(Not really) Musical Answers & Rants

#music #midi

I’ve got this pretty large music collection on my website and sometimes I get people asking why is it there. This post serves as an FAQ for all those questions that I can remember, plus some bonus rant.

This post may be updated regularly to reflect any changes that might happen.


Do you play any instruments?

I use to play keyboard instruments, specifically arranger keyboard for 4 years, and the piano for 6 years. I started when I was 7.

How good are you at them?

I’ve got certifications from the CMA (China Musicians Association) for amateur musicians (colloquially, they are referred to as “考级” in China), level 5 for arranger keyboard, and level 9 for the piano [1].

Do note the wording I used in the answer to the previous question: “use to”. I haven’t practiced seriously for quite some time (5 years at least).

I never spent a lot of time practicing, even I was actively learning to play. Longest uninterrupted practice session I had was probably 4 hours (one tenth of Lingling’s typical practice session, ugh [2]). Clearly I was more into messing with computers back then (still very much the case right now).

Any knowledge in musical theory?

The only “formal” lesson I had on musical theory was given by my piano teacher, which didn’t touch on any of the advanced topics – just basic intervals, chords, and progression stuff.

I’ve read books on music theory, namely

  • “Introduction to Basic Music Theory” (probably the most widely used book on this topic in China, original title 《基本乐理通用教材》, authored by Li Chongguang (李重光). English title is my own translation and I have no idea what the official translation is.)
  • “Music Theory for Computer Musicians”, Michael Hewitt
  • “Composition for Computer Musicians”, Michael Hewitt
  • “The Complete Idiots Guide to Music Theory”, Michael Miller (didn’t finish reading)

But I can’t say I remembered a single thing from them.

I also know a few things on acoustics and computing stuff related to music. See the “Backgrounds, computer music” section for more on this.

Anything else interesting?

I’m quite convinced that I have (at least partial) perfect pitch.

Certain part inside my head reacts very strongly to notes of some pitches (A and C are the most notable ones, E, G, and for some reason F# are also up there). I can also sing any given notes on the chromatic scale pretty accurately.

However, since I don’t react to all notes equally, and I’m quite sure “partial perfect pitch” is not really a thing, I don’t know what condition I really have. But if your instrument is out of tune (even if the whole thing is tuned consistently), I’ll be really upset.

Backgrounds, Computer Music

How did you get into computer music?

‘Twas a typical calm day when I was browsing around in the System32 folder (yes I was a fulltime Windows user once upon a time). I found a file named “town.mid” in the Media folder, and it looked like a music file to me. “How could a music file be like 20KB in size?” I wondered. I thought it would sound like crap (low bit-rate type of crappiness, not MSGS-type of crappiness), but I listened to it and turned out that wasn’t the case. Later that day I sent the file to my parents’ cell phones, and to my surprise they all sounded quite different, despite all the devices were playing the same melody. I was deeply intrigued by this format, and that planted a seed in my heart.

I searched the 2000s web for information on this format, unfortunately being a noob as I was back then, I was only able to find out it was a format called “MIDI”, but not any application that’s capable of reading or producing them. I had to set it aside.

A few years later, in early 2009, when I was randomly going through tech magazine my parents had piled up at home, I found a software catalogue from the 90s. One title in the ToC read “Make your music production dreams come true – Cakewalk Music Software”. It didn’t quite caught my attention just yet, but when I got to the content, they mentioned its MIDI capabilities. I realized this could be the thing I’m looking for. And very fortunately for me, the CD that came with the catalogue included a trail version of Cakewalk Pro Audio 5.0. There began my journey.

But wait, there was, in fact, a second path to this. There was a video (Music using ONLY sounds from Windows XP and 98!) that went viral in China in 2009. The look of the software shown in the video got my attention, and that brought me into the world of tracker modules (and later demoscenes).

There was also the whole “black midi” shenanigans that I got myself into. However I think that should be considered “deep lore” and not really appropriate to mention here. So let’s just leave this section as is.

Any formal training on this stuff?

Nope. I taught myself everything, just like most other stuff I know in computing. One major difference is that I didn’t receive any formal training after I’ve taught myself this topic, unlike some other topics in computer science. The thing is it’s quite difficult to enroll courses from the music department while I’m in a frankly completely unrelated major.

How long have you been doing this?

I’ve been messing with MIDI since 2009, doing transcription since 2011. However until 2014 I didn’t bother learning any DAWs with virtual instruments support (I was only using Cakewalk Pro Audio 9.0 and a certain Japanese application called 音楽ツクールDX back then). For this reason everything I made until 2014 was just a bunch of MIDI files. I’ve been collecting (mostly pirated) software synths since then. However since 2017 I started replacing pirated software I used in production, and nowadays I’m only using software and sound libraries the I have legal rights to use in production, except the Unobtainium legacy products.

