Software

Last check of all links: 2018-07-11

Welcome to my knowledge base!

For general information on the technical terms used here please visit the "Ideas & Tools" page.

Sections 1 to 4 contain MIDI software that was useful for me during the process of musical composition in the past 15 years. In sections 5 to 7 you will find MIDI software that proved to be helpful in following my special interests in microtonality, algorithmic composition and music visualization. In section 8 I listed my favourite free piano sample libraries.

All items listed here can be downloaded from the WorldWideWeb. In most cases, I found them in public software repositories like SourceForge or GitHub. A lot of them were made by independent programmers from around the globe. And most of them are free.

Eibelstadt, July 2018

Stefan Hetzel

T A B L E   O F   C O N T E N T S 

1. MIDI Utilities

1.1. Putzlowitsch's MIDI Mapper

... by, well, Putzlowitsch (free software for Windows, no longer in active development, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1), solves a major problem when working with MIDI under MS Windows: Since Vista, there's no more interface for choosing which MIDI device will be used by default. So, the notorious "Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth" will haunt all your MIDI apps, e.g. the Windows Media Player. By installing this utility you will be able to determine a default MIDI device for your workstation via the Control Panel.

pmm

1.2. loopMIDI

... by Tobias Erichsen (free software for Windows, in active development, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) is a "virtual loopback cable" that is indispensible if you want to exchange data between several independent MIDI apps running simultaneously on your machine.

loopMIDI

1.3. Red Dot Forever

... by Matthijs Hollemans aka mahlzeit (free software for Windows, no longer in active development, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) is a Standard MIDI File recorder. It is a classical one-purpose-utility with all the advantages of this kind of thingie: It's robust, simple, well-arranged, small & unobtrusive. And Matthijs gets a bonus point for the software's name.

rdv

1.4. VMPK

... by Pedro Lopez-Cabanillas (free software for Windows, in active development, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) displays a very big and highly customizable MIDI piano display on your desktop.

vmpk

Here is a customized view of VMPK on top of Windows Media Player rendering a Standard MIDI File, with Putzlowitsch's MIDI Mapper and loopMIDI working in background. The two buttons below middle C are displaying the current status of the keyboard's sostenuto (left) and sustain pedal (right):

vmpk

1.5. Midi Database

... by Peter Wierzba (free software for Windows, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) is the best way to catalogue the collection of Standard MIDI Files on your hard disks. It's reliable and quite self-explanatory.

mididatabase

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2. Editing a Standard MIDI File

2.1. MidiEditor

... by Markus Schwenk (free software for Windows, in active development, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) is the software of choice when it comes to editing single-track Standard MIDI Files.

midieditor

2.2. Sekaiju

... by kuzu (free software for Windows, in active development, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) is good for editing multi-track Standard MIDI Files.

Sekaiju

2.3. MIDIPLEX

... by Stas'M (free software for Windows, in active development, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) works fine if you have to edit some Meta Events in a Standard MIDI File's header or insert some Control Change messages. You also can change a Standard MIDI File's type.

midiplex

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3. Playing a Standard MIDI File

3.1. Desktop MIDI

.. by Peter Schneider aka BreakOutBox (free software for Windows, no longer in active development, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) is, believe it or not, my favourite Standard MIDI File player. It is incredibly old, but still unrivaled because of its impeccable timing. I also like its visualization concept.

dm

3.2. Tom's MIDI Player

... by Tom Grandgent (free software for Windows, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) is perfect for testing Standard MIDI Files, especially microtonal ones tempered with PianoTuner. The timing is very good, but (on my machine) not impeccable. For impeccable timing, use Desktop MIDI.

tmp

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4. Rendering a Standard MIDI File to audio

4.1. sforzando

... by Plogue (free software for Windows, in active development, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) is unbeatable for offline-rendering your mono-timbral Standard MIDI File to audio using soundfonts in the sfz or the older sf2 format. Sforzando handles Scala's scl-files neatly, so you are able to generate microtonal music.

sforzando

4.2. Freepiano

... by Li Jia (free software for Windows, in active development, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) is good when your samples are in Native Instrument's proprietary nki format. Only Kontakt Player kann render this format.

freepianokontakt

To get this done, do the following:

  1. After you've downloaded and installed Freepiano, download and install the VSTi version of the free Kontakt Player.
  2. Place Kontakt 5.dll in a folder that Freepiano can access.
  3. In Freepiano, choose Kontakt Player as an "instrument" for Freepiano. Now, Freepiano works as a VST host for Kontakt Player. 
  4. Switch to Kontakt Player and load your chosen nki file.
  5. Switch back to Freepiano and load your Standard MIDI File.
  6. Go to File / Export / Audio (WAV)... and your Standard MIDI File will be rendered offline (= in non-realtime mode) to a WAVE audiofile.
  7. Caveat: As the free version of Kontakt Player shuts down after rendering 15 minutes of audio (even when rendering offline!), you might have to split up longer Standard MIDI Files.

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5. Implementing microtonality in a Standard MIDI File

Here's how to implement microtonality in a Standard MIDI File using pitch-bends instead of the official MIDI Tuning Standard specification, which is not supported by a lot of hard- and software. Note that the following instructions only work for mono-timbral music using a 12-tone scale with adjacent pitch classes (i.e. rising chromatically), e. g.

C | C#/Db | D | D#/Eb | E | F | F#/Gb | G | G#/Ab | A | A#/Bb | B
or

F | F#/Gb | G | G#/Ab | A | A#/Bb | B | C | C#/Db | D | D#/Eb | E
etc.

