midi on your browser ball
midi on your site ball
QT music ball
QT custom instruments ball
music in marathon ball

general midiinstrumentsbrowser midi pluginssummary

OK, I'll repeat this in case any of you snuck in the back door:

This site uses QuickTime for a variety of musical formats. While there is plenty to read, if you want to hear any music then you will need QuickTime installed on your computer, and the QT plugin installed in your browser plug-ins folder.

general midi

MIDI stands for 'Musical Instrument Digital Interface' and is the standard language by which synthesisers, samplers and computers transfer musical information like pitch, volume and tempo. So, like the sheet of music in front of the pianist, a midi file carries all the information but it can't make a sound without an instrument to play it. You supply the instruments via your sound card, synthesiser, extension or plug-in and they play the music.
Without one of these, you won't hear anything.

The great advantage is that you only have to download the musical info (a few k) because you already have the sounds, rather than a full sound file (which can run to megabytes).

The disadvantage is that your set of instruments may not match those of the composer. Your strings play the piano part, your flugelhorn plays the triangle part and, worst of all, your piano trys to play the drum part.

This is where General Midi (GM) comes in. GM has a standard set of 128 sounds and instruments (grand piano is number 1 and gunshot (!) is number 128). As long as the music you want to hear was written for GM and you have a GM compatible sound card, synthesiser, extension or plug-in, you should hear approximately what the composer wrote.


Problem is, of course, that not all sound cards, plug-ins or extensions support the full GM instrument set. One piano and one violin will do nicely thank you, and who wants 'guitar fret noise' anyway!
Because GM groups instruments according to type (e.g. percussion, strings, horns, etc) sub-sets of GM will send the data to the next instrument in the list if the correct instrument is missing. If you're lucky, trombone gets played by trumpet, if you're unlucky, seashore gets turned into applause!

On the Mac, the most common instrument set is QuickTime Musical Instruments (with sounds licensed from Roland), which comes along with QuickTime (obviously). It's a separate extension, so if you have Quicktime installed and can't hear any music, check your extensions folder to make sure you have both.

If you are using QT 2.5, you have 61 instruments and 47 percussion sounds at your disposal. If you have moved up to QuickTime 3.0 or greater, then you have more than 200 instruments available deploying the full set of GM instruments and some of Roland's extended GS set.

PC's are blighted by the fact that there is such a variety of sound cards, each with its own implementation of General Midi. This in turn means that, although all the instruments might play, they will sound different from one machine to another. QuickTime 3.0 resolves this by installing the same set of instruments on all computers, so that the midi music will sound the same on any platform.

browser midi plugins

If you have an instrument set in the form of a sound card or Quicktime extension all you need is software to interpret the midi file and play the instruments. .Your browser won't recognise a midi file embedded in a page unless you have the appropriate plug-in in your browser plug-ins folder.

Internet Explorer 3 and above will play a midi file without any plug-ins if the page designer has included a 'bgsound' call, but that also means that you have no way of controlling the playback (assuming that the web master has not included a controller in the page design). If you do use Internet Explorer with a plug-in you'll need to disable the internal midi driver in 'options/ web content' and enable 'plug-in objects'.

The QuickTime plugin can be set up to play midi files, or you can use Crescendo from Live Update. The Yamaha MIDplug includes its own instruments as does Beatnik.

Midi files can also be converted into .mov files and embedded in web pages. The QuickTime plug-in can then play them back without having to be specially configured by the visitor, which is how the midi files are handled on this site.

I have heard that 'LiveAudio' can cause problems with embedded midi files. If in doubt - pull it out!


So, to hear midi music on your browser, you will need one or more of the following:
  • GM compatible sound card on your PC, or QuickTime
  • QuickTime Musical Instruments on your mac
  • a midi plug-in for your browser
  • your browser preferences configured for midi
  • enough extra ram for QuickTime or plug-in to work
  • volume control turned up