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An Introduction To MIDI And Its Use In Electronic Dance Music

but instead contain a data stream. Where a traditional composer needs to have an intimate knowledge of music theory. the amplitude of a sound or how long a sound plays for. or ‘MIDI message’. MIDI’s simplicity has allowed for a new form of music composition to blossom where a person with limited resources can produce music in their own ‘Home Studio’. The result from the sound module is an analog or digital signal which can then be amplified through a speaker system for the sound to be heard by the user (Fig. performance controllers. Figure 1. has the capabilities to create an analog or digital signal. or sound generator. MIDI Data And Audio Signal 1 . which has aided many musicians in composing electronic music. resulting in audial changes such as a pitch change of a sound.Technology can be considered one of mankind’s greatest assets. which can be manipulated via an external MIDI controller. and other related devices to communicate with each other over a connected network. One such intricacy is MIDI. MIDI has allowed a musician with a basic understanding to be able to compose music. or sound. 2007. but ever so often a user overlooks the intricacies that allows for ease of use. p1) MIDI transmissions or files do not contain any audio or sounds. 1). A sound module.” (Huber. computers. which is traditionally used to manipulate parameters in an external or internal sound module. “Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) is a digital communications language and compatible specification that allows multiple hardware and software electronic instruments.

(Huber. followed by the Data byte(s). or header. or Least Significant Byte (LSB). there are a total of 128 value variations possible when counting in Binary code. which follows after Status byte. 2007. Bit And 8-Bit Byte A MIDI message usually consists of 3 bytes. The Status byte. A bit is a Binary unit. A MIDI Message As there are 7 bits. is to “associate a value to the event that’s given by the accompanying status byte”. 2). Figure 2. which is 1 or 0 respectively (Fig. or 4 bits. byte. Although the number of variations of 7 bits 2 . The very first bit of each 8-bit byte is called the Most Significant Bit (MSB) and it determines whether a MIDI message is a Status byte or a Data byte. is called a "nibble" or “nybble” (Fig. or Most Significant Byte (MSB). and the Data byte. indicates which “function is to be performed by a device or program”. There are 8 bits in a byte and half of a byte. the first being the Status. being either 0 or 1. 3). p16) Figure 3. which is calculated as 27.A MIDI message is made up of 8-bit bytes.

Continuous Controller. 2012) Figure 5. Channel Pressure. are called Channel Voice Messages and consists of Note-Off. MIDI Channel Voices 3 . Aftertouch. Figure 4. Patch Change. 4). Note-On. 5).is 128. Status And Data Byte Binary Counting The 3 bits in the Most Significant Nibble Status byte. (Stanford University. after the header bit. computers and MIDI ‘recognise’ this maximum number as 127 as they start counting from 0 (Fig. Pitch Bend Change or System command bytes (Fig.

They’re generated whenever a MIDI instrument’s controller is played. pressing of program selection buttons. Examples of such control changes could be the playing of a keyboard. and by changing the MIDI Channel number in a MIDI message. 4 .1 to 7 of Channel Voice Messages in (Fig. there are 16 variations possible. which is often written as “Ch##” where “##” is the MIDI Channel number. or movement of modulation or pitch wheels. p22) The nibble that is after the 3-bit Channel Voice Messages is allocated for the MIDI Channel number. or varied by the performer. A musician can connect multiple sound modules to one MIDI controller. (Fig. 2007. calculated as 24. As there are 4 bits allocated to the MIDI Channel number. 6) Figure 6.” (Huber. MIDI Channel Numbers The MIDI Channel numbers give the user more flexibility in where a MIDI message is sent to.No. 5) is “used to transmit real-time performance data throughout a connected MIDI system. selected. they can direct the MIDI transmission to the device of choice which would be using the same channel number.

there can be further parametric changes. the Note-On Message. regardless of the number of keys that are being played at 5 . Channel Voices 1 and 0. whereas Channel Pressure will only have a “single. with the velocity being how fast a key is pressed for Note-On and how fast a key is released for Note-Off.Note-On and Note-Off messages (Fig. in binary terms. and the one with one data byte. being 1 or ‘On’ and Note-Off being 0 or ‘Off’. Figure 7. Note-On / Note-Off Voice Message Aftertouch comes in two different forms. While this is usually for playing a musically related note. the Polyphony Key Pressure Voice message. one which contains two Data bytes. have two data-bytes that contain the values for the MIDI Pitch Number and Velocity respectively. it can also be used for triggering events in a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). overall pressure. 7). which contain the MIDI channel number in the status byte. in which it functions like a binary switch. Polyphonic Key Pressure allows each individual key to have its own Aftertouch value. When a key has been depressed. the Channel Pressure Voice message. which can be done via exerting further fluctuating pressure onto the depressed keys.

