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Audio MIDI Interfaces

MIDI interface equipment allows different electronic musical instruments and computer peripherals to communicate with one another. A dedicated audio interface and an electric piano is all you'll need to crank out your own tunes. MIDI interface technology is a perfect way to produce any kind of music, from baroque to techno.

What is the MIDI audio interface?

Musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) is an established technical standard that describes a specific communications protocol for musical equipment. Audio devices can use this interface to share information with one another. The interface specification provides 16 individual channels that can each be routed to an individual component if the composer wants. While these are usually used as 16 different audio channels, it's also possible to interface any of them with some other type of equipment should the need arise.

What platforms support MIDI signaling over USB lines?

Computer scientists devised a method for transporting MIDI information over USB lines in 1998. Traditional serial and joystick jacks were used before the advent of USB technology, so external cards are needed to support this standard because many of these types of jacks were getting phased out at the time. The following operating systems provide support for USB data transmission:

  • Microsoft Windows
  • GNU/Linux
  • Mac OS X
  • Apple iOS
Can you interface digital music devices without an external soundcard?

While USB MIDI interface cards don't support networking without access to a PC, that doesn't mean you can't connect your synthesizers together without needing one. Disconnect them from the USB audio interface hub and then reconnect all units in the assembly with a FireWire cable. FireWire uses intelligent controllers that USB MIDI interface cards don't have. This means that they manage their own signaling rates without attention from any separate microchips. Traditional standard input jacks can also transmit a recording without needing a separate CPU.

What kind of open-source studio software is available to USB interface users?

If you have MIDI-compatible controllers and don't want to use proprietary studio applications, then the open-source community can provide you with plenty of options. Sequences can now handle clock signals to set and synchronize the tempo between multiple controllers, provide vibrato effects, and even produce theatrical cues. You might want to look into any of the following pieces of software. These are all licensed under GNU GPL documents:

  • MusE
  • MuseScore
  • Qtractor
  • Rosegarden
  • Aria Maestosa
What is a piano scroll view?

Player pianos used to use actual paper scrolls riddled with holes to reproduce music automatically. Many high-quality sound card programs use a simulated built-in piano scroll view mode to let you edit music using the same method. While JavaScript libraries and portable converter boxes have replaced paper scrolls, the technique used to write them is the same. If you've never had any previous experience using M-Audio equipment, then you can still use it to compose music with these techniques.

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