Midi Players

 

 

 

Midi Players

Before looking at some of the players that are available, it is worth considering some general issues.

What we need

Midi players come in many different forms. Some of the players available on the web are intended primarily to be used when connected to keyboards; musicians can then capture music in a digital form that can then be edited and mixed further. The emphasis may be on showing the notes as sheet music while they are being played, or on detailed control of the quality of the sound. For choral learning however, we need just the ability to play a midi file and have certain controls over the way it is played.

  • The principal requirements are to be able to:
    • Change the overall tempo (up and down).
    • Start at different points. The best way is to do this by bar numbers or, less conveniently, by time in minutes and seconds. The ability to play in a repeating loop is particularly useful.
    • Change the balance of parts. For example, to highlight the alto line by leaving its channel(s) at 100% and pulling all the others down to about 50%.
    • Operate the player easily. Keyboard shortcuts are desirable, so that for example the player can be started or stopped just by tapping the space bar.

What we don't need

In a typical learning situation the ideal should be just to set up the player and then largely forget about it. Some players have complex interfaces with features that may be useful for some purposes but can be distracting for choral learning.

  • For example:
    • Sheet music continually scrolling. Singers should be able to concentrate on looking at their own music. To have another version of the music on the screen, inevitably laid out differently, can only be distracting.
    • Karaoke. Players may offer karaoke facilities whereby lyrics are shown in sync with the music. The files on this site don’t include lyrics, and even if they did, singers would surely do better to read the words from their own music.
    • Music keyboards. We don’t need to input notes, nor do we need to see a keyboard depiction of the notes being played.
    • Dancing lights. Visual depictions of the sounds on the screen, whether showing sound waves or equaliser levels can be a further annoyance.
    • Multiple windows. The best midi players manage to get most of what is needed on a single screen. It can be a nuisance if a simple adjustment requires going through a succession of menus and windows.

There are some features that may be useful but that should be treated with caution. For example, the ability to change the voicing of the parts. I would advise you to live with the original voicing at least until you have experience in using the files for actual learning, and also are familiar with the features of the player. It may be tempting to try things like using a bag pipe sound for the altos, but this can be addictive and time-wasting. Worse, you may not be able to get back to the original. Similar warnings apply to changing effects like echo and reverb.

Soundfonts

A midi file is not a recording of the music, but just an amount of computer code that defines the music. The player software uses the code to generate the music. To do this it needs further data that describes the sounds of the various instruments that can be represented. This sound data may be built into the player software or may be already resident on the device. Often, though, players allow for the use of further downloadable sound data, called soundfonts, that will enhance the quality of the sound significantly.

With some of the players listed below you will find references to the use of soundfonts. Generally I would advise that you try using the player without any additional soundfont. Built-in data will probably provide good enough sound quality for our purposes.

In the choral midi files the various vocal lines are represented by different instruments (oboe. cor anglais, etc.). It is not really important whether each one really sounds likes the instrument of its name. It just needs to be audible, distinctive, in tune and not unpleasant on the ear. Experimenting with soundfonts can be very time-consuming and is best avoided.

Devices

Midi players are listed below for a range of devices including including computers, tablets and smartphones. For choral music learning, though it is preferable, if possible, to use a computer rather than a smartphone. This is because the user will usually, while learning, need to hold and give most of their their attention to their sheet music. This is easier to do if the player is in a computer resting solidly on a desk rather than in a hand-held device.

As regards sound quality, the quality of the speakers is important. A few tentative generalisations can be made. External speakers are better than the internal ones that are found in most laptops, The built-in speakers on smartphones are particularly poor. Headphones are better than loudspeakers, and over-ear ones more comfortable for most people than in-ear plugs.

An issue that may arise is the transfer of midi files between devices. For example, you may download files on one device and then wish to play them on another. I am unwilling (and largely unable) to go into detail on this, but be assured that transfer of files between any of the devices covered here is possible. Do an online search for something like “copy files from Windows to iPhone” or whatever and pick a response from a reputable source.

Midi Players for Windows

Sweet Midi Player by Roni Music

This is an excellent player and in my view is by far the best for choral learning purposes. I have been using it for many years. It has all the features needed, a good design, decent help information, and a responsive developer.

It comes at a price, however. It costs about €27 plus tax (amount varies with country). It can be downloaded and used on a trial basis at no cost. In trial use only a part of each file can be played.

Downloadable from: http://www.ronimusic.com

On the Download page, under Windows software, choose Sweet Midi Player and click on "Setup file". Follow the download instructions which are the same as for most Windows programs. After trying it, if you want to buy, use the Buy Now page of the website. You are then sent a code which allows full use of the software.


MidiPlay by Chris Hills

This player has been written specifically for choral singers by Chris Hills.

It has most of the facilities required and also a simple single-click way to emphasise a particular part. It lacks a loop facility but restart from a particular bar number is possible by dragging a slider. The interface is not ideal and, if you are not careful, windows can tend to multiply. There are no keyboard shortcuts.

I struggled a bit with this player until I understood the important distinction between a button called Play and one called Play Now. The former doesn’t play anything but it opens a Player window that contains crucial controls. With this window left open, everything seems simpler.

