Music Files

How Digital Audio files differ from MIDI files
MIDI file formats
Setting-up your MIDI Player to play MIDI files
Music files on the Internet
Recommended Internet sites
Editing MIDI files
Printing sheet music from MIDI files

The two different kinds of music files used in MIDI Players are digital audio files and MIDI files. The digital audio files are found on the CDs with singing and orchestra accompaniments. The MIDI files contain the data that make the keys on the piano play and control the sounds on the tone generators. MIDI files in the past were only marketed on floppy disks, but with the technological advancement of CD standards, the CDs purchased from PianoDisc, QRS Pianomation, and the Disklavier PianoSoft Plus Audio CDs contain the digital audio on one channel, and the MIDI information on the other channel.  These CDs can be copied for back-up purposes, but the MIDI information written on them cannot be accessed for editing.  Most of this website is devoted to using and editing MIDI files with floppy disks or from hard drives located on personal computers.

How Digital Audio Files differ from MIDI files

An audio file (.wav) contains a massive amount of numbers that represent the fluctuating amplitude of the pressure wave in front of the microphone that made the recording. No matter if the sound was an orchestra, a guitar or a car horn, the audio file simply contains measurements for the pattern of motion produced by that sound. When you hear an orchestra playing on an audio CD, the strings, brass and woodwinds are all playing on a single track. An audio CD is basically packaged music that the "user" can enjoy, but not interact with. Audio files are much larger than MIDI files.

MIDI based music data (.mid) files can be controlled by the user, allowing participation in addition to simple listening enjoyment.  On a MIDI file, each instrument or voice is assigned to its own track.  The data in a MIDI file tells what note to play, how long to play it, how loud, at what pitch, using what instrument, etc. MIDI files are much more flexible than digital audio files, as you can reassign instruments, change tempo, change the volume, add or delete some notes, etc. by using a musical editing program called a Sequencer. Sheet music is also arranged and printed from MIDI files using Notation Software. Detailed descriptions of different kinds of music software appear in the Music Software section of this website.

When you hear someone playing the violin (or any other instrument) on an audio CD, you are hearing all the artistry of the musician and nuances of the music.  When you hear violins (or any other instrument) on a MIDI Tone Generator, you are listening to a "sampled" sound tweaked with numbers between 0 and 128 to create the nuances of loud/soft, fast/slow, sustain/staccato, etc.  For MIDI Player Pianos, however, we have the best of both worlds.  Because of the finely designed sensors on different parts of the piano action, piano performances can be recorded in a MIDI format as well as an audio format.  The Yamaha Disklavier has unmatched MIDI recording capabilities, and the Pro models that generate twice as much data can hardly be differentiated from an audio recording.  In fact, MIDI data of live Disklavier piano performances can be transmitted in real time over the internet to be received by a MIDI Player Piano in your home playing your own piano while you view images of this live performance on television!  You can even send the MIDI data of your piano lesson to a teacher on the other side of the world as an email attachment.

MIDI File Formats

Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) is a communications standard that allows musical instruments and related devices from any manufacturer to communicate with one another via a simple cable.  At first, the different producers of MIDI data used their own proprietary formats eventually creating a need for a standard.  The General MIDI (GM) standard came out in the mid 1980s and was further improved upon in 1994 by Yamaha's XG standard.

There are 128 track assignments in MIDI.  Refer to the MIDI Voice Chart to see the 128 standard MIDI voices and program assignments.  Volume, and other MIDI data are given values from 0 to 128.  MIDI Players use 16 Channels in MIDI.  One or several voices (tracks) can be assigned to a single channel. The data in the MIDI file that plays the keys on your Midi Player Piano is found on Channels 1 and 2 - sometimes referred to as Left  annd Right on the Yamaha Disklavier.   The half pedal data is found on Channel 3, and the Drums are found on Channel 10.

It is important to know which MIDI file formats play on your piano.  Refer to the Chart: Disk and File Formats to determine which MIDI formats your MIDI player piano uses. 

Standard MIDI Format 0 (SMF-0) - This format assembles all MIDI data on a single track, allowing playback on even the simplest of sequencers or playback devices.  This format also offers the greatest compatibility.  

Standard MIDI Format 1 (SMF-1) - Format 1 is capable of handling multiple tracks, and is designed to work best with sequencers that allow different parts to be recorded and played back on different tracks - essential for editing and modifying data as well as simple playback 

ESEQ is a Yamaha proprietary format for Disklaviers . All the files on a genuine Yamaha Pianosoft disks are their proprietary E-SEQ format and usually have the extension .FIL
This is the only file format that can be played on the MX100A/B, Wagon Grand, DGP and MX80 Disklaviers from the floppy disk drive. 
 All MIDI Player pianos, including all models of Disklaviers, can play standard MIDI files in format 0 from a computer (running Sequencer or Jukebox software) attached via a MIDI interface.

