MIDI Sequencing: File Formats

We were asked to complete a report about different options of saving and retrieving MIDI sequences using different  file formats. We needed to mention about the pros and cons of each file format and types of storage mediums.

To save a MIDI sequence and continue working on it elsewhere the file needs to be saved onto some kind of data storage device.

MIDI files are often about 10kb per minute, so it would be easy to store on a device, as it is a very small file size. With a file this small many MIDI files could be stored on devices that other files may not be able to fit on. Although this is the case if you have used software and hardware synthesisers, when opening the MIDI file in another studio or another version of Cubase the synthesisers used will not be there.

Saving the file to a waveform audio format (.wav) would save your whole mix with the synthesisers you used originally. The file type is around 10mb per minute so is much bigger than a MIDI file but is a very good quality audio file. The file could be imported into a Cubase project in which the vocals and percussion could be added too.

If you wished to save an audio file as something smaller then it could be saved as an MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (.mp3). Mp3 files are often around 1mb per minute but although it’s good for storage, when saving to mp3 the audio quality is not as good as a wave format. If you were to do a MIDI sequence to take to another studio you would want the best file quality possible so a wave format would be the best option. Have a good quality file would be the best option not just because of its sound, but also the fact it can be saved as a Mp3 file later if required.

The Cubase file (.cpr) of a sequence various on how much data is within it. They are often between 500kb and 3mb. The file can be opened on any computer with Cubase installed. The problem with saving the Cubase file is if the program doesn’t have the same synthesisers as the original Cubase project, the data will not be able to be played. Also if any audio is added into the Cubase project this will not be played either. Saving these audio files onto data storage and putting them on the computer before opening the project would sort this problem as you can search for the missing audio from Cubase.

A MIDI sequence done in Reason could be saved as a Reason file (.rns). These files vary in size depending on the information within reason, but they are often small files. Reason can save the data of an audio file that has been imported into a sequence and save it within the Reason file. This means when opening up the Reason file the audio files are in the project already, unlike Cubase. Also unlike Cubase, Synthesisers within Reason are default, so if the computer you are on has the same version of Reason there is no worry about synthesisers not working or not being loaded.

There are many data storage devices ranging from storing small files to huge files.

Floppy disc was the first data storage device. They could transfer files from one computer to another and were cheap and easy to use. They could hold only a small account of data, as the capacity of the discs were only a few megabytes. Now modern computers are no longer made with floppy disc drives as many data storage devices have been created that hold considerably more data.

Compact discs (CD’s) replaced floppy discs. Standard CD-R discs can hold around 700MB but some discs capacity goes up to around 900MB. Discs have data burnt onto them and can be put into a CD drive of a computer and the data on the disc can be opened. CD-R’s can be bought for around £8.00 for a pack of 20 making them quite cheap to buy. An advantage of the CD-R is that if you wanted audio to be written to it they can be played on your average CD player. The problem with CD-R’s is that unlike floppy discs, files cannot be edited in any way. This can be done with CD-RW’s though. They hold the same capacity as a CD-R but the files can be re-written again and again. The problem with this though is that they can only be re-written on the computer you original burnt the disc on.

USB sticks are similar to floppy discs but can hold a huge amount of space. Data can be put onto the USB stick and opened up or be saved on another computer. USB sticks have gone down in price a lot in recent years and you can now buy one for £10 that holds a whole gigabyte of data. As well as being cheap they are also small enough to carry with you on a keyring. This is a great way of storing data but the device will often slow of fail as it ages. Most USB sticks do not include a write-protect mechanism meaning swapping from computer to computer could allow the USB stick pick up a virus.

External hard drives are also now available to buy. Although not very practical, hard drives can store huge amounts of data. If you needed to store a number of big files a hard drive would probably be the best option. A 160GB drive can be bought for around £60 nowadays. If you were wanting to save a small number of files, a hard drive would not be a very good option as its not very practical to carry around. It also takes time to set up as well at the price factor.

To carry files from studio to studio I would use a USB stick. It”s cheap to buy and holds a lot more data then a CD or Floppy disc. Although it doesn’t hold as much data as a hard drive, it’s small enough to fit on a key ring so it’s very practical. The USB stick can be easily used on every computer as it’s just inserted in a USB drive, the data is put on and then it can be deleted, edited or saved whenever you want. I believe this is the best data storage method.

UPDATE: I received a Merit for this piece of work.

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