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MIDI The Basics

Musical Instrument Digital Interface is a digital communications protocol. In August of 1983, music manufacturers agreed on a document that is called "MIDI 1.0 Specification". Why was it developed? MIDI was perhaps the first true effort at joint development among a large number of musical manufacturers. An industry standard enabling musical communication between musical hardware synths and sequencers for example. By 1985, virtually every new musical keyboard on the market had a MIDI interface. What is contained in Midi data? It is important to remember that MIDI transmits commands, but it does not transmit an audio signal. The MIDI specification includes a common language that provides information about events, such as note on and off, preset changes, sustain pedal, pitch bend, and timing information. Binary Data (just to aid understanding). Computers use binary data. A base 2 numeric system. We are used to a base 10 or decimal system. In a binary system there are only 2 numeric values 0 and 1- on or off. So in a binary number the first column records single units up to 1, the second column records 2s, the third 4s, the fourth 8s and so on. Each digit of resolution is called a bit and can represent the values on or off. A byte is 8 digits of digital information.

MIDI The Basics


MIDI Messages consist of 1,2 or 3 bytes. The first byte is a status byte (identifies the nature of the instruction eg. Note on, Main Volume) the following bytes provide data pertinent to that instruction. Of course, MIDI messages are sent against a clock/timing protocol and as such are relative to time. Logics Matrix (piano roll) editor shows MIDI note on, note off and velocity data relative to time in an easy to understand graphic format. Because of the binary system 4 bit resolution provides a range of 16 numerical possibilities. 8-bit = 256 possibilities. The first digit (most significant bit or MSB) of a data byte is always 0. The seven remaining digits of the data byte thus give a range of 127. MIDI Files Midi Files contain info on notes, velocities, controller codes which can be interpreted by any program that supports Standard MIDI file format. These are accessed and created by the import and export MIDI file commands. Consider the possible uses of MIDI files.

MIDI The Basics


General MIDI is an addition to the original MIDI specification. It is a set of requirements for MIDI devices aimed at ensuring consistent playback performance on all instruments bearing the GM logo. Some of the requirements include 24-voice polyphony, a standardized group (and location) of sounds, as well as defining a limited number of controllers. For example, patch #17 will always be a drawbar organ sound on all General MIDI instruments. Continuous controller number 7 will control its volume. Music written and sequenced for General MIDI should play back with the same instrument sounds on any General MIDI (GM) sound source. GM assigns 128 instrument sounds to specific numbers. There are sixteen specific families or types of instruments and eight instruments within each group. A separate group of percussion sounds is usually available on MIDI channel ten, and they are assigned to specific notes on a MIDI keyboard.

Bearing in mind the very limited capability of computers in the 1980s, it is worth remembering that because MIDI data contains only instructions, file sizes are very small in comparison to digital audio files.

