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Can someone please explain to me what MIDI is?


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I have poked around on the internet, but I still don't quite understand what it is. :facepalm: I guess I need it in layman's terms, or something. I've never quite grasped what it is, although it's everywhere, apparantly.

 

:confused:

 

And then what are MIDI instruments? Are they software programs? Is the Midi interface simply a data converter?

 

...posting this here because I think you guys might better be able to speak my language than a more technical forum.

 

Thanks!

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Most simply put, MIDI is the protocol for different instruments to "talk" to each other and to be operated remotely.

 

If you have a keyboard with a MIDI output, you can plug that into another keyboard or rack module with a MIDI input and the first keyboard will play the sounds on the second.

 

Or you can use MIDI for changing programs or any number of other commands remotely.

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The short answer is that it is a major advance over the paper rolls used to run player pianos.

 

The paper roll always hits with the same force - MIDI has controls over that.

 

The paper roll can only play a pianola - MIDI can play any instrument (often instruments) with the proper port(s).

 

The paper roll is read-only - some instruments can write a MIDI file simply by being played or as stated above, play another instrument using the first instrument's controls and the second instrument's voices, possibly with the first instrument's voices as well.

 

The paper roll is a bear to copy - MIDI files can be reproduced at a rate that would make a rabbit blush.

 

The wiseass answer is: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=what+is+midi

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Thank you all so far. :) This is what I'm looking for. Yes, I googled and wiki'd. :poke:

 

It's a controller, not a data converter, then. Will do some re-reading.

 

I think I get the paper roll thing. The paper roll tells the piano what to play.

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Thank you all so far.
:)
This is what I'm looking for. Yes, I googled and wiki'd. :poke:


It's a controller, not a data converter, then. Will do some re-reading.


I think I get the paper roll thing. The paper roll tells the piano what to play.

 

No, it's not a controller. But these days, most controllers operate via MIDI. MIDI is the system by which one keyboard can control another. Or a sequencer could control a keyboard or sound module through MIDI.

 

MIDI, itself, doesn't tell anything what to play. You could make an analogy that a sequencer is like a piano roll. But not that MIDI is like a piano roll.

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It's a controller, not a data converter, then.

 

 

Well, MIDI itself is basically a protocol - a set of standards that allow for device to communicate (interface)

 

So a "MIDI INTERFACE" really just enables a device to use and communicate with a MIDI protocol.

What needs to be done to get this or that to interface via MIDI just depends

 

A Pitch-to-MIDI converter, for instance, can have different challenges thn a "MIDI interface" that allows a personal computer to communicate over MIDI

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Think of MIDI like USB. (Except that all units, thankfully, use the same sized plug....)

 

I wish :(

 

the MIDI spec actually allows for a variety of "transports"

 

chordgrl - that part isn't really going to be of interest to ya

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I wish
:(

the MIDI spec actually allows for a variety of "transports"


 

I know. I'm just trying to make the very basics understandable in a way that the stupid "piano roll" analogy failed (and probably leads only to more confusion).

 

You can use a USB cable in order to have your computer and another device communicate and interface with one another. And these days, most everyone with a computer understands what they can do with a USB cable (even if they do not understand the specifics of how it is happening).

 

This is roughly analogous to the interfacing that occurs with connecting two MIDI devices together.

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I know. I'm just trying to make the very basics understandable in a way that the stupid "piano roll" analogy failed.

 

 

Well, the thing is - it's like the piano roll analogy. It's attaching something (in his case sequencer function, in your case transport) that isn't inherent in the MIDI standard

 

and I think the motivation is also very similar, both you and he take some liberties to help explain some core concepts

 

 

 

This is roughly analogous to the interfacing that occurs with connecting two MIDI devices together.

 

 

but that doesn't require that we mention (erroneously) that MIDI has a universal transport configuration for that concept

We can simply do without it

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MIDI, itself, doesn't tell anything what to play.

 

Sure it does:

 

http://cnx.org/content/m15049/latest/

 

A MIDI message conveys information between MIDI-capable equipment. For example, a message could indicate that a note should begin sounding, or that a specific type of sound be selected, or that the position of a pitch-bender control has just changed.

 

 

Now if what you are doing is referring to the "Interface", then you have ignored the request to put things in layman's terms.

 

MIDI is almost universally understood to be the content of the messages, and not the general idea of the protocol, which is quite frankly a useless abstraction in the practical sense.

 

Don't confuse the term "interface" in MIDI with the actual connector; that is actually not what it is referring to.

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Sure it is.


In fact, that's one of the best analogies I've heard in a long time.

 

 

No. A piano roll itself directs which notes are played on the piano. The closer analogy to a piano roll is a sequencer. MIDI is the protocol by which the sequencer data is transmitted.

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No. A piano roll
itself
directs which notes are played on the piano. The closer analogy to a piano roll is a sequencer. MIDI is the protocol by which the sequencer data is transmitted.

 

A useless abstraction, suitable only for analysts and engineers.

 

The MIDI protocol specifies messages: these messages include note on, note off, and so on.

 

If that's not "directing" what notes to play, I don't know what is.

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Sure it does:





Now if what you are doing is referring to the "Interface", then you have ignored the request to put things in layman's terms.


Except that the OP used the term "interface", so I figure we can carry things at the level.

 

 

MIDI is almost universally understood to be the content of the messages,

 

 

Then that's a mis-understanding that needs to be made clear. Since note data, program change data, pitch change data, or any number of other content can be transmiitted via MIDI, understanding MIDI as the content of the messages is completely erroneous.

