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MIDI FAQ

MIDI-FAQ

Scroll through to our list of Frequently Asked Questions or click on a link.

When I play my MIDI file my module isn't producing any sounds.
I have a hardware MIDI file player and my MIDI song files refuse to play.
When I Sync my two machines together and record ‘down the line’ all my tempo changes and time signature changes are not included on my new version.
Every time I try to save a MIDI file I can’t seem to do it properly and get a memory error message.
I’ve sent some System Exclusive message to my module and it’s not working!
I understand my sequencer has resolution of xxx PPQN. Can I load your MIDI files knowing that their resolution may be different?
After I’ve edited my song file I can’t seem to re-save it.
When I stop my sequencer half way through, there are notes that continue to drone.
When I play my song there are notes that stop playing for no apparent reason.
I’ve edited my song and although it’s in the right key for me, it sounds pretty awful.
As a Mac/PC user when I double click on your MIDI files I can’t automatically load them as I do with my own.
When I save my work as a MIDI file I lose some tracks.
I’ve used the track parameters box to alter the playback characteristics of my data but when I save my song as a MIDI file it loses it all and I’m back to the original version.
My song has ‘forgotten’ all its program changes, why?
When I play a new song the instruments sound kinda funny.
When I play one song, the subtle pitch bend information I’ve carefully programed works well sometimes but at others it sounds really naff.
Some of my sounds flange.
When I use MIDI song files live I’m often stood on stage waiting for ages for the song to load. Is there a quick way to speed things up?
I’ve purchased some of your MIDI files and I need to convert them from a single track into multiple tracks for editing.
I have a separate drum module and I want to use this for my drums and ignore the drums in my GM box. How do I do it?
I have a real drummer and I want to send him a click on his headphones so that he can play in time with the sequencer without sending the click back to the main PA system.
When I’ve been jumping around my song editing and mixing I experience some funny pitched notes and different instruments sometimes play.
What does your set-up measure contain and what does it do?



When I play my MIDI file my module isn't producing any sounds.


  • Check that the sequencer is actually sending data by checking the MIDI send/receive indicator on the sequencer and module. If the data is being sent from the computer but is not being received, consider:-
  • (i) Checking the MIDI cables. Try swapping them around or even replacing them.
  • (ii) Checking and confirming the MIDI routing is correct. If the module’s hung off a secondary port, (on multiple MIDI channel systems) make sure the data is being routed properly and it’s not being sent to another port - or anywhere else for that matter.
  • Switch off and re-initialise the module - WARNING! - This may delete any user defined presets/edits so if possible save everything to the sequencer first using a complete system exclusive bulk dump.
  • Check the data to see if a volume command (controller #7) or expression command (controller #11) has been sent. If they have, they could be set so low that the module gives the appearance of not working. Find them and increase their values accordingly. (Expression to 127, Volume about 100)
  • Check the sequencer settings to ensure the tracks are not muted.
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I have a hardware MIDI file player and my MIDI song files refuse to play.


  • Check that the sequencer is actually sending data by checking the MIDI send/receive indicator on the sequencer and module. If the data is being sent from the computer but is not being received, consider:-
  • Check to see that the song name you’ve used conforms to DOS protocol - 8 characters for the name with a 3 character suffix. This is a common problem with users who are using long file names from Windows or Macintosh operating systems. These systems allow file names to exceed 8.3. The suffix for most MIDI files is ‘.MID’ but some hardware players, such as Yamaha devices can opt to have a suffix .X01-X99 instead. Using this method, songs can be selected to play in any order, based on its numerical suffix not its alphabetical name.
  • Ensure the only thing on the disk are MIDI files. Most hardware MIDI file players will not play files that are located in sub-directories. Be aware that some devices try to play absolutely anything and everything they find on the root level of the disk - including text files!

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When I Sync my two machines together and record ‘down the line’ all my tempo changes and time signature changes are not included on my new version.


