Midi and where to get
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MIDI is a technology that represents music only in digital form. Unlike other digital music technologies such as MP3 and CDs, MIDI messages contain individual instructions for playing each individual note of each individual instrument. So with MIDI it is actually possible to change just only one note in a song, or to orchestrate and entire song with entirely different instruments. And since each instrument in a MIDI performance is separate from the rest, its easy to "solo" (listen to just one) individual instruments and study them for educational purposes, or to mute individual instruments in a song so that you can perform that part yourself. 

There are over 250 companies around the world making products that support MIDI -- well known companies such as Apple and Microsoft, Roland and Yamaha, Nokia and Sony/Ericsson, and others.

Most film and TV scores, as well as much popular recorded music is written and performed using electronic keyboards and other MIDI-equipped musical instruments. (Thanks to advances in digital sampling and synthesis technologies, the orchestra playing behind that big-screen block buster is more likely to be the product of MIDI than a real orchestra with dozens of acoustic instruments.)

MIDI also has many other interesting and popular uses. For example, MIDI Show Control is a command and control language used with rides at major theme parks and events at Las Vegas casinos, and MIDI Machine Control is used in recording studios to synchronize and remotely control recording equipment.

MIDI is used to generate ring tones in mobile phones. MIDI ring tones sound far better because they are polyphonic (play more than one note at one time) and because they use music synthesizers which produce a wider variety of sounds than possible before.

MIDI is also easy to find in the world of personal computing. If your computer has a sound card, it also has the ability to play MIDI files (using a built-in hardware or software synthesizer that responds to MIDI messages), and with an adapter can also be connected to other MIDI-equipped products, allowing you to take advantage of various computer programs that helps you learn, play, create and enjoy music.




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Midi History

MIDI mostly came about because keyboard players were buying synthesizers in increasing numbers from many different manufacturers, and they wanted to "sync" those various keyboards together, plus "play" them under "computer control" (since computer use was also increasing dramatically during that time). Companies were making analog sequencers, but each company's sequencer worked only with its own products. (See the article The historical significance of computers/MIDI for more explanation about what musicians wanted to do, and what problems they were facing back then). For example, Sequential Circuits made an analog sequencer that attached to a proprietary jack on the Prophet 5, and could be used to program the playback of a short phrase, but it wouldn't work on a Roland D-10 or Oberheim OBX-8 synth. And during the early 1980's, a lot of "pop dance music" was using sequenced phrases played on synths.
Two of the leading musical manufacturers back then were a California company called Sequential Circuits (who were making the best-selling synthesizer at the time -- early 1980's -- called the Prophet 5) and Roland, a japanese company who had been making popular musical keyboards for awhile, and were at the forefront of making musical interfaces for computers.

Indeed, Roland was one of the first companies to start making musical products that attached to computers. At the time, IBM had just released its first personal computer, the IBM PC, which gave a "serious endorsement" to personal computers. Also, Commodore had released the Commodore 64, one of the first really affordable "home computers", and sales were really starting to take off with personal computers. The Commodore 64 had a built-in analog synthesizer chip made by a musical company called Ensoniq. It wasn't very fancy, but nonetheless, musicians started playing around with it, and quickly began to discover that the programmability of digital computers, combined with a musical instrument, offered them a lot of potential solutions to those problems they were having back then.

