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Changing instruments mid-song using Mixcraft 5

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Finally, I found something useful

TL;DR - we are limited to 8 tracks, but not necessarily 8 instruments for a song. And I've found a way to make tracks change instruments midway through a song. I'll show you how to do this (it's really, really easy), but read the intro for my epic realisation.

This tutorial assumes that you have basic music knowledge; in other words, that you can read music. If you can't, now would be a good time to learn, because I'm not going to teach you.

Things you will need for this:

- A MIDI that you want to edit (this one is obvious enough)

- Mixcraft 5 (this is what I use to get those instrument changes)

- (not a priority) MIDI editing program

- (not a priority) Zahlman's Song Editor

For the purposes of this tutorial, I'm using a MIDI version of FE12's "Liberation" that I ripped and rearranged from the game. You can see the sort-of finished product at the bottom of the post. ZSE is necessary for inserting the MIDIs into the game; I use Sibelius 5 for my MIDI editing program because it's what I've always used and I'm used to it; and Mixcraft 5 is the only program that I know how to use that can do what I want it to do. Doubtless there are many others but for the purposes of this tutorial I'll be using those ones.

Also, this tutorial has big screenshots, and might stretch your browser. Sorry. Get a bigger monitor?

[spoiler=Intro (you can skip this)]

Music hacking is something I've been looking into for a while, mostly because I feel that's it's something that's largely neglected by hacks. Music should be at the core of a hack, and one of the first things that you'd change.

Anyway, I've been fiddling around with Zahlman's Song Editor for a while, trying to "import" songs from FE3-FE5 as well as FE11 and FE12. This is mostly because the MIDIs are easily rippable from the games with everything intact, including track velocities, which is really important. So I reordered the MIDIs that were ripped, and god, they're a mess. But then I realise I've hit this huge bump in the road: Yuka fucking Tsujiyoko uses instrument switches mid-song - for instance, some of the lines in FE11's arena battle theme (also known as FE9's battle theme) are trumpets that double as string lines as well. And I have no idea how to repair these instrument changes for the MIDIs, let alone how to do it in hex editors. I turn to some of the better hackers of the forum, who tell me that switching the instruments sets everything out of time. Great, I think. Now I'm screwed. For some songs, all is lost, because there's no way I'm taking out some of the tracks, or giving the harp parts to the flutes, and if I'm to insert the MIDIs into a GBA game there's no way they can be more than 8 tracks. So I give up on them.

A few weeks later I'm doing a song from FE11 - Footsteps of Fate - and I copy and paste one of the lines into a Strings part. Then when I'm playing what I have, I notice that for some reason, despite being in the Strings part, the Strings change into piano at a certain point. This frustrates the hell out of me - I try pasting the section into another instrument, what it's meant to be: the piccolo. And yet it still plays the piano. ARGH! So this instrument change is like, hardcoded into the MIDI or something, and I can't change it. For shits and gigs I try importing the song into FE7 using FE7's native instruments. Usually when putting in an "instrument change" in a program like Sibelius, the game will ignore it and continue to play whatever was there originally. So yeah, I import the song. And then it still plays the piano instead of the piccolo, or the strings.

Then it hits me.

The instrument change is "hardcoded" into the MIDI.

I start googling around, and soon enough, I find out that "program changes" are pretty common in MIDIs, and I realise that this is what Tsujiyoko must use to change tracks. So I use this program that I've found (it's called Mixcraft 5, for the record. I obtained it through some... alternative means, since I didn't feel like paying money for it. How you get this program is up to you, and I take no responsibility for it) and voila, I have solved my instrument change problem, and on top of that, I've discovered that I can do so much more with it. How did I do it? READ ON TO FIND OUT.

[spoiler=Switching instruments]At the time I was doing FE12's "Liberation". I'd already cleaned up the MIDI; this includes assigning new principal instruments to each track, fixing up the pitch of everything, and reducing the song to 8 tracks. How you do this is up to you, and I can't really help you with it, especially if you don't have any musical knowledge.