  • Tempo and time signature changes are not transmittable MIDI events. When MIDI data is transferred down the line these events are omitted from the data stream. The receiving device will have no idea what type of music it’s receiving so it’ll default to a predetermined time and key signature - say 100BPM in 4/4 time. If you need the music to be edited or imported into a typesetting program you’ll have to re-insert the Tempo/Time signatures manually in the new version. If you don’t need that kind of precision disable the Slave to Sync option on the slave machine and just record ‘a la’ tape to tape. This’ll work fine for ordinary live playback.

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Every time I try to save a MIDI file I can’t seem to do it properly and get a memory error message.


  • A computer often builds a standard MIDI file in an empty part of its memory (RAM) before it saves it (that’s why some sequencers allow you to play a song while it’s saving) If there is not enough memory available it simply can’t do it. This is a common problem with Atari ST’s that only have 1Megabyte of RAM. If this happens try thinning out the data, starting with Controller information and delete all extraneous events (aftertouch and channel Pressure). If this fails to cure the problem your only recourse is to add more RAM or use a software program which produces the illusion of doubling available RAM.

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I’ve sent some System Exclusive message to my module and it’s not working!


  • Check the receive channel of the module - common problem with Roland device numbers.
  • Check the MIDI routing of your system, especially important if a merge/splitter box is used.
  • Ensure the module has not been set to ignore all incoming Sys Ex information.
  • Make sure any Sys Ex messages you send contain a valid checksum (if required). If it doesn’t get the right one the receiving device will ignore the complete Sys Ex string and display an error message.

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I understand my sequencer has resolution of xxx PPQN. Can I load your MIDI files knowing that their resolution may be different?


  • Yes - When a MIDI file is imported into another make of sequencer it’ll automatically round event positions and note lengths either up or down. This’ll ensure that imported events fall onto the nearest acceptable time points on the new sequencer.

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After I’ve edited my song file I can’t seem to re-save it.


  • Check that the disk is not write protected or full.
  • Check the file path. If you loaded a MIDI file from floppy (i.e. C:\SONGFILE\MY_SONG.MID), then wanted to save it after editing, if you select ‘SAVE’ from the file menu the program will automatically try to save it back to exactly the same place as it loaded it from (C:\SONGFILE\MY_SONG.MID). If in the meantime you’ve changed disks the computer won’t be able to find the right area (as it probably doesn’t exist on the new disk) and flag a disk error.

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When I stop my sequencer half way through there’re notes that continue to drone.


  • Avoid using program change commands while a note is playing. If you do the sequencer will send the Note on command to one instrument but when it effects the program change it would send its Note off command to a different instrument. This could result in the first instrument never receiving a note off command and a drone will be produced.
  • Make sure there are no identical notes that overlap. When this happens some sequencers get confused. They send a note on command as normal, then they send another note on command, albeit for the same note. After a time the sequencer would send a note off command. What often happens is the sequencer forgets to send a second note off command - hence the drone. This shouldn’t really be considered a bug, after all it shouldn’t be possible to play two notes of the same pitch at the same should it? Spotting doubled notes can be quite easy if you look at the gate times in the edit pages. You’ll find the second note has either a very short duration or a very long duration - sometimes tens of thousand of ticks. This problem is most noticeable with strings and other instruments that have a long sustain.
  • MIDI can understand and process about 32,000 bits of information per second. The computer can easily create MIDI events 20 times that amount. If all this data is sent down the MIDI lead at once the buffer on the receiving device might get overloaded. If this happens it may just dump all unprocessed data in an effort to keep up! If one of the events it just happens to dump is a note off command - hello drone!

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When I play my song there’re notes that stop playing for no apparent reason.