Roland saw the potential musical use that computers offered. So Roland began work on a musical interface for the IBM PC. (Unlike the C-64, the IBM PC had no "fancy" built-in sound chip, so there was a void to be filled with a third party product). Roland envisioned a "digital sequencer" to replace the analog sequencers of the time, and it would be built around an IBM PC, which offered a lot of programmability/versatility using tools made by many other companies. Of course, since the PC had no built-in sound chip, and also, Roland wanted this digital sequencer to be able to work with Roland's entire line of new keyboards, Roland decided to build a hardware "musical interface" for the PC. Roland chose to make this an ISA card that plugged into one of the slots of an AT style IBM PC computer, to which an external box was attached that contained further circuitry. It had a lot of intelligent electronics in it, which primarily were designed to add features that turned a computer into a versatile sequencer. For example, it had a built-in metronome and also a tape sync jack so that the computer playback could be synced to a magnetic analog tape recorder such as a reel-to-reel or cassette recorder. It had built-in hardware timers to control the playback, and some filtering options of the digital data flowing between the computer and an external musical instrument. In designing this proprietary PC musical interface, Roland came up with a simple hardware circuit, and a fancy new, "digital language" that they planned to use with all of their upcoming musical keyboards. This digital language would allow the computer and musical instruments to transfer "control data" between them. This new interface would be known as a "Musical Instrument Digital Interface" or MIDI. (Roland loves anacronyms). And the PC card itself would become the MPU-401 ("Musical Processing Unit, model 401" -- gotta love those anacronyms), the first MIDI interface for a computer. (To this day, the MIDI interfaces built into some modern sound cards still offer hardware compatibility to the original MPU-401 since it became such a widely used MIDI interface for a computer).

Roland and Sequential Circuit representatives used to see each other at NAMM (a business trade show for the music industry), and were talking about how customers were wishing that they had some sequencer that worked with the keyboards from all manufacturers. And Roland said, "You know, we're working on this new peripheral for the IBM PC to turn it into a musical sequencer, using a hardware/software protocol in all of our upcoming keyboards. Would you be interested in supporting this? We could both benefit from it since you make such a popular synth, and we'll be making a musical sequencer for these increasingly popular personal computers". The SQ reps said "Sure. We've got some ideas of our own that we're adding to upcoming synths. Maybe we can incorporate these into one standard between us". So Roland sent some design specs to the SQ guys, who made some suggested changes and additions. They both decided to go ahead and adopt this "standard". Then they thought, "Why not see if we can get some of the other leading musical manufacturers to adopt it, as long as it's not really a proprietary standard anymore?". So, they contacted other popular musical manufacturers such as Yamaha and Oberheim, and got them onboard too. MIDI was perhaps the first true effort at joint development among a large number of musical manufacturers.

The first keyboard on the market with a MIDI interface was the Prophet 600 by Sequential Circuits in 1983. Of course, the Roland MPU-401 appeared shortly thereafter with some PC software from Roland that turned the PC into a musical sequencer. Roland made some MPU-401 programming information available to other parties, and soon, there were other PC programs that supported the MPU-401 interface. (Indeed, those other programs proved to be more popular than Roland's initial MESA software. One of those products was called "Cakewalk", made by a small upstart known as "12 Tone Systems", who later changed their name to "Cakewalk" since that product became synonymous with the company). New Roland keyboards also sported a MIDI interface. Yamaha released the DX-7 later that same year, their first keyboard with a MIDI interface. The DX-7 proved to be a huge hit with musicians. They loved the sound of its new, "FM synthesis", bought it in droves, and started to fool around with this new "MIDI interface" thing. Apple computer made a MIDI interface available for its Macintosh computer, and started promoting the computer in the music market during the mid-to-late 1980's since that was a market completely ignored by their biggest competitor IBM, and one that offered them many potential sales, being that musicians loved the flexibility and ease of use of the new, computer-based "digital sequencers". MIDI took off then. By 1985, virtually every new musical keyboard on the market had a MIDI interface.

Roland and SQ thought "Well, we don't want to be responsible for disseminating new additions to MIDI to every music/computer company that supports MIDI. We have too much other work to do. We don't have the time to prepare and mail documents to everyone else". So, all of the musical manufacturers supporting MIDI agreed to start a new organization called the MIDI Manufacturer's Association (ie, MMA). It would be the duty of this new organization to produce/disseminate the paper documents for the MIDI standard, and be the clearing house for new additions/changes to the specification. Members of the MMA would pay some dues to fund the cost of operating this new organization. (Dues were $50 a year, as I recall). And thus, the MMA was born.

