What is MIDI

by Anders Johanson August 29, 2020 6 min read

ROLI MIDI Controller

MIDIThe abbreviation MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface in short. maximum of 16 channels) with a single cable. The MIDI interface allows for communication between devices and enables musicians to record, edit, and playback their performances. Additionally, MIDI data can be used to control parameters and settings of software synthesizers and digital audio workstations. MIDI has revolutionized the music industry by providing a flexible and versatile way to create, produce, and perform music. Its widespread adoption and compatibility across different devices have made it an essential tool for musicians, producers, and audio engineers. MIDI keyboardand operate a MIDI drum machine) in real-time, utilizing their MIDI-enabled synthesizer, sequencer, sampler, and so on.

An input signal, typically in the form of MIDI, is received by a musical instrument, serving as the catalyst for creating a corresponding MIDI output signal. Various methods can be employed by MIDI-capable devices to transmit and receive data. In the case of a MIDI-compatible instrument like the Roland FT-817, a MIDI note is generated and played on its own devices or can be duplicated and played on a different instrument. As an illustration, an octave piano is a type of device capable of generating MIDI notes. When a key is pressed or a gate button is activated, an electrical signal is sent to an amplifier, resulting in the production of a sound wave with a pitch corresponding to the audio amplitude of the note.

How MIDI Works

, it also has the capability to generate various musical notations such as triads, fifths, and octaves. MIDI, being a fundamental tool for sound manipulation, possesses the ability to produce a wide range of standard musical signals. synthesizeracoustic guitar can be combined with a MIDI keyboard to create a unique blend of acoustic and electronic sound. Additionally, MIDI allows for real-time control and manipulation of sound parameters, such as volume, pitch, and modulation, through the use of MIDI controllers. This flexibility and versatility make MIDI a powerful tool for musicians and producers in the creation of music and sound design. digital audio workstationThe combination of MIDI input from an audio tape machine or the input from an audio mixing console can be used to create a signal that produces a variety of noises and unique sounds.

What does MIDI do?

MIDI The MIDI, which originated in the 1980s, has experienced significant advancements throughout the years. Short for musical instrument digital interface, it serves as a method of communication between devices. Essentially, it functions as a musical score that a compatible music synthesizer can interpret. When you press a key on your keyboard, the MIDI system transforms it into numerical data, which is then transmitted to either software or hardware to produce the corresponding sound.

If you modify the score, the sound will be altered. It serves as the musical counterpart of a text document. Nowadays, MIDI is not often employed for playing music. The majority of music is either recorded in a professional recording studio or performed live. Nevertheless, MIDI continues to be utilized for music production. It is an exceptional tool for composing, as it eliminates some of the monotony associated with writing musical notes and playing them back to perceive their sound. Presently, MIDI is primarily employed in gaming.

Video games often utilize MIDI files for their music instead of recorded music due to their small file size. This not only saves storage space on the console but also allows for a greater number of songs to be stored in memory. Additionally, MIDI songs can be purchased and downloaded online, which has become a popular method for amateur and independent musicians to distribute their music. By bypassing the involvement of record companies, it has become easier for artists to directly deliver their music to the audience. Furthermore, MIDI-compatible instruments are relatively inexpensive and readily available, serving as the closest alternative to a "music cartridge" in terms of equipment.  Nowadays, it is possible to come across MIDI keyboards that cost less than $100. However, one drawback of MIDI is its limitations on the playable notes, which potentially diminishes the human touch in music production.

There exist multiple variations of MIDI files. The prevalent ones encompass song files that exclusively hold the precise musical notations for a specific song, encoded in the MIDI format.  The variety of compositions varies from easy piano tunes to intricate orchestral arrangements. Files dedicated to specific instruments provide guidance on the techniques required to perform on a particular musical instrument.

How does MIDI work?

MIDI serves as a standard for communicating with electronic music hardware. In the realm of electronic or computer-generated music, various versions of MIDI exist to convert musical notation into a series of electrical signals that can be played back and recorded on compatible hardware. The MIDI specification typically employs 2.5mm jacks, ensuring widespread compatibility with modern keyboards. The current trend towards electronic keyboards does not hinder their ability to work seamlessly with MIDI. It is worth noting that the presence of a MIDI switch on a keyboard indicates its compatibility with MIDI functionality. It is important to note that if a non-MIDI keyboard has a MIDI switch in the powered-on state, touching the switch again will result in the device refusing to function, even if the keyboard itself is not powered on.

