There’s Now A New MIDI Spec, And Drones

MIDI, the Musical Instrument Digital Interface, was released in 1983 in a truly bizarre association between musical instrument manufacturers. At no other time, before or since, has there been such cooperation between different manufacturers to define a standard. Since then, the MIDI spec has been expanded with SysEx messages, the ability to dump samples via MIDI, redefining the tuning of instruments via MIDI to support non-Western music, and somewhere deep in the spec, karaoke machines.

Now there’s a new update to the MIDI spec (Gearnews link, here’s the official announcement but their website requires registration and is a hot garbage fire). At this year’s NAMM, the place where MIDI was first demonstrated decades ago,  the MIDI Manufacturers Association announced an update to MIDI that makes instruments and controllers smarter, and almost self-learning.

There are three new bits to the new update to the MIDI spec. The first is Profile Configuration, a way to auto-configure complex controller mappings, described as, ‘MIDI Learn on steroids’. The second update is Property Exchange, and allows MIDI devices to set device properties like, ‘product name, configuration settings, controller names, and patch data’. This is effectively setting metadata in controllers and devices. The third new bit is Protocol Negotiation, a way to automatically push future, next-gen protocols over a DIN-5 connector.

What does this all mean? Drones. No, I’m serious. The MIDI association is tinkering around with some Tiny Whoops and Phantoms, and posted a video of drones being controlled by a MIDI controller. Play a glissando up, and the drone goes up. You can check out a video of that below.

42 thoughts on “There’s Now A New MIDI Spec, And Drones

      1. Real -> ‘Real’ (as in someone already put that head image into a ‘real’ image).

        Btw.: How can I embed an image here? I tried the html image tag …img src=”” alt=”text here”…
        (of course with > and < instead of the …)

  1. No just Beethoven slamming down dun,dun,dun,Dunnnn. Just the oldest form of digital technology, advancing! This builds on 500+ years of digital, meaning fingers on or off. will give you a few thousand tuning scales alone, patch them in. Now something like USB for instruments, instead of just serial ASCII/MIDI (notes) alone.

    If that is the case the only rudder/pitch bender I have ever flown is the pitch bender (unfortunately not MIDI sending) which is without deadband, is on my heavily modded synth. One of the best hacks I have done. No this not a reference to the Grateful Dead. It crosses normal center tuning without any zero zone, just a gnat hair between flat and sharp, like a flight stick with trim controls.

  2. Unfortunately the Grass valley Kayak control panel used as the header image is designed for controlling a production switcher/vision mixer, and has nothing to do with MIDI. Its mainframe can do PBus II though, but that is somewhat different.

  3. >” The third new bit is Protocol Negotiation, a way to automatically push future, next-gen protocols over a DIN-5 connector.”

    There’s a more sinister backthought to that: Embrace, Extend, Extinguish – manufacturers can now define their own proprietary protocols while claiming to be MIDI, so you can only use some features in connection with compatible hardware and the protocols can be “copyrighted” and DMCAs thrown at competitors trying to use them off license.

    1. And before you hit reply, I’m taking issue with the factual accuracy of his second sentence, not the first. And before all you sharp software developers reply that a change to the spec defining instrument assignments willy-nilly mapped by the vendor to a large standard enumeration isn’t a major change to the spec, please tell me you don’t write medical device firmware…

  4. In a software & hardware package we developed that is used in tv productions, we implemented several interfaces to communicate events with the production crew, light guys and sound guys. initially i thought they would prefer DMX or Ethernet, but they all prefer to get a MIDI connection. They feed it over an RS485 link to the OB Van, which then feeds it to everyone that needs it (sound, light, pyro, ..). I have used MIDI for so many applications that it wasn’t meant for over the years, i absolutely love it. In another instance we used for 3D projector mapping a set of automated musical instruments, so we could sequence the light in the same environment. MIDI rulez!

  5. MIDI CI is not about drones, it’s about (among other things) not having to spend time mapping stuff to make music. It also has “trap doors” for future expansion, and is backward compatible with older MIDI gear. But it can run drones; MIDI is a language and it can be used for a lot of things. It runs fountains at theme parks, lighting at Broadway shows, and pyrotechnics at rock concerts. Fun stuff.

  6. It’s slightly surprising they didn’t define a new alternative speed and maybe new connectors, the current speed is so ancient and such an odd number to use with MCU’s.
    And upping speed is always popular in definitions.

    1. new speed and connectors would do more then just put people off.
      it would PREVENT useage in many venues; they want to enable adoption by making it compatible with existing stuff…

      MIDI is a DAISY-CHAINED NETWORK, and is used for more then just cheap home musical instruments.

      theres more to DMX equipment then walmart-purchases. like laser projectors, stage-lights, fog machines, strobelights, and motorized lifts/platforms. not to mention control consoles that weigh a ton, are custom built and cost a small fortune. also the expense of running new cabling

      either that or you pay 3 times the price at your next concert/ect to help pay for new EVERYTHING, and your local low-rate stage just cant add the newest thingy because it would require either a huge investment or require learning and working on, desktop computers for days (or weeks depending on computer expierence, or months depending on lifestyle) just to set it up for field use.

      1. That’s not how things work, new definitions and connectors are done all the time including with stuff that is built into large expensive complexes.
        And it’s right because old connectors are based on old technology and you need to keep with the level of technology where you are at.
        Plus you can have fallback to old speed/connectors for old stuff.
        But seriously, would you want us to still have parallel IDE cables? And serial DB ports for communication instead of USB and such? Large ports on your TV instead of HDMI (or displayport)? And coaxial networking cables?

        1. Whatnot: YES, I would rather have those old-tech connectors. As far as reliability goes, USB connectors SUCK — all of them. HDMI sucks even worse. Thunderbolt sucks just as much. Why? Because all of these depend on contact between a flat surface and a curved one, giving ONE line of contact. Old-fashioned DB-25 and DE-9 connectors use three lines of contact, and the difference is clear – I never had to jiggle a DE-9 to get it to work. I do professional video, and I avoid HDMI like the plague, because just touching the connector the wrong way can interrupt the signal. HD-SDI is where it’s at, and that uses state-of-the-art BNC connectors developed seven decades ago, and they just WORK, every time, at the 6-12 Gb/s speeds needed for 4K video. The newer designs are all designed to be cheap, cheaper, and cheapest, while being “good enough” for consumer use.

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