  • You’ve exceeded the polyphony limitations of your module. Remember that GM only has a polyphony of 28 voices, not notes.
  • Check to see if the note overhang problem has truncated some notes -click here for related item.
  • If the song contains any system exclusive data it will take priority over everything else, including notes. Any notes that should be playing at the same time are temporarily suspended until the sending of any Sys Ex messages has been completed. When the notes are finally sent they often rush out, seemingly all at once - it sounds awful! If you need to send Sys Ex messages take the time to send the minimum amount of information to perform the function you need. Avoid complete bulk dumps.

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I’ve edited my song and although it’s in the right key for me, it sounds pretty awful.


  • When a song is originally recorded the arrangement is tailored to suit the instruments used (obviously). If you transpose the data the timbre (tones) of the instruments will change. The more extreme the transposition the worse the results will be. If you transpose down too far you’ll produce bass parts that flap about and sound really silly and if you transpose up too far you’ll produce brass parts that are so high only dogs could truly appreciate them. Some tracks therefore may have to be transposed a second time (by an octave) to produce a realistic effect. For any errant notes select a note range, (i.e. any notes below E0 - the lowest note on a standard bass guitar) and transpose them back into a playable range

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As a Mac/PC user when I double click on your MIDI files I can’t automatically load them as I do with my own.


  • Users with Mac’s are used to launching programs by clicking on its files. This association, between file and program is embedded into the file when the Mac saves it. A file is saved with two attributes. One is the ‘creator’, which tells the file the name of the program that it was created from and the second is the ‘file type’ which tells us what type of file it is. With commercial files there is no way the MIDI file producer can personalise every file for every customer so the file type and creator are deliberately omitted. To overcome this problem, load the sequencer program first and then use the ‘Import’ facility to initially load the MIDI file. Once loaded, re-save the file so that the creator and file type can be embedded in the new version. Now, whenever the file is double clicked from the desk top, the correct program will be launched and the file loaded.
  • PC users have a similar situation as their Macintosh ‘cousins’. Windows files need to be ‘Associated’ with a program. If an association does not exist when a file is doubled clicked a window will appear with the title ‘Open With’. You will be told ‘Click the program you want to use to open the file xxxx.mid’. Scroll through the programs below until you find your preferred program and double click. Ensure the option ‘Always use this program to open this file’ is flagged (ticked).

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When I save my work as a MIDI file I lose some tracks.


  • If there is insufficient memory to correctly perform an export, some tracks may be automatically removed to free up more memory.
  • If there are some muted tracks when the song is saved, the sequencer may automatically remove them thinking (as they are deliberately muted) they’re not required.

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I’ve used the track parameters box to alter the playback characteristics of my data but when I save my song as a MIDI file it loses it all and I’m back to the original version.


  • Using a track parameter box to audition and mix data is a handy facility to have but most sequencers ignore these setting and save just the original (un-modified) data. Hard code your modifications into each track before saving. Alternatively check to see if your sequencer has a feature that can perform this function automatically.
  • If you’ve used the above technique and your software does create these events you’ll often see them positioned at 1/1/000. Most commercial files use the complete measure for setting up the song. It could be that your settings are being implemented but along comes the (our) commercial set-up a milli-second later and overwrites everything.

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My song has ‘forgotten’ all its program changes, why?


  • Ensure that the MIDI channel for the Program Change track is sending on multiple MIDI channels (Type 1 SMF’s). If it is sending on a specific channel the program change commands will only affect that channel and no other. Our data contains a Sys-Ex GM initialisation string at the very beginning (it sets up the module). As this message sets every part to ‘Acoustic Piano 1’ this would give you a good indication that this may be the problem.
  • Check to see if you have entered program changes in the parameters box.

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When I play a new song the instruments sound kinda funny.


  • Make sure the ‘new’ song has reset the module correctly. If the previous song altered the waveforms of the instruments in some way they’ll need to be reset back to their factory defaults. This can be performed quite easily by sending the correct GM, GS or XG initialisation message. All Hands On MIDI files contain the correct codes to prevent this happening.