I know two pieces of free software to implement microtonality in a Standard MIDI File using pitch bends. The first one, Scala, runs fine under modern windows, but its solution is not fully compatible with e. g. Vienna Instruments. The second one, Harmonic/PianoTuner, produces 100%-compatible microtonal Standard MIDI Files, but you have to install a DOS emulator before you can run this ancient pieces of software on a modern PC. I won't show you how to do this here, but, believe me, there's plenty of good tutorials out there in the web.

5.1. Scala

Here's how to implement microtonality in a Standard MIDI File via pitch-bending using Manuel Op de Coul's software Scala (free software for Windows, tested unter Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1):

scala

  1. After you have downloaded and installed Scala and the associated scales archive scales.zip, launch Scala.
  2. Click Open and choose your scale file (*.scl)
  3. Click Tools / Retune MIDI file...
  4. Select the Standard MIDI File you want to retune from your hard disk.
  5. Specify a name and a location for your output Standard MIDI File.
  6. Click OK.
  7. Done.

If your scale doesn't start on middle C (as is the case for e. g. La Monte Young's tuning for "The Well-Tuned Piano", which starts on Eb), execute steps 1 to 5 above, then click Edit Mapping, set Key for 1/1 to (in this case) 63 and click OK and continue with step 6.

In Tom's MIDI Player, the result looks like this:

scalartn

In the screenshot above, Scala only uses seven MIDI channels (1 - 6 + 8) to retune the Standard MIDI File, but Young's scale has twelve different pitch classes, so obviously some MIDI channels are used for several pitch classes. Anyway, when rendering the output file with e. g. Vienna Instruments, audible pitch-bendings occur.

To avoid this, you have to use Harmonic/PianoTuner which allocates a MIDI channel to each pitch class.

5.2. Harmonic / PianoTuner

Here's how to permanently implement microtonality in a Standard MIDI File via pitch-bending using Fred Nachbaur's software package Harmonic/PianoTuner (free software for MS-DOS, no longer in active development):

Take your desired scl file out of Scala's archive and load it in Harmonic. It will look like this:

harmonic

In the screenshot's utmost right column, you can see how in this scale all Es are raised by approx. 77 Cents, all Fs are raised by approx. 4 cents, all F#/Gbs are lowered by 60 Cents etc.

(Notice that this scale doesn't ascend uniformly. The G#s will sound a little bit lower than the Gs and the C#s a little bit lower than the Cs. In this case, you will have to manually assign pitch classes to MIDI channels using the "+" and "-" keys on your computer keyboard, so that G#s are placed beneath Gs and C#s beneath Cs.)

Now, you can convert the scale to Harmonic's proprietary file format dat and hand that file over to PianoTuner.

PianoTuner will assign all notes of your previously specified input Standard MIDI File (which has to be Type 0) to different MIDI channels according to their respective pitch class. Each pitch class is then retuned by inserting a single pitch bend message before the respective channel's first note is played. So, while the music is playing, there is no pitch-bending intermitting.

In Tom's MIDI Player, the output looks like this:

pianotnr

5.3. intun

... by Brad Smith (free software for Windows, no longer in active development, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) "allows you to alter the tuning of your MIDI device. [...] It works by sending out each note to its own MIDI channel, where a pitch bend may alter the pitch as per the tuning you specify." This is a simple to use software to experimentally implement microtonality in realtime to existing Standard MIDI Files. The Standard MIDI File itself remains unchanged by intun. Great for rehearsals and live performances.

intun

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6. MIDI-based Algorithmic Composition

6.1. ASCIIMID

... by Randy Stack (free software for MS-DOS, no longer in active development) is a Text-to-MIDI conversion tool published 1992. The software's original ReadMe goes as follows:

ASCIIMID takes any DOS text file and outputs a corresponding Standard MIDI File Format 0, according to the following rules:

asciimid

6.2. MusicMirror

...by Tetsuji Katsuda (shareware for Windows, tested unter Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) is able to derive variations of a given Standard MIDI File by mirroring its notes horizontally or vertically.

mm

You can record MusicMirror's output with Red Dot Forever.

6.3. Style Morpher

... by NTONYX (shareware for Windows, tested unter Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1) processes a given Standard MIDI File by transforming its metric, rhythmic and harmonic structure, outputting a new Standard MIDI File.

Style Morpher

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7. Visualizing a Standard MIDI File

7.1. Music Animation Machine

... by Stephen Malinowski (free software for Windows, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1)

m

7.2. MIDITrail

... by Masahi Wada (free software for Windows, in active development, tested under Windows 7 Home Premium Service Pack 1)

m

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8. My favourite free piano sample libraries

More and more excellent free sample libraries - aka "soundfonts" - of real upright and grand pianos are available on the internet. Here are my favourite ones of 2017-12-05.

8.1. An intimate small Grand Piano

The City Piano is a Baldwin Baby Grand sampled by Joe Stevens aka Big Cat.

8.2. A warm Upright Piano

Lotias sampled an Upright manufactured by Daynes-Beebe. Search for "Daynes-Beebe" on this forum page.

8.3. A warm Steinway Grand Piano

Years ago, the University of Iowa uploaded samples of a Steinway Model B Grand known as the Iowa Piano.

8.4. A brilliant Yamaha Grand Piano

Mats Helgesson sampled a huge Yamaha CF3 Concert Grand under the name Maestro Piano.

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