Maximizing MIDI in Music: Strengths & Weaknesses
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. What is MIDI?
  2. Strengths of using MIDI
  3. Weaknesses of using MIDI
  4. How to maximize MIDI in music production
  5. Why MIDI matters in music

When it comes to music production, MIDI—Musical Instrument Digital Interface—has been a game-changer. It's like the secret sauce that music producers add to their mix. But as with any tool, it has its strengths and weaknesses. This blog aims to shed light on the strengths and weaknesses of MIDI in music production, helping you maximize its potential in your music creation process.

What is MIDI?

Before we dive into the specifics of MIDI's strengths and weaknesses in music production, let's first understand what MIDI is. MIDI, an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is a communication protocol. Think of it as a universal music language that devices use to talk to each other. But instead of words, they exchange musical information—like pitch, duration, and volume.

The Birth of MIDI

The MIDI protocol came to life in the early 1980s. Its creators—Dave Smith and Ikutaro Kakehashi—envisioned a standardized way for electronic musical instruments to communicate, regardless of the brand or the model. This was a big deal back then because it meant that a synthesizer from Yamaha could talk to a drum machine from Roland—you get the idea.

How Does MIDI Work?

Imagine you're playing a digital piano. When you press a key, the piano doesn't send the actual sound to your computer. Instead, it sends a message—like "Hey, the C4 key was just pressed for half a second at this volume." This is the essence of MIDI: it carries information about the music, not the music itself. Here's a quick breakdown:

  • Note On: This message is sent when you press a key.
  • Note Off: This message is sent when you release the key.
  • Pitch Bend: This message captures the changes in pitch.
  • Control Change: This message handles other parameters like volume, panning, and modulation.

MIDI Files: The Music Producer's Sketchpad

Finally, let's talk about MIDI files. Think of them as digital music sheets that store all the MIDI data. They're like your personal sketchpad where you can jot down your musical ideas, experiment with different instruments, and even rearrange entire sections of your song—all without losing any audio quality.

Now that we've covered the basics of MIDI, we're ready to dive into the strengths and weaknesses of MIDI in music production. It's like getting ready to cook a meal: you need to know your ingredients before you start cooking. Let's get to it!

Strengths of using MIDI

Imagine you're a chef in a kitchen full of ingredients. MIDI is your favorite spice—it can turn an average dish into a culinary masterpiece. Let's take a look at some of the strengths of using MIDI in music production.

Flexibility and Editability

One of the main strengths of MIDI is its flexibility. With MIDI, you can change the pitch, duration, and timbre of any note with just a few clicks. Want to turn a piano note into a flute note? No problem! Want to change the entire key of your song? Easy peasy! This level of control is something you just can't get with audio files.

Efficient Use of Resources

MIDI files are incredibly lightweight. A three-minute MIDI file can be as small as a few kilobytes—that's smaller than most images on the web! This efficiency makes MIDI files easy to store, transfer, and use in your projects, allowing you to work faster and keep your computer running smoothly.

Integration with Modern DAWs

Modern Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) like Ableton Live, Logic Pro, and FL Studio fully embrace MIDI. They offer a wide range of MIDI editing tools, allowing you to fine-tune your music down to the individual note. Plus, with MIDI, you can easily automate changes to your music over time—a powerful feature for adding that extra touch of magic to your tracks.

Interoperability Between Devices

MIDI's universal language makes it easy for different devices to communicate. You can connect a MIDI keyboard to your computer, a drum pad to your synthesizer, or even a MIDI controller to your lighting system. The possibilities are endless!

While MIDI has many strengths, it's not without its weaknesses. But don't worry, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of MIDI in music production is just like understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your favorite spice. It's all about knowing when and how to use it to create that perfect dish. Let's keep cooking!

Weaknesses of using MIDI

Now, let's flip the coin and look at the other side. Just like your favorite spice, MIDI, while amazing, can't do everything. Here are some of the limitations you might run into when using MIDI in music production.

Lacks Authenticity

MIDI can create a vast array of sounds, but it can struggle to capture the natural nuances of live instruments. A real guitar has vibrato, slide, and subtle variations in tone—details that can be hard to replicate with MIDI. It's similar to using a photo of a spice instead of the real deal. It might look the same, but the taste just isn't there.

