M.I.D.I.: What is it?

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

There is a basic Midi Code Standard to which most manufacturers adhere to make sure that all keyboards, drum machines, and modules will send, receive and respond to the same signals being used. Some of the basic signals are: note-on, note-off, pitch bend, modulation, volume, velocity, and patch number change.

The MIDI language code is based on 9 Action Codes: (1) Program Change (2) Channel After-Touch (3) Pitch Bender (4) Tempo (5) Key (note) After-touch (6) Note-On (7) Note-Off (8) Controller, which has 128 type numbers.

When a keyboard sends or receives certain Action Codes, like the CONTROLLER, it has a variable number with it. For example, Sustain is Controller #64, Volume is Controller #7.

Within the Controller # there is another variable ranging from 0-127. For example, within Volume = Controller #7, there is a volume setting from 0-127, 0 being off and 127 being maximum on.

Most lighting systems developed today are using MIDI and the channel of communication to control the lights. Audio systems now include MIDI ports and channels to control effects processors and turn on and mute channels on their mixers. In some cases you can even move the faders through MIDI control.

MIDI is still expanding because not all 128 controller frequencies have been defined or used yet. To let you know where it is now, the sidebar shows a list of the currently used Controller Numbers and definitions.


As Minister of Music at Christ Fellowship Atlanta, I’ve found the use of MIDI instruments have solved many problems that I have faced.

We purchased a Roland Midi Drum Kit and Converter to trigger an Alesis HR-16 Drum Machine. The total cost was about $1800.00 (they’re much cheaper now). This set eliminated the uncontrollable cymbal volumes on the platform, as well as feedback from mics on the drums. And, the total volume of the drums is controlled by the volume pedal on my Yamaha DX7 Keyboard.

Although there are drum sets that look and feel like regular acoustic sets, it can be a challenge to get drummers to switch. But many who have tried it for a while have found that it works very well. With our MIDI set, the drummer has 16 drum and cymbal sounds on hand, with hundreds more at his fingertips. He can change sounds, pitches, locations and volumes with the touch of the drumstick on the converter.

Drummers who have experimented with these kits, have found that their creativity has expanded greatly, using the variety of tools and sounds that MIDI drums make available. And audio technicians find that MIDI drums and keyboards allow them greater control of sound and afford the ability to place the sounds exactly where they want them.

To mic an acoustic drum set fully and correctly, you could use up a lot of inputs on your mixer. In fact, you could designate a mixer solely for the drums, taking the outputs into your house board.

But with the entire set being mixed and balanced in the Alesis Drum Machine by the drummer, he only has to provide one mono or two stereo sends to the sound man. In our situation, I have the entire band mixed and balanced into an on-stage mixer. The total volume of the band then goes through a volume pedal that I control at my keyboard. Therefore, as I make volume changes to my keyboards, so flows the volume of the entire band, staying balanced at all times.

There have been times when our drummer was unable to make service. Thanks to MIDI technology, I can control the drum machine from my keyboard, using pre-programmed drum patterns aligned to patch numbers on my keyboard. So, if a song is in 4/4 time, I just select the patch I have titled as 4/4 Bring Forth, a rhythm will match songs like “Bring Forth The Royal Robe”, or 4/4 Well Done, a slow rhythm for slow songs. This has proven to be very useful in emergencies.

Using MIDI, I can even control changes in tempo, so I feel very comfortable using the drum machine in my church, or when my wife and I minister in other churches presenting Cross-Cultural Worship Services.

MIDI., as a digital format, can be recorded into a sequencer (like a tape recorder, but a sequencer doesn’t use tape). Once you record something into a sequencer, you can play it back exactly as played or you can manipulate it in many ways. You can change the key, tempo, or even the instrument playing, You can also fix wrong notes or correct the rhythm and timing without having to re-record.

The sequencer in my keyboard has helped me many times in service. (1) When I wanted to join a prayer line, I would set a pre-programmed prayer sequence to play. The keyboard played softly while I got prayer. (2) Between services there are other pre-programmed sequences that will assist those entering for the 2nd service. (3) I can sequence new songs for the worship team so that I don’t have to keep on playing the song while each section learns its parts. (4) Pre-programmed sequences are great for offertory or specials, because they allow you to sound like a full orchestra, even if you are the only player.

As you may have noticed, I’ve talked about pre-programming the sequences and patch settings on the Drum machine. Yes, it does take some study. When all else fails, READ THE MANUAL!!! I’ve read the manuals for all of my equipment and have found most of them have some sort of tutorial or step by step learning process. I certainly can’t claim to know it all, and I’d welcome additional information that will help educate me further in MIDI TECHNOLOGY, so please feel free to contact me.

I do have an information cassette entitled, M.I.D.I., WHAT IS IT?, that introduces MIDI and provides demonstrations of its effects. Call, write or email the Piano-By-Ear Institute at (800)44-BY EAR, davidl@piano-by-ear.com for a free brochure.