MIDI Basics for Modern Musicians

MIDI basics for modern musician


You will agree with me that it is easy to overlook the basic stuffs. But, when you have someone remind you, you will wonder why you haven’t thought about it. In this post, I want to treat the MIDI, one of the things you should know about whether you are a new musician or one with experience.

A MIDI (Music Instrument Digital Interface) is a tool for controlling every other instruments in your studio. It can help you shape your music the way you like. As a newbie, you want to be the next synth-master or a professional mixologist. And no matter how new you may be, you must have come across the word – MIDI.

A MIDI controller is a tool that will help you become the musician you like. It is a powerful tool for people in the digital world. As a caveat, it can get complex and complicated. But you can grab the underlying concept with ease.

The beginning of a revolution

What is the MIDI? What can it do for you? And how is it fairing in the digital world? MIDI is getting more popular day by day. With more platforms adopting it – both the software and the hardware way – it will soon become a necessity for aspiring musicians and DJs. Android devices now have a connection with MIDI.

iOS devices are getting dedicated apps developed for just MIDI. It is a matter of time before a musician will become irrelevant without the knowledge of MIDI. When the idea of the MIDI was conceived, it was to ensure smooth communications and a universal connection without any restriction from any company. It is a system that is built to integrate gear from any company without hindrance.

Some of the things you can do with MIDI includes:

  • With the amazing power of MIDI, you can control one keyboard with another keyboard, as long as they are connected.
  • You can record your sound to your computer, play, and edit it on the computer. Then you can play that same sound on your keyboard again. Ensure you install your sequencer program before attempting to edit MIDI data.
  • You can download MIDI data online and playback on your instrument. You can load the data to your instrument using a USB thumb drive.

What the MIDI doesn’t stand for

  • MIDI don’t make sound.
  • It’s just a data.
  • If you understand this, it will save you a lot of stress later on.

Now, let’s compare a MIDI to a computer to make things simpler.

When you press a key on your laptop keyboard, the keyboard sends a code (which is transmitted through the ASCII protocol) as a text to the CPU. This is then displayed on your screen. The same way, when you press a key on a MIDI keyboard, a code is transmitted – using MIDI specification – to a tone generator which recognizes it and plays it.

Aside from this, MIDI also transmits information about your style of hitting the keyboard, the volume levels about based on your foot pedal position. In fact, may Broadway shows now employ MIDI technology to control lighting. Many companies are now using it for home security control. And you can also use it to play ring tones on your phone.

MIDI presents a lot of opportunities for musicians and those outside the profession. Most importantly, MIDI is not limited to just controllers. And is not always hardware based. You can run many software-based virtual MIDI instruments on your phone (Android and iOS), tablet (especially iPad), and your computer.

MIDI Channels

There are 16 channels for transmitting MIDI messages. This means there are 16 distinct channels through which you can send MIDI data, all defined by ports. At one end, you have where MIDI data is sent and the other end is where it is received – this is where we have MIDI receivers. So you can send different data through each channel without one obstructing the other.

You can send different information to different devices at once. You can be playing bass in Channel 1 and a cool beat in Channel 5. All these could be done through a single USB connection.

MIDI Devices

Most MIDI devices comes with 5 pin DIN cables. They also have MIDI ports which is three – MIDI In, Out, Thru.

connectorsTraditional MIDI uses these connectors, which allow multiple devices to be connected at once. However, newer versions are connected through Bluetooth or USB cable.

The MIDI In is responsible for accepting MIDI data coming from external sources. The MIDI data controls the tone generator in your synthesizer while the MIDI Out sends out MIDI data to the other devices in your setup.

The Thru port is responsible for sending data to the the MIDI system. This data is not different from the one that was received by the In and it takes a very short time for this process to be completed.

MIDI Message

There are only two widely used MIDI message – MIDI note-on and note-off. The note-on is created when you press a key. The note-off is created when you release the key. The MIDI note message on the other hand defines how hard the key was hit, how long, and what channel the note was played on.

Other Applications

You can also record MIDI data. And you can manipulate it in different ways that is not possible with audio. This means you don’t have to commit to a particular sound when you record it with MIDI unlike when you record audio. You can record a note at a slow tempo and play it at a faster pace later on. This will not affect the pitch at all. Adjusting notes and sound you have played is also possible with MIDI.

Most DAWs comes with advanced MIDI features and sequence program that enables you to adjust sound with ease. Another possibility is the Web MIDI. With this, you can play music remotely, stream MIDI data from the web for playback, and even take lessons. And you don’t need a strong internet connection to do all these things.