I started programming music-related stuff in 2010, it was a random silly sequencer for PC speaker. And I’ve been doing it ever since.

What specific skills do you have in computer music?

(This list includes both music production related stuff and programming stuff)

  • Using a DAW (mostly Cakewalk of course)
  • Make random patches for synthesizers
  • Basic mixing and mastering
  • MIDI and tracker module data processing (I/O, data extraction)
  • Basic DSP knowledge, computer assisted music production
  • High-level interfacing with musical hardware

What computer music projects have you worked on?

(This list also includes both music production related stuff and programming stuff)

  • Production: see Music Library
  • Experimental GPU-powered virtual-analog synth (private project): CUDA only, pretty basic function wise, nothing special really.
  • QMidiPlayer: A feature-rick MIDI player.
  • Modsearch (private project): Module indexing and searching tool.
  • Fifteen Thieves: Tools for interfacing with Roland synthesizers.

Is any of this fun?


How do you find joy in any of this?

I don’t know.

Personal Preference

Favorite genre(s)?

Nothing specific really. However I can tell you about the genre I loath the most: it’s … (drum rolls) … rap.

The thing that I dislike about rap is its excessive use of autotune and highly repetitive trap-style drum patterns. I actually kind of admire some rapper’s skillful rapping, but spoken words don’t really count as music do they?

Favorite hardware synth in your collection?

Again, nothing specific really. But I do know it’s not the Yamaha. It’s never the Yamaha.

Favorite production software?

Considering I’ve pretty much used nothing but Cakewalk products, I can give you an actual answer to this one – Cakewalk of course.

I do also find OpenMPT interesting, however I haven’t made anything with it really.

Funny trivia: when Gibson announced they were ceasing all development of Cakewalk products, I wrote this rant. Soon after that rant was posted, a couple of vendors annouced discounted pricing for former SONAR users, one of which was Steinberg (their so-called “competitive crossgrade”). So I got my copy of Cubase 9 Pro at 50% off (but they did not provide an e-licenser with the purchase, which was still bundled with a normal purchase back then, which was frankly dumb). But … before I could get used to the workflow of Cubase, Cakewalk was resurrected by Bandlab.

Is it “GIF” or “JIF”?

Of course it’s “Graphics Interchange Format”! Wait, why is this here…

Genres that you listen to most often?

Okay you got me. I’ll just warn you that the list could be quite shocking to some people…

Recent notable trend for me is folk music. The rest includes classical, heavy metal, and ambient music. Also sometimes I randomly browse through various module hosting websites where the vast majority of the uploads are just pure turds, but occasionally I come across hidden gems in those giant turd piles.

Also don’t forget about the dreaded: Touhou music…

Touhou Music

The f**k is going on with your obsession with Touhou Music?

… literally 18 of 21 tabs in your music library contain only Touhou Music!

Well, this has to start with how I got myself into the thing known as “Touhou Project”. (There should’ve been an entire post written on this, but I’m too lazy, so let me just recap here.)

A friend of mine was playing Imperishable Night one day in 2009. I sat there and watched him play for a while. He paused the game and asked, “Interested?”, to which I replied “eh…” (Do note that I’ve never been interested in Japanese anime or manga before, or since, for that matter. But I did play similar shoot-’em-up before.) He offered me a copy anyway. Not really interested in the game itself, I just left it sitting in my hard drive for quite a while.

Nothing really happened until some day in 2010 when I was sorting through files on my disk. I found the game and noted that the biggest file inside is called thbgm.dat. “Must have a lot of tracks,” I thought. And I went ahead and chose the most logical next step – not to play the game (because I did notice the game itself was quite intense when I watched my friend play), but to find some Touhou track player and listen to the music. Any my first impression was something like “holy f****** sh** this is horrible”, which was reasonable now that I thought about it, considering ZUN’s “unique” style (which I’ll touch on later) and his unsalvageable mixing in those early works.

After that I just occasionally opened up the player, listened to random tracks and ended up quickly closing it off. Unbeknownst to me, ZUN’s “magic” worked on me and finally in 2012 I decided to play the game. Unfortunately I made another critical error to play his very first release on Windows instead (Embodiment of Scarlet Devil) because I had the stupid assumption that the first one could be easier.

