What is a MIDI? (Complete Guide for Beginners)

A midi (or MIDI) file is an electronic file format for musical performance data that you can play on a computer or electronic device, such as a synthesizer or a digital piano. A midi file stores musical notes but no sound, which is why you need a device that reads midi to hear it. You can create MIDI files with almost any music software, but the most common are made with a score editor.

A MIDI file is made up of a series of note-events, each of which contains the following data:

  • Pitch (pitch of the MIDI note with a controller value indicating which key, if any, it is associated with)
  • Velocity (how hard (soft or loud) the note is sounding)
  • DURATION (how long the note lasts for – t in seconds)
  • Aftertouch (how much pressure you put on the key after you’ve released it. – x in cents)
    and a Series of Controller Values.
What is a midi

MIDI – A Brief History

MIDI was developed in 1983 by a team including Dave Smith, who founded Sequential Circuits, and Ikutaro Kakehashi, who founded Roland Corporation.

Smith and Kakehashi both worked for the Japanese corporation Ace Electronic Laboratories Ltd. (now Roland Corporation) in Osaka, Japan. In 1979, the two men began work on a new standard, using an Intel 8080 microprocessor. The first MIDI instruments were released in 1981.

The MIDI format has been expanded many times since then to include such capabilities as recording and sequencing music data contained in multiple files and sending additional programs for instrument sounds.

What Does a Midi do?

MIDI is an industry-standard that allows electronic instruments from various manufacturers to communicate and record their music to a file. With a MIDI file, you can save music performances to your computer and playback those files at any time.

This makes it possible for musicians, like songwriters or musicians who record albums, to record several takes of songs.

MIDI is a digital signal format that uses a collection of instructions to control instruments and synthesizers. The instructions tell the instrument how to interpret musical data and inform it when music data is changing. Unlike audio, which we hear with our ears, MIDI tells instruments how to play and produce sound.

These instructions are called “MIDI commands” or “MIDI messages” because they must be sent between machines over a network. Essentially, the MIDI file contains both data about the available instruments and their capabilities and how these instruments should interpret that data.

In short, the basic functions of MIDI are:
(1) Creating electronic musical instruments.
(2) Sending musical data between electronic musical instruments and computers.
(3) Saving musical data on computers.

What Are The Benefits of MIDI

MIDI allows musicians to record their performances using music notation software on a personal computer and then create a MIDI file of the notes played by that software. A MIDI file can then be sent to another device or musician.

This makes it possible for musicians to share their work in order to reproduce it or remix it and create new works of their own.

MIDI files can be transferred from a computer to other electronic instruments, which means that someone who writes music using a computer does not need all the equipment to produce the music at the same time.

They can use an electronic keyboard, which includes a MIDI port that connects directly to the computer. They can connect a MIDI instrument to the computer, such as a piano or synthesizer. This lets them hear the music they have written played back on numerous different instruments, with various sound qualities.

They can also use MIDI files to create sheet music that can be printed out and performed by others.

How Does Midi Help Musicians?

MIDI technology allows musicians from around the world to share their musical ideas and recordings easily. It enables musicians to communicate electronically about their musical projects and new works of art.

Using a MIDI editor or score editor, musicians can create a MIDI file that tells their instruments what music they want to play, how to interpret it, and when to start and stop playing.

With this ability, musicians need not rely on other instrument makers for the latest instruments or feature sets. They use the same equipment that anyone else uses.

MIDI creates a document describing the capabilities of all existing and future instruments. This allows musicians to use whatever instruments and features they want.

Since a MIDI file is a digital format, the resulting music can be infinitely copied. Once a musician has a given MIDI file, they can share it with the world using any number of available sharing platforms.

How to Convert Midi to Audio

As MIDI files are different from sound files, they cannot be played on a regular computer or mobile device.

In order to make a song played in a MIDI file audible, you need to convert it into an audio file format such as MP3 or WAV. There are many programs that can do this for you, such as Logic Pro, FL Studio, Cubase, Garage Band, and others. The length of your song will determine the bit rate you choose.

What is MIDI Message and MIDI Event

MIDI messages are instructions for an electronic musical instrument, which tell it what to do when the musical data changes. This is called a “MIDI event.” It is often written as a “Note On” message, where the instrument receives information that music data has changed.

What is MIDI Interfaces and Controllers

MIDI interfaces are the hardware that is used to connect your computer to other electronic instruments. These include MIDI controllers, MIDI interfaces with a USB connection, and other types.

What is MIDI Interfaces and Controllers

MIDI controllers are keyboard instruments that can be connected to a computer through a MIDI interface. They use the same standard as electronic musical instruments. This makes them easier to use than just sending keystrokes directly from a keyboard attached to your computer.

What is MIDI IN, MIDI Out, and MIDI Thru

MIDI is a communications protocol. It is different from the standard audio inputs and outputs on your computer. These are USB, FireWire, or Thunderbolt cables. MIDI IN, MIDI OUT, and MIDI THRU are used to connect electronic musical instruments or parts of your computer to other electronic musical instruments or parts of your computer.

MIDI IN connects an electronic musical instrument to the device that sends messages over MIDI, such as a computer running a digital audio workstation (DAW). It is found on most keyboards with built-in piano keys.