It was through the MMA that new additions to the MIDI specification were channeled. For example, Opcode offered the MIDI File Format specification to the MMA, and thus, everyone started creating MIDI sequencer software that could read/write each others' data files. (Prior to that, each sequencer program had its own proprietary file format, and couldn't read each others' data files). Digidesign offered MIDI Time Code (MTC), and thus a standard was created for syncing the playback of various sequencers. (Prior to that, most sequencers also had proprietary sync protocols, for example, a whole mess of incompatible FSK sync interfaces).

In recent years, the MMA hasn't been doing much of anything except for selling photocopies of specifications that were written years ago, and some people have almost forgotten that it even exists. Consequently, there have been very few changes/additions to MIDI for about the past 5 to 10 years. In fact, there have even been some proprietary things creeping in, such as proprietary redefinitions of MIDI status bytes used by multiple bus parallel and serial computer MIDI interfaces. Things often work in cycles though, so as musicians and manufacturers persue proprietary, solo endeavors and ultimately discover the perils of not persuing standards, then things may swing back the other way, and we may eventually see some problems with MIDI solved in a universal way (such as the fact that a single MIDI bus is limited to 16 channels -- too few to accomodate the newer "multi-timbral" synths that weren't around when MIDI was originally conceived, and also the slow-by-today's-standards 32K serial baud rate of MIDI).

These MIDI Tools Are Music To My Ears.   by David D. Deprice

Curious about MIDI? Want to find out what tools are out there and what they do? Here are a few pointers.

MIDI Maestro is music software designed for use by amateur and professional music directors, conductors, and soloists in live musical theater and similar musical accompaniment situations. Dynamic, intuitive performance control and powerful sequencing and editing capabilities combine to make MIDI Maestro the only music software you will need for your production.


* These are the views and the layout used most often during a live performance. * It's always easy to see what's coming up: tempos, cues, instrument changes, etc. * The current position indicator remains in the center of the display. * Tracks may be color-coded. * Most views may be zoomed both horizontally and vertically. * You may choose to open and work with individual files, or "sets" of songs as used for a performance. * The current beat number is always prominently displayed. The current measure number is also emphasized. * A "bouncing ball" metronome may be used to assist you with conducting in slow or tempo-dynamic passages. * A "tempo ratio" control allows you to make real-time adjustments to the tempo during performance. * All commands critical during a performance may be mapped to your MIDI keyboard. * Cues are color-coded and easy to read. * This example shows a Vamp, a "Cola Voce" section (the conductor follows the singer), and a Caesura.

MID Converter 4.0

MID Converter is an easy-to-use program designed for converting your multiple midi files easily with the one click of a button. You can use MID Converter to playback files directly in the program as well.

With this midi converter you can convert midi to mp3, midi to wav and midi to ogg.

The program also can convert between midi formats. Supported formats are: MIDI 0, MIDI 1, RIFF MIDI 0, RIFF MIDI 1.

The actual conversion process is extremely fast, with the whole process being over in the blink of an eye.

If you are looking for a simple and powerful MIDI converter for your business or for your personal needs, you have already found it.


You've heard lots about MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), but don't fully understand what it is and how it fits into the world of music, computers and Band-in-a-Box. No worries. MIDI is a potentially complicated subject, but the principles behind it are actually very simple.
The single greatest misconception about MIDI is that it is equivalent to digital audio. MIDI is not sound. Nor does MIDI generate sound - at least not by itself. In fact MIDI is little more than a description of the 'events' that occur in a piece of music, like the pitches and durations of the notes in a melody. Think of MIDI as being like sheet music. Sheet music is a method for conveying information about how a song should be performed. In order to hear a piece of sheet music, you must give it to a musician to play on an instrument. Similarly, before you can hear a MIDI file, you must send it to a device that is capable of generating sound. This device, whether a synthesizer, soundcard or external sound module, 'sight-reads' the MIDI instructions and plays the appropriate notes.

It is precisely because MIDI is not sound that MIDI music is sometimes different from one system to the next. Even though a particular MIDI file will always pass the same information to a sound device - say, an instruction to play an F# - the actual 'character' of that F# will depend entirely upon the type of sound device you are using. (A piece of sheet music is not going to be played identically by all musicians.)

