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** 4hrs per day **6-8 Day Course

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Register: 888-277-0457
MIDI Merge Recording | Video Tutorial

MIDI Merge Recording | Video Tutorial

MIDI Merge allows us to add, or “merge”, MIDI musical sequenced performance data to an existing MIDI track without overwriting any existing data on that clip. This allows you to layer your parts. When using this mode, we can layer MIDI parts one-at-a-time, building a full MIDI performance from multiple passes. This article and video tutorial shows you how easy to build complex musical parts in Pro Tools.

MIDI Merge mode is a MIDI recording workflow in Pro Tools that allows us to add layers of MIDI data to an existing clip without overwriting any existing data. When using a MIDI controller to record MIDI parts, MIDI Merge mode can be extremely helpful for quickly sketching out parts, particularly for MIDI drums. Because MIDI is simply performance data that is sent to a virtual instrument (or external MIDI device), there are multiple workflow options available to MIDI recording that don’t exist for Audio recording. MIDI Merge mode is one of these options. 

This is extremely helpful if you don’t feel confident recording a perfect, complex performance in one take. Using MIDI Merge mode is perfect for recording MIDI drum parts, for you can devote each pass to a different part of the drum kit and build a complex arrangement from multiple takes. For example, you can record the kick drum first, then add a snare drum on the next take, then add a hi-hat on the next take, etc. When finished, you will have a fully arranged/performed drum groove built from its constituent parts.

To set up your session for MIDI Merge recording, you will want to engage three separate options in Pro Tools:

  1. MIDI Merge
  2. Input Quantize (optional)
  3. Loop Playback

Turn On MIDI Merge

The MIDI Merge button can be found in the Transport Window. To open the Transport Window, navigate to Window > Transport or, using the numeric keypad, input the keyboard shortcut Command+1 (Mac) or Ctrl+1 (Windows).

Make sure the MIDI Controls are toggled on within the Transport Window. To do this, click on the dropdown arrow on the right side of the Transport Window, then check the box next to “MIDI Controls.” This will give you access to the MIDI Merge button.

MIDI controls in pro tools

Within the MIDI Controls section of the Transport Window, you will see four buttons that can be toggled on or off.

Conductor Control in Pro Tools

The MIDI Merge button is located in between the Metronome button and the Conductor Track button. Click the MIDI Merge button to toggle it on/off—when it is blue, this means MIDI Merge is toggled on.

MIDI Merge Icon in Pro Tools

Turn On Input Quantize (Optional)

Engaging Input Quantize is an optional step in the process, but it can be very helpful when used in conjunction with MIDI Merge mode, especially when recording drums. Since you will be recording MIDI data one pass at-a-time, having Input Quantize turned on will ensure that your MIDI data will playback in perfect time—this will help keep your performance of subsequent takes in time as well.

To turn on Input Quantize, navigate to Event > Event Operations > Input Quantize… This will open the Event Operations window.

Under the “What to Quantize” section, check the box next to Enable Input Quantize and Note On. Under the “Quantize Grid” section, choose the rhythmic value you would like to use as your quantization value. I’m going to set mine to 1/16th notes. You can configure any other quantization parameters as desired. Close the Event Operations window when you are satisfied with your configuration.

Turn on Input Quantize in Pro Tools

Turn On Loop Playback

Loop Playback will allow us to record subsequent takes over a Timeline selection without needing to constantly click Stop and Play in the Transport Window. Pro Tools will continuously loop the selection where we want to record, allowing us to input MIDI data as desired.

NOTE: We use Loop Playback for MIDI Merge workflows rather than Loop Record. Loop Record is incompatible with MIDI Merge, so if your Transport is set to Loop Record mode, toggle it off first.

To turn on Loop Playback, navigate to Options > Loop Playback. Clicking Loop Playback in the Options menu will toggle it on. Alternatively, you can right-click on the Play button in the Transport window and select “Loop” to toggle on Loop Playback.

Turn on Loop Playback in Pro Tools.

When Loop Playback is toggled on, the Play button will have a green, circular arrow, a shown below.

MIDI merge tutorial in Pro Tools

Recording Using MIDI Merge

With each of those options turned on, you are now ready to record MIDI data using the MIDI Merge workflow.

To begin recording MIDI data:

  • Make a Timeline Selection on the Instrument Track (or MIDI Track, if you’re using an external MIDI device) you want to record. This will designate the area that will be looped.

Make Timeline Selection on Instrument Track.

  • (Optional) Set a Pre-Roll for recording, if desired.
  • Record-enable your Instrument Track.
  • Click “Record-Enable” in the Transport, and then click “Play.”
  • Record your MIDI data. A MIDI clip will be created within the boundaries of your selection. If you do not play anything, the MIDI clip will remain on your track playlist, but it will be empty.

MIDI merge tutorial in Pro Tools

  • Try recording one part at-a-time, adding elements on subsequent loops. Notice how no MIDI data is overwritten in this process—it is only added, or “merged,” to the current data. Click “Stop” when you are done recording.

MIDI merge tutorial in Pro Tools

Quick Tip: While you are recording using MIDI Merge, you can click the Record button in the Transport to stop inputting MIDI data at any time. Your selection will continue to loop, but you won’t record any data. This is helpful for if you want to experiment with a new part while your selection loops without needing to stop playback altogether.

While MIDI Merge is most often used while recording drum parts, it can be used for any type of MIDI-compatible instrument, increasing your creative possibilities. For example, if you want to record a piano part, you could record the left-hand part first, then record the right-hand part on a subsequent loop. The resulting MIDI clip would contain both the right-hand and left-hand performance as if they were recorded together.

Alex Thomen

Author: Alex Thomen
Composer & Music Technology Instructor
ProMedia Training, LLC
www.protoolstraining.com

888-277-0457


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Alex Thomen
Alex ThomenComposer / Arranger / Music Technology Instructor
Alex Thomen is a producer, composer, pianist, mixing engineer, and music educator. He attained his Master's Degree in Commercial Music Composition and Arranging from Belmont University in Nashville, TN and taught as an instructor in Music Production at University of Miami Frost School of Music. From small-scale chamber groups and rock bands to full symphonic orchestra, Thomen arranges, produces, and mixes for a variety of ensembles and styles. Thomen’s education and experience have helped refine his skills in contemporary music production for Film/TV/Games. From ambient, musical soundscapes to fantastical, orchestral pieces, television commercials, and more, Thomen’s creative output evokes a vast variety of moods, settings, and themes.

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ProMedia Training is the premier authorized Avid Training Center since 2002, having prepared more students in Pro Tools than any other organization. We teach Pro Tools on all levels as well as offer exam preparation for Pro Tools Certification exams for those studying audio engineering, recording, mixing and related multimedia training for musicians, producers, recording engineers, worship facilities and corporations. ProMedia has been leading the way in short term, Pro Tools Immersion courses which focus in all areas from beginner to advanced Pro Tools Applications.  Our beginners learn the software for music production, recording, editing, audio engineering, and mixing. Our advanced users focus on cutting edge highly complex HDX systems, new concepts as well as workflow improvements. We also provide on-site training for corporations, Universities, Schools, and worship facilities where professionals can advance their skills while learning in their own working environment. ProMedia also participates in many of the musical associations and related organizations related to the recording arts including ASCAP, BMI, NAMM, TAXI A&R, Youth Organizations, NAB, Promo Only, and more.

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