About the MIDI format

Music Files creation on mfiles Although MIDI was developed to allow electronic instruments to exchange data, it is a very useful file type for playing music on a computer. You can capture MIDI output easily from an electronic keyboard, and use sequencer programs to edit parts together to create a piece of music. The very small file size also means that MIDI is ideal for downloading music over the Internet, and that is why web-sites offering MIDI files are so popular on the web. Nearly all the MIDI files on mfiles were created directly from Sibelius sheet music versions, and you can find out more about this process in our description of file types.

You will find that many browsers, plug-ins and pre-installed software support the Midi format, so most people can play Midi files simply by clicking them. If your PC is unable to play Midi files or you are looking for something more sophisticated, then there are several specialist applications available. We recommend the MIDI Player from vanBasco Software which is free to download. This calls itself a Karaoke player because it plays "Karaoke" files as well as "MIDI" files (which are very similar). As well as simply playing the files, it provides a lot of details about the file and the tracks within the file, allowing you to control parameters during the playback. In addition, the vanBasco website also has a search engine which allows you to find MIDI files on the Internet.

MIDI Tracks and Limitations

Music Keyboard MIDI files consist of a number of separate "tracks" which normally represent the different instrument that are playing. Most sound modules or sound cards (usually built into your PC) are described as "multitimbral" which means they can play more than one instrument at a time. Typically a sound card might be capable of playing say 16 tracks or instruments at a time, and most of the mfiles MIDI files are well within this limit. However some orchestral music can have a very large number of instruments playing simultaneously and some sound cards may have difficulty playing these. So if your soundcard seems to play some works with instruments missing, then this is probably the reason. This problem can be avoided for symphonic music by using the alternative mp3 format instead.

MIDI Standards

MIDI notes The MIDI standard uses a number between 1 and 127 to identify an instrument and it is important for compatibility reasons to be consistent in the way these codes are mapped to instruments. The common standard for this mapping is called General MIDI (or GM, and this is usually sufficient for the vast majority of musical pieces. On mfiles most MIDI files adopt the General MIDI standard. The General MIDI standard was found to be too restrictive because of its limitation on the number and type of instruments supported, so this has been extended. This is where the term "standard" breaks down, because the General MIDI extensions have been carried out in different incompatible ways by competing instrument makers. Yamaha have developed the XG standard and Roland have produced the GS standard, both of which are almost equally popular. We have decided on mfiles to keep to the common standard of General MIDI to avoid this problem. Although it restricts the sounds we can use, we feel that universal compatibility is more important.