MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI is a industry standard protocol that enables multiple electronic instruments, performance controllers, computers and other related devices, from different manufacturers, to communicate with each other throughout a connected network.
MIDI messages are essentially instructions that tell the music synthesizer how to play a piece of music. MIDI messages contain individual instructions for playing each individual note of each individual instrument. Every time you make any performance gesture, i.e. play a note, release a note, change patches or move the pitch wheel, a corresponding message is generated.
The MIDI data stream is a unidirectional bit stream with 10 bits transmitted per byte. This data stream is originated in a MIDI controller, such as a musical instrument keyboard, or by a MIDI sequencer, a device which allows data sequences to be captured, stored, edited, combined, and replayed. A MIDI sound module or synthesizer receives the data stream and responds by playing sounds.
The MIDI interface on a MIDI instrument generally includes three MIDI connectors; IN, OUT, and THRU. Information from the OUT connector of the controller is transmitted to the IN connector of a sequencer, then transmitted OUT to a sound module, where it can be daisy-chained THRU to other MIDI devices, and, if you are ready to listen, OUT to the monitors.
NOTE: Many MIDI keyboard instruments include both keyboard controller and sound module functions within the same unit. There is an internal link between these two functions which may be enabled or disabled.
MIDI channels are similar in nature to the channels on your TV in that although all of the channels are available to you at any given time, TV is viewed one channel at a time. However, MIDI channels may be monitored one at a time, or all at the same time.
There are 16 different MIDI channels, numbered 1-16. This means that 16 different parts can be played back over one MIDI cable.
A multi-timbral synthesizer has the ability to play back many different musical parts, such as piano, bass and drums all at the same time. Most can play back all 16 different parts, and some are capable of playing 32 and sometimes 64 different parts. For each set of 16 channels you will need one MIDI IN.
A PC-based MIDI system is equipped with application software and an internal interface card which can send data to an external sound module. MIDI sequencer software packages are available for the PC which enables the user to connect to a MIDI keyboard controller and have the same musical composition capabilities as the separate components listed above. In fact, today it is possible to record multiple tracks, add effects, and edit through your PC or laptop with specialized software.
MIDI enables you to:
Play with a band. Perfect for practicing as well as performing when other human musicians are not available.
Edit your performance. Evaluate and edit your performance; track your progress, correct problems, change speeds, etc.
Play any instrument. With this technology you are not limited to recording just the instruments you know how to play.
Compose, Arrange & Orchestrate. Start with a melody, lp.,add backing chords, bass, rhythm and instrumentation.
Print Sheet Music. After you are done composing your music, you can convert MIDI information into musical notation and print out sheet music.
This is not to say that MIDI replaces the need for acoustic instruments, microphones and traditional performances. It is a powerful production tool that helps musicians create music and audio productions. MIDI technology is all about control, flexibility and cost-effective productions that are innovative and personal.