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MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI is a standard developed to facilitate the exchange of musical instructions between electronic musical instruments and computers. MIDI files are not sound files.

Instead, they’re data files containing instructions on how to reproduce a selection of music. There are MIDI devices such as keyboards and guitars that can control other MIDI devices.

These are called MIDI controllers. When you connect a MIDI controller to your computer, you can use it to record music on your computer if you have the right software. You can also have your computer play MIDI files through a MIDI device.

Connect a MIDI Instrument to Your Computer

One way to connect your MIDI instrument to a computer is by using a MIDI cable, which has a 5-pin DIN connector on each end. However, if your computer doesn’t have a MIDI input, you may have to install a special sound card to connect your instrument with this type of cable. If your MIDI instrument has a USB output, you can connect it to your computer by USB.

Midi and USB Cables

Install MIDI Software

There’s no end of powerful software programs you can use to record, play back and edit MIDI files. If you want a free MIDI software program, you should try Anvil Studio, a free Windows program for multi-track music recording, composing and editing program. Anvil Studio can be configured to connect directly to your MIDI instruments, either by MIDI cable or USB.

Anvil Studio MIDI Creation Software

If you’re willing to spend some money, but only want the software for home use, try a product like Noteworthy Composer. This inexpensive Windows music composition and notation software program is very intuitive and easy to use. Noteworthy Composer makes it easy to enter notes either from your keyboard on the onscreen keyboard to create MIDI music files.


Another excellent music creation program for home use is Sibelius First, developed by Avid. With this program, you can create music with up to 16 staves. Sibelius First has an onscreen keyboard and fretboard and online publishing capabilities. It will run under Windows XP, Vista and 7 as well as Mac OS X.

Sibelius 6 First with Guitar Fretboard

Avid has also developed Sibelius, a professional music creation program with additional features. Sibelius has all the features of Sibelius first, in addition to more advanced features for students, educators and professional musicians.

These features include Magnetic Layout which automatically cleans up musical scores, a tracking feature which keeps track of previous versions of a saved score, and ReWire support, which lets you sync Sibelius with other music software products.

Sibelius 6 with Piano Keyboard

Free trial editions are available for each of these music production software programs. Click on the links to download the installation files.

For additional tips, read Create, edit or remix music and songs online for free.

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