MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) is term we often find associated to music recording. Everyone has heard music that has come from a MIDI file. All those twinkly, low quality tracks that are built-in to your computer’s sound card are MIDI files but MIDI is also used to create fantastic, professional sounding music tracks despite not being audio at all.
MIDI does not contain any sound whatsoever, it isn’t music and it isn’t a digital audio format such as MP3 or WAV. It stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and is basically just data. MIDI is simply instructions, a pure data file which contains a list of events or messages for another electronic device such as a virtual studio technology instrument (VSTi), sound card or cell phone. These MIDI files tell the electronic advice exactly how to create the sound required.
Some of the advantages of MIDI technology include:
Compactness – you can fit hours of your music on a single CD in MIDI format
Efficient – as MIDI files are very small almost any computer can handle MIDI technology
Powerful – from single instruments to a whole orchestra, you can create the music you desire with ease
Versatile – with one simple click you can change the tempo, key or instrument of choice
When MIDI was initially invented in 1983 it allowed a single musician to control a number of different instruments at the same time. For instance, he could use a keyboard to trigger other keyboards and synthesizer modules in the studio or on stage. When computers became ubiquitous, a number of advantages developed. A musician could bring a laptop on stage and run several synthesizers all paying together, like a virtual electronic symphony. Also, the small file size was ideal to create and share music on disks and between computers even without external synthesizers, since most computer sound cards had built-in MIDI sounds, though as mentioned, these were pretty cheesy sounding.
However, as technology has developed along with the quality and type of MIDI sounds a computer can trigger, MIDI can now be used effectively to create fantastic quality tracks. By combining a standard MIDI keyboard with a quality virtual instrument such as Acoustica Pianissimo Virtual Grand Piano or Steinberg Groove Station 3 for percussion (just to name a microscopic sample… no pun intended), you can achieve stunningly real instrument sounds. As well as MIDI keyboards which are the most popular form of MIDI player, you can also get MIDI wind instruments and full MIDI drum sets if you feel they would be a positive influence on your track. There are truly endless possibilities when you harness MIDI technology in your home recording environment.
These virtual instruments mean a single vocalist can equip themselves with a backing band and the finest concert pianist can accompany their music will a full orchestra. MIDI files add a great degree of flexibility and choice to your recording process and can make your simple home recorded vocals sound like a professional audio track. Many VSTi programs come with sampled tracks built-in as well as the opportunity to add your own samples which provides even more flexibility to your recording process.
If you’re building your own home studio and have all your equipment set up you must invest in a MIDI controller. The MIDI keyboard is your best bet but if you want to try out other controllers because they benefit the style of music you’re creating that is up to you. With a MIDI controller you can have a whole orchestra in your studio!