note 48 = 130 Hz (rounded), C2, note 36 = 65 Hz, C1, note 24 = 33 Hz, C0, note 12 = 16 Hz, C-1, note 0 = 4 Hz.
C5, note 72 = 523 Hz, C6, note 84 = 1,047 Hz, C7, note 96 = 2,093 Hz, C8, note 108 = 4,186 Hz, C9, note 120 = 8,372 Hz.

C10 would be 16,744 Hz, and note 127 would be a bit lower than that.
But you're correct in saying that C-1 is not audible, but C0 is detectable. One can 'feel' it. Some large cathedral organs have pipes that go below 20 Hz.
That's when the chair you're sitting on vibrates strongly.
I have a REL Storm sub-woofer and that can move the air around at sub-audible frequencies. One certainly notices that it's a kind-of musical note.

Fred, what you describe, with the 3/2 ratio, is known as Pythagorean tuning, i.e. pure fifths.
Fifths sound wonderful, thirds are dreadful.
For good thirds you need 1/4 comma meantone.
 

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