What Data Type Is MIDI?


Larry Thompson

What Data Type Is MIDI?

When it comes to digital music, MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) plays a crucial role in connecting various electronic musical instruments and software. But have you ever wondered what data type MIDI actually is?

The Basics of MIDI

MIDI is not an audio file format, but rather a protocol that allows devices to communicate with each other. It was first introduced in the 1980s and quickly became the standard for electronic musical instruments.

Unlike audio files, which store sound waves, MIDI files contain instructions on how to play music. These instructions are referred to as “events” and include information such as which note to play, its duration, the velocity (how hard the note is struck), and more.

MIDI Data Types

Now let’s dive into the different types of data that MIDI uses:

1. Note On/Off Messages

Note On messages are used to indicate when a note should start playing, while Note Off messages indicate when it should stop. These messages include data such as the pitch of the note, its velocity, and which channel it belongs to.

2. Control Change Messages

Control Change messages allow for real-time control over various parameters of a musical instrument or software. This includes modifying parameters like volume, panning, modulation, and more.

3. Program Change Messages

A Program Change message is used to switch between different sounds or presets on a device or software. For example, you can use this message to change from a piano sound to a guitar sound.

4. Pitch Bend Messages

Pitch Bend messages allow for subtle or dramatic changes in pitch, mimicking the effect of bending a guitar string or using a pitch wheel on a synthesizer. It provides musicians with expressive control over their performances.

MIDI File Format

While MIDI is not an audio file format, it does have its own file format for storing MIDI data. MIDI files typically have the extension “.mid” and can be opened and edited using various software applications.

Within a MIDI file, you’ll find a series of MIDI events that represent the musical data. These events are organized into tracks, which can contain multiple channels and instruments. Each event is time-stamped to ensure accurate playback.


While HTML itself doesn’t natively support MIDI playback, there are ways to incorporate MIDI into web pages using JavaScript libraries or browser plugins. These tools allow you to create interactive musical experiences on your website.

In conclusion, MIDI is not just a single data type but rather a protocol that utilizes various types of messages to communicate musical instructions between devices and software. Understanding these different data types is essential for working with MIDI files and creating music with electronic instruments.

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