Pitching MIDI

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Reader Luke Seerveld seeks a way to turn his sung melodies into a musical score. He writes:

I’m working on a short Christmas program musical and would like to provide song sheets to the children based on my sung ditties. Have you come across a way to convert an AIFF file from Soundtrack into a MIDI file that I import into a notation program?

What you’re after is a utility that can interpret the pitches found in a digital audio file and convert them to MIDI data — known in the biz as pitch-to-MIDI conversion . At one time, there were a few utilities that performed this minor miracle — Wildcat Canyon’s AutoScore the most effective among them — but most, including the Macintosh version of AutoScore, have gone the way of the dodo.

One option that remains is Widisoft’s WIDI Audio to MIDI Plugins. Available as a VST or Audio Units plug-in (priced at $60 and $80, respectively), you incorporate the plug-in into your favorite compatible audio application, press the plug-in’s Record button, and play the audio file to it. It converts the audio to MIDI and saves the results as a standard MIDI file (SMF). You can then import that file into your notation program (or into a program that allows MIDI editing, such as GarageBand) and clean it up.

I’ve played a bit with the Audio Units demo, converting one of GarageBand’s single-note acoustic guitar tracks to MIDI. In general it did a decent job. I had to delete a couple of bad notes and remove an octave doubling, but it got the basics of the melody. The plug-in’s interface was clearly ported from Windows so it’s not completely intuitive and certainly not pretty, but a quick dash through the online Help files will get you up and running in a short time.

Because the results can be mixed — particularly with the kind of imperfect pitches produced by someone with a less-than-trained voice — I strongly urge you to try the demo before laying down your cash. If you’re not happy with the results, allow me to suggest that any number of musicians in your area would be happy to earn some extra holiday cash transcribing your hums and yodels.

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