297 free sheet music, Last Update: 28th February 2010

RSS feedBLOG RSS feedSheet Music RSS feedComments |
You are not logged in. | Log In | Register

Making Use Of MIDI

The standard MIDI file; an annoying caricature of a song that you know you’ve heard before on the radio that plays behind a web page as an added dimension to attract the attention of your senses, right? Maybe. There are tons of them on the Net. We’ve all heard them at one time or another. Most cellular phone ring tones are created through MIDI these days as well. We may shrug them off as being cheesy, exaggerated or otherwise unworthy, but have we really stopped to think about them? Having one of these files in our possession can be a great asset if it was arranged and sequenced well.

Let’s start by examining the technical attributes of this medium. Many individuals believe that the MIDI system (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) somehow carries audio information, like MP3 or WAV files when transferred between users. This is not the case at all. In fact, the data recorded and saved in the Standard MIDI file is simply information about what musical notes were played at what time, how loudly they occurred, when they were released and many other parameters. Think of this information transfer as a mechanical player piano where the paper passing through the machinery contains holes that strategically cause certain notes to be played at the right times. The paper can’t provide any sound without the presence of the machinery. By the same token, MIDI data can make no sound without a synthesizer to play it back. In our personal computers, the synthesizer most commonly resides on the sound card. It may be in a software application as well. When a MIDI file is received, the synthesizer “reads” the set of instructions in real time and plays sounds that exist in its memory (known as ROM). These sounds vary widely in quality. When you hear MIDI playback that sounds “cheesy”, the sounds in the synthesizer are most likely not the best of quality. (of course, this is always a matter of opinion). There are professional stand-alone synthesizers that make instrument sounds that are extremely lifelike.

Now that we understand this point, it’s easy to see why MIDI files are used frequently on the Internet. They are small; very small! One minute of uncompressed audio takes up about 10 MB (megabytes) on average. The average size of a one-minute MP3 file is only 1 MB. Furthermore, the average size of a 3-minute MIDI file is only about 50 KB (kilobytes). As a benchmark to give these numbers some meaning, a typical audio CD can hold 700 MB worth of information. MIDI files are like small pieces of sheet muxic that are passed from a user, through a medium to a synthesizer. Then, upon receipt of the “score”, the synth performs the parts of all instruments in the virtual orchestra. So wouldn’t it be nice if you could interpret this technical language and be able to perform the parts on your own instrument? You can, and you don’t have to be a genius or a computer programmer! You just have to have a few tools to start with.

MIDI files originate in a relm that we call a sequencer. This can be an elaborate piece of hardware or a simple piece of software, or anything in between. A musician or a programmer performs each individual part on an instrument that can “speak” the language of MIDI. This is most commonly a keyboard because it is easy to record the performance electromechanically. Guitars, drum sets and even woodwind instruments that are specially outfitted can also achieve this. The sequencer platform runs like a multi-track tape recorder in some respects. The “language” of MIDI allows for 16 of such tracks, each played by a different instrument sound at a different stage of the process. Information to govern the volume, left-to-right balance, pitch slide and many other parameters can be added for each track. Once the “mix’ sounds pleasing to the user, this information can be packaged as a standard MIDI file and sent to another user. The receiving user can open this file in any sequencer and literally see all the information and how it was recorded. They can amend any of it with ease. The data that appears is usually in the form of lines, dots and dashes, but many sequencers can display the data as music notation on a set of staves. This display will be friendly and familiar to a lot of musicians. Other musicians that never learned to read notation feel at home “reading” the dots and dashes. Aspiring audio engineers like myself can listen to any combination of the parts at a time and explore how they fit together. One can also reassign a part to another instrument sound to further experiment with the overall composition.

In order to begin being creative with these aspects, one will need a sequencer of some kind. Applications such as Stienburg’s Cubase, Cakewalk’s Sonar, MOTU’s Freestyle are great ways to start learning. Apple’s Logic and MOTU’s Digital Performer are among the more advanced programs. These are only a few of the options out there today. Your “studio” should also be outfitted with a controller keyboard if you want to get serious about creating MIDI songs. (For this, your sound card must have a proper MIDI input connector). It’s not that hard to be on your way!

This “language’ leaves lots of room for creativity in the formative stage of a composition. It’s also a great educational tool for any musician curious about how their favorite song is built. I would encourage anyone who is somewhat musically inclined to take a look at the possibilities.

Please feel free to Email me at jtsoundtech@earthlink.net if you have any questions.

By Jessica Tomlinson


1 Responses to “Making Use Of MIDI”

  1. !S!WCRTESTINPUT000006!E! on 15/12/2015 21:08:03


Please feel free to leave a reply...


You entered invalid code, please enter the code again

NOTE: When you are registred with us, you do not need to fill in your name, email address, rewrite spam protection picture and you can add an avatar to your posts. Register Now!

Would you like to adversite at this site? Please write at robert.solarik@abcmusic.net for more information on ad prices.