Rob Healey Keyboard Tuition Specialist


Musical Instrument Digital Interface

What is MIDI? . . . .

A MIDI file contains INFORMATION not sound waves.

MIDI is a brilliant learning and performing aid for musicians.

MIDI is used extensively in Movie Soundtracks and other recorded music.

5 Things you can do . . .

Basic requirements - A Keyboard and a Computer with a sequencing program, which is needed for manipulation  of MIDI files.

1. The sequencing program lets you record, playback, examine and alter every individual note played.

You can record your performance, fix up any small mistakes then have it played back perfectly - at any speed.

 Then you can add some more instruments, one at a time until perhaps you have an entire orchestra playing.

- OR -

2. You can find a Midi file of your favourite song easily on the internet, the download time is usually less than 10 seconds.

You can erase the melody line and then play along with the rest of the backing tracks - this can produce a spectacular performance, much better than your keyboard accompaniment.

- OR -

3. You can print out the melody line and learn any song, playing along with the midi file at reduced speed.

- OR -

4. You can write your own songs, the software will instantly work out the notation and timing.

You can print out the music, record it to tape, CD or even make an MP3 for your homepage or to send via email.

- OR -

5. The possibilities are endless, you can connect several keyboards together and play them all simultaneously, you can make your own CD or even compose an entire film score. 

Most sequencers support digital audio recording as well as MIDI. This means you could make a recording of your MIDI keyboard + live Piano + your friends playing the Saxophone, Guitar, Flute, Gum Leaf or singing. (Only the keyboard part will be saved as a MIDI file).

 The possibilities are there to make your own CD or Tape with all the editing advantages your sequencer has.

NOT an Audio file . . .

MIDI files do NOT contain any sound! They are information files, similar to the signal sent by a fax machine.

Midi files sound terrible played with a computers soundcard but great when hooked up to a keyboard...........WHY ?

BECAUSE - A MIDI file records the player's actions not the sound of the music; it's a stored set of our actions.

Here's what happens when we play notes on a Keyboard - as we press a note, information goes to the microprocessor in the keyboard about which note, how long, instrument, volume, etc.

This information is sent to the keyboard sound driver which produces the appropriate notes with the instruments selected.

When you play a MIDI file, that same INFORMATION about what notes to play and which instruments to use, is simply sent to either another keyboard or a computer's soundcard.

A CD or MP3 will sound much the same on whatever is playing it, but a MIDI file depends on the keyboard/soundcard it is sending INFORMATION to.

So a MIDI file will sound very different when it is sent to a $10,000 keyboard compared to a $150 one. For instance a Saxophone could even change into a Clarinet !!!!!!

GOOD NEWS ! . . .

A MIDI file is very small compared to an MP3 or WAV file, which contains recorded sound waves. MIDI files transfer very quickly and are much used on the Internet. (5 - 10 seconds max)

MIDI information can be displayed on a computer using sequencer software. Even old computers handle MIDI very well. Each instrument and every single note can be modified, Tempo changed, Parts removed or added.

The music can be printed out; the sequencer works out the timing.

MIDI is a brilliant learning and performing aid. We can remove some parts, for instance - delete the melody track and then play the melody ourselves using the remaining tracks as an accompaniment.

MIDI files can be played at any speed, so we can practice a piece slowly and work up to the correct tempo.

MIDI files are freely available on the Internet, just use a search engine to find any song.

BAD NEWS ! . . .

MIDI files are usually NOT made by the recording artist.

A MIDI file of, for instance, "Fur Elise' may have been made by anyone from a top class Pro to a 6 year old !

Some MIDI's are great and some not. I usually download at least 3 different versions of a song and then choose the best one..

Sequencer Software . . .

Cubase is the best, but expensive. I used it for many years on the Atari ST

I now use POWER TRACKS PRO AUDIO, it's incredibly inexpensive and user friendly. If it didn't work so well I would have invested in the new Cubase VST.

PG Music also make 'Band in a Box', very famous software which provides accompaniment from chords you type in. Perhaps not so useful for home keyboard players who have automatic accompaniment that works 'live' rather than pre-programmed.

Check it out at P G Music


Want to know more ? . . .

Go to Harmony Central

This website has a vast array of MIDI information and resources.


Want to learn more ? . . .

Ask about my MIDI course; learn a subject of your choice or the full course. 

MIDI Search . . .

Search Engine -

Before you go there, create a folder somewhere handy, preferably in "My Documents' - call it "Music" or "Midi" or "My Music" or whatever you like so that you stay organised.

Go to Put the musicrobot on your 'favourites' list. (right click on blank area, left click on 'add to favourites' etc)

How to search for your song

Enter the name of the song you're looking for. The Midi Explorer search engine will sort files with identical sizes into groups.

I like to find three different midi files (various sizes) of a song and then choose the best one.

You should find that it will list several groups of sites that have the song you're looking for. The sites are grouped by identical file sizes - many sites will have the same midi file (even though the name is different) so to avoid downloading the same file from three different places look at the number of bytes.

Usually the same number of bytes means the same file. 27000 (27K) is about a minimum, look for around (47k) for a good arrangement.

Click on a site (left click on blue address) and find your song in the list. RIGHT CLICK on the song, choose 'save target as' from the pop up menu and then save to the folder you created.


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2006 by Rob Healey, ABN 59 588 931 915