Of course I couldn’t be more wrong about that assumption. It took me over a year of playing off and on to clear normal difficulty, during which I listened to the tracks hundreds of times. And my comment on the music of that release was “interesting ideas but somehow made to sound ‘thit’ (a blend of thick and sh*t, probably because I realized he had overdone the effects)“.

Being an ultra nerd myself, I extracted the game files and found the MIDI files inside. And that’s where everything went downhill.

The magical aspect of ZUN’s music is that it probably sounds quite twisted and weird on first listen. However after a few loops the charm in the track becomes apparent. Certain easily memorizable riffs could also played a part. But I did notice that the most highly acclaimed tracks from him (e.g. 上海紅茶館 ~ Chinese Tea and 神々が恋した幻想郷) usually have less of the twisted part, or none at all.

Why don’t you transcribe something new from him then?

Nice observation. I haven’t transcribed anything beyond Wily Beast and Weakest Creature because I found ZUN’s magic has stopped working on me – I have listened to the tracks enough times that should have already worked if it’s some earlier works of him, but up till now I find most of the newer tracks just plain weird and uninteresting. (There are a couple of ones that clears my bar, but that makes it like the modarchive situation – picking out the gems in a pile of turds. And if I have to go through the turds, I’d rather look for gems from a more diverse set of composers).

It’s not just me either – I’ve heard from other people who commented that ZUN’s composition went downhill since Hidden Star in Four Seasons. I have to agree with them.


Do you earn money from your production?

No. I’ve earned a grand total of $0/¥0 from my production so far. But I did earn a few complimentary remarks (either genuine or satirical, I don’t know) from my friends.

So why even bother?

It’s fun. I’ve explained it in a previous question (not really). But I find the process therapeutic and I really enjoy tweaking the knobs (no pun intended I swear).

Why are most of your stuff remixes? Why not more originals?

Because remixes are much lower effort, and no creativity required.

I’m not the type of person oozing creativity. I don’t even think the vast majority of my stuff should be called “remix” (despite I do name the files that way) – I refer to them as “reinstrumentation” privately – no changes to the music itself whatsoever, only with different mixing and instruments.

When I do create originals, I want to be serious about it. I don’t want them to sound crappy of course (just like most other people I’d imagine). However it’s fairly hard for me to get inspired. The most frequent way I get inspired is a random riff just gotten stuck in my head for a while, usually after a solid 10 hours of rest or a shower. Unfortunately for me, there are two things that prevent me from transforming these ideas into productions: a) The only keyboard that I have right now is a 32-key controller that had to be stowed in a drawer due to space constraints, and I’m usually too lazy to bust it out. Attempts of concretizing the ideas to handwritten notations mostly failed miserably. So for now the only way for me to solidify an idea is to let it stuck in there for long enough that I can memorize it. b) Recently I’ve discovered a tendency that melodies that get stuck in my head could just be me regurgitating stuff that I’ve listened to but could not name (the most recent example is an “original” I did a year ago called “Spoolka” which turns out to be just a rendition of Säkkijärven polkka). For these reasons I’m currently refraining from doing OCs unless I’m absolutely sure it’s really an original.

However there are indeed a few unfinished originals sitting in my hard disk, snubbed to death…

Ever considered doing Touhou-style originals?

No, not really. There are already plenty of creative people in this space.

In fact I did make attempts to create Touhou-style originals quite a while ago, but the results were deemed “too formulaic and mediocre” by myself and never got released.

Commission? Collabs?

Commission? No. I won’t further burden myself with obligated content creation.

Collabs? Maybe. Although I’m not sure who’s ever willing to do it with me – but I’m pretty damn sure there will not be any Touhou-style collab from me any time soon.

I’d be happy to write music-related code for you though. Contact me if you think I can do something for you in that regard.

Production Gear?

Current main production computer:

  • Framework Laptop
  • First generation, 4th batch
  • i7-1185G7
  • 64 GB DDR4-3200 RAM
  • 1 TB SSD

(Click on the following categories to expand them)

