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Chapter 1.  Introducing Cubase  >  A Brief Overview of MIDI

A Brief Overview of MIDI

MIDI stands for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface.” It represents two things: First, MIDI is a communication system used to transmit information from one MIDI-compatible device to another. These devices include musical instruments (samplers, synthesizers, sound modules, drum machines) and computers (or other hardware devices, such as synchronizers). Second, it represents the hardware. the ports and jacks found on all MIDI instruments and the MIDI cables connecting them to allow the transmission of musical data. Each time a key is pressed or a wheel is moved, one or more bytes are sent out from a device’s MIDI out port. Other devices connected to that sending device are looking for those bytes to come over the wire, which are then translated back into commands for the device to obey.

MIDI sends information at a rate of 31,250 bps (or bits per second). This is called MIDI’s baud rate. Since MIDI is transferred through a serial port, it sends information one bit at a time. Every MIDI message uses 10 bits of data (eight for the information and two for error correction), which means that MIDI sends about 3,906 bytes of data every second (31,250 bps divided by 8 bits to convert into bytes). If you compare this with the 176,400 bytes (or 172.3 kilobytes) transfer rate that digital audio requires when recording or playing back CD-quality sound without compression, MIDI may seem very slow. But, in reality, it’s fast enough for what it needs to transfer. At this speed, you could play approximately 500 MIDI notes per second.


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