So, the context for this site is that I was reminiscing about the days of Geocities and Angelfire, when the web was quirky and fun. In those days, sites often used the <bgsound> HTML tag to include an auto-playing song in the background of a page. Usually the song was in the MIDI file format.
It’s hard to describe MIDI files if you’ve never heard them before. The MIDI aesthetic is synth-laced, nostalgia-inducing, old-school, and endearing. It’s mixed up with the first DOS video games I ever played and the first websites that I visited as a small child in ‘95 and '96. A textual description can’t adequetly capture the feeling of listening to a MIDI.
I was surprised and sad to learn that all major web browsers have removed MIDI file support. Perhaps this happened at the same time that the <bgsound> HTML tag was removed? This explains why I haven’t heard a MIDI in many years!
So, I really wanted to play a MIDI file. When I searching the web for a MIDI websites, I discovered that existing websites were quite disappointing. It was difficult to find a site with a decent user experience. Almost all the top sites were unmaintained or broken in various ways. Most sites could not play back the files directly in the site, requiring them to be downloaded and played in an external program instead.
Quicktime also dropped support for MIDI when Quicktime X was released in 2009 which inconvenienced many musicians and probably stopped many users from playing back (or discovering!) this wonderful file format. Technically, Apple still offers Quicktime 7 for download, which can play MIDI. But it’s a 32-bit app so it will likely stop working once the macOS version after 10.14 Mojave is released. Also, embarrassingly, the Quicktime 7 download link uses insecure HTTP!
Even the venerable VLC failed to play back the MIDI files I threw at it. (I later learned that VLC can actually play MIDIs and I just got unlucky with the few I tried, hah!)
I eventually found a .ZIP archive with around 100,000 MIDI files. I wanted a way to search through them and share the best ones with friends. So I decided to build a site to address the shortcomings of existing MIDI sites.
And that’s BitMidi. A free way to browse and play MIDI files!
However, I didn’t really have the audio engineering skills to pull this off. So ended up settling for an approach that uses SoundFonts, which are basically instrument voices or files that contain all the possible notes an instrument can play.
BitMidi uses the instrument voices from the General MIDI sound set released by FreePats.
Then I put a frontend on it, so it’s easy to browse all the files. BitMidi uses all the best techniques that I know about to make it super fast and snappy. The site gets perfect 100s on all categories on Chrome’s Lighthouse Performance benchmark, which is extremely non-trivial in my experience.
I plan to ingest a lot more MIDI files in the future, from sources like the Geocities MIDI archive on the Internet Archive and elsewhere.
Ouch. Has timidity fixed the issue where playing 2 of the same note in sequence cuts off the release tail of the first note when the second starts? Fluidsynth is written in C and doesn't have that issue and sounds better (I assume this behavior matches good MIDI hardware, but not sure about the crappy Windows GS Wavetable Synth). fluidsynth-lite is a Fluidsynth fork with dependencies removed.
One issue I can already see is they use a SoundFont file (.sf2) instead of instrument patch files, which means the whole 100MB+ file probably needs to be loaded before playback. My current approach uses GUS patch files which have one file per instrument, so I can load just what's needed for a particular song and start playing much sooner.
Edit: It looks the GeneralUser SoundFont is only 31MB and it sounds almost as good as the 100MB+ one. So, while this will still be slower than my current approach of loading just the needed instruments, perhaps if I start loading it in the background with ServiceWorker and cache it forever, this could work. Thoughts welcome.
Dragging and dropping to play a midi is a great touch!
Out of curiosity I downloaded a .mid file to compare it with my local timidity install. The quality of the later is way better (I installed it from brew)... It sounds like it either use a better SoundFont or midi effects (like reverb) are not working properly on the site?
Is it just me? Not complaining, just mentioning it.
Most of the file names are wonky, but I think the artist and title information should be inside many of the files.
There should be some files in there that are long gone from the web, some I know are from amateur or unknown musicians. But as I said, the filenames are a mess, so yeah.
Then framing grew big (putting other people's content inside your frames) and content ownership broke in to the web.
I thought maybe my struggle was unique to Linux. Setting up sound drivers for recording, was fairly complicated even without adding midi into it. Though after the initial setup linux's audio production tools are fairly awesome. I never realized midi support had declined so much all over. It's nice to see projects that keep old technology alive, sometimes older, more simple things really do have appeal and it's always sad when things kind of vanish unnoticed.
I actually have no idea why MIDI support was removed from browsers. I understand that <bgsound> was a bad idea – autoplaying audio and all – but why did MIDI file support have to go too? I was under the impression that web browsers took backwards compatibility pretty seriously and deleting a supported audio format and breaking most of the sound on the early web seems like something that wouldn't fly today.
Does anyone know the story here?
MIDI does not sound like anything. It's instructions, a protocol, nothing more. The music will only sound nostalgic if the MIDI is triggering instruments that sound nostalgic.
