A Brief Look at MIDI

By Derek Hardman
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An abbreviation for "Musical Instrument Digital Interface," MIDI became a revolutionary mediator between various analog synthesizers designed and produced by different manufacturers and the musical instruments and components that were filtered through them. Before the advent of MIDI technology, there existed few options for musicians and producers to integrate multiple synthesizers. CV ("Control Voltage") sequencing was one of the few pre-MIDI methods for affecting integration. However, this only lent the appearance of integration, given that power was directed to one synthesizer at a time, albeit at an accelerated rate that approached simultaneity but never achieved it.

Operating much in the same fashion as Player Pianos, MIDI functions as imperative data, as opposed to audio media, giving commands for pitch, tempo, volume and other values which affect and inform the audio media at hand. This is one of MIDI's most distinct advantages: audio values are entirely flexible. Pitch, tempo and volume can be adjusted without undoing the structural parameters. It is for this reason that MIDI can add a great deal of detail, nuance and enhanced effect on audio media, while keeping the track or composition intact.

MIDI messages can be separated onto any number of channels provided by the MIDI or audio production software program. These channels operate similarly to cable television, in that all channels are simultaneously trasmitting data, while one alone is being viewed at a time. Many MIDI keyboards and devices make it possible to toggle between channels with speed and efficiency. However, many users aren't likely to need multiple MIDI channels, instead opting fto use a sequencer to aggregate multiple channels into a cohesive whole.

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MIDI sequencers come in several varieties with specific or generalized functionality. The most common sequencers are the Piano-Roll and Step Sequencers. While more specific and nuanced sequencers dedicated to monophonic or polyphonic compositions are also available in some programs. Less common sequencers, such as Numerology's CV sequencer bring MIDI-functionality to a pre-MIDI mode of sequencing.

As computer technology continues to play a larger role in audio production and musical performance, the role that MIDI plays is only likely to expand. The renewed emphasis on MIDI tasks and functions by audio production software programs like FL Studio and Digital Performer only seems to prove that.

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