3.5.1 Creating MIDI files

To create a MIDI output file from a LilyPond file, insert a \midi block inside a \score block;

\score {
  …music…
  \layout { }
  \midi { }
}

If there is only a \midi block in a \score (i.e. without any \layout block), then only MIDI output will be produced. No musical notation will be typeset.

\score {
  …music…
  \midi { }
}

Dynamics, pitches, rhythms, tempo changes and ties are all interpreted and translated correctly. Dynamic ‘marks’ translate into volume levels with a ‘fixed fraction’ of the available MIDI volume range; crescendi and decrescendi make the volume vary linearly between their two extremes.

All \tempo indications, including all subsequent tempo changes, specified within the music notation will be reflected in the MIDI output.

Usually it is enough to leave the \midi block empty, but it can contain context rearrangements, new context definitions or code to set the values of properties. Here the tempo is set to 72 quarter-note beats per minute, but only for the MIDI’s audio playback.

\score {
  …music…
  \midi {
    \tempo 4 = 72
  }
}

Note that \tempo is actually a command for setting properties during the interpretation of the music and in the context of output definitions, like a \midi block, is reinterpreted as if it were a context modification.

Context definitions follow the same syntax as those in a \layout block;

\score {
  …music…
  \midi {
    \context {
      \Voice
      \remove "Dynamic_performer"
    }
  }
}

removes the effect of dynamics from the MIDI output. Translation modules for sound are called ‘performers’.

Selected Snippets

Changing MIDI output to one channel per voice

When outputting MIDI, the default behavior is for each staff to represent one MIDI channel, with all the voices on a staff amalgamated. This minimizes the risk of running out of MIDI channels, since there are only 16 available per track.

However, by moving the Staff_performer to the Voice context, each voice on a staff can have its own MIDI channel, as is demonstrated by the following example: despite being on the same staff, two MIDI channels are created, each with a different midiInstrument.

\score {
  \new Staff <<
    \new Voice \relative c''' {
      \set midiInstrument = #"flute"
      \voiceOne
      \key g \major
      \time 2/2
      r2 g-"Flute" ~
      g fis ~
      fis4 g8 fis e2 ~
      e4 d8 cis d2
    }
    \new Voice \relative c'' {
      \set midiInstrument = #"clarinet"
      \voiceTwo
      b1-"Clarinet"
      a2. b8 a
      g2. fis8 e
      fis2 r
    }
  >>
  \layout { }
  \midi {
    \context {
      \Staff
      \remove "Staff_performer"
    }
    \context {
      \Voice
      \consists "Staff_performer"
    }
    \tempo 2 = 72
  }
}

[image of music]

See also

Learning Manual: Other sources of information.

Notation Reference: Expressive marks, Score layout.

Installed Files: ‘ly/performer-init.ly’.

Snippets: MIDI.

Internals Reference: Dynamic_performer.

Known issues and warnings

Some operating systems require a specific file extension for MIDI files. If a different extension is preferred insert the following line at the top-level of the input file, before the start of any \book, \bookpart or \score blocks;

#(ly:set-option 'midi-extension "mid")

This will set the default extension for MIDI files to .mid.

Alternatively, an option can be supplied on the command line:

lilypond -dmidi-extension=mid MyFile.ly

Changes in the MIDI volume take place only on starting a note, so crescendi and decrescendi cannot affect the volume of a single note.

Some MIDI players may not always correctly handle tempo changes in the midi output.

Changes to midiInstrument (and other MIDI options) at the beginning of a staff may appear twice in the MIDI output.


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LilyPond — Notation Reference v2.19.12 (development-branch).