Cammy's MIDI Stockpile
(but more importantly, how to play them these days...)

I debated even having a MIDI section on this site because it's something of a stereotype, but honestly, there's too many I like to not throw at least some of them your way. I remember Caby had a MIDI page once upon a time, though sadly, it no longer exists. I'll just have to keep things up in her stead. This page only links the ones in my collection I really like and the ones free of any mixing errors or wonky instrument parts. You can go to the raw index if you'd like to see all the ones I've got.

The more important reason I made this page, though, is to help you actually play these MIDIs with a modern version of Windows. Most media players will not take MIDIs! Worse yet, Windows has been peeling back MIDI support for years now, and your computer might very well have come with nothing that can do the job. And even if it does, you're likely stuck with a very, very poor sounding set of samples from the get-go.

Thankfully, this problem's a lot easier to rectify than you might think.

Why are MIDIs so hard to play?

MIDI files don't actually contain any sound. MIDIs are actually sets of tracks and events that tell the computer what notes to play, how to play those notes, and what instrument parts to use for those notes. The computer then uses a bank of instrument samples (a "soundfont") to make those notes sing like real instruments, and can apply processing like pan, reverb, and echo to sweeten the sound further. MIDIs are incredibly customizable and far from obsolete—if you're a musician, you still likely use MIDI all the time to sync up your audio gear. For actually playing MIDI files though, for whatever reason, they've been forsaken.

The tracks of a MIDI in SynthFont

What makes playing MIDIs even trickier, and what's given MIDIs their reputation of sounding rather cheap, is Microsoft's infamous stock soundfont, the Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth. GS Wavetable is actually a clone of the legendary Roland Sound Canvas SC-55, but absolutely butchered. (A comparison between the two for the morbidly curious.) It's hollow, it's thin, it's dry, the lag on it is terrible—it's a disgrace to both the actual sound of the SC-55 and how good MIDIs can sound in general, and yet, it's the default soundfont that comes with Windows. That's just how people think MIDIs sound.

If you're using the GS Wavetable Synth to listen to MIDIs, you're doing yourself a huge disservice. Here's an (MP3) comparison between the GS Wavetable Synth and my preferred soundfont, the FluidR3 GM. Pay attention to the clacky drums and guitars around 1:02 on the GS version; do you hear how the heavy guitar sounds like a foghorn? The Fluid soundfont sounds like a song; the GS soundfont sounds like a comedy routine.

Anyway, rant over...

Getting MIDIs to play (and sound better) on modern Windows

I direct you to a single program: VirtualMIDISynth. VirtualMIDISynth is a middleman between the MIDI out in a player and your speakers. You set a program's MIDI out to VirtualMIDISynth, you set a soundfont in VirtualMIDISynth, and then your program uses that soundfont instead. If your program isn't configurable (say, Windows Media Player or some games), you can also set up VirtualMIDISynth's sister program, MIDIMapper, which acts as a middleman for the middleman. (In short: non-configurable programs use whatever the main MIDI device on a system is. MIDIMapper forces itself to be that main device and then sends the data to VirtualMIDISynth so you can set a soundfont.) I'd recommend installing both, especially if you're using the player I recommend below.

VirtualMIDISynth set to use itself

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.

CoolSoft MIDIMapper set to use VirtualMIDISynth

Soundfonts (and where to get them)

Now for the fun part: soundfonts! I said MIDI was highly customizable, and indeed, you can use a ton of different soundfonts out there and make your MIDIs sound exactly as you'd like. You can Google around for these, but I like two in particular, the aforementioned FluidR3 (which is also what the VirtualMIDISynth guy uses and recommends—warning, big download), and if you happen to like the overall sound of the GS Wavetable Synth, there's a soundfont based on the SC-55 you can get instead which is much more spacious and pleasant sounding. (Here's an audio comparison of a bunch of common General MIDI soundfonts, in case you'd like to preview a couple before you start downloading.)

It's worth noting that you might have to decompress the soundfont before you can use it. Soundfonts often come in the SFArk format, and you need them in the SF2 format to use with VirtualMIDISynth. Even worse are the ones that come in the positively ancient SFPack format! You can get converters for both here, or worst case scenario, I've mirrored the tools myself (SFArk converter, SFPack converter). Decompress your soundfonts and get the SF2 files somewhere nice and safe. I throw mine in VirtualMIDISynth's Program Files folder, just so everything's together.

VirtualMIDISynth's list of soundfonts

Click the plus sign in the Soundfonts tab and navigate to where you saved your soundfonts. When you open them, they'll be added to a list, and you can have as many soundfonts as you like in this list. The soundfonts at the top of the list will take precedence over the ones lower. You can also disable soundfonts by clicking the big green LEDs in the GUI.

Oh—but you still need a player!

Windows Media Player will do if you have it installed, as will VLC if you point it to a soundfont file. Since we're going properly old-school here though, I'd suggest Media Player Classic Home Cinema, which is still regularly updated and will happily take damn near any file you throw at it, including MIDIs.

The MIDI stockpile (or, where I'd recommend you start, anyway)

Failure Another Space Song
Space rock
The Folk Implosion
Natural One
All Apologies
Nirvana Blew
Street Spirit (Fade Out)
Soundgarden Boot Camp
My Wave
Stone Temple Pilots
White Town
Your Woman
Indie pop

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.

This page (or the MIDI collection) last updated June 1, 2021.

You know, I was thinking of having a MIDI play on the home page, but it just downloads on modern browsers and that's annoying. Maybe if I jack the script from Restorativland...