MIDI Message Format

The MIDI Message Format, as defined within the MIDI Specification, defines two basic types of message bytes: the status byte and the data byte. The Most Significant Bit (MSB) of a status byte is always 1. The Most Significant Bit of a data byte is always 0. The maximum length for a standard MIDI message is three bytes but for some types of MIDI messages, the length can be less.

MIDI Information and Learning - Binary Code
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Table of Contents

MIDI Message Format Explained

Status
Data 1
Data 2

1 t t t n n n n

0 x x x x x x x

0 x x x x x x x

There are only 7 bits, in each byte, to represent the unique data that the message byte contains. It can easily be calculated that there are only 2^7, or 128, discrete values available per byte. This means that there are 8 fundamental types of status message (t) which, if a channel specific message, can be sent to any one of 16 different MIDI Channels. If the status message is not channel specific the lower nibble (4 bits) of the status represents one of 16 different message sub-classes.

There are two different classifications of MIDI messages: MIDI Data Messages and MIDI System Messages. MIDI Data Messages are channel specific, MIDI System Messages are not channel specific.

Note: All values are in HEX format!

Message
Status
Data 1
Data 2

Note Off

8n

Note Number

Velocity

Note On

9n

Note Number

Velocity

Polyphonic Aftertouch

An

Note Number

Pressure

Control Change

Bn

Controller Number

Data

Program Change

Cn

Program Number

Unused

Channel Aftertouch

Dn

Pressure

Unused

Pitch Wheel

En

LSB

MSB

Key

Term
Meaning

n

MIDI Channel Number (0-F)

LSB

Least Significant Byte

MSB

Most Significant Byte

There are several different types of controller messages.

MIDI Data Messages - Control Messages

Note: All values are in HEX format!

Message
Status
Data 1
Data 2

14-bit controllers MSB

Bn

01 (Modulation Wheel)

Data

02 (Breath Controller)

Data

04 (Foot Controller)

Data

05 (Portamento Time)

Data

06 (Data Entry Slider)

Data

07 (Main Volume)

Data

14-bit Controllers LSB

Bn

21 (Modulation Wheel)

Data

22 (Breath Controller)

Data

24 (Foot Controller)

Data

25 (Portamento Time)

Data

26 (Data Entry Slider)

Data

27 (Main Volume)

Data

7-Bit controllers

Bn

40 (Sustain Pedal)

00-3F (off) 40-FF (on)

41 (Portamento)

00-3F (off) 40-FF (on)

42 (Sostenato Pedal)

00-3F (off) 40-FF (on)

43 (Soft Pedal)

00-3F (off) 40-FF (on)

60 (Data Increment)

7F

61 (Data Increment)

7F

62 (NRPN)

LSB

63 (NRPN)

MSB

64 (RPN)

LSB

65 (RPN)

MSB

79 (Reset All Controllers)

7F

Channel Modes

Bn

7A (Local)

00 (off) / 7F (on)

7B (All Notes Off)

00

7C (Omni Off)

00

7D (Omni On)

00

7E (Mono)

00-0A

7F (Poly)

00

Key

Term
Meaning

n

MIDI Channel Number (0-F)

LSB

Least Significant Byte

MSB

Most Significant Byte

NRPN

Non-Registered Parameter Number

RPN

Registered Parameter Number

System Exclusive

Message
Status
Data 1
Data 2

System Exclusive Start

F0

Manufacturers ID

Data, data, data

System Exclusive End

F7

Polyphonic Aftertouch

An

Note Number

Pressure

System Common

Message
Status
Data 1
Data 2

Song Pointer

F2

LSB

MSB

Song Select

F3

Song Number

Tune Request

F6

Midi Time Code

Message
Status
Data 1
Data 2

Quarter Frame

F1

Data

System Realtime

Message
Status
Data 1
Data 2

Timing Clock

F8

Measure End

F9

Unused

Start

FA

Continue

FB

Stop

FC

Active Sensing

FE

Reset

FF

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