Introduction to MIDI

This lesson’s goal is to introduce you to the many features and facets of MIDI in a digital audio workstation. As you proceed through the videos and assignment, please notice the affordances and constraints of MIDI. Affordances are what the particular technology allows or facilitates. Constraints are ways of interacting that are not possible. For example, with MIDI, affordances include:

  • Easily manipulate duration, pitch, and velocity
  • View music in a mostly iconic form
  • Can access or use any set of sounds with the same notation

All of these affordances make MIDI a powerful tool and are a big part of why it remains a ubiquitous music technology despite it being decades old. Despite all of the affordances, significant constraints are present.

  • Quality of sound is dependent on the samples or sound banks used
  • Can have a “fake” and sometimes unmusical sound
  • Can be difficult to record a nuanced performance

With these ideas in mind, start working on the assignment below. We’ll be using the song I Love the Mountains as musical material. If you’re unfamiliar, here is a memorable performance:

Now, enjoy a brief introduction to MIDI:

Assignment: Relief Sculpture Composition

View the video below as an introduction to the assignment:

Instructional Supports

Reflection Questions

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.12.44 AM

Collaboration section of Soundtrap where you will answer questions

After completing the assignment, respond briefly to the following questions in the comments section of Soundtrap (see image at right).

  1. What musical dimensions did you interact with for this assignment?
  2. How was the balance of musical and technological learning? Did you feel like you were being musical more or learning about a feature of a program?
  3. Given the three composing experiences you’ve had, what affordances does MIDI offer that you didn’t have when working only with loops?
  4. Do you have any other questions or suggestions about MIDI or this assignment?

Getting Started

Click here to access the assignment in Soundtrap. If all works well, you should see your own individual copy of the assignment in Soundtrap that is already automagically shared back with me.

Happy MIDI-ing!

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