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What is it?
“MIDI (/ˈmɪdi/; short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a technical standard that describes a protocol, digital interface and connectors and allows a wide variety of electronic musical instruments, computers and other related devices to connect and communicate with one another. A single MIDI link can carry up to sixteen channels of information, each of which can be routed to a separate device.
MIDI carries event messages that specify notation, pitch and velocity, control signals for parameters such as volume, vibrato, audio panning, cues, and clock signals that set and synchronize tempo between multiple devices. These messages are sent via a MIDI cable to other devices where they control sound generation and other features. A simple example of a MIDI setup is the use of a MIDI controller such as an electronic musical keyboard to trigger sounds created by a sound module. This MIDI data can also be recorded into a hardware or software device called a sequencer, which can be used to edit the data and to play it back at a later time.:4 Advantages of MIDI include compactness (an entire song can be coded in a few hundred lines, i.e. in a few kilobytes), ease of modification and manipulation and a wide choice of electronic instruments and synthesizer or digitally-sampled sounds.“
MIDI technology was standardized in 1983 by a panel of music industry representatives, and is maintained by the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA). All official MIDI standards are jointly developed and published by the MMA in Los Angeles, California, US, and for Japan, the MIDI Committee of the Association of Musical Electronics Industry (AMEI) in Tokyo. In 2016, the MMA established The MIDI Association (TMA) to nurture an inclusive global community of people who work, play, or create with MIDI, establishing the www.MIDI.org website as the central repository of information about anything related to MIDI technology, from early MIDI technology to future developments.“ Wikipédia
In other words, a midi file is not really a sound file, but a file containing the information needed to control a digital musical instrument or music software.
What’s the point?
Here are 3 examples of use by pianists:
1. With a digital piano or synthesizer that can play midi files:
2. With Synthesia or other equivalent software, to learn a song.
3. To print a piano sheet.
Imagine you want to play a song but you can’t find the piano sheet in your shop or Internet, but you have a the midi file of this song. In this case, just open the file in a music score editor software (ScoreCloud, Muse, …), assign the right and left hands channels and print.
Where to find them?
There are many midi files search engines: Just type “midi files” into Google and the displayed list will be long.
Personally, I usually use the search engine VanBasco that is most efficient for my liking.
Another way to search is to search with Google by name extension: If the song title you seek is simple (i.e. one word), then simply type in the song title and then “.mid “(eg “Grennsleeves.mid “). If the title is more complicated, the one who created the file can be named in different ways, try several options.