Monday, October 15, 2007

Thing 43: Midi Files

In my humble opinion, one of the coolest things available on the Net is Midi files.

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and was first standardized back in the early ‘80s. Even as old as they are Midi files are wondrous things, especially for musicians. Midis are small files (20-50k) that tell a sequencer how to play a particular song. The thing that’s so cool is that you can change virtually everything in the song. The tempo, the key, even the instruments playing the individual parts can be changed and then saved. I use midis to give my aspiring rock star 12 year old a back-up band and to hear how, for instance, a bass line is played.

Here’s the Wikipedia article on Midis

The first thing you need is a sequencer and there's a good free one called the Jazzware Jazz++ Midi Sequencer. Just scroll down a bit to find it. You'll need to install it.

Now you’ll need an actual midi file. Just stick the name of a tune along with the word midi into Google and you should find a bunch. Alternatively, go here and download the old ‘60s hit Rhythm of the Rain. Left click to hear it and right click SAVE TARGET AS… to download it. Don’t blink as it’ll only take a second.

Discovery Exercise

Open the midi in the sequencer

1. Play it with the arrow at the top and then
2. Change tempos (r or l click on speed)
3. Mute or solo instruments (click on P)
4. Change instruments (click on the instrument)

Also, of all the things you can find easily on the net, one thing that’s difficult to find is sheet music. Here’s how to get some. Go to the midi converters for Windows part of hitsquad.com and download MidiNotate Player v1.1.1 I’m sure there must be others but I found this one pretty easily.

Install it and pop in a midi file and presto-printable sheet music.

Finally, if you can’t find a midi for some song but you have the chords, here’s a $10 program that allows you to quickly turn those chords into an accompaniment. I use it. It works great. It’s called Band Minus One.


- By R.A. Meyer

4 comments:

R.A. Meyer said...

Sorry everybody that Jazzware link is dead. I just sent Helene the corrected post.--RA

Russ said...

I'm a huge fan of midi files. I enjoy downloading good arrangements & playing them back through my Roland sound module & they're reall good for learning difficult parts in a given song. -rureed

>>5p34k1nt0ngu35<< said...

Songtrellis has a section that allows you to listen to chord changes and download the midi files for them.

Harriet said...

midis are amongst the only formats that we still have left from the pre windows 95 era. Either way it's probably better than the old .wavs. I just got some professional free midi files and am having issues integrating them into reason though.