MIDI OUT connects an electronic musical instrument to the device that receives messages from electronic musical instruments or parts of your computer, such as a digital audio workstation (DAW). It is found on many keyboards with a USB connection.

MIDI THRU connects two devices via MIDI. This is necessary if you want both devices to use the same sound, such as in an effect processor and signal chain.

What is MIDI Sequencing?

MIDI sequencing is a way of playing three or more instruments simultaneously using MIDI. This is most commonly done in digital audio workstations (DAWs).

The software used to record and edit the music is referred to as a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). During MIDI sequencing, you can select which sounds will play on which track. You can also change the volume of each sound independently.

You may have noticed that some DAWs use the term “software instrument” or “virtual instrument.” This means that the sound is played through a MIDI device but is not a sound file on your computer.

In a DAW, MIDI data is represented as a piano roll. This is an arrangement of notes on a strip of paper.The notes are arranged in staff lines with the pitches in ascending order.

The note values are represented by numbers, such as “C4” or “G#3”. When you play the instrument, data is sent to the MIDI sequencer, which plays each instrument individually.

You can even edit each sound while keeping track of how much it has been played. The data is sent to the DAW’s program via a MIDI network: a separate output is generated for each instrument on the keyboard.

What does a MIDI Controller do?

MIDI controllers are devices that generate MIDI signals. They can also be used to control another MIDI-enabled device.
MIDI controllers may have one or more of the following capabilities:

A standard controller simply generates a set of MIDI messages based on how it is played. This could be a keyboard that generates velocity data or aftertouch data, for example.

An incremental controller will generate standard MIDI messages but will also monitor to see if the instrument is in tune. If it detects an interval change, it sends out a specific message to let the DAW know that tuning correction needs to take place.

What does a MIDI Controller do

A tone generator may emulate the sound of an instrument such as a piano or guitar, for example. It could also be used to create a specific type of sound that could be added to a musical performance. A sequencer uses the MIDI data to move notes around on the keyboard, for example. It may also monitor the keyboard and send out a signal when a certain key or combination of keys is pressed.

This can be used to create percussive sounds that were not possible with conventional keys alone. A pattern generator will generate patterns, which can be recognized by traditional instruments like drums, or synthesizers, which are used for creating new sounds.

What is MIDI Automation?

MIDI automation is a form of control for an electronic musical instrument that uses MIDI to create music. Typically, your DAW will generate the MIDI data. You can edit this data to automate certain processes within your song.

One of the most common forms of MIDI automation is an arpeggiator. This is a device that can generate keyboard patterns based on how you play your instrument. An arpeggiator could automatically change chords or switch between different sections of a song based on the notes you put down on your keyboard or other controllers.

This feature is commonly used in pop and rock songs but is also useful for playing classical music where artists will need more advanced control over small changes in the music over time.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of MIDI

One of the main advantages of using MIDI over traditional recording is that you can record and playback what you hear. If you make a mistake, it’s easy to go back and fix it. You could even record a number of takes of your performance and listen through them to find the one that best suits your needs.

You could also take a MIDI file created by another musician and change some things about it to create something new. This means that someone who creates music using a computer does not need all the equipment to produce the music at the same time. They can use an electronic keyboard, which includes a MIDI port that connects directly to a computer.

The disadvantages of using MIDI files include:

In order to make a song played in a MIDI file audible, you need to convert it into an audio file format such as MP3 or WAV, which is time-consuming.

As MIDI is just a digital message, it is not possible to transmit vocals or other information in the MIDI data itself, so they would need to be encoded into another carrier that it is easier for your computer file to deal with.
The conversion process also necessitates the use of a special program to convert your files which can not be done automatically.

As MIDI files need external controllers like a DAW to make sounds, it is impossible to play back the exact sounds unless you are using the same DAWs.

If you are using a sampling program that only produces monophonic data, your samples will not play or sound the same as the original recording.

There is no way to link multiple MIDI files together except by creating a new song file.
If you want to convert MIDI files saved in different locations, you would need to have each file converted separately.

MIDI protocols can be complicated to learn and use but once mastered; they are an essential part of making music with computers.

Midi 2.0

MIDI 2.0 was released on January 4, 2013, and adds new features such as time parameter manipulation and additional control over MIDI system exclusive (SysEx) data.

MIDI 2.0 is compatible with earlier versions of the MIDI specification. The specification’s official website contains a compatibility chart that provides details about how earlier specifications interoperate with MIDI 2.0.

Final Thought on What is a MIDI?

MIDI has always played an important role for music producers around the world. It has evolved over time to allow for greater compatibility. It has also made it easier for musicians to move between different formats and platforms.

MIDI technology is the musical glue that allows musicians, producers, engineers, and arrangers to work together to create great-sounding music.

The ability to use MIDI on a computer doesn’t just make creating music easier. The ability to combine their efforts means that more music can be created in less time.

I hope you enjoy this article and get to know the basics of what midi is. I highly recommend you to share this one with your friends and family because they will definitely benefit from it.

Jacob Miller

Hi, I'm Jacob Miller, and welcome to AudioOver, a platform designed to help aspiring music producers create music from home. With a musical background inspired by my award-winning father, I've been passionate about music since I was young.

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