What Exactly Is Midi How It Works And Why It Is So Important

There is a lot of confusion with regards to what Midi is, and it is quite understandable because Midi isn’t music, it isn’t sound, and it’s not even a file format.

So if all of the above are true, then what exactly if MIDI and how does it relate to the world of music?

Perhaps the best and easiest way to explain to you the concept of Midi is that it is a set of instructions, that different instruments or computers can understand and follow.

One of the biggest strengths of Midi is that it is not confined to one device or computer type. Because it is purely a set of instructions, much in the same way that your Satellite Navigation gives you directions to follow. This means that once the data has been written any piece of equipment that can read it, can play the music as written.

To help you try and understand how it works, here are some of the instructions that the data might give to the musical instruments.

Note On – Perhaps the simplest of all the commands; this tells the device that a key has been pressed, and how much pressure was required to achieve the particular sound needed.

Note Off – Equally as important, this tells the computer or instrument when to stop playing the note.

Pitch Wheel Change – Music is comprised of many different notes, and sometimes those notes need to be altered by changing the pitch, this instruction gives a precise instruction to the instrument to alter the pitch the appropriate amount.

As you can see a midi file contains a lot of very important information, but one of the other benefits that it brings to the table is the fact that it is a very small file, so doesn’t take up a lot of space, even though it contains so much information. This has been a real benefit in recent years with the growth in popularity of the cell phones, and the boom in ringtones. Because a cell phone can understand and follow the instructions of a midi file, it was particularly beneficial when cell phones had comparatively small memory capacity. Rather than have to store each piece of music in a large file, the phone simply followed the instructions and created the music on demand.

Essentially for any avid composer out there, when you are creating your latest masterpiece on the computer the midi system is converting your creation into a set of easy to follow instructions.

To try and give you some concept of the difference regarding storage, the average piece of music that lasts for a minute takes up about 10 megabytes of storage space, whereas the set of instructions to play the same piece of music using the midi system, uses about 10kb of memory.

That is a truly significant difference and is probably singlehandedly one of the main drivers behind those cell phone ring tones we used to love loath; everyone remembers the crazy frog.

Hopefully, this article has answered some of your questions about Midi and has explained the benefits of using Midi for your music production.