John's Midi File Choral Music site

Playing Midi Files

Midi Files are a set of instructions that tell a device - such as a computer's soundcard - that is Midi compatible (that knows about the Musical Instrument Digital Interface protocol) what to do to provide a representation of a piece of music.

Most Computer Operating System software, such as the various flavours of Windows (up to and including Windows 7; Windows 8 (and 8.1) is different, as explained here), and the succession of Mac OS versions (up to, but not including, MacOS 10.8; see further below), includes a Player that can accept Midi instructions; the Windows one is called "Media Player" (it will usually be found in Start|Programs|Accessories|Entertainment), and it can do all sorts of other exciting things as well as play Midi Files. In addition, there are many other dedicated Midi Players around, some free, some not, and most of these give much more flexibility and choice over what they can do than does Media Player. Several that can be downloaded are:-

The Problem with Session

As I intimated above, there is a problem with Midi Files produced by Session. Although the Midi Files output (exported) by Noteworthy Composer play perfectly properly with Windows [3.1, 95, 98, 2000, XP, Vista ...] Media Player (and all other Players I have tried), once they been loaded into and then saved out from Session they may no longer play properly in other Players - they still play OK in Session itself - if they use more than Midi Channels 1-10 (in some other Players, such as Windows Media Player, they may not play all the channels, and there may from time to time be strange changes in tempo). That is to say, I can't work out why, or what to do to correct the situation. But worry not: maybe they'll work for whatever Player you use ... and if they don't then they DO play properly using Noteworthy's own Player (see above).

Session has a number of other, possibly connected, irritating habits. One - though this mainly concerns me, using it to produce my emphasised Midi Files, rather than you using it to play them back - is that it is easily confused by any Time Signatures that are not measured in crotchet time (so 3/4 or 4/4 or 5/4 is fine, but 2/2 or 5/8 halves or doubles the assigned Tempo), and I have to fudge it - which can be done quite easily, but it's still irritating! Also - and this concerns you - Session is a Windows 3.1 16-bit piece of software, and so you have to use "compatibility" mode for XP and the like. Moreover, Session is expecting there to be a directory/folder called "Session" in your root directory/folder (on Drive C) otherwise you can't save any changes you make to Session itself (such as ensuring it always opens in 16-track General Midi mode). Although you can achieve this by actually installing Session in Drive C's root, it seems to be perfectly OK to have a "Session" Folder there but then instal Session elsewhere, wherever you want.

Another slightly irritating feature is Session's ability to stick the wrong clef at the beginning of a track, so that the subsequent notes end up far up or down from where you expect them to be. A typical example of this is in the Brahms "German Requiem", where in the opening number the Alto line has been depicted as though written in the Bass clef, so that all the notes appear up in the air! There must be rules for the conversion (from mere note, which is what Midi is, to note-on-staff, which is how Session displays it.), and I suspect it depends on the range of the notes, top to bottom, in the staff. But, there is something you can do about it ... as follows:- Load in the music (for example, for the "German Requiem", the Alto version of the file A-BLESSED.MID; at the moment the clef assigned to the Alto track is the Bass clef). Then, go to the Session pull-down menus (up at the top of the window) and pull down "Music". Select "Clef ...", and a box opens. In the box, use the little down arrow to find all the tracks, and choose the correct one (in my example, it's No 2, Alto). Then choose the correct type of clef - i.e. Treble - and the bar/measure number where you want this to take effect - Measure No 1. Click "OK", and it will miraculously be done! THEN SAVE THE REVISED FILE SO THAT NEXT TIME YOU OPEN IT IT WILL STILL LOOK OK!!

Problem-ridden though Session may be, even so I use it - and I recommend it. Once installed it is simple and easy to use, and will do all you need to make the Midi Files most useful. That having been said, Chris Hills's MidPlay is good, and gets better with each version!

Odd on-screen scores using Noteworthy Player

Warning: if you play these Midi Files back using software (such as the Noteworthy Player) that shows you the score on the screen, you may find that some of them play OK but look a bit odd. That's usually because I had to fudge the Session output to get the tempo right (typically when it measures time in quavers [as in 5/8 time], and switches back and forth between these and other units [such as 3/4 time]. Don't worry; just don't look at the screen - read your printed score!

Back to opening Page

Last updated by John on 2/Feb/21