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What is MIDI?

Musical Instrument Digital Interface

M.I.D.I. (MIDI) is an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI is a protocol, digital interface and connectors enabling electronic musical instruments, computers and related devices to connect and communicate with one another. A single MIDI link can transmit and receive sixteen independent channels of information, each of which can be routed to one or separate devices.

MIDI Explained

We all know what a Musical Instrument is. Digital in this context means 'encoded in a machine-readable format' and Interface is where two or more separate components of a computer system exchange information. So, in its simplest form, M.I.D.I. is one or more musical instruments fitted with hardware and/or software which communicate with a computer by transmitting and/or receiving data.

MIDI Sounds

MIDI has no 'sounds'. True! MIDI reads and transmits data file triggered from "note on," "note off," "note/length," "note/pitch," "pitch bend," "channel volume," "channel reverb" and other messages by a MIDI capable computer program/app like Sonar, Logic Cubase (etc), or a MIDI device like Merish, Roland, Yamaha and other similar devices. It is the playback software or external MIDI device which interprets and transcribes MIDI data into musical sounds.

SMF - Standard MIDI Files

During the synthesizer and drum machine boom of the 1980's (and today!), manufacturers of electronic musical instruments had their own sound engines and recording/playback format. Synths and drum machines made by a manufacturer could connect to each other via a MIDI cable and work together. This new technology created new opportunities in sound expansion in the studio and on stage.

In theory, this worked well until 2 or more MIDI devices by different manufacturers were connected. Suddenly, the piano part, or bass part or drum parts that played perfectly on one device triggers other sounds or perhaps no sounds on the other device. This happened because there was no standardised protocol for MIDI to communicate across all manufactures devices. Imagine 16 people in a room having a conversation, all taking about the same subject but all speaking in their native language. Or, in one word ... 'confusion'.

General MIDI (GM)

General MIDI or GM was developed by the American MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) and Japan MIDI Standards Committee (JMSC) in 1991. GM created a common language between all manufacturers MIDI devices. Finally, all MIDI devices and apps could 'talk' to one another in the same language. Suddenly, the 16 people in the room speak the one language.

This simple protocol revolutionized music production to a level that is still used today. MIDI devices made by M-Live (Merish), Roland, Yamaha, Korg among others and apps like Logic Pro X, Cubase, Cakewalk, Pro Tools, Sonar and so on use General MIDI to create standard music files (MIDI Files) to faithfully reproduce across all manufactures devices.

Professional MIDI Files

General MIDI was the catalyst for the explosion of solo, duo and trio bands that emerged in the 1990's and shows no signs of slowing. These performers use Professional MIDI Files to boost on stage sound. Today, there are millions of musicians around the world using Professional MIDI File backing tracks created by Hit Trax and peer producers. Hit Trax MIDI began in in 1983 and is regarded as a world leader in MIDI File backing tracks. We couldn't have achieved that honour without General MIDI.

Related Links

Download MIDI Files - Download @ Hit Trax ! - Blog by John Ialuna
Logic Pro X - sequencing software MAC
 - sequencing software MAC/PC
Pro Tools - sequencing software MAC/PC
Sonar - sequencing software PC