MIDI here, MIDI there….everywhere MIDI! If you are a music producer, the term MIDI appears every day. MIDI is everywhere….but what is MIDI?
MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is a protocol designed for recording and playing back music on digital instruments. It’s widely used by electronic musicians and producers because it allows them to create music using a wide variety of sounds.
In this guide, we will show you how to get started with MIDI and how to use it to create your music. Let’s dive right in!
MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is a communication standard for digital audio that was developed in the early 1980s. Since then, MIDI has become the industry standard for digital music production and is used by musicians worldwide.
MIDI allows electronic musical instruments and computers to communicate with each other and share information such as note data, performance data, and control data.
MIDI messages are digital data transmissions that provide instructions for how a MIDI-compatible device should respond. In addition, there are two types of MIDI messages: System Messages and Channel Voice Messages.
System Messages are sent to all devices on a MIDI network and usually control overall settings like tempo or transposition. Furthermore, most MIDI messages fall under the category of Channel Voice Messages. They’re sent to specific devices on a MIDI network and usually control sound parameters like volume or pitch.
These are the Channel Voice Messages available:
- Note ON and OFF: which notes are played and for how long
- Aftertouch: Amount of pressure applied to a key
- Control Change: Value change on a parameter on the device
- Program Change: Patch change on the device
- Channel Pressure: The single greatest pressure value for all depressed keys
- Pitch Bend Change: change in the pitch bend wheel or lever.
MIDI events are a combination of messages, sent at a specific time. Moreover, they’re used to create compositions using MIDI sequencers.
These events can be either note messages or control messages. Note messages tell the MIDI device which note to play and when to play it. Control messages are used to change the sound of the notes being played, or to turn notes on or off.
MIDI events are sent to a MIDI device using a MIDI cable or USB. The hardware or virtual instrument then uses the information in the MIDI event to create sound.
So how do I send MIDI messages? With MIDI controllers of course! MIDI controllers are devices that send MIDI to a computer or other external devices.
They are used to trigger sounds from an external source, such as a virtual instrument or hardware device. MIDI controllers come in different styles to mimic real instruments.
Here are a few examples of different MIDI controllers available:
- MIDI Controller Keyboard
- Drum Pad MIDI Controllers
- Guitar MIDI Controllers
- Wind MIDI Controllers
A MIDI keyboard is the most common type of MIDI controller. It is a piano-style keyboard that can be connected to a computer via USB.
They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from small 25-key controllers to large 88-key weighted keyboards.
MIDI keyboards often have transport buttons such as Play, Stop, Pause, Rewind, Fast-forward, and Record, coupled with pads that can be used to trigger sounds and create beats.
In addition, they may also have additional features such as pitch and mod wheels, aftertouch, and octave buttons.
How To Use MIDI In Your Workflow
MIDI Keyboard Along With A Computer
One of the most basic and common ways to use MIDI is with a MIDI keyboard connected to a computer. Once connected, the keyboard can be used to control various VSTs inside your digital audio workstation (DAW).
This is a simple yet powerful setup. It’s just as good during live performances as it is in your home studio.
MIDI Interface Along With An External Hardware Synth
Another more advanced setup is by having a MIDI interface and a hardware synth. With this setup, you take advantage of the convenient sequencing offered by your DAW. In addition, you’re offered performance quality from a hardware synthesizer.
In other words, you’re sending MIDI instructions from your DAW to your external device.
External Hardware Synth Along With An Hardware Sequencer
This is probably the most hardcore setup, where you skip the computer entirely. The sequencer allows you to arrange your tracks while sending this information to your external synth.
You can use MIDI channels to create complex arrangements by routing different instruments to tracks on your DAW or sending different sounds to external hardware devices.
With some creativity, you can create rich and dynamic soundscapes with multiple layers of sound.
Additionally, each MIDI channel in a DAW is typically set to control a different track.
For example, the first MIDI channel might control drums, the second might control a bass guitar, and the third might control a lead guitar.
By sending MIDI data to different channels, you can selectively control which tracks in your DAW are affected by the data.
MIDI ports can be connected with MIDI cables, typically circular five-pin DIN cables. (although some newer ones have only three)
There are three kinds of MIDI ports available:
- MIDI IN
- MIDI OUT
- MIDI THRU
Without ports and MIDI cables, it would be very difficult to use more than one MIDI device at the same time.
Let’s discuss each of these ports!
MIDI IN allows devices to take in MIDI data. It’s most commonly used to connect one device to an interface or another MIDI instrument.
MIDI OUT allows a device to send MIDI data. Pretty simple right?
Thru outputs are used to pass on MIDI from one device to another. It sends a copy of the data that is entering a device back out so that it can be routed to additional devices.
MIDI is a standard protocol for connecting musical devices and computers. The protocol allows electronic musical instruments and other devices to communicate with each other and share data such as velocity, aftertouch, or which notes are pressed on a MIDI keyboard.
MIDI has been around for over 30 years and is still widely used today. Why? You can record your tracks without the hassle of micing up instruments. It is an essential tool for anyone who wants to create music with computers or electronic instruments.
And there you have it – The Beginner’s Guide to MIDI! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below!