8).one time” (Huber. such as tremolo or vibrato. this range is more realistically -8192 values downwards and +8192 values upwards. While the message seems uncomplex. p25). “… the ear can be extremely sensitive to changes in pitch”. System messages are split into two 6 . 2007. however since Pitch Bend Change also allows for the pitch to descend. Pitch Bend Range And Two Data Bytes System messages do not contain MIDI Channels in the Status byte as they are sent to all channels. Because of this. Patch Change messages only contain 1 Data byte which enables a user to select from 128 patches if the instrument has that many. 2007. Patch Change messages are to change the sound. As Huber (2007) said. Aftertouch is often assigned to audial effects that feature a Low-Frequency Oscillator. which could be automated so the sounds switch automatically. the Pitch Bend Change message uses two data bytes for one parameter (Fig. The Pitch Bend Change message adjusts the pitch of the sound used by use of a Pitch Bend Wheel. or patches. it is very useful to a user as it allows them to switch patches while in a performance. or all devices in the network. p29). with 0 being the unaltered pitch and the centre position of the control (Huber. generated from the instrument. resulting in a range of 16.384 steps. Figure 8.

The Damper Pedal will sustain the NoteOn command while the pedal is activated. being either ‘On’ or ‘Off’. or Continuous Controller. Damper Pedal (CC64). With the exception of System-Exclusive messages. but are more suited for the global operation of a setup. it introduces a vibrato effect by use of a Low Frequency Oscillator. Sustenuto works like the Damper Pedal.categories. syncing the clock timing between devices (Timing Clock Messages) and resetting instruments to their initial power-up settings (System Reset Messages). such as the panning of a sound (CC10). such as playing the keys on a MIDI keyboard. System-Common and System Real-Time messages. Soft Pedal (CC67). except “… it will only sustain notes that are currently being played” (Huber. messages are associated with realtime performance parameters. 7 . 2007. they do not contain data associated with the performance of an instrument. (Huber. All Notes Off (CC123) will send a Note-Off message to all 128 notes on all channels as a ‘panic’ system in case the system didn’t receive a Note-Off message when it was supposed to. modulation (CC1) and the Channel Volume (CC7). is CC1 and when applied. Usually any Data byte value below 64 will turn the effect off whereas any value above 64 will turn the effect on. p43 – p44) Control Change (CC). the intensity of the effect being stronger the more the control is applied. Sustenuto (CC66). or Mod Wheel. Portamento (CC65). 2007. such as setting the song position (Song Position Pointer Messages). It uses a Controller ID in the Status byte to associate which parameter to change. The Modulation Wheel. Legato Footswitch (CC68) and Hold 2 (CC69) are Switch Controllers. p37). only transmitting a Note-Off command once the pedal is released.

MIDI Drum Pads controllers.a). Performance controllers are electronic instruments which can be played real-time or used to record a performance into MIDI messages. and are physically hit with to generate MIDI data. 8 . such as the Akai Professional MPC-500 (Fig 9. or percussive. and the velocity. However.Omni Mode. the MIDI Note Pitch being the sound that should be triggered. These controllers generally consist of multiple ‘pads’. and MIDI-enabled Electronic Drum Kits. 2012b). which can be assigned to any parameters that the sound source contains but is generally set to intensity or amplitude of the playing sound. CC124 for ‘Off' and CC125 for ‘On’. As sound is generated through the sound module which the MIDI drum kit is connected to. As stated by the MMA (MIDI Manufacturers Association. transmits all data to all MIDI channels when ‘On’. “MIDI was primarily designed for ‘keyboard players’…”. whereas the ‘Off’ setting will only transmit the data to one channel. a flat surface area which contain sensors to detect impact force. There are a wide number of control devices available which one could make use of to record a performance into MIDI data. The impact generates a MIDI Note-On channel message. the artist has the ability to change the sounds triggered by the pads to whatever their sound source allows. from basic input systems to some that are more suited for niche markets. there is a wide range of MIDI controllers available. The Electronic Drum-kits available are the same size of a real drum-kit and have a distinct advantage over an acoustic drum set.b). are controllers that are more suited to drumming. determined by the pressure of the impact being higher the harder the pad is struck. techniques of playing. such as the Roland TD-11K (Fig 9.

Figure 9. are played like a woodwind instrument. MIDI Drum Controllers “Wind instruments have a number of performance techniques that do not have a keyboard equivalent – like pitch-pending. 2006) 9 . ‘Wind MIDI Controllers’. otherwise known as a ‘wind synthesizer’ or ‘Electronic Wind Instrument’. Aftertouch (Channel Voice message 6) and Velocity (2nd Data byte of Note-On. Volume (CC7).0 which combine the messages of Breath (CC2). all by using extra breath pressure and lip techniques” (Russ. such as the Yamaha WX5. the musician blows into the mouthpiece of the instrument and a pressure sensor inside the instrument measures the force of the musicians breath which is converted into the corresponding MIDI data.whereas a musician playing on an acoustic drum kit is bound by the current setup at the time of performance. Channel Voice Message 2). however some devices such as the Akai EWI 4000s utilise MIDI 2. Expression (CC11). Channel Voice message 7. (Batzdorf. The unique aspect of this instrument is the ‘breath sensor’ and Breath message (CC2). 2007). There is also a lip sensor which will commonly affect the pitch of the sound. The Breath message is commonly used to affect the amplitude of the sound. changing the timbre or producing harmonics.

