What is MIDI?

Just like people, computers are capable of speaking to each other in different languages.  MIDI (short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is one of those languages.  …and, like all languages, MIDI has a number of different variations.

MIDI Isn’t Audio
In short, MIDI is “word processing” for music.  Consider the following analogy:  You live across town, but you want to say “Hello” to me.  So, using our common language, you type “Hello” in an email and send it to me.  I open my email and hold my ear up to it.  It doesn’t make any sound.  …but if I read it, interpret our common language and say “Hello,” I can hear what you wrote!  MIDI works the same way.  The first MIDI device is you.  The second is me.  The MIDI file is the email.  It doesn’t contain sound (just like the email didn’t), but it does contain the necessary instructions for me to make a sound.  My voice and yours won’t sound exactly the same, but it will be very close – and I can choose to speed up, slow down or raise/lower the pitch of my voice.

What MIDI Does
In short, MIDI allows certain electronic devices to communicate with each other.  Here are a few of the benefits:

  • It helps your computer play music
  • It allows performers to use one instrument to control a whole bunch of other instruments
  • It lets musicians create fantastic layered musical textures
  • It gives players the freedom to edit music and print out the results
  • It gives players the freedom to mute some parts and play along with others

Commonly used in video games, computer programs and digital music instruments, MIDI is a powerful and flexible language that helps musicians create, edit and enjoy music.  You’ve probably been using MIDI for years without knowing it.  Now, you can harness the power of MIDI to make your piano lessons even more fun.

For more information on MIDI files, Ask Heather!

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About James Harding

From the farmlands of Iowa, James joined the Gist staff in May of 2009. James began studying classical, jazz and piano improv from 4yrs old until he graduated from Le’Ecole De La Musica at age 18. In college, he majored in voice and music ministry. Then, in 2001, James took a job managing Simon’s Music. When West Music purchased Simon’s in 2004, James became their Certified Steinway Piano Specialist. Today, in addition to his leadership responsibilities at Gist Piano Center, James travels across the United States giving seminars on music education and piano technology and he writes the monthly "Tech Beat" column for Music Inc. Magazine.

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