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Trying to get gigs in some places as a solo act is hard work, all because of people's preconceptions. Don't judge how 'good' an act is by how many members there are in that act. Judge them by how good they sound.........

Why I’m different to your idea of a solo act

I’ll start this short piece with my summary.

Let your ears do the listening not your pre-conceptions


Here’s why...........

Many people love the sound of a live band yet when they hear a solo act no matter how good they are musically, it never sounds quite the same.

Q. Why is this?

A. It’s the ‘dynamics’ of the music that you hear with a band that are missing with almost all solo or duo acts - except with Rockin’ ROB it's different.

I guarantee that if you listen to me with your eyes closed you will think you’re listening to a band and the reason for that is the method I use for my backing band. Most solo or duos use backing ‘tracks’ usually on mini disk, sometimes CD and increasingly mp3 via media players, either way you are listening to an audio ‘recorded’ track and with that comes the compression and format limitations that ruins the dynamics, especially mp3. The compression used is the reason even a professional band sound different live to how they sound on CD. Compression destroys the dynamic sound of live music.

Q. So why is Rockin’ ROB different?

A. The short, simple, non-technical answer is because I use MIDI files through a hardware synthesizer. “What difference does that make?” I hear you asking. Without getting too technical - MIDI isn’t audio, you can’t play it like an audio track. MIDI is a set of instructions that needs to be interpreted by a musical instrument that understands MIDI.  If you’ve ever seen a band with a keyboard player you’ll already have heard MIDI in action. In fact any professional live band will make use of MIDI in their shows in all sorts of ways from guitar to drums. The result is that when my backing band plays it’s musical instruments played in real time that you are hearing, not a pre-recorded audio track. MIDI contains all the musical information required to produce a sound at a certain pitch, volume, velocity and timbre and all the other numerous nuances that make the dynamics of a live performer – hence it sounds ‘real’. The only difference is that the player isn’t a person that you can see ‘in the flesh’ but the sounds are ‘real’, being played then and there as you listen. That is why I am confident with your eyes closed you can’t tell the difference.

The next obvious question is if there’s such a great difference why isn’t everybody doing what I am? Well in reality I’m not the only person in the world using this method but we are in the minority. The reason is twofold, first the expense and secondly the technical knowledge required for using MIDI.

Cost first - CD and mp3 players start from a few pounds and mini disc players from just over £100. These are all capable of playing back their respective musical formats very well. The limitation is in the format of the audio not the equipment. It doesn’t matter how much money a performer spends on a player, they will always be limited by the format that is being played back.

Hardware MIDI synths that are capable of decent MIDI file playback start at around £500 and go up from there. The limitation with MIDI is always in the equipment not the format. For details of the MIDI synth I use see here. It has a polyphony (number of sounds at once) of 128 voices, simply put the higher the polyphony the better the sounds played.

MIDI is far more technically demanding as well. CDs and mp3 are as simple as inserting disc and pushing play. Mini disk systems are similar but have the advantage of being able to select what instruments are heard. You could if you wish mute the bass guitar for example. MIDI on the other hand has so many variables it’s hard to know where to start. Not only can individual channels within MIDI be silenced or run at different volumes but they can be assigned to any instrument within the synth that it’s controlling, in the case of my Sonic Cell a choice of over 1100 different sounds (not including the 32 different drum kits), all of which are further expandable via expansion cards. Each track can be controlled for many variables – velocity, expression, volume, pitch, vibrato to name a few of the more basic ones. All of this in real time if desired. In other words the quality of sound is only limited by imagination and money, not by a restrictive format.


In summary, please let your ears do the listening not your pre-conceptions - try me you won't be disappointed, neither will your crowd.

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Document made with Nvu © Karl Rose, 2009