Join Garrick Chow for an in-depth discussion in this video The beauty of MIDI, part of Understanding Audio and Music Production Careers.
- In addition to working with audio files, most DAWs feature the ability to record and edit MIDI data. MIDI stands for musical instrument digital interface. It's a digital language that enables computers and MIDI controllers like drum pads and MIDI keyboards to talk to each other. MIDI controllers don't actually produce sounds on their own. When you play a MIDI keyboard, for example, what the computer records is performance data, which notes you played, when you played it, how hard you hit the key, how long you held the note down, and other information. That data is then sent to either a MIDI sound module or a virtual instrument in your DAW produce the actual sound.
The performance data is converted from MIDI data into an audio signal within the sound module or virtual instrument. The beauty of MIDI performance data is that once the performance is recorded, you can change the sound to any sound available from any of your MIDI sound modules or virtual instruments. For instance, you can start by playing your piece through a piano sound, but you can instantly change it to say, a virtual horn sections or a sampled flute, all while keeping the same performance. Only the sound will change. MIDI data is also easy to edit. You can change the timing, pitch, and any other aspects of the notes, so, for example, if you played a note a little earlier than you should have and the timing's off with the rest of the track, you can easily move that note to a line with the correct timing, or if you played a wrong note in a chord, you can simply move the wrong note to the right pitch.
You can also easily transpose a MIDI performance to another key, possibly to help a vocalist sing a song in a better key for their voice. Most newer MIDI instruments connect easily to your computer via a USB cable. However, older MIDI devices may require dedicated 5-pin MIDI cables to connect via a MIDI interface. For the most part, working with MIDI data is similar across all DAWs that allow you to record MIDI. The DAW software interfaces may differ, but all MIDI-capable DAWs give you the ability to capture and manipulate the data from your MIDI instruments. MIDI is an important creative tool, and learning how to utilize it is essential in audio and music production.