What is MIDI – fundamentals

MIDI – Musical Instrument Digital Interface.

It is a protocol to communicate between devices which was developed in 1980s. A MIDI file is containing various messages which are used to transmit the information needed to perform the playback of music.

Each message is sent exactly at the moment it must be interpreted by the target synthesizer (a hardware or a software synthesizer).

The MIDI language does not define the sound itself, but only the sequence of instructions to create the sound in the target synthesizer.

There are 16 possible MIDI channels, numbered from 0 to 15 in hexadecimal. In practice, musicians and software refer to the MIDI channels by counting them from 1 to 16. In the same MIDI cable, up to 16 MIDI channels may be used to control up to 16 different instruments playing independently.

In real life the most common device used to generate MIDI messages is an electronic keyboard. These messages may be routed to a digital synthesizer inside the keyboard, or they may be patched to some other MIDI instrument, like a computer.

When a key is pressed the keyboard creates a “note on” message. When a key is released the keyboard creates another MIDI message, a “note off” message. There are some other important MIDI messages which will be listed later.

MIDI messages can be sent on 16 different channels as well. Channels are useful for sending certain notes and messages to one MIDI instrument and other notes/messages to another MIDI instrument. Usually, separate MIDI channels are used for different sounding instruments to create a multitracked song, channel 0 might be a piano, channel 1 could be a guitar sound and so on.

List of MIDI messages: Note Off, Note On, Velocity, Aftertouch, PitchBend, Program Change, Control Change, etc..

Advanced MIDI tutorial will be SOON…