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1.4 MIDI Components: Controllers, Hardwa... > 1.4 MIDI Components: Controllers, Ha... - Pg. 18

18 CHAPTER 1 Setting up your Creative Environment: The Studio FIgure 1.15 The MIDI keyboard controller. FIgure 1.16 The sound module. situations one MIDI controller is sufficient. Through the controller you can output MIDI messages (e.g., Notes, Control Changes) to other MIDI devices and/or to a sequencer. However, a professional MIDI studio will always need new and fresh palettes of sounds. What characterizes the successful studio and the modern composer is the variety and flexibility of sounds and musical textures available. While in the pre-MIDI era synthesizers were only available with a built-in keyboard, therefore taking up a lot of space and costing more money, nowadays we can expand the sound palette of our virtual orchestra by using sound modules (or expanders). A sound module (Figure 1.16) features only a MIDI interface and a sound generator but not a keyboard. The advantage of this type of device is that it delivers the same power as a MIDI synthesizer in terms of sounds but in a more compact design and at a lower price. The same argument I presented earlier when discussing the MIDI synthesizer can be applied for the sound module too. The software synthesizer has replaced almost entirely hardware-based sound genera- tors, simplifying and streamlining the studio setup considerably. 1.4.4 Software Synthesizers Software synthesizers have practically become the principal source of sounds in the modern project studio. Whereas up to five or six years ago your primary sound generators were hardware synthesiz- ers (MIDI synthesizers and sound modules), nowadays most of the hardware gear has been replaced by software-based synthesizers. The main idea behind this approach resides in the fact that the modern dig- ital hardware synthesizer is nothing more than a basic computer, with a dedicated central processing unit (CPU) inside and software specifically written for that CPU that runs on it (Figure 1.17). The software has the functions of allowing the user to interface with the CPU's sound generators and, at the same time, to determine the type of synthesis used to generate the sounds (Figure 1.18). While this approach has worked extremely well for many decades, with the advent of faster and more sophisticated personal computers the need for a dedicated CPU has vanished. Therefore, software (and hardware) music com- panies started to take advantage of the powerful and highly versatile CPUs of the personal computers to generate sounds by simply writing software that would run on these CPUs. This approach has three main advantages: first, it is much cheaper to write software than to build a hardware synthesizer, therefore the prices of software synthesizers are much lower than their hardware counterparts. Even including the ini- tial cost of a desktop computer, in the long run it is cheaper to buy software synthesizers. Second, soft- ware synthesizers are much more flexible, versatile, and upgradable than hardware synthesizers. Finally, since they take advantage of a large monitor and the graphic interaction tools of the computer they are