As you might guess, the audio quality of your MIDI music hinges largely upon the quality (and expense) of your MIDI sound setup. While most soundcards that now come stock with computers are able to play MIDI, many of them have a 'tinny,' artificial sound. This is, by and large, the source of the myth that MIDI is 'bad.' Not so. MIDI is only as good as your sound device. A mediocre soundcard generates mediocre MIDI music.

If you are interested in improving your computer's General MIDI sounds, there are a variety of options. You could use a software synthesizer such as the Roland VSC or a DXi synth, or look into purchasing an external sound module. The Roland VSC is a software synthesizer that emulates the sounds produced by the famous Roland SC-8820 - a hardware MIDI sound module - and is included with any Band-in-a-Box upgrade or first-time purchase. The Roland SD-20 is a great sounding, and relatively inexpensive MIDI sound module that we sell. If you are planning on using your computer for in-depth MIDI composition and production you should also take the time to examine some of the other professional modules and synthesizers currently on the market. They are all different, tailored for varied purposes and tastes. Moreover, you will need to acquire a 'sequencer'- a program that is used for editing MIDI information. PG Music's award winning Band-in-a-Box is an intelligent auto-accompaniment program, and PowerTracks Pro Audio is a Powerful MIDI (and audio) editing package.

Once you are armed with a decent MIDI sound system and a decent MIDI editor you will have all of the essentials needed to compose just about anything you can imagine. Some criticize MIDI as a compositional tool because it is sometimes difficult if not impossible to (re)create the subtlety and realism of sound we are used to hearing when we listen to a musician playing a traditional, acoustic instrument. (My MIDI guitar doesn't sound much like a guitar!) However, it is important to remember that even if MIDI cannot always mimick traditional instruments perfectly, it is extremely good for sequencing and manipulating an enormous range of instruments simultaneously. With MIDI you can single-handedly compose and play every part of a song from the drums up. It's like having an orchestra packed into your room, and you are the conductor.


The original Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) specification defined a physical connector and message format for connecting devices and controlling them in "real time". A few years later Standard MIDI Files were developed as a storage format so performance information could be recalled at a later date. The three parts of MIDI are often just referred to as "MIDI", even though they are distinctly different parts with different characteristics.

The MIDI Message specification (or "MIDI Protocol") is probably the most important part of MIDI. Though originally intended just for use with the MIDI DIN transport (see Part 2) as a means to connect two keyboards, MIDI messages are now used inside computers and cell phones to generate music, and transported over any number of professional and consumer interfaces (USB, FireWire, etc.) to a wide variety of MIDI-equipped devices. There are different message groups for different applications, only some of which are we able to explain here.

There are also many different cables/connectors that are used to transport MIDI data between devices. The "MIDI DIN" transport causes a lot of confusion because it has specific characteristics which some people associate as characteristics of "MIDI" -- forgetting that the MIDI-DIN characteristics go away when using MIDI over other transports (and inside a computer). With computers a High Speed Serial, USB or FireWire connection is more common. Each transport has its own performance characteristics which might make some difference in specific applications, but in general the transport is the least important part of MIDI, as long as it allows you to connect all the devices you want use!

The final part of MIDI is the Standard MIDI File (and variants), which is used to distribute music playable on MIDI players of both the hardware and software variety. All popular computer platforms can play MIDI files (*.mid) and there are thousands of web sites offering files for sale or even for free. Anyone can make a MIDI file using commercial (or free) software that is readily available, and many people do, with a wide variety of results. Whether or not you like a specific MIDI file can depend on how well it was created, and how accurately your synthesizer plays the file... not all synthesizers are the same, and unless yours is similar to that of the file composer, what you hear may not be at all what he or she intended.

Over the past 20 years MMA member companies have created many enhancements to MIDI that are designed to address some of the issues mentioned briefly above. General MIDI (GM) and Downloadable Sounds (DLS) both help address the issue of predictable playback from MIDI Files, and there are new standards from MMA's for high-speed and high-capacity MIDI transports. More information is available throughout this web site.


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