MidiPlay is completely free.

https://chrishills.org.uk/ChrisHills/midiplay

It can be downloaded as an executable file and so needs no installation. Just save it somewhere suitable and click on it to run.


vanBasco's Karaoke Player by vanBasco Software

As the name suggests this is a karaoke player in which the words of a song can be displayed in sync with the notes. But the karaoke feature need not be used and this player can be very effective in playing choral midi files.

It has most of the facilities needed including a single-click way of emphasising a particular part. It does not have a bar counter or a loop facility but the time slider can be dragged to get to a required position. It has keyboard shortcuts including a simple pause/resume by tapping the space bar. The online help system is good.

It is completely free.

http://www.vanbasco.com/products.html

It is installed in the usual manner for Windows programs by clicking on the downloaded exe file. In the course of the installation you will be asked if you want to make this player your default for various file types. It’s best to answer no (unclick all boxes). You can choose your default applications at any time in the Windows control panel.


MidiYodi by Canato

This is described as a midi editor and so has more features than we really need but it is well-designed and can be used just as a player without the extra features getting in the way. It comes from Canato, a Swedish company.

It has all the required facilities and is relatively simple to operate, with most controls accessible from the main window. Looping is particularly easy to set up.

MidiYodi costs about €17 + plus tax (amount varies with country). Free download is available for evaluation with minor restrictions.

You can get it from the Canato site. Go to the download page and choose the Windows version.

http://canato.se/midiyodi

It is provided as a downloadable exe file and so does not require installation. Just save the exe file somewhere suitable and click on it to run. Canato point out that you may get a warning message telling you that the software comes from an unknown source. This is because it is not coming from the Microsoft store. I believe Canato to be a reputable company and so proceeded to install it without ill effects. You must make your own decision.

MidiYodi requires additional free software called the Java Runtime Environment. Your computer may have this already. The Canato site tells you how to check for this and provides a link to download Java if necessary. If you use the Firefox browser you may get a message prior to the Java download saying that Firefox does not support Java. This should not matter because Java is going to be used in MidiYodi and this runs independently of Firefox.


Two other possibilities are at least worth mentioning. Both are well-known and widely available players. They can play many different kinds of audio files. As midi players they are limited, providing just the ability ot play the files without the controls that we need. They may be useful, however, for initial testing.


Windows Media Player by Microsoft

This is a general-purpose player and can play many different kinds of audio and video files. It can play midi files but without any of the controls we need. It might be useful, though, for initial testing and is included here because of its wide availability.

It comes already installed with Windows. In Windows 10 it can be found in Windows Accessories (Start button in bottom left corner, scroll through alphabetical list on the left to find Windows Accessories).


Winamp originally by Nullsoft, later acquired by Radionomy

This is another well-established media player which can handle midi files, though in a pretty basic manner. Like Windows Media Player it could be useful as a means of initial testing of downloaded midi files.

It went through a change in ownership a few years ago and has been pretty quiet since. It is still available though, for Windows at least. It can be downloaded from the link below. It is free. Don’t mind the silly-looking site.

http://winamp.com

Midi Players for Mac

Sweet Midi Player by Roni Music

This is the Mac version of the excellent player described above for Windows and has all the same features. (It was in fact developed first for Mac.) It comes at the same price of about €27 plus tax. It can be downloaded and used on a trial basis at no cost, with a limitation on the length of file that can be played.

Downloadable from: http://www.ronimusic.com

On the download page, under Mac software, choose Sweet Midi Player and click on Disk Image File. Follow the download instructions. After trying it, if you buy it you will be sent a code which allows full use of the software. (I have noticed that the Buy Now page does not include a link for the Mac version of Sweet Midi Player. You may well be prompted to buy but, if not, I am sure that an e-mail to Roni Music would sort this out.)


MidiYodi by Canato

This is described as a midi editor and so has more features than we really need but it is well-designed and can be used just as a player without the extra features getting in the way. It comes from Canato, a Swedish company. The Mac version seems to be identical to the Windows one.

It has all the required facilities and is relatively simple to operate, with most controls accessible from the main window. Looping is particularly easy to set up.

MidiYodi costs about €17 + plus tax (amount varies with country). Free download is available for evaluation with minor restrictions.

You can get it from the Canato site. Go to the download page and choose the Mac version.

http://canato.se/midiyodi

It is provided as a downloadable DMG file for Mac. Follow the instructions as given on the Canuto site.

MidiYodi requires additional free software called the Java Runtime Environment. Your computer may have this already. The Canato site tells you how to check for this and provides a link to download Java if necessary. If you use the Firefox browser you may get a message prior to the Java download saying that Firefox does not support Java. This should not matter because Java is going to be used in MidiYodi and this runs independently of Firefox.


Quicktime by Apple

This is a general-purpose player that comes already installed with the Mac operating system and can play many different kinds of audio and video files. Some versions of it can play midi files, but without any of the controls we need. It might be useful, though, for initial testing.

There are issues concerning versions of both Quicktime and the Mac operating system. Not every combination of these will play midi. If you have a Mac with Quicktime installed it would be worth trying to play a midi file.