2012) Logic Pro. was utilised to manipulate real-time MIDI data. an Apple iMac.. (Novation. the Focusrite Saffire PRO 40. In the case of the Novation Launchpad. ‘Live Performance Controllers’. the Roland PCR-500. (Fig. have buttons which send MIDI data to play sounds or looped audio files within a DAW project. in Logic Pro. a DAW. and a performance controller with slider controls.Figure 10. PCR-500 Used In Logic Pro “I happen to think that computers are the most important thing to happen to musicians since the invention of cat-gut. a FireWire audio interface. was used to modify and manipulate MIDI data to compose a song. such as Novation Launchpad. 11) Figure 11. The result from the MIDI routing in the Environment was that a single Note-On Channel 10 . MIDI ‘Wind Synths’ There are also MIDI controllers suited more for life performance and the operation of playback events associated with sequencing. the ‘loops’ or sounds within the DAW are triggered via MIDI Note-on and MIDI Note-off messages.” – Dr Robert Arthur “Bob” Moog (1990) The Environment..

The respective musical 3rd and 5th were added to each key.Voice message would produce a musical triad. in Logic Pro. the Arpeggiator will only repeat that note. as well as replicate these 3 MIDI Channel Voice messages an octave above and an octave below. Figure 12 .5 triad. When only using one note. the Arpeggiator will play a sequence consisting of the notes in the chord played. resulting in each single Note-On Channel Voice message playing a 1.3. This triad. The order of the pattern. The MIDI Pitch Number in the Note-On message was raised or lowered 12 semitones. was then duplicated and sent into a MIDI data manipulator in Logic Pro. known as the “Transformer”. which allows one to substitute the Note-On MIDI Pitch Number with a different Pitch Number or have selected Pitch Numbers added to the performance of the initial musical note played. being an octave. An Arpeggiator repeats a note. the length of the notes and speed at which 11 . an “Arpeggiator” was added to the above manipulation process. When playing more than one note. the musical note in the first Data byte of the Note-On message would be routed into a device called the Chord Memoriser. Environment ‘Patch’ For two of the software synthesizers. To achieve this. being sent as a 3 separate Note-On messages. or sequence of notes. When a performer is to push a single note on a keyboard controller 9 MIDI Note-On messages are generated.

this was utilised with the above Environment ‘patch’ to create a ‘chip-tune’.the arpeggio plays is defined via parameters within the Arpeggiator object in Logic Pro. 13) Figure 13. made infamous by 8-bit TV games. Arpeggio The hi-hat cymbals in the drum track initially had fixed velocity values throughout its pattern in the sequencer. No Corrective Manipulation And Corrective Manipulation 12 . and short note length. 1/256th notes. similar to the performance of a real drummer in which every drum hit doesn’t sound exactly the same. In one of the sounds. (Fig. (Fig. being note divisions every 1/128th . The velocity values of the MIDI notes in the sequencer were altered as to create a groove. by having an incredibly fast resolution. 14) Figure 14.

being 29 years old in 2012. was set to the ‘Filter Blend’ within the chosen ES2 instrument. being 127 in the message’s Data byte.The performance MIDI controller was configured so that chosen controls on the instrument. 15) Figure 15. MIDI version 1. Automation Via MIDI Controller MIDI has proven to be a strong standardisation protocol. The MIDI controller was then used to record automation data. being 0. allowing for finer adjustments when compared to using a standard computer peripheral such as a computer mouse. The slider was adjusted from its top position. would send the correct MIDI message to modify a parameter in the DAW. The resulting effect on the sound was that there was a shift between 2 filters. ‘Lead – Rhythmic’. resulting in the software synthesizer producing higher harmonics. going from a low-pass filter (Filter 2) to a high-pass filter (Filter 1). and through the use of MIDI Learn within Logic Pro. to the lowest position. One slider was assigned to the CC16. being a key player in the birth of many new genres of music. It has remarkably changed the way musicians compose their music. which is a General Purpose CC message. CC16 affecting Filter Blend. 13 . into the sequencer of the DAW. and in most cases.0 is still being utilised. The choice of using the slider was so there was less of a linear feel to the diminution of the parameter. the sliders. (Fig.

14 . As more and more devices are released with MIDI compatibility. it becomes a more and more useful tool to learn and understand.MIDI has allowed for the layperson with simple music knowledge to be able to freely express their creative side and compose music. where this may not have been possible without the invention of MIDI.

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