Back to MIDI Library

Updated 1/8/99


For additional detailed information regarding general system setup for many types of browsers
and accessory devices, please refer to John Roache's detailed configuration page.

To hear MIDI-formatted music on your computer, you must have at least a basic FM-synthesis sound card with volume control and speakers. The most complex will involve a wavetable card and independently-powered stereo amplifier and speakers. Any will feature at least some kind of (software-based) control panel with volume and source control. You may download music files and call them with your soundcard's control software, or you may use external "players" or browser plugins which will automatically utilize your soundcard's computer interface. Such additional devices may offer convenient additional features such as system-integrated volume control, play queueing, etc.
Downloading a sequence:
Simply right-click the chosen sequence and choose the Save_As option to your preferred directory.
Playing a sequence stored on your hard drive:
Invoke your sound card's player or an application such as MidiGate and select the desired MIDI file from your computer's directory.
Play a Linked MIDI File (from a web page):
Just left-click. If you're set up properly, you should be able to download and listen to "Bluin' The Black Keys" (top of this page) with a single left mouse click.
Configure your browser to open an external helper application, such as MidiGate, when a MIDI file is downloaded.
Use a plugin with your browser. Do not attempt both plugin response and an external helper application simultaneously!
Both Netscape and MSIE have built-in players which will be invoked as soon as you left-click a linked sequence.
Why anyone would fail to use the latest and greatest in browser capability is beyond us, as the newest features will enhance anyone's viewing pleasure, and late editions contain more and more automatic functions to keep up with ever-expanding multimedia applications on the Internet.

The two best are unarguably Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE.) We have a decided preference for Netscape, as it offers the broadest response to color and graphical interpretation, and is more forgiving of html errors. Both feature bult-in plugins for MIDI response, and no other plugin or playback device is required (others, however, may be used in their place according to your personal preferences.)

Netscape packages the LiveAudio plugin, which works very well except that

The volume control is a nice addition for folks using Windows 3.x.

They did it right...a right click Save_As will list the proper filename. There is no separate volume control.

Plugins (accessory programs for your browser) respond to the html <EMBED> tag. Most will also function as separate playback devices. There are several, with more coming on the market every week. Most plugin devices are free. Netscape and MSIE package them as a part of their standard browsers.

PLEASE BE AWARE that there is no such thing as a "required" MIDI plugin! Some companies, notably Crescendo, are attempting to mislead users into believing that they must have their product in order for embedded MIDI files to work. This information is totally false and misleading, and is an egregious example of crass commercialism, in our estimation.

Unfortunately, many sites are now featuring plugin-specific html which requires the specified plugin for playback of embedded MIDI sequences. Should you encounter such a site, you're encouraged to inform the siteholder that a standard <EMBED> tag, without the device specification, will work perfectly well and will allow all visitors, regardless of the plugin used, to enjoy the embedded music. You are welcome to refer them to this page for further information.

LiveAudio performs as described in Netscape, above. May be used as standalone helper application with its own volume control. Simple, tasteful control panel design.
Crescendo can be downloaded and set to act as your browser's preferred playback device, and can be set up as an independent helper. It does not feature a volume control, and its control panel background may or may not suit your tastes. Crescendo does not have a stop button, which will cause it to interfere with other audio applications you may wish to have open simultaneously.
WebTracks is a nicely-conceived device, except that it can't cope with multiple downloads from the same web page.
Yamaha has a new device available from Netscape's plugins page. We haven't yet experimented with it.

In our estimation, there's only one: MidiGate from PRS Corporation. Not only will it play midis, but it will queue, save, multiple open, reset your sound card, and return considerable information about the sequence.
As a final alternative in the absence of a plugin or helper application:
Your sound card came with some kind of MIDI player. If you just left click a linked MIDI file on a web page, Netscape or MSIE will return a dialog box asking you whether you want to save the file or open it. To save, just select the desired directory on your hard drive and click OK. To listen, find your replay application, select, and click OK.

To set up an external device for use with your browser, add the device to your browser's "helper applications" list as
type: audio , sub-type: x-midi , extension: mid (note the absence of a period before the filetype extension.) This type will respond to MIDIs embedded in web pages for automatic play on download.
Add a second as:
type: audio , sub-type: midi , extension: mid (the second type will respond to linked MIDI files from a web page list.)

Since your browser will automatically invoke the first MIDI plugin it encounters in its plugins folder, you must remove all MIDI plugins dlls from your browser's plugins folder (save them in a backup folder so you can easily reinstall them if wanted.)

(1/8/99) For Netscape, the included MIDI plugin is operated by "nsaudio.dll" To disable and allow use of, say, MidiGate, simply rename the file as "xnsaudio.dll" Adding the "x" will effectively disable the dll.