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When I play one song, the subtle pitch bend information I’ve carefully programed works well and at others it sounds really naff.


  • By using controllers 100 and 101 (Non Registered Parameter Numbers) we have set the amount of range that the pitch wheel will respond to. If you haven’t embedded our own unique parameters into the file, the song will use the settings of the previously played song. Remember if a Sys Ex initialisation command is used, the range of the Pitch wheel will be preset to plus or minus 2 semitones.

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Some of my sounds flange.


  • Flanging sounds are often produced when two notes of the same pitch (double notes) are played simultaneously. Check your data.
  • Reset the sounds that you intend to use and confirm that the flanging effect is not produced by modifications to a voice’s parameters carried over from a previous song.

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When I use MIDI song files live I’m often stood on stage waiting for ages for the song to load. Is there a quick way to speed things up?


  • Some keyboards take longer to load songs than others. Use a direct from disk playback device.
  • Increase the tempo, say 225-240 BPM, for the first (set-up) measure. Insert a tempo change at measure two to lower the tempo for the song ‘proper’. This is extremely effective if the song is a ballad as it gets that first measure out of the way as fast as it can.

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I’ve purchased some of your MIDI files and I need to convert them from a single track into multiple tracks for editing.


  • All Hands On MIDI files downloaded from our site contain Type 0 (single track) and Type 1 (multiple track) as standard. Load the appropriate version for your needs
  • Check to see if your sequence package has a ‘Remix’ facility. Remixing the data will explode the data into separate tracks, each containing one MIDI channel. The new tracks will have track names relating to MIDI channels so they should be renamed to reflect the instruments used.
  • Copy the source track and delete any events that are not of the desired channel. This may mean performing the task numerous times. For instance if we wanted to keep MIDI channel 1 only we would need to delete channel 2, then 3 then 4 and so on until channel 16 is deleted. Only at this stage can we be sure that our track only contains data for MIDI channel 1.

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I have a separate drum module and I want to use this for my drums and ignore the drums in my GM box. How do I do it?


  • If you are using a different device for your drums and percussion you can send a System Exclusive command to turn off a part, but the data will still be re-transmitted from the MIDI thru socket to your dedicated module.
  • With multiple MIDI outs select a different port for the drum and percussion information.

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I have a real drummer and I want to send him a click on his headphones so that he can play in time with the sequencer without sending the click back to the main PA system.


  • Unfortunately there only seems to be a compromise solution. As most GM, GS and XG devices use just a stereo left and right output the best solution would be to pan every instrument to one extreme and pan the drums to the other extreme - this may mean using SysEx commands. The instrument channel can be routed to the PA and sent to the front of house while the drum part (using another input on the desk) is sent back to the drummer on cans. The biggest drawback with this method is that the front of house mix will be in mono not stereo.
  • To make things really difficult we may want to send the Percussion track front of house but send the drum click as above. Our only recourse is to split the percussion and click onto two different MIDI channels. By using Sys Ex commands it’s possible to transform an instrument channel into a secondary drum part (GS and XG only). Use an unused MIDI channel (MIDI 11?) for the live click and pan the tracks accordingly.

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When I’ve been jumping around my song editing and mixing I experience some funny pitched notes and different instruments sometimes play.


  • When moving around a sequencer it’s easy to stop it at a point where it’s only part way through a particular function. This could be a pitch bend command on a note for instance. When the song is re-wound and played again the instrument playing will play its notes with the midway pitch bend setting making it sound dreadfully out of tune.
  • Some sequencers have a chase or remember facility. If numerous program changes are used in a MIDI channel it’s easy to scroll past a few and then start playing the song. This will result in the notes on the selected MIDI channel being played by the currently selected instrument - which is not necessarily the right one! Chasing events is a function that makes the sequencer read back past the present (new) position to see if there should be any special events it should process before playing. In our case it would send the last program change command.
  • With chase mode enabled all the time it can cause a few problems as well. It’s very easy to record a series of pitch wheel events - say bending off a note, and forget to include a centering command (0,64). When the sequencer stops (after the take) it will often reset the device automatically by sending Note off, Damper off and Pitch centering commands. If we continued to play from that point we may think that everything is fine only to find when all the parts are glued together and run contiguously our missing pitch centering commands will make themselves known all too soon.

