MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface!
I am sure you must have heard this word before…
For those of you who are wondering what M I D I actually means? I will try to give a brief explanation here.
In short, MIDI allows musical instruments, digital devices and Computers to communicate with each other by sending binary data. All kind of information like notes, effects, volume can be exchanged with each other.
It is the way digital instruments communicate with each other. Now that you know “what does MIDI stand for”, let us see some of its uses.
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Control Other Digital Instruments
If you connect your electronic keyboard to one more electronic keyboard through MIDI, you can actually play the sounds from both the instrument.
What you need to do is designate one of the electronic keyboards as a Controller and set it to some sound, say piano. Connect the other Keyboard to the Controller keyboard and set it to some other sound, say strings.
Now, when you play some notes on the controller keyboard, it will send digital data to the other keyboard and you will actually hear both the sounds, piano as well as strings.
The Different Connection Slots
In all the keyboards you will find slots marked as “M I D I – IN” and “M I D I – OUT” at the rear of the keyboard. Some keyboards also have the “M I D I – THRU” slot.
When you want to connect two instruments, you connect the MIDI OUT from one instrument to the MIDI IN of the other instrument. This way the first keyboard can send out MIDI messages to the other keyboard.
The MIDI THRU connection allows the incoming data to be passed to other external instruments.
Keyboard MIDI – OUT ==> Computer MIDI – IN
Computer MIDI – OUT ==> Keyboard MIDI – IN
Keyboard MIDI – Thru ==> same as the data coming in keyboard MIDI – IN
You can easily create and play, all by yourself, a very complex network of keyboards by using the MIDI THRU connection. You will need to use MIDI cables to do all this connections.
Note – Please note that most of the recent keyboards / digital pianos offer connectivity to computer using USB instead of this traditional MIDI IN / OUT method.
Here are useful videos that explains the concept of MIDI in detail:
Play MIDI Files
You can download MIDI files or you can buy MIDI recorded CD’s and play those songs using the sounds of your keyboard.
The MIDI songs are written in such a way that your electronic keyboard reads the data and plays it back using the sounds of the instruments mentioned in the MIDI data.
The MIDI songs also act as good teaching aid as you can follow the song note by note as it is being played on the keyboard.
Download Songs, Styles, Sounds
You can download additional MIDI sounds, styles or songs in your keyboard by downloading them from the internet.
The keyboard manufacturers keep on introducing new styles, sounds based on the current market trend and these can be used for a small charge.
Some keyboards can be connected directly to the internet without needing a Computer. This is the easiest way to download MIDI songs. Alternatively, you can download the songs on your computer and then copy the songs from your computer to the keyboard using a floppy disk or a CD.
Use MIDI Software
The most popular MIDI software is the Software Sequencer.
You only need to connect your musical keyboard to your computer and you are ready to record. You will need a software sequencer like Sonar, Cubase, Reason, etc which records all your performances. Please go through the controller link below to know more.
A lot of software is available in the market which helps you to learn to play or helps you to sight-read. You just need to connect your keyboard to your computer through MIDI. You are then ready to explore and play the various exercises without needing your teacher around.
You also get software which translates whatever you play on your midi keyboard into musical notations.
So if you are not very good at writing notations, you can use one of the MIDI software which generates the notations for you. If you are a teacher, you can use it to generate exercises for your students.
Transfer MIDI data to Your Computer
To be able to transfer data to your computer, you will need to connect your electronic keyboard / controller to the computer.
There are different ways to connect them. You will need to have at least one in place to be able to bring the data into your computer.
Use a Keyboard Controller
Some electronic keyboards come with built-in USB MIDI interfaces. You can just connect the USB cable from the keyboard to the computer, install drivers (if required) and you will be set up. The software will be able to detect your keyboard.
External USB MIDI Interfaces
A USB MIDI Interface is a piece of hardware which has ports for both MIDI as well as USB.
You need to connect the interface to the computer using USB, and connect your keyboard to the interface using the standard MIDI jacks on the interface.
Generally the connections using these interfaces are more reliable than connecting through joystick ports.
Use the JOYSTICK port
Another method to connect is to use the JOYSTICK port on your computer, especially for those with SoundBlaster type cards.
Though these tend to be less reliable than the other connections… you can try it out if you are just starting out in the computer music recording space.