Assignment 4

Assignment 4: MIDI Sequencing

Make a short MIDI sequence using virtual instruments in the DAW of your choice. Pay close attention to the requirements listed below.


Learn the following sequencing skills.

  • Record in real time from a MIDI master keyboard into a virtual instrument track, using a metronome to help you synchronize performed beats with the sequencer ruler.
  • Draw and edit notes in MIDI piano-roll notation. Change pitch, onset time, and duration of individual notes and groups of selected notes. Copy notes using option(alt)-drag.
  • Transpose, quantize, and humanize notes. Change velocities and durations of notes.
  • Insert meter and tempo changes. Add markers to identify phrases and sections.
  • Insert and edit other MIDI data, including pitch bend and control change (cc) messages.

Project Details

Pick a short piece or section of classical music, and make an arrangement of it for multiple tracks of virtual instruments. This is not about simulating an acoustic performance, but rather about transforming the music so that it works in a decidely electronic context. The transformation can be extreme.

Models for this sort of thing include the tracks cited below from classic albums by Wendy Carlos and Isao Tomita, which they painstakingly created on multi-track tape recorders using analog synthesizers.

The examples from Wendy Carlos are more straight-ahead and punchy, while the Tomita ones are more fanciful and, well, impressionistic.

Wendy Carlos: Switched-On Bach (1968)

Isao Tomita: Snowflakes Are Dancing (1974)

More recently, William Orbit has made many arrangements of this kind, with updated tools and a style that is influenced by ambient electronic music.

William Orbit: Pieces in a Modern Style (2000)

If you have some compelling reason to use your own music, make a case for it to your instructor. It can be better to use music by other people, because you are probably less invested in it than in your own music. This can lead you to be more adventurous and treat the source material more freely.

Please don’t use audio tracks with excerpts from commercial recordings. For one thing, this almost certainly would be a copyright violation, but it also would distract us from the technical focus of this assignment.

If the music has only two parts (such as a Bach Invention), find ways to use multiple tracks to orchestrate the music with shifting timbral resources.

Find opportunities for

  • drawing or recording some continuous data (control change or pitch bend),
  • applying changes of velocity and/or duration to selected groups of notes,
  • quantizing and/or humanizing selected groups of notes, and
  • changing tempo.

Make a complete mix (volume / panning), as you did in Assignment 3.


  • Please complete one digital audio workstation (DAW) project that satisfies the criteria above.

    Put a zipped copy of this project in the cloud somewhere, and provide a link to it in a Canvas comment.

  • Bounce your sequence to a stereo audio file, and submit that in Canvas.

Grading Criteria

This assignment will receive a letter grade. The highest grade is A. There will be a one grade-increment deduction (e.g., from A to A-) for each of the following problems.

  • Your sequence doesn’t have at least three tracks.
  • The beats projected by the music do not align with the beats shown in the sequencer ruler in a way that makes musical sense.
  • You didn’t create some continuous data with a sensibly audible result.
  • You didn’t make a tempo change.
  • You didn’t go beyond simply playing the notes on instruments that simulate the original acoustic instruments.