MIDI Setup

Is MIDI an Analog or Digital Protocols? Is MIDI an Analog or Digital?

MIDI is a fascinating entity as it does not conform entirely to the analog or digital world. It lies in a realm between the two. MIDI comprises three distinct types of data:

  1. Note On/Off
  2. please transmit a signal like the volume or modulation wheel (continuous controllers)
  3. System messages (these are data that communicate with the MID) The initial category of data, known as note on and note off, shall be transformed into a signal that a MIDI device can comprehend. To illustrate, a MIDI device could interpret a specific note on signal as the numerical value 40. This signifies that the key number 40 (middle C) has been pressed on the keyboard.

There are a total of 128 notes available for play on a keyboard. Each note corresponds to a specific key on the keyboard, with numbers ranging from 0 to 127. MIDI technology takes these numerical values and translates them into a sequence of "on" and "off" signals. For instance, if we convert the number 40 into binary, it would appear as: 1000000000000. This binary representation simply indicates that the key corresponding to number 40 was pressed. The "1" symbols represent the "on" state, while the "0" symbols indicate the "off" state. When the key is released, the "1" symbols turn off and the "0" symbols turn on. This data format is highly efficient, requiring minimal storage space on a hard drive. In contrast, other types of data are not converted into numerical codes; instead, they serve as instructions for a MIDI device. For instance, the information can inform a MIDI device about an upcoming alteration in volume or modulation.

Which one is more suitable for me: a MIDI controller or a synthesizer? Should I invest in a MIDI controller or go for a synthesizer?

If you’re asking questions like “Which one is more suitable for me: a MIDI controller or a synthesizer? Should I invest in a MIDI controller or go for a synthesizer? ” then I think a midi controller (MS-20-style( is a better choice. From there, you will have the ability to activate chords and sequences using the controls, which is the primary functionality you desire to have. In this situation, the money you invest will be well worth it considering the possibilities it opens up for you. The complete kit appears to be very comprehensive, and if desired, you could even incorporate a semi-modular synth into it.

What would be an ideal place to begin for an individual intrigued by such a setup? There is a selection of synthesizers priced around £100 that would serve as a great starting point for beginners. The most economic option available is the. Midi Fighter ControllerI am of the opinion that the Midi Fighter Controller offers excellent sound qualities and represents good value for money at a price of £150.

MIDI Controller

controller? Is it possible to utilize my keyboard as a MIDI controller?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to transform your keyboard into a MIDI-compatible device. However, you do have the ability to load and save keyboard patterns, which can be utilized on various applications and hardware. Nevertheless, it is important to note that it is not feasible to utilize a device in the firmware to program the hardware.

In order to fabricate a "MIDI controller", the integration of keyboard functionality with a "MIDI" device is essential to establish communication, enabling the software to command specific keys. For instance, a keyboard serves as a MIDI controller which possesses the capability to alter the pitch of musical notes. By connecting this pitch alteration feature of the keyboard to the software, the software gains the power to regulate both the pitch and the playback of the notes.


I possess a keyboard that is equipped with MIDI compatibility, although it lacks MIDI compatibility. Can I still utilize it?

Yes, it is possible to use it directly with any other MIDI-compatible gear you may come across. Typically, you can connect it to a controller, although there may be instances where you need to utilize a patch cable instead (additional information on patch cables can be found below). It is important to note that certain musical instruments, especially guitars, may not be able to receive MIDI signals at all. In these cases, it may be necessary to have a MIDI-compatible keyboard in order to play the keyboards on such equipment.

    Anders Johanson
    Anders Johanson

    Also in News

    Music Mixing Guide
    The Ultimate Manual for Music Mixing The Ultimate Manual for Music Mixing

    by Anders Johanson January 30, 2021 12 min read

    Read More
    Free Drum Kits
    Discover the Ultimate Compilation of Complimentary Drum Kits

    by Anders Johanson January 30, 2021 11 min read

    Read More
    Delay Effects
    Incorporating Delay Effects in the Field of Music Production Utilizing Delay Effects in the Realm of Music Production

    by Anders Johanson January 18, 2021 9 min read

    Read More