My MIDI Stockpile

(and playing them on modern Windows)

You know, Caby used to have a MIDI page up on her site, a long time ago. That being gone, it's up to me to carry on the tradition. This page is one half instructions on how to get the most out of your MIDI listening experience on modern computers and one half highlights from my hoard (you can find the rest of them here).

Yes, it's unfortunate. Most media players don't take MIDI in the first place, and even if they do, you're probably stuck with a really cheap soundfont from the word go. This is why most people wind up thinking MIDIs just sound crappy, but they don't have to! All it takes is some free software and a bit of setup.

Why are MIDIs so hard to play?

A MIDI is not like a traditional audio file. There's no audio stored in a MIDI; it's just a set of tracks, notes, and instructions for how the computer should play those notes. Anything from how forcefully the note was played to which instrument the notes should be played by are stored in a MIDI, and the computer generates all the music on-the-fly as it's processing it. Different soundfonts can be applied to the MIDI to change the sound of each instrument; soundfonts can either sound really close to real instruments or more artificial and digital, depending on what you desire in your MIDIs.

While MIDIs are hardly outdated for musicians (since it's good for storing performances for later editing and syncing up different pieces of gear), for consumer listening, MIDIs have been forsaken. Even worse is that Windows' default soundfont, the Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth, is notoriously very cheap sounding. Though it's based on the classic Roland SC-55, it's dry and thin and the instrument samples are very low quality. Compare this MIDI being played through the GS Wavetable Synth to the same one being played through the FluidR3 GM. It's night and day.

Problem being, because some assembly is required, whatever MIDIs sound like by default, people just assume that's what they sound like. Maybe you like the sound of it, but MIDIs don't need to sound like that. We can do better.

Making MIDIs sound better on modern Windows

I direct you to two programs, VirtualMIDISynth and MIDIMapper. VirtualMIDISynth is a middleman between the MIDI out in a media player and your speakers. You set the MIDI out to VirtualMIDISynth, and then you set a soundfont in VirtualMIDISynth itself. If you're using a program that doesn't have a configurable MIDI out, like Windows Media Player, MIDIMapper will force itself to be the default MIDI device for your computer, and through it, you can set VirtualMIDISynth as your MIDI out like normal.

VirtualMIDISynth's MIDI mapper configuration tab

Once you've installed VirtualMIDISynth, it'll pop up a configuration window. (To get back to this at any time, right-click the tray icon and select "Configuration...") You only need to worry about the first two tabs, "Soundfonts" and "MIDI Mapper". To take care of the latter first, set both dropdowns to VirtualMIDISynth, of course. You'll also want to set MIDIMapper to use VirtualMIDISynth. If you can't find the configurator, check in the "CoolSoft MIDIMapper" folder in your Start Menu.

VirtualMIDISynth's soundfonts configuration tab

You have a ton of options for soundfonts. If you happen to like the overall sound of the GS Wavetable Synth, there's recreations of the proper SC-55 in soundfont form (though any SC-55 enthusiasts would probably laugh at such a thing, but this page isn't aimed at them). I used to recommend FluidR3, but in listening through a lot of MIDIs to pick out a bunch for this page, I found mixing errors (as in, instruments far too loud or quiet) far more often with it than I do the SC-55 recreations, so I don't recommend it as highly anymore.

Either way, you can Google around for plenty more. Some are ripped from games, others are for professional-level work. VirtualMIDISynth needs the soundfont in .sf2 format, so if your soundfont comes compressed in a format like SFArk or SFPack, you can use these converters (or my linked mirrors) to get them into the right format. Use the Soundfonts tab to add as many as you'd like.

For a player, Windows Media Player will do fine, as will VLC if you set a soundfont in its settings. foobar2000 also has an optional MIDI player component you can get. Media Player Classic Home Cinema will take MIDIs no problem. If you're looking to tinker with your MIDIs as you listen, or you want to test your setup out, SynthFont is a must-have, though a bit glitchy for me (I regularly get strings appearing in the wrong buttons and boxes, it's like memory corruption or something).

Some highlights from the stockpile

Again, this is only the stuff I thought was exceptionally good; a good way to start with MIDI, if you will. You can find the rest of my collection here.

Artist Song Style Size
2Pac California Love G-funk 40kb
Alice in Chains Dam That River Metal 36kb
Alice in Chains Over Now Alternative 61kb
Beck Deadweight Tropicalia 59kb
Beck Readymade Alternative 20kb
Coolio Gangsta's Paradise G-funk 24kb
Dr. Dre Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang G-funk 28kb
Failure Another Space Song Space rock 40kb
The Folk Implosion Natural One Indietronica 42kb
Garbage Supervixen Alternative 46kb
Gin Blossoms Allison Road Pop rock 40kb
Green Day Time of Your Life (Good Riddance) Acoustic 21kb
Harvey Danger Flagpole Sitta Indie pop 57kb
Megadeth Hangar 18 Metal 56kb
Metallica Master of Puppets Thrash metal 88kb
Nirvana All Apologies Alternative 26kb
Nirvana Blew Grunge 36kb
The Prodigy Smack My Bitch Up Big beat 71kb
Radiohead Street Spirit (Fade Out) Alternative 37kb
Rage Against the Machine Bombtrack Rap metal 31kb
Semisonic Closing Time Pop rock 68kb
Smash Mouth Walkin' on the Sun Pop rock 32kb
The Smashing Pumpkins Eye Synthpop 39kb
Soundgarden Boot Camp Alternative 12kb
Soundgarden My Wave Metal 49kb
Squirrel Nut Zippers Hell Swing 50kb
Stone Temple Pilots Creep Acoustic 47kb
They Might Be Giants Ana Ng Indie pop 41kb
Toadies Tyler Grunge 70kb
White Town Your Woman Indietronica 79kb

Links to more MIDIs

And just because I wanna share the love, here's some places to get more MIDIs! Likely, if I know about the page, I've already tried to grab everything in its collection and subsume it into my own, but having an extra mirror is always good.