Understanding Basic MIDI This article was designed to give you a basic understanding of the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), and to leave you with a brief knowledge of it’s past. It is a tool widely used today in many varied recording or live preformance situations. MIDI is what allows electronic musical instruments to communicate with each other to preform certain tasks. These tasks may include starting or stopping a song, changing the voice of a keyboard or other controller, etc. A few of the main types of components are listed below: Controller – A device used to recieve the information from the user. (keyboard, electronic drum pads) Sound Module – This is the machine that actually contains the sounds that you hear. Sequencer – The device used to record the data in which it was played from the controller.
(which note, when it was played) In this description, we will use a keyboard for our default controller. When the keyboard is played, four basic types of note information are being sent out. For instance, if you press down the note middle c, it sends: ‘note# 36 (middle c) was pressed with a velocity of 91 (1 -127)’. That note is now considered ‘on’ by the other machines until you release the key and the receive the note off command. The basic duties of a controller are to translate what your playing into note information. Sound modules can be very fun.
They can contain any sound imaginable; from pianos to drums to nature sounds. When a sound module recieves the note information that ‘middle c’ has been pressed, it will play whichever sound is assigned to that note number. For instance, if you had piano sounds in the module, you would hear ‘middle c’ as a piano would play it. If you had say, percussion sounds called up, you may hear a snare or bass drum. A sequencer recieves all the same information as the sound module, but records it for later playback and editing. Standard sequencers record in MTC (MIDI time code) format. MIDI time code speeds up and slows down depending on the tempo of the song.
It records at very small fractions of time, this making it very precise in recording real-time preformances acurately. A basic MIDI recording setup may look as follows: A basic MIDI setup is not difficult, as you can see in Fig. 1. If you understand the purpose of each peice as stated above and follow the signal flow (out to the in), building yourself a very capable MIDI setup should be easy. Except for controllers, almost all devices should be equipped with an IN, OUT, and THRU jack.
MIDI is an increasingly useful tool in today’s loop-based music. It can also be very fun to use. A person could start out with MIDI for around $300 for a very basic setup. You may be able to find a cheaper keyboard for $150. Some sequencers may have sounds built in for around $200.
MIDI can be a cheap alternative for making professional multi-track recordings, or it can be the start to a much more elaborate and powerful setup. The advantages of being able to change things like tempo and transposition are very useful. If you were recording it on analog tape or digitally, you would need to preform the part again. Here you can manipulate the data as you please. The only other peices necessary are a modest stereo system (heck, headphones would even work) and you’ll be jammin in no time!.