Musician Tips: The Basics Of MIDI


MIDI is short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and essentially, it is a uniform specification that lets digital instruments, computers and other related devices to communicate with each other. You can think of it as a music file type that has become the industry standard for digital instruments, much like Mp3 is for songs. Some might wonder why not just use Mp3 instead, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. Without getting into the fact that Mp3 is low quality by studio standards and a one trick pony in terms of what it can actually accomplish, the MIDI is able to understand much more than just sound. It can communicate messages about pretty much every aspect of music from notation, pitch, velocity, tempo, volume, vibrato, audio panning, cues, clock signals– see where I’m getting at?



What are the Advantages?

The most important advantage and the main reason the MIDI came into acceptance is the ability for the entire industry to have a common language and syntax. Imagine a world where your Yamaha keyboard will only work with other Yamaha products and programs and the same with every other company. Well, this was the world before the MIDI. More of that explained later in the history of the MIDI down below.

Another huge plus that came as a result of the MIDI was a simplified form of connectivity. Before, multiple cables were needed for certain aspects of the music. With the MIDI, it is all essentially done digitally via a microprocessor and transferred to another device with a MIDI cable and also nowadays, a USB. Along with the simplified ease of use, the MIDI allowed essentially any musician of any level to create and edit high-quality recordings with much less expensive equipment than what was needed before. No longer bound to recording studios, anyone can now accomplish similar quality recordings using relatively inexpensive home studio setups – something that was unheard of before the MIDI.

As with most other industries that went digital, their products began to get smaller and more portable, having fewer components needed to operate, and the same goes with MIDI instruments. When coupled with the simplified connectivity of the standard, it made the size and amount of equipment needed for a musician much less than it used to be. Also, it made things much easier to pack and unpack during shows – another huge plus that I’m sure touring musicians are grateful for. Another advantage was the ability to let a single musician play multiple instruments at once. Before, each note or instrument had to be played manually just like they would with acoustic instruments. With the MIDI, multiple digital instruments can be played at will and do not need consistent control. Think of a DJ playing a drum machine, adding loops and sustained notes while directly controlling other aspects, such as his voice or another keyboard for example.


What kinds of Devices use MIDI?

Chances are, even if you had no idea what MIDI was, you have come across plenty of devices that use it. Expectedly, keyboard synthesizers almost always include MIDI in their specifications (those that don’t are usually the beginner keyboards that are meant to be standalone with no interconnectivity whatsoever). Computers with MIDI-capable sound cards make clear use of the interface via music editing programs such as Pro Tools. Digital drum machines use MIDI for their sound output as well as for their ability to loop, save and recall patterns, as well as sending that information to other devices. Most mix boards now come standard with MIDI control.


In Conclusion ...

Essentially, if it's digital and it can create or manipulate music, chances are it uses the Multi Instrumental Digital Interface protocol since not using it would pretty much orphan it from consumers wanting the ability to use a said product with all of their other MIDI capable devices. All in all, it's the way to go when it comes to digital audio interfaces.



Your Turn to Sound Off!

Have you ever used MIDI before?

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