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How does a MIDI keyboard work?

Updated April 17, 2017

Musical Instrument Digital Interface, or MIDI, is a digital language that allows electronic musical instruments, computers and even cellular phones to communicate back and forth to each other. Everything you hear and see on the radio and television has used MIDI in the recording process. According to the MIDI Manufacturers Association, your cellular phone utilises a built-in MIDI synthesizer to play your favourite ring tones. A MIDI keyboard is like the built-in MIDI synthesizer in your cell phone, but it is bigger.

Musical Instrument Digital Interface

Musical Instrument Digital Interface, or MIDI, is a digital language that allows electronic musical instruments, computers and even cellular phones to communicate back and forth to each other. Everything you hear and see on the radio and television has used MIDI in the recording process. According to the MIDI Manufacturers Association, your cellular phone utilises a built-in MIDI synthesizer to play your favourite ring tones. A MIDI keyboard is like the built-in MIDI synthesizer in your cell phone, but it is bigger.

MIDI Keyboard Basics

The MIDI Manufacturers Association reports that every keyboard designed and produced uses MIDI. A MIDI keyboard has keys like a regular piano, but come equipped with a MIDI input and output on the rear panel and many choices of sounds that you can select. The input and output patches the keyboard into another MIDI keyboard, computer, sequencer or module by use of a MIDI cable to communicate. Most MIDI keyboards have 127 MIDI channels that assign a unique synthesised instrument to the channel. Drums commonly utilise MIDI channel ten. Patching together a MIDI keyboard to another MIDI keyboard allows you to create many different arrangements. For instance, you can play a grand piano on one keyboard and play strings on the other at the same time, all to the beat of MIDI sequenced drums.

MIDI Messages

According to the MIDI Manufacturers Association, MIDI messages ("MIDI Protocol") is the most important part of MIDI. Though first intended to patch two keyboards together by use of MIDI cables and sharing binary codes for creating music, MIDI messages have developed into use in cell phones and computers to generate musical compositions. The growing digital language easily transports through interfaces and use of USB and FireWire to other MIDI compatible devices.

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About the Author

Hannah Scott has been a freelance writer for more than 12 years. Scott's first published article appeared in "The Mountain Press" in 1999. She has also written for the "Tennessee Star Journal" and several websites, including RAE Magazine.