MIDI and Virtual Instruments

Since MIDI does not transmit sound, you need some sort of hardware that can help you translate the code sent by MIDI into something useful. This hardware is called virtual instrument. It is also known as plug-in or VI in short. Most sequencing program have built-in virtual instruments so you don’t need to purchase a plug-in separately if you already have that.

Virtual instruments usually come with different sounds or focus on a group or timbre. These sounds are designed to cater for people from different categories. So if you are looking for piano sounds, epic drum kits, etc, you will be able to get a plug-in dedicated to that.

MIDI is not just an object

Most beginners often asks questions like: “which is the best MIDI for my computer? Which MIDI is the best for mixing sound? MIDI is actually a concept. And you need to understand it before you venture into the world of music creation.

If you are just starting out, you are starting just at the right time because there are lots of resources like this article that helps you understand what MIDI is all about.

Standard MIDI File

The Standard MIDI file is a program that helps to improve the portability between different systems. There is a specification for MIDI standard that can enhance the compatibility between MIDI notation and sequencing programs. This file is represented in “.mid” and often includes many controls like pitch bend, notes, patch selections, etc. The advantage is that you can run varied programs on different systems without suffering compatibility issues.

General MIDI

The General MIDI is another MIDI specification that enables unification of sounds when played on different devices. To do this, a patch number is assigned to each sound. For example, a piano sound can be assigned a patch number of 31. Therefore, when you play the sound on different keyboards, it will always be a piano sound, even though it may not be exactly the same. If you want to learn more about the patch numbers assigned to different sounds, you can see this guide on MIDI.org.

Travel Tips For Touring Musicians

travel tips for musician

If you are always on the road or are planning to go overseas, you need to pay attention to certain things. Things that can make your life easier. In this article, we have gathered some interesting tips that can make your travel easier and sweet.

Travel Tip

1. Before leaving home, make a copy of your ID at home. The last thing you want to allow to happen is to lose your passport or driver’s license in a foreign country without a copy at home. If this happen to you, then you won’t be able to leave that country without proper identification. And if it happens to you in your home country, passing the airport screening section is impossible. If you leave a copy with a trusted person at home, you will be able to create a temporary passport in a foreign embassy when your passport gets lost or is stolen.

2. Make sure you have a backup for your itinerary. Have a copy of everything you need to ensure a successful tour. This include contact information, hotel names, flight number and times, etc. Keep a printed copy with you always. Then store another copy in a secure location – for example, online. Yes, your cellphone can do all these too. However, what happens when the battery is down? The main purpose of keeping a backup is so that you will have access to all your documents at any time. Keeping this type of sensitive information in your phone is risky because your phone can be stolen or get lost and the purpose will be defeated.

3. Take shots of every luggage. All your luggage as well as carry-on should be pictured and stored in your smartphone. Moreover, ensure the brand of the luggage is clearly visible. This is the first question you will be asked when you file a claim. And if possible, use a label on all luggage. You can help the police and airline personnel to locate your luggage quickly with all these information. In addition, make a list of all the items you have in each bag. Store it securely online. When a bag gets lost or missing, you will have evidence of not only what’s in it when you file a claim but also how the bags looks like for easy identification.

4. Make the plan complete by coming with a hand luggage. Despite the effort of airline personnel, baggage still gets missing from time to time. And the effect can be disastrous if you are not well prepared. You can curb the aftermath of such event by keeping a pair of socks, underwear, toothpaste and travel size toothbrush in your hand luggage. When you get missing luggage, you still have access to all your personal hygiene stuffs. You can be calm while the hunt for the missing item continues.

Proper Maintenance is Essential

5. Be methodical with your packing. You don’t have to cut out the necessities you will need on your tour all in the name of trimming down. If you are a touring musician, it’s best to bring two laptops with you always. You may be devastated when your laptop is stolen and you have a show the next day. Backup alone may not be enough. When you have two laptops, you can use one for all things music and the other one for every other thing.

6. Pack efficiently to avoid excessive luggage fees. Although this seems to overlap with the point above, however, trimming down efficiently is different from just trimming down your package. The key is to think strategically when packing the things you need for travel. This will leave you with the bare necessities and you will still have everything you need.

7. Another tip is to purchase a baggage with lifetime warranty. You can easily fix pieces that are badly beaten by frequent traveling. You can also get a lock for all your baggage so that all your items are safe. The advantage of a lifetime warranty is that you don’t worry too much about your baggage when it develops fault that are not as a result of usage.

