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We Love Your Songs.com


15th Mar

What Is MIDI?


MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface.  It is the standard communication language for musical equipment, that enables two or more MIDI equipped devices to communicate with each other.

In times gone by, MIDI compatible equipment was easy to identify as it had a MIDI DIN socket on the back panel.  These days MIDI compatible equipment will often have a USB port instead of a traditional DIN socket.  This is due to the fact that the computer is now the main focus of the recording studio.

The difference between MIDI and audio is best explained by looking at a screenshot from some music software.  There are two types of track that you can create on music software:  An audio track, or a MIDI track.  An audio track will record the actual sounds visually as a waveform, whereas the MIDI track will only record the data from a compatible MIDI device.  The data it receives is usually recorded visually as a series of dashes.

pro tools midi

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Protools9screen.png

These dashes will occur when a key is pressed on a MIDI instrument, such as a MIDI enabled keyboard.  When the key is released, a note off message is then sent, which determines the length of the dash.  Other messages can also be sent to and from MIDI equipment.

On a computer sequencer such as Pro Tools, (as shown above), you can then assign a particular sound to the MIDI data, for example, a Harp or a Grand Piano.  If you are not fortunate enough to own a Steinway Grand Piano or a Harp, MIDI will allow you to assign your data to an instrument from a sound bank on your music software.  Even if you are lucky enough to own a Steinway Grand Piano, the chances are you wont be able to record it at the airport or on the train.  Whereas with a laptop computer and a MIDI keyboard you can access and sequence those sounds.


Article written by Chris Haines.

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