The programs that will allow you to convert Audio to MIDI (almost) effortlessly.
The ability to convert audio to MIDI is something recording artists really rely on, whether they’re a home studio hobbyist or professional producer, and it really is something that just makes our musical lives so much easier. If you’re like me and you’re terrible at playing piano but want to be able to layer an organ or piano line over a piece of music that you’ve created on your guitar and laptop at home, the benefits of this MIDI conversion process are easy to see. In addition, if you’ve got a terrible voice (like me again) or an idea in your head for a percussion line and want to be able to record it and edit it easily changing things along the way, converting audio to MIDI is a dream come true.
A selection of programs allow you to do this, but only a few of them give you the freedom to really nail the editing process and allow you to get down to the minute details. We even covered exactly how to convert audio to MIDI in Ableton using stuff on your desk here, well worth a read if you’re wondering how to cut your teeth with this useful feature.
In this blog we’re going to look at a selection of programs that will let you convert audio to MIDI and provide a few examples on how to convert your audio signal into MIDI information with a few clicks.
First, let’s look at the reasons why you might want to convert an audio signal to MIDI.
As previously mentioned, you may not be able to play piano very well, but you’re an absolute star on the drums, guitar or bass. In this case, the benefits of being able to convert audio to MIDI really comes into play when you want to be able to layer a synth line over a bass to beef it up or create a melody on a guitar without having to delve into the world of MIDI guitar controllers or play around with a keyboard. In addition, you may be a great beatboxer or have a really great idea for a drum line or percussion section for a song but no drums to hand. In this case you can record yourself beatboxing or even tapping away on your desk/guitar case/fridge, convert the audio to MIDI easily and change that to a complete drum set via your software. If you’re a drummer with a rubbish kit, but you have access to a range of great plugins via your software, you can record your kick drum, convert it to MIDI and make it sound like a completely new kit at the click of a mouse.
In addition, converting an audio signal to MIDI gives you greater control when it comes to editing a piece of music or sound, especially when it comes to vocals. If you’re creating a backing track with “De-Do-Da” type sounds for instance, you can convert the recording you’ve made through the microphone into a MIDI signal and edit it for length, pitch and tune. This allows you to smarten up vocal overdubs, or even use that MIDI information and play it through a keyboard or synth if you really like the sound of the melody and want to add a bit of extra weight via another instrument.
In addition, transposing audio or changing the pitch of an audio file can result in a loss of clarity and make it sound really off key – or in general terms, “really weird” especially if you want to play something an octave or even 2 octaves above or below the original. Using MIDI data, you can take an existing guitar line and turn it into a super high pitched melody or very low frequency bass line to run underneath the original sound and it will sound great after a bit of cleaning up.
Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the capabilities and uses of MIDI files, especially after you’ve mastered the art of converting audio to MIDI. So what programs will actually let you convert audio to MIDI? Let’s take a look…
Converting Audio to MIDI in Ableton Live
As previously mentioned, we covered exactly how to turn some tapping on a desk with some pens (literally) into a MIDI file and you can read the blog here.
As a quick recap, here’s how you do it.
Step 1. Select the clip in the Session or Arrangement Views, or alternatively in Live’s browser.
Step 2. Click the clip you want to convert to select it. Choose which conversion command you want to use within the clips Context or Create menu. Choose from Harmony, Melody or Drums.
Step 3. You’re done! It’s that simple. When it’s finished converting you’ll have a new MIDI track ready to go.
You can watch the whole video below from Ableton’s helpful blog.
Convert Audio to MIDI in Cubase
If you’re a Cubase 5 (and up) user, you’ll want to convert audio to MIDI in a slightly different way.
When Cubase first released the VariAudio feature as part of Cubase 5, it was heralded as a welcome addition to the already impressive recording package. It was also very simple to use too!
It’s worth bearing in mind that the process of converting audio to MIDI will still only work correctly with monophonic sounds and when you have the full version of Cubase, not elements. The likes of guitar, bass or vocal lines work best and it’s fairly simple to do.
Step 1. Select your audio file and double click to open up the Sample Editor.
Step 2. Click the VariAudio tab which will then open up a selection of options including Pitch & Warp as well as Segments.
Step 3. Click Pitch & Warp. This will then highlight the notes.
Step 4. Select the track again
Step 5. Select Function>Extract MIDI
Step 6. A window will pop up asking you to select an extraction mode.
Step 7. Select “Notes and Static Pitchbend Data” or “Just Notes and No Pitchbend Data” depending on what you want.
Step 8. Your MIDI information will appear in the window and you can edit it how you wish! Simple.
Converting Audio to MIDI in Cakewalk Sonar
Sonar is another great recording product and certain versions of this very easy to use program are actually included in a range of instruments and recording gear from Roland such as the Roland Quad Capture USB Audio Interface, Roland Jupiter 50 Synthesizer and the extremely useful Boss Micro BR BR80 Portable Digital Recorder which is perfect for those who need to record music on the fly.
Again, you’ll get the best results converting audio to MIDI when you use a monophonic signal such as a guitar or bass, but it’s worth noting that you can also use separate drums and change them up too.
You can check out Cakewalk’s quick tutorial below, but these are the main points you need to follow when using Sonar Professional and Sonar Platinum.
Step 1. Insert a synth
Step 2. Load your selected program
Step 3. A new track will appear
Step 4. Drag and drop your audio track into the new track and it will convert to MIDI. Very easy indeed.
Here is the full video from Cakewalk which also describes how you can replace audio drum sounds with MIDI information too!
These are just three of the great programs you can use to convert audio to MIDI and three great starting points for those who record at home or produce music in general. To view a complete range of home recording software, visit the Dawsons website here.