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MIDI File | MIDIFiles

What is a MIDI File (Midifile)

You might be surprised to know MIDI File Backing Tracks (also referred to as MIDIFiles) contain no music at all. "M.I.D.I. (or MIDI) is short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a protocol developed in the 1980's to enable music electronic devices like synthesisers, drum machines, sequencing software and other digital musical devices to communicate with each other. MIDIfiles are also known as backing tracks, especially among singers and musicians performing solo, in duos/trio's and even bands.

MIDIfile Styles

Popular styles include "Rock MIDIfiles" "Piano MIDIfiles" "MIDI-Karaoke Files" "Hindi MIDIfiles" and "Professional MIDIfiles". Of course, Top 40 and Classic Hits MIDIfiles are the most popular styles.

MIDIfiles are created on a MIDI Sequencer

A MIDIfile, sometimes referred to as MIDIfiles and MIDI, does not make sound. It is a data file containing messages like note on, note off, note/length, note/pitch, pitch bend, channel volume, channel reverb and so on played or recorded digitally on a MIDI sequencer. It is the playback device that interprets and transcribes MIDI data into musical sounds.

To create a MIDIfile you need an input device (MIDI keyboard or controller), a recording device/software (MIDI Sequencer) and a playback device (MIDI sound module or VST [Virtual Studio Technology] instruments). A typical MIDI input device might be MIDI keyboard, MIDI synthesiser/DAW, MIDI Guitar, a dedicated MIDIfile backing track player and even wind devices like a MIDI Oboe.

Popular MIDI apps

Popular MIDI recording software include Logic, Cubase, Pro tools, Sonar, Cakewalk and GarageBand. Most MIDI keyboard synths/DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) include an internal MIDI sequencer. Devices like Yamaha MIDIfiles and Roland MIDIfiles are standard MIDIfiles with a brand name.

A MIDIfile has 16 channels. Each channel controls the playback of a instrument sound (often called a 'patch'). A typical MIDIfile may look like this ('Ch' = MIDI Channel').

Ch 1 Piano
Ch 2 Bass *
Ch 3 Steel String Acoustic Guitar
Ch 4 Tenor Saxophone (Melody Guide) *
Ch 5 Vocal Synth (Harmonies Guide) *
Ch 6 Electric Guitar
Ch 7 Overdrive Guitar
Ch 8 Steel String Acoustic Guitar
Ch 9 Nylon String Acoustic Guitar
Ch 10 Drums *

Note I highlighted four MIDI channels with * . General MIDI (GM) protocol dedicates those channels for a specific purpose. Channel 2 is devoted to bass. Channel 4 is the melody guide, channel 5 for vocal harmony guide and channel 10 is the dedicated drum channel. 

Think of a MIDIfile as a television, only unlike a television where only one channel at a time can be viewed, you can 'hear' up to 16 channels through MIDI. There are major advantages in using a MIDIfile over audio file backing tracks like MP3, WAV and CD+G files, including:

  • Non destructive editing
  • No sonic loss, ever
  • Perpetual editing
  • Can export/render to any audio format
  • Perpetual life
  • Compatible across all digital platforms
  • Flexible, easily customised
  • Small file size, typically just 40 to 70kb
  • Print music score
  • Unlimited transpose/time shift without affecting quality

MIDIfiles are used around the world by singers, entertainers and musicians performing solo and in small/large bands as backing tracks or to add additional instrumentation to a live band.

Related Links

General MIDI
General MIDIfiles MIDI-Karaoke
MIDIfiles with scrolling lyrics Blog by John Ialuna
Logic Pro X
Sequencing software for MAC
Sequencing software MAC/PC
Pro Tools
Sequencing software MAC/PC
Sequencing software PC