Now, at a bridge in the song, the song descends into a soft, string-part. At this point in the MIDI, the harmony for the strings will change into a piano for some reason, and you can't change this in any standard music processor, like Sibelius 5, which is what I use. This is what that part looks like. I added the red line to show you where that pesky instrument change happens.


At that point the strings turn into piano. This pissed me off because I want them to be strings. So I load the MIDI up in Mixcraft 5. To do this, just run Mixcraft 5 and select "Browse" and load up your MIDI. Now find to the track of the instrument that you want changed.


If you right-click the music-y part of the track, there'll be an option that says "Edit". So click that.

A box/tab thing will pop up at the bottom. This should be in the "Piano Roll View" mode. If it isn't, press this little button.


Now what we want is "Program Change". If you look at the little droppable box there, it's probably set to "Velocity (ON)". So click on it, and change it to Program Change.



You'll see something like this. If your track already has an instrument change, you'll see the offending little blue dot just there.


That's what's responsible for changing your instrument. If you want to get rid of it, click on the eraser and just click over it and it'll disappear. The eraser doesn't actually have to touch the dot, you can just skirt the mouse while it's clicked over it and it's gone. If that's all you wanted to do, then just hit File > Save as MIDI file, save it, and you're done. Yes. It was that easy.

If you wanted to program IN an instrument change, then find the point in the song where you want the instrument to change. You can hit "play" if you don't know where it is by heart. Now click on the pencil icon.


Move the cursor down to the program change area. You'll see a number next to your cursor. This number is the instrument that you want to play, and corresponds to this list.

Edit: You'll want the instruments to match up according to this if you're putting them into FE7, though.

For some reason though, the numbers don't match completely. A 47 in Mixcraft is actually a 48 in that list, and a 35 in Mixcraft is the list's 36, and so on. You're probably smart, so figure it out yourself. Once you've gotten the number to the instrument you want it at (in this case it's a 48, because I want the String Ensemble, and 49 - 1 = 48), then click.

Edit: Two things. First, sometime the whole -1 thing doesn't apply, and sometimes it does. I'm not sure why. Also, you can right-click and use "Add Controller..." and input the exact value for better accuracy.


You'll see a blue line of varying length appear. That's your instrument change. Hit File > Save As MIDI, save it, and BAM, you've hardcoded your instrument change.

There. Done. Now you can insert your song into FE6/7/8, and the song will automatically change tracks, and there's nothing more that you need to do. BAM! AND THE DIRT IS GONE!

Edit: Sometimes if you add a controller change into the MIDI, Mixcraft will read that program change for the whole track i.e. if you wanted strings to turn to piano and you added in a piano change Mixcraft may play the whole track as piano. To remedy this, add a controller for strings at the very beginning.

I hope this has helped you guys when it comes to music hacking, and maybe encouraged you to put in some music from other games to spice up your hack a little. If there's anything that's unclear in this post, just say so and I'll try to clarify for you.

By the way, here is my version of "Liberation". If you open it in a MIDI-editing program, you'll see that the Flute line doubles as the Harp line as they never play at the same time. Thus, I can get them to change into each other, and still not violate the 8-track rule. You're also free to use it, if you like. Note that the track velocity is too high for GBA, though, and it'll make clicking noises at points that it's too high. I'm still working on a method to stop this. Also the rendition is not perfect, it's still a WIP. Still, you're more than welcome to try and fix it.

And here's some proof that it works, too:


Edited by Agro

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Quite the discovery. XD

Again, you told me about it before, but this is gonna be quite convenient. clap2.gif

Thanks for taking the time to make the tutorial. Time to save it to my hard drive like the rest of the hacking tutorials. XD

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Nice discovery! I've been using this feature for quite some time in Guitar Pro, although for non-FE purposes.

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(My attachment disappeared from the OP so here it is.)

or not, says I'm 'not permitted' to upload it? I'll RAR it instead.

which I'm also not allowed to do


Edited by Agro

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zip is allowed. The thing about rar files was brought up before, but I don't remember if there's a reason it was never added to the allow list.

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