music composer
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touch sensitive keyboards the different types of sensitivity available
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m-audio keystation pro-88 budget mother keyboard

Sustain Pedals
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USB Microphones
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MIDI Equipment
what is MIDI? with a list of popular control numbers
usb to midi cables for recording your ideas into your computer etc. yamaha UX16 USB/MIDI a midi/USB cable adaptor guitar midi interfaces for transforming your guitar into any midi instrument!

Sound cards
usb sound cards a list of things to look our for when buying one.

sounds cards for the Mac

covering the different types of cards & uses.

maya 44 sound card a short review of this popular sound card.


What is MIDI?


MIDI is short for musical instrument digital interface. It enables electronic musical instruments, computers, music sequencers, and other digital hardware (such as sound cards) to communicate with each other. By linking two or more of these items together via a MIDI cable, various musical events are transmitted.

A MIDI signal is not an audio signal. Rather, it is a digital stream of information about how a note or musical event has been performed. It communicates this by converting the note into a number (between 1 and 127, depending on which pitch the note is) and then sending this digital number through a MIDI cable to a receiving device to either replay it on this device (such as in a music module) or record this event (such as in a computer programme or music sequencer).

MIDIRoland MPU 401 Box Photo: John R. Southern (Toronto, Canada)





What kinds of musical information can MIDI transmit?

MIDI encodes many different aspects of a musical performance. For example, it communicates velocity ("loudness") of the note. If a note is struck with force, MIDI will encode this event with a higher number (something near 127). If the note is struck gently on a keyboard, the number will be much smaller. Some other elements transmitted via MIDI include aftertouch (changes to the depression of the key after the note has been struck), sustain pedal events, pitch bend (usually executed via a wheel or touch pad on a keyboard) and modulation.



A brief history of MIDI technology

MIDI was developed by Dave Smith at Sequential Circuits Inc. between 1981 and 1983. In January 1983, Smith demonstrated MIDI transmission between a Prophet 600 and a Roland JP-6 at a NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) music exhibition in California. By August of 1983, Midi 1.0 had established a standard protocol for all MIDI built equipment. During the 1980's, MIDI became included in new synthesizers (such as the Yamaha DX7), rack mountable music modules and computer equipment (the Atari ST proving especially popular in music studios with its in-built MIDI ports).

The next major development occurred in 1991 with the development of GM - General MIDI. This facilitated the transmission of timbre (instrument) data. The numbers 1 to 128 were assigned to 128 different musical instruments and sound effects (for example, number 1 - Acoustic Grand Piano and number 30 - Overdriven Electric Guitar). GM also defined how 16 simultaneous MIDI channels, with channel 10 reserved for percussion (untuned instruments). Here, each key is assigned a different drum or percussion instrument.


MIDI controller


MIDI controllers are sound devices that control the receiving MIDI device via a MIDI cable connection. Examples of controllers are mother keyboards (such as 88 or 77 key keyboards), electronic drum pads with MIDI outputs, EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) wind controllers, and MIDI foot controllers. All of the above may be linked via a MIDI cable to a MIDI receiving device (such as a sound module or computer) to play or record the transmitted information.


Midi ports

(These are usually found at the rear of a keyboard)

MIDI-IN (for receiving a MIDI signal from a controlling device)

MIDI-OUT (for transmitting a MIDI signal to a receiving device)

MIDI -THRU ("MIDI-THRU" is a copy of the "MIDI-IN" signal, and can be used to link several MIDI receiving devices together. A delay is caused if devices are chained together via MIDI-OUT ports, as the signal has to pass though the electronics of the instrument before being passed to the "MIDI-OUT").


Useful Midi control numbers


1 Modulation wheel
6 Data Entry MSB
7 Volume
10 Pan
11 Expression
38 Data Entry LSB
64 Sustain pedal
91 Reverb level
92 Tremolo level
93 Chorus level
94 Celeste level
95 Phaser level
98 Non-registered Parameter LSB
99 Non-registered Parameter MSB
100 Registered Parameter Number LSB
101 Registered Parameter Number MSB
121 All controllers off
123 All notes off


Maximum length of a midi cable


The recommended maximum length of a midi cable is 15 metres (50 feet). However, it may be possible to exceed this length. Here is a useful article from Richmond Sound Design that discusses some of the issues around long midi cable length.


Related midi equipment


MIDI "patchbays". This is a junction box for MIDI signals. MIDI patch bays have several MIDI inputs and outputs, enabling the sending of controller information to several MIDI receivers at the same time.

USB-to-MIDI audio interfaces (essentially an adaptor that transmits a midi signal through into a USB port)

USB outputs from keyboards. These are used to transmit midi information into computers.





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