How can one or two musicians sound like a full band? The answer is MIDI. It's the abbreviation for "Musical Instrument Digital Interface." It's the electronic "language" that is "spoken" between different instruments and the main device (computer) controlling them.
Put simply, MIDI allows different instruments to communicate with one another and with a central computer. It could be compared to a group of people who all speak different languages trying to communicate. A person who speaks Spanish could issue a command in Spanish to someone who speaks French. An interface would translate that information into a code. The code would be transferred via a cable to the person who speaks French. That code would in turn transmit the original message in French. That same code could be transmitted to another person in any other language. The message will be understood as long as all are on a common interface.
Musical Instrument Digital Interface allows any MIDI-capable instrument to interact with any other MIDI instrument and/or computer. This makes it possible for one central computer or instrument to control every other device connected to it. The devices are connected via MIDI cables. The cables transmit the information from device to device.
MIDI is most commonly associated with electronic keyboards. The reason is that keyboards were among the earliest instruments to be manufactured MIDI-capable. Electronic keyboards tend to be the preferred instrument for creating MIDI files. Keyboards are also among the simplest to use as command centers for a bank of connected instruments.
Today, however, there are numerous instruments that are manufactured with MIDI interfaces. MIDI guitars and drum machines are common. Wind and brass instruments can also be MIDI capable.
Musical Instrument Digital Interface is different from an audio recording. Audio recording is a replication of sound waves. A MIDI file on the other hand is actually a code. No sound waves are recorded. Instead, a file is created which contains coded information. The information can then be transferred from instrument to instrument or computer. The receiving device "reads" the code, and it is interpreted in that device's "language."
Let's use the electronic keyboard as an example. A musician could play a particular song on the keyboard. MIDI turns that music into a binary code. The code contains information on what keys were pressed. It also interprets things like:
* The amount of pressure applied to the keys.
* The intervals between each key pressed.
* Whether the pitch changes while a key is pressed.
This code can then be transferred to other devices. The same song can be then be reproduced. MIDI files can also be created on a regular computer. The files can then be transferred to various instruments.
It's even possible to control other devices through Musical Instrument Digital Interface. A lighting system is one example of this. An entire bank of stage lights can be controlled by a computer or even an electronic keyboard.
What does this mean for musicians and performers? One person could conceivably give a stage performance utilizing multiple instruments simultaneously. This same lone musician could even be his own light technician. He can do it all and sing too by simply pressing computer or electronic keyboard keys at the right times.
MIDI revolutionized the world of music and performance. The technology continues to have wide-reaching application possibilities. Its quality has greatly improved since it was first invented in the early 1980s. Today Musical Instrument Digital Interface is considered an essential part of many performer's and band's equipment.
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