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Monday, 3 December, 2007

In discussions about different audio formats, wave, mp3, etc… quite often I read the question “can I convert mp3 to midi?”. Yes, it would be good, since evidently .mid files are so lightweight, usually less than 100KB while an mp3 file is usually more than 3MB. Why such difference?

A .mid file is to be considered as a piece of sheet music, the score on which you can read which instruments, which notes, at which tempo (and other musical data) have to be played. To excecute such information (i.e. to read the score) is up to the MIDI device, which will do the job of the “orchestra”.

Fundamentally, the mp3 file contains a whole recording of real music or sounds, so every single digital info to determine a waveform: a lot of data, lot of bytes, the more the quality the bigger the file.

Again, following the score-orchestra example, I’m tempted to say that the mp3 is the orchestra itself because it well renders the idea of weight difference: a score is always much lighter than the orchestra that is performing it.

But, honestly, it wouldn’t be true: in this case the mp3 is a detailed recording of an orchestra playing, so it should be compared to a long-playing record. In the example a vynil record could weighs a little bit more than the pages of a score… but -digitally speaking- the difference is huge.
To be clear, we discussed about “mp3″ because nowadays it’s the common term for a digital music format; by the way in this article we could mean the WAVE format in general as well. Mp3 allows to obtain a high-fidelity sound similar to the Wave but it’s compressed into a few megabytes (from 4 to 5 as average size); the advantage is having just like a very long text file (.txt) and compressing it into a .zip file, ten to twenty times smaller. A dramatic difference would be to compare the lightness of a MIDI to a high-quality stereo WAVE; something like “a thousand times heavier” (a midi 100KB, a wave 100MB).

Again, with regard to the initial argument about “mp3 to midi”, personally, since I sequenced some MIDI files and I have well clear the idea and the difference with wave/mp3, I don’t think it’s possible to obtain something decent. I hope someone will prove I’m wrong… maybe before long.

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