Whether using your home MIDI gear and software or building an elaborate DIY MIDI project, better understanding MIDI is essential to getting the results you want. Many musicians are aware that the applications of MIDI aren’t limited to traditional musical implementations, but a broad range of creative DIY projects. Explaining what MIDI is, how it works, and how to use it not only in music projects but other projects, as well, was the aim of a story I wrote for Make 07:

Make Magazine Volume 07
Primer: MIDI Control

The Primer link includes additional online resources that didn’t fit in print, including:

  1. An overview of software that supports MIDI, including “DIY software” like Pd and Max
  2. An overview of hardware, with an emphasis on available MIDI boards for DIY projects and sensor interfaces
  3. Behind the scenes: An anatomy of a MIDI message

All of this information is freely available to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. The “anatomy” bit I adopted from a sidebar in my book Real World Digital Audio. I find that a lot of people don’t fully understand the data structure of MIDI messages, because normally it’s explained in technical terms. Hopefully this is helpful (though it’s easiest to follow, of course, in context of a full explanation of MIDI or if you have some basic MIDI background).

MIDI isn’t always the best solution for everything, so to me it’s great that the same issue includes a nice feature on the Arduino sensor board, which uses serial and now USB to transmit data from sensors. Ultimately, you’ll choose the scheme that works best for the application you have in mind. MIDI will be perfect if you’re controlling soft synths or VJ software, for instance, whereas USB or serial might work better for acquiring sensor data to be used some custom Processing code or for use with a home-built hardware rig, sans computer.

Mostly, I’m excited to continue to be a part of Make. They’re assembling a group of really incredible makers, and I’m finding myself reading the issues as they arrive cover to cover just to learn everything I can. I’ve traditionally been a “software guy,” and it’s great to learn new approaches to making things, soft and hard.

Subscribers, you should get 07 soon if you haven’t yet; non-subscribers, the magazine hits US newsstands August 21. I’m still trying to get better information on international availability. You definitely want to buy this magazine — not for me, by any means, but for everything that’s in it!