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What does your set-up measure contain and what does it do?


  • In the first measure of each track we have placed setup codes which should cope with almost any synth or sound module you meet out there in MIDI land. These codes are there for your protection, so don’t delete them unless you need to as they will prevent other people’s duff sequences from upsetting your gear and making it sound peculiar. For those of you who are technically minded, here is an explanation of what each of the codes do, in the order that you will find them on each track:
  • Controller 120 : Value 0 : Channel nn
    This controller message means 'all notes off' and is there to ensure that there are no droning notes still sounding from the last sequence you played. Although you may think you would hear them, it is possible for notes to be ‘on’ but with the volume almost zero, and they will steal polyphony if left unchecked.
  • Controller 121 : Value 0 : Channel nn
    This controller simply resets most of the commonly used controllers to their default values, i.e. Pitch Bend to Centre, Modulation to Zero, Aftertouch to Zero etc. This is there in case the last sequence played through your equipment left the pitch bend set at 6 Octaves, or some other strange setting. The nn just stands for whatever Midi Channel you are looking at.
  • Controller 1 (Modulation) : Value 0 : Channel nn
    Introduced for those of you who are using Non-GM equipment which doesn’t respond to the GM/GS reset command in the system exclusive track. This instruction simply sets the modulation to zero or ‘off’.
  • Pitch-Bend : Value 0 64 : Channel nn
    Also introduced for Non-GM equipment. This instruction ensures the Pitch wheel is ‘centred’ or ‘off’.
  • Controller 64 (Damper Pedal) : Value 0 : Channel nn
    This message sets the damper pedal to off.
  • Controller 7 (Main Volume) : Value ??? : Channel nn
    MIDI controller No.7 is called 'Main Volume', and is the equivalent to the master volume on your guitar or keyboard amplifier. We usually set the master level on the instruments to about 100. This setting enables you to adjust the level of a track UP or DOWN to modify the balance.
  • Controller 11 (Expression) : Value 127 : Channel nn
    This controller works the same way as Main Volume, in that it controls the level of the instrument on the relevant channel, but if used correctly it should control the 'expressive' part of the performance such as swells and fades.
  • Controller 10 (Pan) : Value ??? : Channel nn
    The Pan controller (10) is used to ‘place’ the various instruments in the stereo mix. A value of 64 is the centre position.
  • Controller 91 (Reverb) : Value ??? : Channel nn
    Controller 91 is the ‘External Effect Depth’, and is used to control the amount of Reverb applied to an instrument.
  • Controller 93 (Chorus) : Value ??? : Channel nnController 93 is used for applying the amount of ‘Chorus Depth’ for an instrument.
  • Controller 101 : Value 0
    Controller 100 : Value 0
    Data Entry : Value 2
    (Sometimes set to Value 12)

    These three controllers together set the pitch bend range for your synth - we usually use 2 semitones for our work, but sometimes it’s set to 12. The first two tell your equipment that the next Data Entry message is to be the Pitch-Bend range for that channel, and the Data Entry value is given in semitone steps.
  • Controller 101 : Value 127
    Controller 100 : Value 127

    This pair of controllers look suspiciously like the ones for Pitch Bend setup. That’s because they 'Lock' the setting where it is after we’ve changed it with the previous three. There are two main reasons for this - firstly, if you own a DX-7, the slider on the front panel is set to transmit Data Entry at all times, so if you knock it at a gig you could accidentally change the Pitch Bend setting on your synth to sixty squillion! - secondly, some types of midi equipment transmit Data Entry for their own reasons, so you are protected from them as well.

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