How Do Music Producers Use MIDI?

Audio producer uses MIDI sequencer to produce music

Nearly all modern audio producers use Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) and MIDI sequencing. Audio production and engineering has come a long way since the first analog recordings, and the technology that is available to those working in the field reflects that. Within any studio there are many tools and resources available to producers, and MIDI is one of them. As a result, it is important that any audio producer or engineer understands how to use this tool.

What Is MIDI?

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Design Interface. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t represent musical sound outright. In contrast, MIDI is designed to record and playback music that is created through a digital synthesizer.

Using MIDI also allows for one instrument to control another. This control enables producers to layer various instruments to build the sound they want. MIDI also was equipped to work with analog instruments if there were retrofitting capabilities available.

How MIDI Was Created

MIDI was conceptualized and created in the early 1980s when audio engineers and companies that were creating synthesizers. Their aim was to craft an interface that allows communication between synths from different companies. From this, a set of guidelines for the protocol were put in place.

Synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog first announced the birth of this technology. The rise of MIDI also coincides with the arrival of personal computers. Together, this technology means that the rise of more home recording was possible for musicians and audio engineering professionals alike.

MIDI Versus Digital Audio

Many audio producers use MIDI because of the versatility it offers them in production. For example, an audio producer has the ability to edit sequences and it also offers more flexibility than direct digital audio.

From here, music producers can change the key, instrumentation and tempo of an arrangement. This is done through the set of commands within the standard MIDI file, or SMF. For example, this works if a music producer wants to correct the timing of notes from the keyboard or synth. This flexibility allows for quicker playback and greater creativity with their sequences.

With direct digital audio, there is a loss of sound quality with editing. As a result, working in SMF format doesn’t result in the same loss of sound quality in playback.

Working with MIDI

Furthermore, using MIDI files within a digital audio workstation allows audio producers to multitask. Additionally, this means having keyboards and software-based synthesizers as controllers for MIDI file creation.

Compatible Devices

There are other devices that MIDI utilizes like harmonizers. As previously mentioned, the software and sound cards on the computer are equipped to handle MIDI. Certain sequencers can combine MIDI files with loops as long as the tempo and keys are aligned. There is also software available to audio producers that can create MIDI files from sheet music that is scanned.

Convenience Factors

Finally, MIDI commands and other information comes in a small file size. As a result, this allows the files to be used in a variety of ways. For example, this means audio producers use these files where space is limited, such as ringtones on mobile devices.

Lastly, MIDI recordings will have no background noise. This is because the actual audio is generated based on the instructions within the file. The instruments also include drum machines and samplers. Additionally, this includes sequencers which work with the technology through control voltage gate signals.

The Drawbacks

While MIDI is a great tool for audio producers, there are times where it may not be utilized by audio professionals. This also includes those who opt to use acoustic instruments. As a result, this lowers the need to use sequencing or have compatible hardware.

Furthermore, using this protocol means that only synthesizers and sample-playback systems can respond to the commands. Additionally, this signal does not transmit vocals. Additionally, an audio producer understands that this protocol relies greatly on devices and technology. A producer ensures that their sound cards in their DAW supports the quality of the file.

Even more, an audio producer understands the differences when working with sequences. For example, a file sounds different through the sound cards on other workstations. As a result, this lessens the intricacies in the original file. The device problem also extends to needing the proper interfaces and converters in order to have that MIDI signal transmitted without issues.

Lastly, an audio producer needs to know that they cannot send many files at once. This is because the transfer rate is slow compared to other protocols. As a result, too many transmissions at once can clog the device.


The use of MIDI in digital audio workstations has increased within the past couple of decades, and it’s helped to encourage more creativity in the recording studios. As a result, it allows audio engineers and producers to become more adept at using this protocol. While digital audio still has its unique advantages, a modern producer knows when to utilize both formats. 

Want to Learn More?

Audio production and engineering has grown as the field utilizes more digital technology. No matter the level of the digital audio workstation, those who have taken the time to learn more about what sequencing does can employ it to a good level of achievement in their musical projects.

Contact us today to learn more about the audio production and engineering program and starting a rewarding career in the music industry.