This is a basic guide that explains what MIDI is, in its several forms and what is meant by the term that I think has been thrown around, “midi recording”
MIDI stands for music instrument digital interface. But the phrase behind MIDI the acronym doesn’t seem to explain anything.
It may help to back up to a time in recent history:
When cell phones first came out, the ring tones were very simple. No doubt, what you were listening to was a midi file. Nowadays, phones can play back mp3s. Why were the ring tones midi? Midi files are extremely small. Like a score of music, They hold the bare essentials: the note and rhythm "data" of a specific piece. Comparable to the size of a text only word document, it can store minutes of music in only a fraction of a megabyte. An orchestra piece that I wrote last year that has many voices and is 4 minutes long is only 28 KB.
Now, a midi recording? What is that?
There are four different types of digital midi recordings:
- 1. Basic Note Entry
2. Basic note entry and edited
4. Performed and edited
No. 1 and 2 are computer rendered recordings.
Number one describes someone who references a score, and using only the computer and a mouse, inputs the music into finale, Sibelius or musescore. They save their "work" as a midifile. This type of recording is not very artistic at all. No variation in dynamics, no variation in tempo.
Number two is identical to number one, except midi scaling parameters (sus. pedal, tempo, soft pedal, note velocity, quantization and transposition) can be edited.
Both No. 3 and 4 are digital recordings. No. 3 is human rendered, without computer manipulation but 4 is a type of hybrid recording combining human playing with computer manipulation.
Number three describe someone who has a electronic keyboard with MIDI I/O. With some type of program for ex. Acoustica Mixcraft, the pianist can record a piece, and the computer will play it back verbatim. Or a keyboard with an onboard MIDI recorder. There are two different types of playback. If one wants to use the keyboard, that is a possibility, or for higher quality piano sounds, one may want to use a piano sampler EastWest QL pianos, Synthogy Ivory, Alicia’s Keys, there’s many different brands.
Number four is identical to number three but is like number 2. Say there is a note blurred at bar 7. Even if it’s soft you can get rid of it. Or a note should be softer at another measure, no problem, fix the volume by adjusting the note velocity parameter. What is interesting is, say you have a piece that consists of four modulating chords throughout. You could record the piece with all the wrong notes, but your desired note velocity and pedal, and edit the right notes in later and it will sound note perfect. Many call this cheating, fair enough. It may take weeks and weeks to practice and record a piece well, the old-fashioned way. No. 4 or 2 provide a shortcut, but the results may not be better for the one who takes it.
Here’s a question: how can one tell what is a midi recording and what is not?
The simple answer, is, unless you witness the recording, you cannot. Sometimes it’s very hard to tell. But if it sounds superhuman, it probably is not No. 3 but in fact, 1 or 2 or 4. For ex. between two notes, say there is a very large difference dynamically. Or when there is no dynamic variation at all, and it sounds mechanical, then you’re probably hearing No. 1.
here are some other MIDI resources: