Official MIDI Specifications

Developer White Papers

These developer white papers  are documents created by the MMA that are not MIDI specifications, but documents to help developers and content creators take advantage of MIDI to provide increased interoperability.

What is MIDI Updated
 1.35 MB

"What is MIDI" Guide by Paul D. Lehrman, PhD, Director of Music Engineering, Tufts University
Sections adapted from MIDI For The Professional by Paul D. Lehrman & Tim Tully
© 2017 Paul D. Lehrman

This document was commissioned by the MIDI Manufacturers Association in 1995 to help developers of General MIDI System Level 1 (GM Level 1) products determine how to make their products compatible with as many other GM products as possible. Based on a survey of existing products, this document provides insights into areas of compatibility which are not clearly defined by the text of the formal GM Level 1 Specification (MMA0007/RP003), and adds additional recommendations to that specification based on market realities. This document should be used by manufacturers of GM compatible musical instruments (typically called “synthesizers”) as well as by composers (authors of MIDI files) and developers of applications software to achieve more predictable playback of MIDI files.
The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) protocol has been widely accepted and utilized by musicians and composers since its conception in the 1982/1983 time frame. MIDI data is a very efficient method of representing musical performance information, and this makes MIDI an attractive protocol not only for composers or performers, but also for computer applications which produce sound, such as multimedia presentations or computer games. However, the lack of standardization of synthesizer capabilities hindered applications developers and presented new MIDI users with a rather steep learning curve to overcome.

 This document provides an overview of the standards, practices and terminology associated with the generation of sound using the MIDI protocol.