Midi Setups
Home Practice, Recording and Live Use

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Midi has come a long way since its inception in the eighties. With a standard known as General Midi (GM) that encompasses from the most basic keyboard or PC soundcard to the most expensive workstation, midi files can be played by a variety of equipment and still sound right.

GM basically assigns instruments in to a certain order so for example number 1 will always be a acoustic grand piano, number 2 a bright acoustic piano etc….

Many people often ask me about midi setups so I’ve decided to offer some info on various different possibilities.

Setup 1 - Home Setup

Text Box:  This would consist of a PC or laptop with a decent soundcard. In reality anything above an Intel Pentium II and with an AWE32 or more should be able to play midi-files decently. The better the soundcard the better the quality of your midi file.

If your PC speakers are not very good you can plug the soundcard output into an amplifier directly or using a mixer. You will need to get an adapter from the soundcards 3.5 mm stereo out to either RCA (Phono-Plugs) for a home stereo or to 1/4" Mono jacks for an amplifier, although this depends on the amplifier you are going to plug the PC into.

This would be ok for home practice and the cost is very low.

Setup 2 - Home (Better Quality) or Small Gig Setup.

Here you would need a General Midi compatible keyboard or module. (Most new keyboards or modules are GM compatible).

This can be controlled via midi from your PC. You will also need midi cable or interface for the PC or you can also use a Joystick port to midi cable (usually cheaper) if your PC has a joystick port.

If you want to perform live you may want to consider something like a combined sequencer / module as this way you don't need the PC and can trigger the midi files directly from the unit.

Basically this is a good setup as it does everything in one box.

Setup 3 - Further On.

Anything bigger and you need a high quality keyboard like Korg Trinity or the newer Triton. Also there are keyboards specialized in Midi performance like the Solton range.

With such keyboards you have the choice of using General Midi or the keyboards propriety sounds, which are usually better quality, the later however are not usually portable formats.

The keyboard can connected to a PC sequencer in your home studio for example for preparation of backing tracks and then on the road you can use the internal floppy, hard disk or other devices such as a Zip or Jazz Drive to load sequences.


The benefits of midi are immense to the point where even phone manufactures are now using standard midi files for their ring tones. From home practice through solo or duo performance, to bands who base themselves on a midi setup.

Midi is also a very useful composing tool for live recording and for those who wish to write straight in to a sheet of music and hear their virtual band play their compositions.

By Ernest H Slade