Standard MIDI Files (SMF) Specification

What are Standard MIDI Files?

Standard MIDI Files contain all the MIDI instructions to generate notes, control individuals volumes, select instrument sounds, and even control reverb and other effects. The files are typically created by a "MIDI sequencer" (software or hardware) and then played on some kind of MIDI synthesizer.

Unlike digital audio files (.wav, .aiff, etc.) or even compact discs or cassettes, a MIDI file does not need to capture and store actual sounds. Instead, the MIDI file can be just a list of events which describe the specific steps that a soundcard or other playback device must take to generate certain sounds. This way, MIDI files are very much smaller than digital audio files, and the events are also editable, allowing the music to be rearranged, edited, even composed interactively, if desired.

The format also allows tagging the file and the data in the file with copyright notices and other text "meta-events".

All popular computing platforms can play MIDI files (*.mid) and there are thousands of web sites offering files for sale or even for free. Anyone can make and share a MIDI file, using software that is readily available on smart phones, tablets and computers.

The Standard MIDI File Specification

The Specification is included in the Complete MIDI 1.0 Detailed Specification document (1996).

After 1996 the following additions/changes were made to Standard MIDI Files (Please Register to view these documents):


Related Items

  • About MIDI Files and US Copyright


    Even though an SMF does not contain sounds, it does contain a 'fixation of the performance" representing a "musical work", and therefore may be used to register a musical work with the US Copyright Office, and is subject to the same licensing laws that apply to other recorded audio media (CDs and Cassettes).