Yamaha refers to MIDI files as Import Files in their Owner’s Manuals and prompts on the Control Box messages.  Conversion software is used to convert one MIDI file format to another and is described in greater detail in the Music Software section of this website.

Setting up your MIDI Player to play MIDI files

It is important to check your Owner's Manuals, usually the Advanced Manual under the chapter dealing with Import Files, to make sure your piano is set up to play whatever MIDI data is located on Channel 1 and 2.  These settings are usually the Default settings anyway, but you can check them by pressing Function on the Control Box, choose MIDI Setup, then Piano Part.  The Piano Part should be set to Rcv Ch=01, then set the Piano Receive Channel to Prg(All) or better, L=Prg and R=Prg.

If you are planning to put MIDI files on a floppy disk and use the MIDI Player's floppy disk drive, refer to the Chart: Disk and File Formats  and the section on Managing Disks to make sure you are using compatible formats.  If you plan to connect a computer to your MIDI Player, refer to the section, Connecting a MIDI Piano to a computer.

Not all MIDI files are created to play on a piano in an optimum fashion. In fact, once you start editing some of the free files you find on the internet, you start to realize what you pay for when you purchase them from Yamaha, QRS or PianoDisc.   You can use a software program like gnmidi, and select from the pull-down menu choices "prepare program for PianoDisc" to convert any MIDI file to one (MIDI 0 file) that automatically puts the MIDI data on Channel 1 so it will play your piano keys.  Sometimes the MIDI file will produce a poor piano performance and will need editing.  See section on Editing MIDI files.

Music Files on the Internet

There are countless music files on the Internet, but only those in a MIDI format can play the keys on your Midi Player piano.  Other types of music files on the internet are audio files like WAV, MP3, Real Player files, etc.  These will NOT play the keys on your Midi Piano, but the Digital Audio files (.wav) may play through the speakers on your system.

Sometimes you may download a MIDI file from the internet, put it on a floppy disk, and find it doesn’t work in your piano.  If your disk drive on the Midi Player will not even read the disk, the file is probably in the wrong format.  Most of the MIDI files you will find on the Internet are in SMF format 1.  Refer to the Chart: Disk and File Formats to determine the correct file formats for different  Midi Players.

Only files of the same type should be placed on a floppy disk.  A disk should contain only SMF-1 files, or SMF-0 files, or ESEQ files.   

Unless you have speakers attached to your Disklavier or MIDI piano, you may not hear anything while the MIDI file is playing.  It may be that no data is assigned to Channel 1 or Channel 2, sometimes referred to as L and R.  Only MIDI data assigned to these channels will play the keys on your piano.  If you have speakers attached to your system, you may hear other musical instruments, but the keys are not playing. The use of Sequencer Software enables editing to correct this.  Yamaha Disklaviers have software built into them that will reassign the channel assignments.  Refer to the Owner’s Manual.

  Many MIDI files you find on the Internet were created using electronic keyboards and the velocity (or volume) is set to 100 or greater.  That amount of pounding can also damage your piano action.  You may find this unpleasant and your piano will play very loudly.   You can edit these files and set the volume to no greater than 80 by using a software program like Veloset , MidiMod2 or a Sequencer.  Refer to the section on Editing MIDI Files.

MIDI files and Recommended Internet Sites 

I have included some of my favorite MIDI files for piano on this website at MIDI Files.  On this page you will also find Links to some internet sites with good MIDI files for piano.

Editing MIDI files

MIDI files can be edited to play on a MIDI Player piano.  You can change the pitch and volume, or remove wrong or duplicate notes; even change which track the piano will play. If the original MIDI file was created with cello and tango accordion voices, all that is necessary for the piano keys to play your piano is to assign those tracks to Channel 1.

MIDI files are edited using Sequencer software. A sequencer can be thought of as a word processor for music.  This is the kind of program used to edit, play and record MIDI files, and assign parts of the score to various instruments as well as the piano.  PowerTracks Pro Audio and Cakewalk Home Studio are inexpensive commercially available programs; gnmidi is shareware, and Jazz++ is free.  In order to edit the XG features of MIDI, you would need to use Yamaha XG Works 3.0 available from a Yamaha dealer.  Links to these titles are located on the Software Downloads page more detailed descriptions and links are found on the Music Software section.