Production software
  • Cakewalk by Bandlab
  • Cubase Pro 12
  • SONAR Platinum
  • Cakewalk Pro Audio 9.0
  • OpenMPT
Audio Interfaces
  • Focusrite Scarlett Solo 2nd Generation
  • Terratec Aureon 7.1 USB
  • Edirol UA-25
  • Roland UA-101 * 2 (one Edirol-branded, one Cakewalk-branded)
  • Edirol SD-90
Hardware synths
  • Edirol SD-80
  • Edirol SD-20
  • Roland XV-5080
    • SR-JV80-17 “Country Collection”
    • SR-JV80-09 “Session”
    • SR-JV80-08 “Keyboards of ’60s & ’70s”
    • SR-JV80-07 “Super Sound Set”
    • SRX-09 “World Collection”
    • SRX-07 “Ultimate Keys”
    • SRX-06 “Complete Orchestra”
    • SRX-03 “Studio SRX”
  • Roland Fantom-XR
    • SRX-08 “Platinum Trax”
    • SRX-07 “Ultimate Keys” (Yes I have two physical SRX-07 boards)
    • SRX-05 “Supreme Dance”
    • SRX-04 “Symphonique Strings”
    • SRX-02 “Concert Piano”
    • SRX-01 “Dynamic Drum Kits”
  • Edirol SD-90
  • Roland SC-8850
  • Yamaha Motif Rack ES
    • PLG-150 DX “Advanced DX/TX Plug-in Board”
Keyboards / Controllers
  • Yamaha PSR-275
  • Edirol PCR-300
Software synths
  • Steinberg Absolute 5
    • HALion 6
    • HALion Sonic 3
      • Skylab
      • Anima
      • Voltage
      • Auron
      • Triebwerk
      • Hypnotic Dance
      • Trium
      • HALiotron
      • Hot Brass
      • Model C
      • Eagle
      • Raven
      • Amped Elektra
      • World Percussion
      • B-Box
      • Electric Bass
      • World Instruments
      • Dark Planet
      • Studio Strings
      • HALion Symphonic Orchestra
      • Olympus Choir Micro
    • Groove Agent 5
      • Future Past Perfect
      • Prime Cuts
      • Rock Essentials
    • Backbone
    • The Grand 3
    • Retrologue 2
      • Sounds of Soul
    • Padshop 2
      • Polarities
      • Granular Guitars
  • HALion Expansions
    • 4Knob PopD
    • Iconica Opus
    • Cinematique Instruments Lute
    • Realsamples German Harpsichord 1738
    • e-instruments Vibrant
    • Cinematique Instruments Alto Glockenspiel
    • Olympus Choir Elements
  • Groove Agent Expansions
    • ElekDrums
  • Trilian
  • Omnisphere 2
  • Roland Cloud
    • TR-909
    • XV-5080
    • SRX World
    • SRX Studio
    • Zenology
    • SoundCanvas VA
  • Groove Agent 2
  • Groove Agent ONE
  • HALion 3
  • LM4 Mark II
  • Edirol Super Quartet
  • Edirol Orchestral
  • Addictive Drums 2
  • Addictive Keys
  • EZDrummer 3
    • Pop/Rock EZX
    • Electronic EZX
  • Kontakt 5
    • Vir Electri6ity
  • Music Lab Real Guitar
  • Music Lab Real LPC
  • Music Lab Real Strat
  • Virtual Guitarist
  • Virtual Guitarist Electric Edition
  • Z3TA+
  • Z3TA+ 2
  • DropZone
  • SFZ
  • True Piano
  • Square I
  • Triangle II
  • Pentagon I
  • Ultra Analog Session 2
  • Lounge Lizard Session
  • Session Drummer 2
  • Session Drummer 3
  • Strum Acoustic Session
  • SI Studio Instruments
  • P5antom / Roland GrooveSynth
  • Roland TTS-1

My synth rack as of September 2022

Why stick to hardware synths when software synths nowadays are so powerful?

There are pros and cons to this.


  • Unique architecture allows for exclusive sounds and sound shaping techniques
  • Unique sound libraries that are not found elsewhere
  • While software recreations of certain hardware synths are decently accurate, authenticity is still often sacrificed
  • Offload sound generation from the production computer


  • Sometimes recording hardware synths can be a pain in the a**
  • They often have seemingly arbitrary limitations on the synth engine that are no longer an issue for modern software synths
  • Aging hardware synth can become a liability, or even fire hazard [3]

Of course there’s the sunk costs fallacy – why stop using them since the money is already spent?

Since you don’t earn money from you production, …

where’s the money that fuels your gear addiction from?

I have a decently stable income that covers all my daily expenses, plus some extra that can go straight into buying more crap.

Can I use your music for X?


  • Unless otherwise noted, everything in the “Original” folder are released under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license. MIDI data and project files will be available on request.
  • Unless otherwise noted, everything else in my music library are released under the same terms as their originals. This means:
    • For my remixes of original Touhou sound tracks, you can use them in accordance to the Touhou Project guidelines on derivative works.
    • For other works, it is suggested to refer to their original license (would be inside its notes if there is one), or contact their original author before using them.

[1]: The max level one can obtain is level 10 for both instruments
[2]: TwoSetViolin reference
[3]: cough cough, Roland SR-JV80 boards, cough cough