Winamp originally by Nullsoft, later acquired by Radionomy

This is another well-established media player which can handle midi files, though in a pretty basic manner. Like Windows Media Player it could be useful as a means of initial testing of downloaded midi files.

There do not seem to be any recent Mac versions of Winamp available online. However if you find an old one, or have it already on your system, it would be worth trying it.

Midi Players for Unix

MidiYodi by Canato

Although I had not not intended to cover Unix operating systems in this survey of midi players, the Canato site specifically mentions a Unix version of MidiYodi, so this deserves to be noted. It is suitable for all dialects of Unix, presumably including Linux.

You can get it from the Canato site. Go to the download page and choose the Unix version.

http://canato.se/midiyodi

The Java issues discussed above for the Windows and Mac versions apply here too.

Midi Players for Android

Midi File Player by Volcano Mobile

This is a well-designed player in which it is quite easy to control the tempo and the balance between channels. It has a looping facility though with only time not bar numbers shown on the progress line. (You have to specifically switch on the time display in the Settings menu.)

While external soundfonts are supported, the “local synth” option should give acceptable sound without them.

It is free with ads. It costs €4.29 to remove them. There is no Help facility but the controls are fairly intuitive.

Midi File Player is available from the Google Play Store. Be careful, though, not to confuse it with another app called Midi Player by the same company. (The latter player does not have the controls we need.)


Midi Clef Karaoke by ZeroMem Apps

This is quite similar to Midi File Player above, though with a slightly compressed layout that requires careful fingering. Again there are no bar numbers but the looping control can be set by time.

It supports external soundfonts but should operate reasonably well with the built-in option.

It is free with ads. It costs €4.99 to remove them. It has a Help facility but this is largely confined to soundfont issues.

Midi Clef Karaoke is available from the Google Play Store.

Midi Players for iOS (for iPhone and iPad)

Sweet Midi Player by Roni Music

This is an iPhone/iPad version of the excellent player that I have been using on Windows for many years. It has most of the features of the Windows and Mac versions discussed above though not the looping facility.

There appear to be some differences between the iPhone and iPad versions, probably due to the difference in the shape and size of the screen. For example, there is a bar counter box on the iPad, but not on the iPhone. This makes the iPad version better for choral learning.

The cost is about €17 plus tax (amount varies with country). It can be downloaded and used on a trial basis at no cost. In trial use only a part of each file can be played.

It is downloadable from the Apple App Store.


Musk Midi Player by Dr. Garbers Softwareentwicklung

At first glance this player may not seem like a contender. It has potentially distracting features such as a musical keyboard with keys that light up, and synced lyrics (not just on screen, but spoken aloud), but these features can easily be ignored and need not get in the way of the playing that we need.

More importantly, of the many midi players on the Apple App Store this is one of the few that has the controls needed (tempo, balance, bar numbers) and, unlike some of the others, was easy to get off the ground.

It supports external soundfonts but runs quite happily with its built-in resources.

Available from the Apple App Store at a cost of about €2.

Online Midi Players

There are quite a few online midi players but none seems suitable for our needs.

Conversion of Midi to MP3

It is possible to convert midi files to MP3 and indeed to other audio formats. Of course the inherent flexibility of midi is then lost. For example, if you want the choral lines for soprano, alto tenor and bass, you first need to prepare four versions of the midi file with each part enhanced, and then convert each of them in turn to MP3. If you want a slowed-down version as well as the full speed one, you need another four. And of course these tasks have to be repeated for each of the original midi files you want to convert.

This labour could be justified by the fact that most computing devices are already equipped with MP3 players and so users just have to click on them to hear the music. If you want to go down this road the best way to convert the files is to use an online conversion facility.

There are several sites that offer this kind of conversion. I recommend SolMiRe, a site with a collection of midi tools.

https://solmire.com

  • Follow these steps:
    • On the home page, choose MIDI to MP3 Converter.
    • On the next page, Step 1, browse to select the midi file you wish to convert.
    • Step 2. Here you may pick the soundfont that will be used for the conversion. As you will see there are many possibilities, all of which produce slightly different sounds, The default font, currently SGM V2.01, is quite satisfactory.
    • Step 3. Here you can adjust the tempo, but of course if you have already done this in the midi file, that is sufficient. You probably won’t want to adjust the pitch.
    • Step 4. Choose the defaults, Stereo and 128 Kbps.
    • Step 5. Choose the default, “No effect”.
    • Step 6. If you wish to help the site developers with their statistics, select a music genre, probably Classical.
    • Step 7. The first time you do this, choose the “first 30 seconds option”, just to make sure everything is all right. In subsequent use, you can go straight to “Full length”.
    • Step 8. You can decide whether to let the site add your file to their database. (What could they do with a choral midi file?)
    • Finally in Step 9, start the conversion.
    • After a little while you will see a window with the result. You may click in one place to to hear the MP3 version, or in another to download the MP3 file. If you choose to download, what happens next depends on your device and its settings. If faced with a choice, choose to save the file. Make sure you know where to find it and if necessary copy it to a suitable location.