 

 

and not the general idea of the protocol, which is quite frankly a useless abstraction in the practical sense.

 

 

The word "protocol" is a bit abstract, I agree. But I couldn't think of a better word to convey that MIDI is neither the content being transmitted nor is it a 'data converter'.

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I have poked around on the internet, but I still don't quite understand what it is.
:facepalm:
I guess I need it in layman's terms, or something. I've never quite grasped what it is, although it's everywhere, apparantly.


:confused:

And then what are MIDI instruments? Are they software programs? Is the Midi interface simply a data converter?


...posting this here because I think you guys might better be able to speak my language than a more technical forum.


Thanks!

Basically you are sending control messages to a sound module of some kind.

 

Of course the protocol has to have some way to tell the module what sound to play.

 

Of course, a manufacturer is free to place any instrument he desires at a given location. IN order to create some kind of reasonable standard, the General MIDI spec was born. This quite simply specifies that certain banks/patches should always sound the same instrument.

 

Does that make sense?

 

As far as "MIDI Instruments" - well, that term is not quite correct so I'll just have to guess that what you mean is an instrument that is General MIDI compatible (true of all semi-modern soundcards, and the reason why a piano MIDI file that you download sounds like a piano and not a flute or a dog barking)

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If that's not "directing" what notes to play, I don't know what is.

 

Your fingers on a keyboard, or a sequencer program is directing the "note on/note off" commands. MIDI isn't doing it.

 

That's like saying that if I play use my computer keyboard and my computer hardware to play an MP3 file that is on my phone which is hooked up to my computer via a USB cable and ports, that USB is "directing" the command to play the file.

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No. A piano roll
itself
directs which notes are played on the piano. The closer analogy to a piano roll is a sequencer. MIDI is the protocol by which the sequencer data is transmitted.

 

 

It's important to remember, with mechanical systems the protocol and the medium are often closely linked (so we can sometimes tend to "shorthand" or accidentally attach associations - like that MIDI uses a DIN-5 connector)

 

I mean player piano roll is not a sequencer, the piano itself is the sequencer- the roll is actually a memory medium which has, using a protocol, a sequence encoded on it.

 

but like you, I think the intent of the piano-roll analogy (which is actually one I remember decently popular from when MIDI came out) takes liberties in order to describe some core concepts -

I think there may be some disagreement as to how helpful it will be (and how much distortion there will be, but I don't think it's stupid

rather just a different approach, maybe a little cavalier - but again, I think it's the same intent, to get chrdgirl up and running with the world of MIDI

 

 

As far as "protocol" - I think it's going to be abstract b/c it describes an abstract concept and I think that's OK as long as "abstract" doesn't make it "unclear" - now this we can help with simply defining or explaining "protocol"

 

maybe something along the lines of "a set of standards, formats, or rules controlling communication" would help

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Basically you are sending control messages to a sound module of some kind.


Of course the protocol has to have some way to tell the module what sound to play.


Of course, a manufacturer is free to place any instrument he desires at a given location. IN order to create some kind of reasonable standard, the General MIDI spec was born. This quite simply specifies that certain banks/patches should always sound the same instrument.


Does that make sense?


As far as "MIDI Instruments" - well, that term is not quite correct so I'll just have to guess that what you mean is an instrument that is General MIDI compatible (true of all semi-modern soundcards, and the reason why a piano MIDI file that you download sounds like a piano and not a flute or a dog barking)

 

 

It would help if she had been more specific about what it is she wants to know about MIDI and what can be done with it rather than a general "what is it" question.

 

By "MIDI instruments", I assume she was talking generally about keyboards and sound modules, but it could be the General Midi protocol, I suppose.

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It's important to remember, with mechanical systems the protocol and the medium are often very closely linked


I mean player piano roll is not a sequencer, the piano itself is the sequencer- the roll is actually a memory medium which has, using a protocol, a sequence encoded on it.


. Yes, more specfically, a piano roll would be analogous to the sequencer data itself, stored in digital bits rather than raised dots on a sheet.

 

 

but like you, I think the intent of the piano-roll analogy (which is actually one I remember decently popular from when MIDI came out) takes liberties in order to describe some core concepts -

I think there may be some disagreement as to how helpful it will be (and how much distortion there will be, but I don't think it's stupid

rather just a different approach.

I thought the 'piano roll' analogy confusing, but if it helps the OP to understand the concepts better, than that's all that matters.

 

 

 

As far as "protocol" - I think it's going to be abstract b/c it describes an abstract concept and I think that's OK as long as "abstract" doesn't make it "unclear" - now this we can help with simply defining or explaining "protocol"


maybe something along the lines of "a set of standards, formats, or rules controlling communication" would help

 

 

The OP may have been closer than any of us when she first described it as a "data converter"....

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. Yes, more specfically, a piano roll would be analogous to the sequencer data itself, stored in digital bits rather than raised dots on a sheet.

 

 

Well, the roll would be the memory medium, not sequencer data

the data would be encoded ONTO to the memory medium

(through a protocol) and is REPRESENTED by holes

 

Now, while the holes themselves are discrete events, I don't think that we can specifically say that it is digital b/c the time domain could still be continuous (provided the roll can punch between clicks in an escapement mechanism - this could vary from design to design) and analog -- much like PWM or PLM

 

but this is probably not helpful to chrdgirl - so, while we all have different communication styles. I think we each try to help chordgirl as we can and, hopefully, a different approach doesn't have to be seen as stupid

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