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Complete Guide To MIDI (With Illustrations)

Welcome to Exclusivemusicplus, I hope you are having a lovely time.

In this guide, I'll cover a complete guide on MIDI, and unlike the other blogs that have covered the MIDI topic, I will also give you a free MIDI file, where you can get thousands of extra MIDI files and you would also learn how to import the MIDI file in your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).

Note that, you can use the MIDI file in any DAW, I'll show you how to use it in FL Studio, but the approach should be similar in other DAW applications.

Now, let's get it cracking on what a MIDI file is...

What is MIDI In Music

MIDI is a musical standard or protocol that is designed to make information transmission or communication (message passing) easier between multiple musical devices over a connected network. 

The good thing about MIDI is that it can be used to record data into software programs (sequence, DAW) and even hardware devices where the notes recorded and their timing can be tweaked, and thus be further transmitted to instruments or other devices to create music or control any number of parameters.

It can be used as a message passing in that, a trigger on a MIDI Keyboard can reflect what is been triggered and render the exact note played on a musical application (DAW).

The concept of MIDI message passing is why you can control multiple synths at the same time from a single keyboard, this is also the reason you can play notes in your music application/DAW directly from your keyboard, without MIDI, that wouldn't have been possible.

If you still do not understand what a MIDI is, simply think of it as a way to pass a message from one place to another, in musical terminology, it is the message passing between musical equipment or software.

Think about it for a second, if you click on a key (let's say the letter Z) on a typical computer keyboard, the processor in the keyboard analyzes and determines what character to send to the computer, in this case, letter Z.

The concept is similar to the MIDI message passing, once you hit a key on your MIDI keyboard, the action (what you are hitting) is encoded and passed as a MIDI Message to the receiver (software, other devices, etc), and you can hear the sound you are making.

What MIDI Isn't

One confusing myth among newbies is to think of MIDI as an alternative to audio format, e.g MP3, WAV. It isn't.

MIDI has nothing to do with the actual sound reproduction, the receiver would be the one to reproduce the sound, and because the music is handled by the computer in the form of encoded messages rather than an actual rendered sound, it is possible to change the sound from say a piano to a guitar to a sax. This phenomenon won't be possible without MIDI.

MIDI does not communicate audio and has nothing to do with audio reproduction. It is digitally encoded information that tells the receiver how to recreate, playback, and alter sounds.

Because of this, MIDI isn't restricted to a specific sound, you can alter the sound with your sequence, in short, you can use a piano keyboard to send a MIDI message and play a guitar sound on the receiving end.

What Does MIDI Stand For?

MIDI is an acronym that stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. An interface that governs the way the information transmission is done between musical devices using MIDI messages, this is the reason you can communicate from one keyboard to multiple keyboards, thus, building layers of synth. It is also the reason you can use your USB MIDI keyboard with your DAW application.

What is a MID File

A MID File is a MIDI file with an extension that ends in .mid. Unlike an audio file such as MP3, or WAV that stores audio content, a MIDI file is a data file that stores encoded information that contains musical information.

That is just a glimpse of what a MIDI File is, you can learn more about MIDI Files in our guide: What is a MIDI File

How Do I Play a MIDI File

There are a couple of ways you can play a MID file, the first way is using a Media Player such as VLC, or Windows Media Player, and the second way is using a software application or Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) application such as FL Studio.

You can learn more about how to play a MID File in our How To Play a MIDI File guide (it contains video and image illustrations on playing MID Files).

If you don't want to visit the link, below is the summary of playing a MIDI File:

Playing MIDI File With The Windows Media Player

Suppose you have a MIDI Folder that contains .mid files, for example:

Folder With MIDI Files

To Play it with the windows MIDI Player, you right-click on the .mid file you would like to play, Scroll to Play With, then select the Windows Media Player, here is an illustration:

Playing MIDI File With The VLC

To play MIDI files using VLC, you need a SoundFont file (with extension .sf2).

Download the SoundFont file from the below links:

Note: If you are using the first link, make sure you download "GeneralUser GS 1.471", if you can get the download link for some reason, here is the direct download zip file: GeneralUser GS 1.471

Once downloaded, extract the File, and if you try playing any .mid file, you would get the following error:

Error Playing MID File in VLC Media Player

Don't Fret, since you have downloaded the sound font file, you can load it, by going to

  • Tools in the Menu
  • Then click on Preferences
  • Select Audio
  • At the left bottom part, you would see the text "Show Setting", and below it is the "Simple" and "All" radio selection, click on All
  • Now, Go-to, to Input/Codec, click on the Audio Codecs dropdown icon, and lastly FluidSynth
  • Now, load the sound font file by clicking the browse button. Browse to the file you just downloaded and extracted, and select GeneralUser GS v1.471.sf2 or the file that ends with .sf2
  • Hit the Save button and you should be able to playback your .mid files

Here is a video demonstration for all of the above:

What is a MIDI Channel

You can think of a MIDI channel like your TV station channels, each channel is independent of the other channel, and in some modern TV, you can stream multiple channels at the same time. 

This is the basics of how a MIDI Channel works, a channel in MIDI is an independent path over which a MIDI message can travel to the receiver's end. In MIDI, you can use up to, 16 channels per device.

For example, in your software application, a track in the sequencer can play one instrument over a single channel, and the MIDI messages in the track can find their way to the instrument on that channel.

Free MIDI Files

As I promised, I am going to give you a free midi file to play with, do ensure you credit Exclusivemusicplus if you find a use for the midi in your song, below is the direct download link.

That would conclude the guide on MIDI for now, if you have any concerns or questions about MIDI in general, please, do not hesitate to drop a message in the comment section.

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