About MIDI and MP3

The companion CDs for the Campfire Songbook, The Session Tunebook Collection, and the Bush Dance Digital CD are not regular audio CDs for playing on a HiFi, but contain both MIDI and MP3 files with a full arrangement for every tune/song . These files are for using on your computer and/or your favourite MP3 player (e.g. Apple iPod, Sony Walkman).

MIDI Files

You can use your computer to play our MIDI files once you have downloaded a free or low-cost multi-track MIDI player (just a small piece of software) from the Internet. The tunes/songs can be slowed or sped up; the key can be altered (e.g. if don’t like it in A, change it to G); instruments altered (if you don’t like banjo, make it a piano or clarinet); and, with the better software, even the notes can be altered. This is one of the best ways you’ll ever find to learn tunes by ear.

To install your MIDI files (and locate a free/cheap MIDI player):

Click here for PC (Windows OS)

Click here for Apple Mac (OSX)

Here’s some boring techo stuff about MIDI:

  • The word MIDI is an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and is a protocol developed in the early 1980s for electronic musical instruments (like synthesizers and drum machines). A MIDI file does not contain any audio, but is just strings of data code that defines things like pitch, note duration, volume, panning, instrument voice and tempo.
  • A basic synthesizer contains a chip (or sound card) that has ‘sample’ sounds for a worldwide standard of 128 instruments, and these are broken into 16 groups. For instance, Group 1 has several piano samples (a grand piano, an electric piano, a honky-tonk piano, etc.), while Group 10 has samples for various drum kits and percussion instruments. When the synthesizer’s sound card receives MIDI signals (usually from up to 16 or more tracks), it generates sounds that respond to the parameters (like pitch and duration) that are defined in the signals.
  • The quality of the generated sound depends on the accuracy of the sound samples, the amount of detail recorded in the MIDI signal and the quality of the amplifier reproducing the sound. In general, MIDI performances and sound will not have the richness and nuance of a live performance with a real instrument, but they can be very excellent when produced by talented operators and if the player has high-resolution samples.
  • Nowadays, standard computers have powerful processors that come with high-quality instrument samples and this makes them ideal for reproducing advanced MIDI performances. Using MIDI has a number of advantages over standard ‘audio’ recordings. The user can alter the tempo and key signature of the backing in real time and control elements that would otherwise be fixed (like reverb, volume, muting and panning).

MP3 (AAC) files

Every song/tune in our Session Tunebook Collection and Campfire Songbook has been fully arranged and recorded in both MP3 and MIDI (see above) formats. The MP3s can be installed in your iTunes or Windows Media Player and transferred to compatible mobile phones or iPod-style devices. They can also be played on your computer as you would with other music. Other great features are that you can make your own playlists in iTunes and burn full audio disks for playing on your HiFi or car radio. You will always have your songs with you wherever you go.

Here’s some yadda-yadda about MP3s:

  • When you see people on the train with thin white chords dangling from their ears, you can be 99% sure they’re listening to music on an MP3 player. The MP3 format is rapidly replacing the traditional audio format because it can be stored and played on small portable devices like the iPod or Sony Walkman – indeed, nearly every mobile phone has an in-built MP3 player these days.
  • The smaller size of the MP3 is achieved through some crafty manipulation of the audio; in particular, stripping out sounds the human ear cannot detect, shaping other sounds to match the reponse of the human ear, and compressing the rest the same way we make .zip files on the computer. The end result is that the MP3 can be about 10% the size of regular audio.
  • The term originates from MPEG Audio Layer III (MP3 for short), a protocol of digital audio compression designed by the Moving Pictures Expert Group in the early 1990s. While we still call this type of audio an MP3, the most up-to-date version is actually the AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), and this is usually of better quality and smaller size than the original format – it is also an open-source protocol that can be used without paying licence fees (making it cheaper to the consumer).
  • The following are some of the devices that support AAC: All Apple products (iPod, iPad, iPhone, Mac computers), DivX Plus Web Player, Sony PlayStation 3/Portable, Sony Walkman, Sony Ericsson phones, Samsung Galaxy devices, Nokia S40 & S60, Android phones, Nintendo Wii, and the MPEG-4 video standard.