Windows95 additional steps: In My_Computer, select menubar options View_Options_FileTypes. Find the application listed for MIDI files (Extension: mid) If there's none, then create a new one. Choose to Edit, then set (browse) the open and play actions to your helper.exe file, where "helper.exe" is the execute file for your preferred MIDI player. In the same dialog boxes, set up a {MIME} type audio/x-midi with extension .mid You're ready to go!

Now there's another {MIME} type! A server may deliver MIDIs as {MIME} type: x-music/x-midi
If your browser is not downloading and playing, then check the {MIME} type in the message popup and add a browser helper for that type.

1/8/99: More about {MIME} Types
Your computer must be "told" what type of file it's receiving in order to respond properly. That's accomplished automatically by attachment of a {MIME} type to the different types of files - whether for music, data, word processing, images, etc. Most are universal, but a few bounce around with varying definitions, notably those for music.

The {MIME} type for a downloaded MIDI is assigned by the host server, and is set at the discretion of the server owner (Not the site owner, but the owner of the server on which the site is posted. It's not contollable by the owner of the web site.) The {MIME} type is sent by the server every time a MIDI file is downloaded, then used by your system to determine the appropriate playback or presentation program. To cope with variations among server-assigned {MIME} types, your browser and system must be set up to recognize whatever {MIME} type is noted for MIDI by the server from which you're receiving the download.

For MIDI files, the most common {MIME} type is "audio/mid" If there's a site from which you are not successfully receiving MIDI files, then you may need to set up your browser with additional {MIME} types until you find the one that works. (PCs: When you set up a helper app in your browser, that automatically sets a new {MIME} type probably visible in MyComputer/FolderOptions/FileTypes.)

It's useful to set the following {MIME} types in your browser for your preferred MIDI playback device:

If you just can't get a site's downloads to work, ask the siteholder what {MIME} type his server is delivering for MIDIs.

Most people who visit web pages with embedded sound or with lists of MIDI sequences available for download would like to save at least some of those sequences for later independent replay.
LINKED FILES (i.e., linked on a web page list.)
Right-click the listed file and choose the Save-As (or Save_Link, Save_Target) option to your preferred directory. Returns correct filename.

EMBEDDED FILES (Have no effect and are inaccessible without browser plugins.)
Your plugin control panel may or may not respond with a filename to a "right-click-on-the-control-panel" attempt to Save-As.
Right click "To Save" line:
  • Regardless of plugin or browser, always returns Save-As option with correct filename.

  • Left click "To Save" line:
  • Any browser helper application: Load and play file via external application, such as MidiGate.
  • NS3 (Live Audio): Load and play file via plugin. Spawns additional "player" control panel.
  • MSIE: Load and play file plugin. Spawns additional "player" control panel.
  • Crescendo: Depending on system setup, returns "Save-To" option which does list correct filename, or opens a new browser page (ugh!) with only the Crescendo player visible.

  • Control panel right-clicks:
  • NS3 (LiveAudio): Save-As does not list correct filename.
  • MSIE: Save-As does list correct filename.
  • Crescendo: Save-As does list correct filename.
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    [These notes apply to standard FM synthesizer cards. We're assuming that if you already have a wavetable synthesizer such as a Turtle Beach or AWE32, then your system is sufficiently advanced that these adjustments are of no interest to you. For those who truly value the quality of their MIDI music, a wavetable sound card will make a tremendous difference in playback quality. ]

    MIDI sequencers use up to 16 playback channels. It's possible that all of the channels in your system were not turned on at installation, so you may be missing some sounds. It's easy to get 'em's how:

    Since we don't know your level of experience, these instructions
    are detailed, and may tell you some things you already know.

    These instructions are specific to Windows3.x.
    For W95, find the appropriate dialog for your FM sound card and apply these instructions.

    1) In Windows Program Manager (the main screen), click "ctrl panel" to open the control panel dialog box.

    2) In the dialog box, click "MIDI Mapper" to get the smaller MIDI Mapper dialog box.

    3) Select the "Setups" option.

    4) Be sure that the "Name" box shows your sound card, i.e., "SB16" for a Sound Blaster.

    5) Press the "Edit" key, and you'll get a new "Setup" dialog box listing all 16 channels. "Src Chan" and "Dest Chan" are probably all the same.

    6) The 3rd column shows "Port Name." Don't worry about what the name is, just see if it appears in all 16 rows (mine was only set for 10.) If not, turn them on via steps 7 & 8 below.

    7) If you click on any empty cell, you'll get a dropdown box. One of its choices should match the ones already set above. Click that choice, and repeat until all 16 "Port" boxes say the same thing.

    8) The far right column is titled "Active." Be sure there's an "X" in each box by clicking on it.

