MIDI was invented in 1983 as a simple way for a single musician to control multiple electronic instruments at the same time. From science to culture to tech and beyond, get essential stories and videos straight to your inbox. Short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, MIDI is the one and only standard by which electronic musical instruments, computers, software and other digital controllers share musical information. Using a single MIDI-enabled keyboard, for example, a musician can play audio on two or three synthesizers, a drum machine and a sampler.

Using simple desktop software called a sequencer, professionals and amateurs can use MIDI to record and edit multiple tracks of electronic music.
A young musician no longer needs to spend thousands of dollars on expensive musical instruments and hours in a professional recording studio.
The keyboard player can trigger the smoke machine every time he plays a D-flat and can control the lights during a live show. When the musician presses a key on his keyboard, it generates MIDI data -- which key he pressed, how long he held it down, how hard he pressed it -- that tells the other instruments exactly what notes to play and how to play them.

Since MIDI is a universal standard, the recorded songs can be played back on any electronic musical instrument or MIDI-enabled device. Software packages like Pro Tools and Reason allow anyone to make professional quality music at home using an endless arsenal of virtual instruments.

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