Volume Control is one of the most common reasons to change MIDI data. Many people perceive their MIDI Player pianos play too loudly and want to turn them down.  Because the loudness on a piano comes from the force at which the piano hammers hit the strings, it is not like turning down the volume control on a stereo.  Pianos can only play as softly as someone performing at the keyboard.   The Velocity values of individual tracks, or the global parameters of Controller 7 messages can be edited.  For pianos, the ideal velocity numbers are between 30 and 80.  The default value for PianoSoft disks is 100.  Anything over 100 will eventually pound your piano action to pieces.  Often MIDI files acquired on the internet are produced on electronic keyboards with the velocity values at 128. The Veloset program is a Windows based part of the free dkvutil software on this website that is good for editing piano-only MIDI files that do not have separate Ensemble sounds.  The challenge is to turn the parts you want the piano to play down, but still leave the Ensemble tracks loud enough to hear.  A new program, called MidiMod2 allows for editing the piano parts on Channels 1 and 2 separately from the other Ensemble sounds.  Another way to edit these files is to use software that will lower the volume by a percentage like the Giebler utilities or gnmidi.

Printing Sheet Music from MIDI files

Each generation of software designed for this purpose gets a little better, but this is still a very labor-intensive task.  Expensive scoring software does this best like Finale or Sibelius, but most Sequencers have Notation programs built into them.  If you look at a MIDI file in a notation window you can see the scoring, but you would not necessarily be able to hand this to a pianist to play without some editing.

Perhaps the best explanation of how to do this comes from a post to the Disklavier Users Group on Yahoo from

This can definitely be done if you do the right steps in the right order. The crucial issue is reclocking the  MIDI file.

Any time a person makes a MIDI recording, they play to a metronome click. When the original recording of this particular piece was made, the pianist played to a metronome but did not listen to the metronome. Accordingly, any music software program that is used to open the MIDI file will look at the metronome data, assume that is where the beats are, and will then transcribe the recorded notes accordingly. Obviously, the notation will be a mess because the defined beats in the MIDI file have no true relationship to the music as it was performed.

It is important to note that the "quantization" feature that is available in many music programs will not be any help in straightening out this problem. When you use quantization, the notes get pushed and pulled to the nearest beats or sub-beats. If the beats of the MIDI file don't have any close relationship to the notes as they were played, quantization messes things up further.

To understand reclocking, it easiest to think about the process in reverse. Suppose you knew what the arrangement should look like in music notation, and you used a music notation program to enter the notes manually, clicking them onto the staff with the mouse. Of course you would end up with a beautiful score, but its playback would be horribly mechanical and boring.

If you wanted to make the playback sound just like your the pianist's recording, you would have to do three things: (1) edit the note-on velocity of each note to match the way that it was played it, (2) add pedal information, and (3) add tempo changes every beat to reflect the human ebb and flow of the original recording.

#3 would be challenging and time consuming, but it would be necessary. The result would be that your score would look square, boring, and mathematically perfect, but it would play with the tempo flexibility used by the original artist.

The purpose of reclocking the file is to achieve the same result: a score that is square, boring, and mathematically perfect but which plays with the original tempo flexibility imparted by the artist.

When you reclock a file, you go through a process of telling a sequencing program where the true musical beats and barlines are in the MIDI file. This is done in different ways by different programs.

I happen to use Digital Performer for the Macintosh. DP has a feature called "Adjust Beats." I set up DP to show me the recorded music in piano roll notation. In this view, I see all of the notes laid out on a grid. When I turn on the adjust beats feature, I can drag the beat markers on the grid to the notes to which they musically apply. DP then moves the notes around to line up properly on the rigid grid AND DP creates a tempo map that preserves the tempo nuances of the original performance.

When using this feature, I have to drag every beat marker to the correct note.

I could do this another way in DP. The other way to do it is similar to the way that some of the Cakewalk sequencers do this (using a Cakewalk feature called "Fit Improvisation"). What you do is create a new track and set it to record. Then during the recording, you listen to the original performance and simultaneously tap a key on your MIDI keyboard. The idea is to record one note for every beat in the music and to record each note so that it coincides with the musical beats of the original performance. This new beat track enables the program to reorganize the MIDI data in the file, line things up properly, and compute a new tempo map. After this is done, the beat track is discarded.

The second way of doing things is not as accurate, but it can be faster.

Once you have reclocked the file, you can further quantize the notes in any program if you wish.

Before importing the notes into a music notation program, I generally view the notes in piano roll view in my sequencer and select the notes that I deem to be left hand notes and cut-and-paste them into a separate track. Having the left- and right-hand notes in separate tracks will result in a cleaner transcription by the music notation program.



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