On the mfiles site we provide lots of free music files to download. This is a quick guide to the different music formats provided on mfiles, how they are created and how to use them. Firstly a word on downloading files - a lot depends on the type of computer, the software you are using and how it is configured. Sometimes a file will download if you simply click its link. If this doesn't work the try a right-click (clicking with the mouse button furthest to the right) and check the menu which should appear. There will probably be an option to "save file as" or "save target as" or "save link as". Save the file to your computer and then double-click to play it or open it.
The downloadable music files within mfiles are all created using the same process. First we use Sibelius (professional music notation software) to create the sheet music version. Our sheet music is not just designed to look good, but also to sound good. So we pay close attention to how the scores are formatted for musicians to play (including note spacing, font sizes, score layouts, page sizes and page turns), but we also adapt the sheet music to play back in a realistic way (with small changes to note velocities, phrasing and tempos, the way human musicians play naturally). More detail about this process is given in our page About Sheet Music Files. Using Sibelius we create the following file types:
In other words, with very few exceptions, Sibelius is the key tool we use to create all the music files on mfiles.
At mfiles we provide Sheet Music in two formats. There is online sheet music which can be played using the Sibelius Scorch Plug-in. This is easy to download and install and is well worth the effort. When playing back, Scorch sends MIDI information to your soundcard, so it has all the advantages and disadvantages of a MIDI file, but it also allows you to see the score on your screen and follow the music at the same time. You can start the music at any point just by clicking on that position in the score! The other format of sheet music provided allows you to download and print (for personal use only). The printable music is all PDF format which allows you to print good quality music scores with little effort. You need to use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (from Adobe) to print the Sheet Music, but most people will have this already.
Our sheet music is formatted so that it will print on both A4 and Letter size paper.
MIDI is a language that was developed to allow electronic musical instruments to talk to each other. That communication might be real-time, but equally it can be via a file. Such files are great for downloading over the internet because they are very compact. This is because MIDI files don't actually contain sounds but time sequenced instructions for playing music such as "play middle C quite loud" and "stop playing middle C after 2 seconds". Because of this compact method for describing the music, a few pages of piano music will download very quickly, and it's only if you are downloading something like a large orchestral symphony that it might take a little longer to download.
The drawback of MIDI files is that the same file will sound very different played on different PCs. Since the file doesn't contain sounds but instructions, your PC's soundcard has to follow these instructions and generate the sounds using its own library of instrument sounds. Just as different musicians might play the same note in different ways, different makes and models of soundcards can vary in the sound they reproduce to emulate a musical instrument. Most soundcards follow the General MIDI standard for identifying musical instruments, and this standard is followed by the MIDI files on this site. More detail about this file format is given in our page About MIDI Files.
As a download format MIDI files are still very popular, but audio formats such as mp3 are becoming more popular since they don't have this disadvantage and the increasing number of people using broadband now means that download times are not so much of a problem.
Audio CDs contain high quality digital sound sampled at quite a high rate, and you are probably aware that a CD can hold a large amount of information or only about 70 minutes of music, so audio or "WAV" files equivalent to CD quality are very big compared with the duration of the music they contain. MP3 files are simply digital music which is compressed in a way that compromises little in quality since it only removes the least noticable sounds (often those sound which are too high or low for human ears). Even though MP3 files are compressed, they are still large when compared to MIDI files. So if you are using a standard modem, be prepared to wait a while when downloading MP3 files. On mfiles all the mp3 files are compressed at 128 kbps, which provides reasonably good quality without making the files too large to download. More information about the mp3 file type is given in our page About MP3 Files.
Many MP3 files on the Internet (such as those from Amazon or iTunes) are actual recordings played by real instruments and singers. The MP3 files on mfiles are created electronically simply by recording the sound output from playing the equivalent MIDI file with a range of virtual software instruments. We use a wide range of virtual instruments to create our sounds, including software from Sibelius, Native Instruments, Garritan, Audiobro, Project Sam, Cinesamples and Quantum Leap. Most people will not have any difficulty playing MP3 files on their computer or other devices, as it has become a standard.