8. Be indifferent to scenarios as they occur. This is because some things will happen that pleases you while others will displease you. Being able to flow with the tide of your condition is the key to a calm mind during travel. It will help you maintain your sanity and be in the proper mood for your shows.

9. Put your cellphone before embarking on the journey. This is incumbent upon you when you are on a long journey. And it will save you when your flight is delayed or your route is interrupted. Another useful tip is to invest in noise cancellation ear-pods. Yes, they are expensive. But you will appreciate them when you need to engage in a creative activity while the plane is in commotion.

Take Full Account of your Luggage

10. Although the reason for your travel and what you intend to do on getting to your destination will guide your packing, you still need to ensure you put down the absolute essentials. For example, if you don’t like your food to be delayed during your flight.

11. Another tip is to carry your MIDI controller and other smaller equipment that will help you keep up with your art. You don’t need to carry lots of gadget. And if you need space, you can roll your clothes instead of folding them. This will save space. The kind of clothing you carry with you should be of polyester and cotton. If you can carry half of each, this is better.

Summing Up

Finally, you might want to take your favorite meal with you. In fact, most travel pros pack food in their luggage. So this is not a new thing. According to Heather Poole, a blogger at www.heatherpoole.com, the number of flight attendants that carry food with them is more than those who don’t. They do this in consideration of the two most important packing problems – weather and terrain. Because of these two, you may worry about coats, umbrellas and the likes. You can solve this problem by using thermal T-shirt and long underwear. You can also use sweaters and layer them to create more space.

How to Improve Your Playing Technique on Your Phone


If you want to learn bass, ukulele, guitar, you don’t need to register for expensive courses or spend a lifetime in front of a MIDI controller.

With your phone, piano, and some time on your hand, you can learn all the basics you need to play them.

In this article, we have come up with apps that are free (with extra features unlocked in full versions) to you at any time.


If you want to jumpstart and shorten your learning curve, you need to get Yousician on your phone.

Yousician, a free app for iOS and Android devices, can help you achieve your goal.

The Yousician is an app that teaches musical notation and basic playing techniques in a step-by-step lesson to beginners like you.

In each lesson, you are presented with a challenge. While attempting these, the app listens to your playing.

In addition, using your physical keyboard, the app will rate you and grant access to a subsequent lesson after you have completed one.

The app will help you to learn from spoken instructions, video hints, and visual feedback as you practice strumming musical strings on your piano.

Although the app alone won’t turn you into an expert, you will soon learn that the extensive lessons in the app are a step towards the right path.

Moreover, the lessons are easy to follow and you get instant/constant visual feedback to improve your hand technique and knowledge of musical theory.

The downside to this app is that you may have to subscribe to its Pro version – which costs $20/month for each instrument – to get maximum benefit. The free version is only limited to lessons.

You can get Yousician here.


Simply Piano

Simply Piano is another app to cook up your learning. Unlike Yousician, it is only available for iOS users.

The lessons in Simply Piano are arranged in a step-by-step order with different courses.

It is more or less a text base program since it lacks the voice-over and graphical cues that Yousician boasts of.

However, it will help you make effective use of your piano or MIDI controller by telling you how well you are playing.

The app features many courses, but only two are available in the free version. To unlock all the courses, you need to subscribe to $15/month.

Simply Piano is available here.


Perfect Piano

Since Simply Piano is only for iOS users, Android users will find a good alternative in Perfect Piano.

Perfect Piano is a nice app that features onscreen graphics instructions as it helps you play to wide range of music ranging from classical to popular.

Moreover, it is a designed to be used with its onscreen keyboard so if you don’t have a real keyboard to use, you won’t have any problem.

Like the others here, it is free; however, you may have to unlock the full features before you can enjoy it to the fullest.

Perfect Piano is available here.

Traktor Effects Controller


Another app is the TKFX app, designed by Traktor for those that want to expand their control music creation tools.

This app is available for Android and iOS devices, especially iPad. It lets you control effects in real time.

Using MIDI mapping, the app creates two axes (X/Y grid) and allows you to set parameters to both. To use this device, you need to download a small app (free) on your Mac or PC that will serve as the medium between you and the device.

It is available free on www.tkfxapp.com and contains in-app purchases for extending the features from Traktor.


There are many more applications that you can use on your phone and start learning or improve your knowledge of MIDI controllers. With this in place, you can learn on the go and come back home to apply the knowledge in real-life.