There's also no such thing as an "old-school" MIDI file. The MIDI standard hasn't changed since its release in the 80s, and is just as if not more important today than it was back then.
Anyways, this is super cool and great job building it!
I'm especially impressed at the number of Rammstein MIDIs your site has! Das ist gut! :D
May I ask how I can contribute MIDI files? I may have some decent ones buried deep in my backup drive.
a category / theme browsing method would be added value i think
Thanks for putting the effort in, you've given me a lot of nostalgia feels.
I remember when I would get a new computer or upgrade sound cards, one of the first things I'd do was play some midi's to see how they sounded. At some point, I got a Yamaha keyboard for a gift and it happened to have a midi interface. With that, I could play my midi files through the keyboard, which sounded so much better than what the sound card could do. The keyboard also featured LED's above each key and you could isolate a midi channel to see what notes were being played. It was such a neat way to learn songs.
I actually still use midi files today if I want to do things like analyzing the chords or harmonies of a song, or if I'm learning it on guitar and a midi file is available, I can use it and easily do things like slow the track down, learn the parts, and then gradually speed it up.
Some of the midi's produced for popular songs are also very well done (although some are pretty bad!). If you're into music production, you can easily import them into your DAW and assign the channels to high-quality plug-ins and have something that actually sounds close to the real recording.
Although it's understandable why midi's days as a consumer music format are over (it was never meant to be that, anyway), it's somewhat a shame since there aren't a ton of midi files out there for songs after 2000 or so.
My shameless plug is my old MIDI site called MIDI Delight. I had user registration, ratings, comments, top 10 lists, etc. I always wanted to get it working again like you did. It would be cool to see more user features added on your site.
I’m glad there is a new MIDI site carry the torch.
I had to dig more to remember the level format and search for
Perhaps a crawler can find the identical file (checksum/md5) and collect meta data: alternate filenames, urls, zip archive names... It was next to this file in this list/zip archive... And in this sub folder name, on this page on this wayback machine link... So associations can be built automatically?
Also for each unique checksum with listed alternate file names,
Perhaps user content: ratings, similar files, comments... A wiki like page where the automaticly generated meta data can be vetted...
Oh and suggested sound font and other settings to play that particular file maybe.
https://bitmidi.com/search?q=E1m1 crashes it for me.
It's cool you can drag a file on it to play. Except on mobile, so perhaps the ability to play from url.
Awesome work, thanks! Looking forward to seeing where this goes.
I can confirm that this sounded exactly the way it did when I last heard it in the pre-Napster days: https://bitmidi.com/sublime-wrong-way-mid
Any chance of getting customizable soundfonts? Me and Ben already compiled a few here: http://gleitz.github.io/midi-js-soundfonts/
I'm currently using the FreePats soundfont (https://freepats.zenvoid.org/). I'm curious which soundfonts you'd like to see? What are other, better-sounding choices?
Having options for the overall playback sound is one of the cool features of MIDI though.
Playing a MIDI file, then playing another MIDI file, then playing _another_ MIDI file, causes the "Mute Tab" feature to break. The icon disappears and right-click-Mute-Tab no longer works easier. Can somebody else confirm? Firefox 61, latest OSX.
I kind of hope this bug never gets fixed now.
Check out the 8-bit guy showing the capabilities of MT-32 compared with PC speaker, Adlib / SB: https://youtu.be/BMmFcs-_4x4?t=249
Lean and back and enjoy. It's mind blowing.
I'll consider adding a big "download archive" button. Just curious: do you have any immediate plans for the archives, or just want to keep a copy for backup purposes?
MIDI files are somewhat similar. Only a small population care, an even smaller population care a lot, but archivalists shouldn't be the one to determine to keep them around for 200 years. They just should, and forget it.
So yeah, that's pretty much what I do.
(Actually, I guess, sadly, just rendering tracker files to MP3 en masse and playing those would be easier.. if less cool technically.)
I found my old collection of downloaded + self created MODs recently, some fantastic stuff in there while mine are amusing in their mediocrity :-)
The upside is that I found these gems while searching for them:
Error – this._lib is undefined
Error – HTTP request error. JSON.parse: unexpected character at line 1 column 1 of the JSON data
Specifically, the feature you're probably missing is URLSearchParams with a spec-compliant toString() method, which I believe only the latest versions of Safari and Edge have, despite what Can I Use says. https://caniuse.com/#feat=urlsearchparams
I have limited grounds to complain then (short of quoting Postel's law) . Hope you continue to have fun :-)
I expect the next version of Firefox ESR will have the necessary features to make the site work for you. Cheers!
Can you add it? :-)
They don't seem to work anymore but I would love to hear some of those again.
You just blew our server's mind
Error – play() called after destroy()
This is in Chrome 68.0.3440.106.
But ratings is a great idea and I plan to add it.