MIDI The Basics


THE GENERAL MIDI SOUND LIST
Piano 1.Acoustic Grand Piano 2.Bright Acoustic Piano 3.Electric Grand Piano 4.Honky-tonk Piano 5.Electric Piano 1 6.Electric Piano 2 7.Harpsicord 8.Clavi Guitar 25.Acoustic Guitar (nylon) 26.Acoustic Guitar (steel) 27.Electric Guitar (jazz) 28.Electric Guitar (clean) 29.Electric Guitar (muted) 30.Overdriven Guitar 31.Distortion Guitar 32.Guitar Harmonics Ensemble 49.String Ensemble 1 50.String Ensemble 2 51.Synth Strings 1 52.Synth Strings 2 53.Choir Aahs 54.Voice Oohs 55.Synth Voice 56.Orchestra Hit Pipe 73.Piccolo 74.Flute 75.Recorder 76.Pan Flute 77.Blown Bottle 78.Shakuhachi 79.Whistle 80.Ocarina Synth Effects 97.FX 1 (rain) 98.FX 2 (soundtrack) 99.FX 3 (crystal) 100.FX 4 (atmosphere) 101.FX 5 (brightness) 102.FX 6 (goblins) 103.FX 7 (echoes) 104.FX 8 (sci-fi) Sound Effects 121.Guitar Fret Noise 122.Breath Noise 123.Seashore 124.Bird Tweet 125.Telephone Ring 126.Helicopter 127.Applause 128.Gunshot Chromatic Percussion 9.Celesta 10.Glockenspiel 11.Music Box 12.Vibraphone 13.Marimba 14.Xylophone 15.Tubular Bells 16.Dulcimer Bass 33.Acoustic Bass 34.Electric Bass (finger) 35.Electric Bass (pick) 36.Fretless Bass 37.Slap Bass 1 38.Slap Bass 2 39.Synth Bass 1 40.Synth Bass 2 Brass 57.Trumpet 58.Trombone 59.Tuba 60.Muted Trumpet 61.French Horn 62.Brass Section 63.Synth Brass 1 64.Synth Brass 2 Synth Lead 81.Lead 1 (square) 82.Lead 2 (sawtooth) 83.Lead 3 (calliope) 84.Lead 4 (chiff) 85.Lead 5 (charang) 86.Lead 6 (voice) 87.Lead 7 (fifths) 88.Lead 8 (bass+lead) Ethnic 105.Sitar 106.Banjo 107.Shamisen 108.Koto 109.Kalimba 110.Bagpipe 111.Fiddle 112.Shanai Organ 17.Drawbar Organ 18.Percussive Organ 19.Rock Organ 20.Church Organ 21.Reed Organ 22.Accordion 23.Harmonica 24.Tango Accordion Strings 41.Violin 42.Viola 43.Cello 44.Contrabass 45.Tremolo Strings 46.Pizzicato Strings 47.Orchestral Harp 48.Timpani Reed 65.Soprano Sax 66.Alto Sax 67.Tenor Sax 68.Baritone Sax 69.Oboe 70.English Horn 71.Bassoon 72.Clarinet Synth 89.Pad 1 (new age) 90.Pad 2 (warm) 91.Pad 3 (polysynth) 92.Pad 4 (choir) 93.Pad 5 (bowed) 94.Pad 6 (metallic) 95.Pad 7 (halo) 96.Pad 8 (sweep) Percussive 113.Tinkle Bell 114.Agogo 115.Steel Drums 116.Woodblock 117.Taiko Drum 118.Melodic Tom 119.Synth Drum 120.Reverse Cymbal

MIDI The Basics


General MIDI Percussion Key Map
On MIDI Channel 10, each MIDI Note number ("Key#") corresponds to a different drum sound, as shown below. GM-compatible instruments must have the sounds on the keys shown here. While many current instruments also have additional sounds above or below the range show here, and may even have additional "kits" with variations of these sounds, only these sounds are supported by General MIDI Level 1 devices. Key# 35 36 37 (C2) 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 (C3) Drum Sound Acoustic Bass Drum Bass Drum 1 Side Stick Acoustic Snare Hand Clap Electric Snare Low Floor Tom Closed Hi Hat High Floor Tom Pedal Hi-Hat Low Tom Open Hi-Hat Low-Mid Tom Hi Mid Tom Crash Cymbal 1 High Tom Key# 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 (C4) 62 63 64 65 66 Drum Sound Ride Cymbal 1 Chinese Cymbal Ride Bell Tambourine Splash Cymbal Cowbell Crash Cymbal 2 Vibraslap Ride Cymbal 2 Hi Bongo Low Bongo Mute Hi Conga Open Hi Conga Low Conga High Timbale Low Timbale Key# 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 (C5) 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 Drum Sound High Agogo Low Agogo Cabasa Maracas Short Whistle Long Whistle Short Guiro Long Guiro Claves Hi Wood Block Low Wood Block Mute Cuica Open Cuica Mute Triangle Open Triangle