• Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI, requires free registration): ancient unidirectional standard for keyboard to synth communication (Prophet 600, 1982); replaced analog "control voltage" schemes

  • "Instrument" is a synth. "Controller" is a keyboard or something

  • Physical interface is… a thing. Two-wire serial interface on 5-pin DIN connector (also AT keyboard connector). 5ma current loop with optical isolation required. 31250 bps (halfway between 19200 and 38400, ugh) 8N1 (each byte transmitted as eight bits followed by one "stop bit")

  • USB MIDI Device Class trades jitter and (maybe) latency for simplicity and throughput; MIDI←→USB interfaces start around $10 on Amazon.

MIDI Protocol

  • 1-3 byte messages

    • 1st byte is "Status Byte" with high bit set,

    • Rest are data bytes

    • Special case: "System Exclusive" status messages are arbitrary length, terminated by status message (usually EOX)

  • 16 "channels" used to address specific instruments: management can get fairly complicated. "Thru" MIDI is part of standard for chaining instruments; latency is a thing here

  • Key messages (pun intended): Note-On, Note-Off. These can have "velocity" of press and release encoded

  • Support for pitch bend, continuous controllers, pushbuttons. Volume, Balance, Pan, Expression etc are standardized

  • Bank / Program / Patch support for changing instrument sound

  • Much, much more: read the spec

MIDI Timing, Sequencing, "MIDI Files"

  • Keyboards are realtime, but MIDI can handle

    • Synchronizing messages to specific times

    • Driving a sequencer on-beat

    • Playing MIDI files: standard format for timed MIDI messages

Silencing An Instrument

  • No great way to tell whether a serial MIDI controller has been disconnected

  • Easy to end up with "stuck notes" after failing to receive NOTE OFF messages for this or other reasons

  • Instrument should have easy local way to silence; should respond to ALL NOTES OFF and ALL SOUNDS OFF messages

Working With MIDI

  • Get a library. This stuff gets a bit complicated

  • For a controller: figure out what you want to be able to make an instrument do; figure out what minimum set of messages will make an instrument do that

  • For an instrument: figure out what you want the instrument be able to do; figure out what message you have to and are willing to respond to

  • Start bare-bones, add functionality incrementally

Last modified: Thursday, 30 April 2020, 6:26 PM