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Part VII: Appendices > What is MIDI?

What is MIDI?

MIDI is a language designed to control synthesizers. The term is an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and it is pronounced mih-dee. MIDI uses 8-bit digital messages to turn notes on and off, to set volume and pan, and to modify patch parameters. Most MIDI messages have 128 possible values: 128 patches per bank, 128 note numbers, volume values from 0-127, and so forth. These messages can be recorded, edited, and played back from within SONAR to control external hardware synthesizers or software-based virtual instruments such as the VSC-DXi.

Because MIDI is simply a set of control messages, it's very easy to edit a MIDI performance in ways that you simply can't with traditional audio recording. For example, if you speed up a tape recording of someone speaking or singing, you get the classic "chipmunk" effect. This is, in fact, exactly how the voices of a number of famous cartoon characters are created. When you speed up the playback of MIDI notes, however, you get the same notes but at a faster tempo. Conversely, you can easily transpose a MIDI performance by telling SONAR to redefine which notes are to be triggered, and when you play the transposed performance it will sound as though it were recorded that way.


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