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MIDI and YOU. Orchestra in a Box. What is MIDI?. Musical Instrument Digital Interface MIDI is a protocol - a standard by which two electronic instruments (as well as other things) can communicate

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MIDI and YOU

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MIDI and YOU

Orchestra in a Box


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What is MIDI?

  • Musical Instrument Digital Interface

  • MIDI is a protocol - a standard by which two electronic instruments (as well as other things) can communicate

  • MIDI defines both a physical (wires, plugs and voltages) and a logical (how the information is organized) component.


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Uses for MIDI

  • MIDI only contains the instructions necessary to “reconstruct” a song. (e.g. sheet music for electronic instruments)

  • A MIDI command basically contains note numbers, note velocities, and note-on messages - THAT’S ALL!

    Okay there’s a little more to it…but as a result:

  • File sizes are extremely small, so a large amount of information takes up a small amount of space (or bandwidth)

  • MIDI does not care what type of instrument is receiving the message (i.e. what it is triggering - the same messages could trigger a drum sound or a piano)

  • In addition to the recording studio, MIDI is used for web-based applications, for mobile devices, even to control lighting and effects at shows


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MIDI Specs

  • First defined in 1983 - not much has changed

  • 31.25 kbaud - serial communication

  • Allows for 16 separate channels of information on a single cable (i.e. it can send information for up to 16 different “instruments” simultaneously)

  • Any parameter can have up to 128 different values


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Anatomy of a MIDI message

  • A MIDI message is built up of two or three bytes, each of which is 10 bits long

  • MIDI channel voice messages contain channel number the message is intended for (1 thru 16), command (e.g. note on), and velocity information (how hard a key is played).

    <channel 1><note 64><velocity 85><note on>


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A little music theory

  • There are 7 primary pitches which are given letter names A through G;

  • On the 8th pitch, the pattern is repeated, giving us the octave.

  • Western music recognizes 12 distinct pitches per octave

  • Time is divided in bars or measures

  • Each bar is defined as having a specific number of beats

  • Each beat is defined as the length of a specific note (e.g. quarter-note or eighth note)


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Octave numbers

  • MIDI has 128 notes. On a piano sound, middle C is note 60

  • Some design schemes number the octaves (e.g. -1, through 9

  • The octaves are numbered from lowest to highest with C being the start of the octave.

  • Each note is named with its letter and octave (e.g. C4, E4, G4)

  • The octave numbers are not standard which can be confusing. (e.g. Middle C could be called C3 or C4, but it is still note 60)


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MIDI Signal Chain

  • MIDI flows in one direction

  • MIDI devices have three ports: IN, OUT, and THRU - MIDI OUT carries MIDI messages that a device generates, MIDI IN receives the MIDI messages, and MIDI THRU simply copies any messages that appear at the MIDI IN port and passes them down the chain.

  • Up to three MIDI devices can be daisy-chained without any noticeable latency in the chain


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Common MIDI devices

  • A controller sends MIDI messages OUT to other MIDI devices - typically sequencers, sound modules, and synthesizers

  • A sound module has a number of pre-recorded sounds stored in its memory. MIDI messages tell the module which sound/note to play

  • A sequencer stores MIDI events in the order in which they happen. It is a multi-track recorder for MIDI data. It sends this data OUT to other devices

  • A synthesizer generates sound “artificially” by electronic means. MIDI can be used to control a number of synthesizer parameters


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General MIDI

  • General MIDI was an attempt to standardize MIDI instruments so that it would be easier to use for long distance collaborations, computer music, and web-based applications.

  • General MIDI devices have specific instruments assigned to specific numbers so that a device or computer playing back a MIDI file will use the proper instrumentation.

  • Channel 10 is reserved for drums

  • Not all MIDI devices are meant to be General MIDI compatible


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Working with MIDI in the box

In most DAW programs (such as ProTools) you will need two types of tracks to work with a MIDI instrument (whether it is in or out of the box):

  • MIDI Track (duh) - this acts as a MIDI sequencer for a single MIDI channel. It will enable you to record notes and control the MIDI instrument

  • Aux Input/Track - this will enable sound from the MIDI instrument to be heard in the mix with other recorded tracks in the DAW

  • Some DAW’s may also have specific tracks for using software instruments


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Software Synthesizers

  • A software synthesizer is a virtual instrument

  • Virtual - “existing…in effect though not in actual fact” - Webster’s II New Riverside Dictionary

  • A software synth generally exists as a plug-in in a DAW

  • Plug-in: “A computer program…that interacts with another [program] to add a specific function…” - en.wiktionary.org/wiki/plug-in

  • A software synth is basically a MIDI instrument that exists in software instead of the real world

  • It needs all the same things that an external MIDI instrument (such as a sound module) would need (except cables).


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MUY IMPORTANTE

  • MIDI does not generate or transmit any sound or audio signal whatsoever

  • You cannot hear MIDI

  • MIDI is only a protocol - a language which computers and electronic instruments use to communicate. Humans cannot hear MIDI.

  • You can only hear the result of a properly routed MIDI message, provided it is sent to a device capable of making sound

  • MIDI is NOT digital audio in any way, shape, or form


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