    That's it! You now have all 16 channels active!

    On rare occasion, there may be a playback conflict if all 16 channels are active. Base MIDI sequences use channels 11-16, while the more recent standard (SMF) sequences will utilize channels 1-10. Now that you understand how to activate and de-activate channels, you may need to experiment with adjusting the active channels for best reproduction of some favorite MIDI sequence.
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    Special Notes for W95 users:

    Note 1 deals with installation of a preferred "external" (non-plugin) player.
    Note 2 deals with managing your sound card's drivers.

    An external player, such as MidiGate, will utilize your sound card, but will be invoked as the "managing director" whenever a MIDI file is selected. However, W95 will have installed its own MIDI file player (MPLAYER) when W95 was initially loaded. The W95 player must be removed from registries and the preferred player installed - easier, fortunately, than it sounds.

    The trick is to allow W95 to do all the work for you. Here are the steps:

    1. Be sure that you have downloaded at least one MIDI file to a folder anywhere on your hard disk. It should exist in the format "mysong.mid".
    2. Open W95 My Computer (just double-click the desktop icon.)
    3. In the menubar, select View, and Click the dropdown entry OPTIONS.
    4. Select the FILE TYPES tab. You'll be presented with a list of the types of files recognized by W95.
    5. You'll see that for each one, the bottom of the panel lists the "file type details", and that the first entry is for the file extension recognized.
    6. The key file extension for MIDI files is MID (not MIDI or any other variation.)
    7. Go through the list (the down arrow keyboard key is handy) and look for the file entry responding to the MID file type.
    8. If it's present, DELETE ("remove" button) the entry. Click OK. Your computer now has no idea what to do with MIDI files. If it's not present, then keep going on this list.
    9. Exit the file types dialog boxes (if still open.)
    10. Using My Computer or your file-listing device, locate any MIDI file on your hard drive.
    11. Double click that file, and W95 will respond with a dialog box asking you to select the desired viewer for this type of file (you deleted its "knowledge" of what to do just a moment ago.)
    12. If your player is not listed in the selection window, then browse the hard drive until you find it. Double-click its ".exe" file.
    13. Select "always open files of this type". Click the OKs and what-have-you to exit this dialog.
    14. You may return to the MyComputer_Options_FileTypes dropdown to select a different icon for the player, if you wish.
    15. All MIDI files on your hard disk will now display the icon for your player, and will start the player if double-clicked.
    16. Return to the "External Players" W95 Additional Steps discussion at the top of this page, and make the {MIME} type entry for this file type.

    As some users may by now have learned, W95 likes to manage its own file installations, and manual interference can be tricky. But - We're aware of at least one occasion in which W95 installed multiple and conflicting sound drivers, with the result that a wavetable card's features were seriously - but not completely - suppressed.

    Many virtual devices, including most MPEG (or other "movie") players will bring their own sound drivers to the table. The order of installation can affect W95's registries, sometimes with unwanted results. (For instance, the preferred sound card's drivers may be totally ignored.) The good news is that W95 can be manipulated to ensure that your sound card's drivers remain the "vehicle of choice" for audio replay. Here's how:

    (Don't be afraid of these steps, but do proceed with caution. If you're a novice, we suggest a couple of "dry runs" with no actual changes until you're comfortable with the procedures.)

    View the following by starting at the W95 taskbar and selecting Settings_Control Panel_System, then Device Manager. This is the list of all drivers installed in your system. Procedure:
    To ensure that your sound card's drivers are always chosen first, force their installation to another subsection higher on the list. Sounds hard, but it really isn't.
    1. Delete your sound card drivers from the "Sound, video, and game controllers" section by higlighting the driver(s) with your mouse, then choosing the "Remove" option button. Your sound card's drivers are now out of your computer.
    2. Reinstall your sound card drivers from the "Add new hardware" icon in Control_Panel. Do not allow W95 to autodetect - if your card is "plug n' play", W95 will just stick it back in the same place. (Choose the "No" radiobutton instead.) From the dropdown list, select "Other Devices" (highlight with your mouse.)
    3. Choose the appropriate application from the dropdown lists, and select "have disk" to load the drivers. Insert your sound card "drivers disk" in drive A, and let W95 install. Your sound card is now in the "Other Devices" subsection, and will be encountered -and chosen -first whenever audio is replayed.
    4. Reboot and enjoy!
    You may "dry run" these steps by stopping short of the "do it" command in each step. For instance, open the dialogs & highlight choices, but don't actually remove the devices, then just Close the "Add New Devices" dialogs. Same for installation. When you're comfortable with the steps, then do it "for real."
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    If you have a special project or just need to know a little more, we'll be glad
    to try to help. To give us feedback or ask questions, just send us e-mail :

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