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Introduction to MIDI
              MIDI - Musical Instrument Digital Interface  

MIDI is, in its very simplest form, a type of tablature. A musical score. Much like the traditional sheet music notation, or the simpler guitar tabs. The important difference is that MIDI is intented to be read by computers, rather than by people.

MIDI files are so small because rather than containing actual audio samples, they simply contain instructions - what pitch to play a note at, when, and for how long.

The sounds associated with MIDI ordinarily are part of what is called the GS Wavetable - a standardised bank of instruments stored on virtually every computer in the world. And most mobile phones. Part of the MIDI signal will include an instruction to the computer reading the file, telling it which of the 128 instruments in the GS Wavetable to use to play the note.

The GS Wavetable sounds are notoriously low quality, but require very little hard drive space or processor power, allowing them to be used widely.

Any digital recording technique you care to name will utilise MIDI at some point, whether directly as the user programs synthesizers to play certain sequences of notes - the keys he hits will be recorded by the computer as a MIDI file - or indirectly, as the computer uses it automatically to cue up real audio samples, and regulate tempo.

  MIDI sounds fake :     Wrong. The standard GS Wavetable sounds bad. MIDI itself doesn't sound bad - in fact MIDI doesn't sound at all, any more than a piece of sheet music sounds without an instrument to play the notes as it instructs.
    MIDI is a cheap solution :

Wrong. The best and most expensive digital synthesizers and samplers in the world run off MIDI. The best production systems in the world run off MIDI.

The cheapest child's toy keyboard also runs off MIDI...

        MIDI is unemotive:   Yes and no. For certain instruments, MIDI doesn't work well connected to a crude synthesizer/sampler. But for others MIDI can be every bit as emotive as the real thing, and when simply used to queue up and regulate real-audio samples of actual instruments, it becomes literally impossible to tell MIDI is involved anywhere.
  MIDI always sounds artificial:

Many people I've talked to think MIDI is too accurate in timing to sound like an actual human playing, that straight, mechanically accurate 4/4 time is all it's good for.

It was with these people in mind that I wrote this: Sound(e)scape.

There are no actual instruments playing there - every sound is made by a MIDI keyboard connected to the high-quality samplers in Reason 3.0

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Copyright Alex Griffiths 2006