Electric guitar neck

Question: Is it possible to create realistic guitar distortion using MIDI XG?
Answer: Too right it is!

XGWorks MIDI Editor


Electric Guitar Distortion using MIDI XG

  • XGWorks MIDI Editor
  • Initialise XG and Effects
  • XG Synth - Setting Up
  • Reverb & Chorus Set-up
  • Variation Effects Bus
  • Electric Guitar in MIDI part 2
  • XG Tools

General MIDI (GM) is not reknowned for recreating that raunchy rock guitar sound favoured by dandruff sufferers.

However, even with the MIDI XG Level 1 format it's entirely possible to achieve that grunge wall of sound that blows the dandruff free.

So before we begin the tutorial, untie your pony-tail, place full-length mirror against wall and grab ya tennis racket...we're gonna mutha-nquhp ROCK!

Download the electric guitar midi file for this tutorial Download the electric guitar midi file used for this tutorial and stand poised for a good ole' fashioned thrash!
NOTE: Right-click and choose "Save Target As" to download.

The XGWorks MIDI software sequencer is a great user-friendly way to quickly program and edit all your XG sounds without requiring a maths PHD... you just twiddle the knobs!

I've used the XGWorks MIDI editor in the screenshots as it conveniently interprets the nasty HEX values - used for transmitting instructions to your synth - into readable english. XGWorks, IMO, is the most user-friendly XG editor on the market and is crammed with features that, for the stupid price, makes it a no-brainer midi tool.

Right, put the racket down and make yerself decent again you pathetic throwback to the 70's you...Oh, and put the mirror back before ya missus see's it!

As you can see in Screenshot 1, the example midi file used in this tutorial is a simple 4 track song - Feedback Guitar, Drums, Pick Bass Guitar & a Muted Guitar plus a seperate System Exclusive track which we will set up first

Screenshot 1: The song parts laid out in XGWorks

Screenshot 1: Electric guitar xg midi tutorial track layout

Initialise XG and Effects

Table 1 is concerned with the correct parameters for instructing your XG synth to "switch on" and get prepared for the next batch of instructions that will tell it what instruments to use and how to set them up. (NOTE: The author of XGWorks also made available an interface with buttons and twiddly knobs for setting the instrument parameters called XGEdit 95. I will cover this in a further article, it's a cool additional tool trust me!)

Oh I've also included the HEX code (all those numbers in the right column) for those working in other editors

Table 1: Parameters to switch on the XG Synth

Parameters to switch on the XG Synth
Bar Beat Tick Type Value 1 Value 2
0001 01 000 Univ Non Real GM Mode On 7E 7F 09 01 F7
0001 01 224 XG Prm Sys XG System On XG System On 43 10 4C 00 00 7E 00 F7
0001 01 281 XG Prm Effct1 Rev Type Stage 1 43 10 4C 02 01 0003 00 F7
0001 01 282 XG Prm Effct1 Rev Rtn 100 43 10 4C 02 01 0C 64 F7
0001 01 283 XG Prm Effct1 Chrs Rtn 60 43 10 4C 02 01 2C 3C F7
0001 01 284 XG Prm Effct1 Var Type Amp Simulator 43 10 4C 02 01 40 4B 00 F7
0001 01 285 XG Prm Effct1 Var Prm1 Drive 127 43 10 4C 02 01 42 00 7F F7
0001 01 286 XG Prm Effct1 Var Prm2 Amp Type Tube 43 10 4C 02 01 44 00 03 F7
0001 01 287 XG Prm Effct1 Var Prm3 Lpf Cutoff 8.0 Khz 43 10 4C 02 01 46 00 34 F7
0001 01 288 XG Prm Effct1 Var Prm4 Output Level 91 43 10 4C 02 01 48 00 5B F7
0001 01 289 XG Prm Effct1 Var Prt Part1 43 10 4C 02 01 5B 00 F7

Ok...Setting up the XG correctly is important and has already been covered in the XG MIDI tutorial page, however, let's briefly go over this...

XG Synth - Setting Up

Slam the following parameters into it's own (seperate) track as illustrated in Screenshot 1 named "System" and leave 1 measure clear before starting any music to give sufficient time for the instructions to be processed.

Tick 000 = Switches on the "normal" default GM synth mode for soundcards/modules that don't support XG, ie...something intelligible will be played!

Tick 224 = After allowing enough time for GM Mode On to initialise, we switch on the XG synth and similarly allow it time to kick-in - Approximately 50ms.


Reverb & Chorus Set-up

Tick 281 = There are several types of Reverb available in MIDI, here we select Stage 1.

Tick 282 = Set the Reverb level to 100.

Tick 283 = Set the Chorus level to 60.


Variation Effects Bus

Tick 284 = Now we really dig into XG's effect arsenal and select the Variation Amp Simulator.

Tick 285 = Let's whack the Amp Simulator Drive up to full tilt, ie...127.

Tick 286 = We want a Tube amp to give it some sharp jaws!

Tick 287 = I've set the Low Pass Filter (LPF) here to 8Khz

Tick 288 = Set the Variation effects bus Output Level to 90

Tick 289 = This is where we choose to switch the variation effect bus to INSERT rather than SYSTEM which is a global instruction that makes it available to ALL instruments - Our instruction assigns the variation effects to PART 1, which will be our actual GUITAR PART, or track, covered in part 2.

After all that, you'll be proud to know that thanks to TheWhippinpost, you have been unnecessarily inducted into the world of geekdom...well partly, because ya know what? XGWorks looks after all of the timing seperations required to initialise the synths.


Listen!... If you're anything like TheWhippinpost then you probably have several favoured tools to perform different compositional tasks... This is one of those favoured tools.

When it comes to getting the best from your XG synths there's two tools I recommend: XGWorks and XGEdit95.

XGEdit95 is basically a graphical interface to play with your XG synth parameters - An excellent XG sound editor - whereas XGWorks is a full sequencing package too.


I'll talk more in-depth about the marvels of XGWorks in another tutorial. In the meantime, you can check out more info on the XGWorks sequencer over at zZounds if you're tempted.

Anyway, at least you know a bit of the theory now eh! So now you'll be able to sound all clever-like in various music-making newsgroups... Just remember to quote TheWhippinpost when ya do, otherwise I'll tell 'em about the mirror, OK?... nice one.

Theoretically, you could go-ahead and construct a guitar part in track 1 and it should now sound cruel, but it aint over yet...

In part 2, we'll go over the finer detail of getting the guitar to scream with controlled feedback and also look into Portamento for those slide-dumps!

Part 2

Electric Guitar using MIDI XG »