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A Little Background on MIDI

MIDI Basics

The Musical Instruments Digital Interface (MIDI) was conceived in the early 1980's as a method to efficiently represent music for use in a variety of applications. While MIDI sequences are not replicas of original music tracks, MIDI sequences have many advantages over digitized music, such as AIFF audio files, and compressed audio formats such as MP3.

In addition, MIDI is designed to connect (interface) between a variety of devices capable of supporting the standard -- everything from keyboards to sythesizers to computers. This means that a composer can use a MIDI-capable keyboard, for example, to record notes and easily transfer the information into a computer where it can be assembled into multi-track recordings and arrangements.

For more detailed information on the MIDI standard, please review the Tutorial on MIDI and Music Synthesis. It contains a thorough overview of the standard and its technical makeup.

MIDI vs. MP3 & RealAudio

MIDI tracks require far less computer overhead than an MP3 file, both in bandwith and processing power. Anyone who has tried to download an MP3 track over a modem can tell you how frustrating it is to wait for a half an hour to download a single music track, only to have the internet connection drop before the entire file downloads, or find that the track is not one you want to listen to.

By contrast, even the slowest modem connection can download an entire MIDI file in less than a minute. MIDI sequences are many times smaller than any form of digitized audio track. A typical MP3 track runs approximately 1,000K of disk space for every minute of music. Even the lowest quality RealAudio stream can run over 100K per minute. But an entire MIDI track seldom runs over 40K -- 95% smaller than an MP3! And the quality never degrades.

MIDI sequences are so much smaller because they do not contain a recording of the music. Instead, they are similar to a player piano, in that they are simply a set on instructions that tell a MIDI-enabled device what notes to play. This information also includes other information, such as the pitch, tempo, and instruments to represent.

MIDI sequences also have considerably more modest system requirements than the various digitized audio formats. Playing RealAudio and MP3 files requires a mid-range Pentium class PC or PowerPC-based Macintosh computer. MIDI files can easily be reproduced on 10 year old computers!

MIDI Applications

MIDI sequences' compact form makes them ideal for applications where space and computer system overhead are at a premium. For example, video game soundtracks, music for websites, and background accompaniments on synthesizers are all excellent applications for MIDI.

Also, since each instrument in a sequence is represented by steams of information, it is possible for the listener to control which instruments are played, the tempo and the pitch. Conductors can even experiments by changing instruments. This makes MIDI an excellent tool for music instructors, or for individuals or bands learning a new arrangement.

MIDI Backing Tracks and Sequences by Dan Bergstrom and Monster Tracks

The key to MIDI is the experience and talents of the arranger. Dan Bergstrom has created literally thousands of MIDI backing tracks and sequences, both originals and adapted versions of favorites spanning five decades, keeping true to the original artists' sound and feel. His attention to detail is unmatched. In most cases, with the appropriate sound equipment, you'll swear you're listening to a real audio track!

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