Requires Knowledge of Music Theory

Using MIDI effectively requires a good understanding of music theory. You need to know about keys, scales, and chords to craft melodies and harmonies. It's like knowing which spices go together in a dish. If you're not familiar with these concepts, MIDI can be a bit daunting.

Can Be Time-Consuming

Despite its flexibility, creating music with MIDI can be time-consuming. Fine-tuning each note to get the sound you want can take a while. It's like meticulously chopping each ingredient for your dish—it takes time, but the result can be worth it.

Dependent on Sound Quality of MIDI Instruments

The quality of your MIDI music heavily depends on the quality of your MIDI instruments. If the samples or synthesizers you're using are low quality, your music will be too. It's like trying to make a gourmet dish with subpar ingredients—it's just not going to taste the same.

Now that we've explored the strengths and weaknesses of MIDI in music production, we can better understand how to use it to its fullest potential. Remember, MIDI is a tool, and like any tool, it's all about how you use it.

How to maximize MIDI in music production

Now that we've explored the strengths and weaknesses of MIDI in music production, let's dive into some practical ways to get the most out of this versatile tool. Think of it like a spice rack – with the right combination, you can create something truly unforgettable!

Invest in Quality MIDI Instruments

As we've discussed, the quality of your MIDI instruments will largely determine the quality of your music. It's akin to using high-quality spices in your cooking – they can elevate a dish immensely. Look for reputable brands, read reviews, and don't be afraid to invest a little more for better sound quality.

Learn Music Theory

Understanding music theory is like knowing the recipe for your favorite dish. It can help you create melodies and harmonies that work well together, and can take your MIDI creations to the next level. So, crack open a music theory book, or take an online course and start learning!

Use MIDI Effects to Add Nuance

While MIDI might not capture the nuances of live instruments, you can add these in manually using MIDI effects. Think of these as your secret ingredients — a pinch of reverb here, a dash of delay there, can make your music sound more authentic.

Experiment and Have Fun

Lastly, don't forget to have fun and experiment! MIDI offers endless possibilities, so let your creativity run wild. It's like experimenting with different spices in your kitchen. You might discover combinations you never thought would work!

Remember, MIDI is a powerful tool in music production, and like any tool, it's all about how you use it. So, don't be afraid to mix things up and try different approaches. You might just create the next big hit!

Why MIDI matters in music

The world of music is vast and varied, just like a bustling city market brimming with flavors and scents. Amidst this diversity, MIDI holds a special place—like that one spice that gives an iconic dish its unique taste. But what makes MIDI such a key ingredient in music production? Let's find out.

The Universality of MIDI

Think of MIDI as the 'universal language' of music production. No matter which music software you use, MIDI can connect and communicate with it. It's like using a common currency while traveling – it simplifies things and makes the process smoother.

MIDI Enables Creativity

Imagine being able to play every instrument ever made. With MIDI, this is possible. It provides a vast palette of sounds and controls, allowing you to paint your musical masterpiece. It's like having an unlimited supply of ingredients for your culinary experiments!

Accessibility and Affordability

Buying and learning to play a musical instrument can be expensive and time-consuming. But with MIDI, you can have a whole orchestra at your fingertips, without breaking the bank. It's like buying a spice mix instead of individual spices—it's more cost-effective and convenient.


With MIDI, you can edit and tweak your music until it's perfect. It's like being able to adjust the spices in your dish even after you've cooked it. This level of control is one of the reasons why MIDI is such an invaluable tool in music production.

In conclusion, MIDI matters in music because it's a powerful, flexible, and accessible tool that allows you to create, experiment, and perfect your musical creations. It's the secret ingredient that can spice up any track. So, embrace the strengths and weaknesses of MIDI in music production, and let your creativity soar!

If you're looking to expand your knowledge on MIDI and explore more creative ways to use it in your music, check out the workshop 'Making Music From Everyday Sounds' by Tom Glendinning. This workshop will teach you how to capture and manipulate everyday sounds to create unique and engaging music using MIDI in your productions.