The iPad supports MIDI

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Did you know this? I didn’t, that is, not until I read about it on TUAW just now. Most of you are probably wondering what MIDI is right about now, and with good reason; it’s not something most people ever deal with. The closest that the MIDI standard has been to mainstream consumers is so-called “polyphonic ringtones” on cellphones, which are MIDI files. MIDI is basically a system for transmitting musical information between devices. There’s no audio, instead there is information about how the audio can be made. Notes, pitch, etc. In other words, it lets devices communicate what they’re doing rather than the result of it. And since iOS 4.2, the iPad has semi-secretly supported it.

MIDI support is a big deal for musicians. It allows the iPad to communicate with musical devices going back 3 decades either via special cables or simply using the Apple camera connection kit with some USB MIDI cables, which is better backwards compatibility than you’ll find pretty much anywhere else. I just happened to have a Yamaha PSR-290 synthesizer and MIDI to USB cables quite literally within arm’s reach when I read the article so I plugged everything in, downloaded a free test app on iTunes and started pressing keys. Lo and behold, anything I pressed on the synthesizer showed up as button events in the app and I could even use a tiny on-screen piano on the iPad to play on the synthesizer.The picture at the top is the setup I ended up with when testing this out.

I’m no pro musician though, heck I can’t even be classified as an amateur, so this isn’t something I’ll end up using much myself. However there are plenty of people out there who will end up buying an iPad for this feature alone, and there are already dozens of apps that supports this, many of them quite advanced from the looks of it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; software is what makes tablets awesome. Apple really seems to keep on top of everything with regards to adding APIs that allow for features like this to exist, and that’s simply great. If you want a better explanation on how the iPad can connect with MIDI devices, check out the video below which was also the original source of the TUAW article. It comes courtesy of Create Digital Music blog, who certainly lived up to their name this time.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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