Category Archives: MIDI

How to Make MIDI Files Sound Better in Windows 7

For those that might remember, my old computer system had a melt-down of sorts and I had to get a new one. This new system has Windows 7 Pro/SP1 64-bit and has a Realtek ALC892 Audio chipset in it. Regular MP3s and other digital music formats sound fine on it but MIDI files sounded like crap for the most part compared to my old system. I do still have the Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro that was in my old system; however, I just never felt like going through the effort of trying to get it to work in this system due to its age and probably limited support in Windows 7 64-bit. Anyway, I knew the problem wasn’t so much the audio chipset (well, yes, it does have an impact) but the lack luster MIDI instrument samples that ship with Windows 7 which the included “Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth” uses. I also looked at the Sound Control Panel Applet and noticed that there was no option to set a default MIDI playback device like Windows XP had (which I still find rather odd.)

So, I went searching on the internet and found an article aptly titled: How to Make Midi Files Sound Better on Windows, which led me to CoolSoft’s VirtualMIDISynth. So I thought I would try it out and, what do you know, it works great! I was even able to load the SoundFont that my Sound Blaster X-Fi Elite Pro was using.

Anyway, since my website uses Windows Media Player to play its MIDI files with, I did need to use this software to change MIDI Mapper’s Default MIDI Out Device from Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth to CoolSoft VirtualMIDISynth:

MIDI Mapper Tab

Then, I loaded up the Soundfont my old card was using in the Soundfonts tab:

Soundfonts Tab

While it doesn’t sound exactly like it did before (due to the differences in audio hardware and drivers), it is now much closer because it is using better base sound samples to work with. MIDI files can sound much different simply by changing the Soundfonts used. I tried a few of the ones linked to at those sites and some of them aren’t too bad. Short of getting a new sound card that puts more emphasis on how MIDI sounds, this is a good compromise, and it’s free! LOL :)

Oh, for those using Firefox, the amount of memory that the associated plugin-container.exe process uses while playing a MIDI file will roughly match the size of the Soundfont(s) selected as it has to load them into memory. So, a 256MB Soundfont will cause it to use that much memory.

For those like me that also use Winamp, since the default device has now been changed for all of Windows, it will start playing MIDI files using the improved instrument sounds as well. However, you can directly change the MIDI playback device by going into Winamp’s Preferences -> Plug-ins -> Input -> Nullsoft MIDI Player -> Devices Tab and select the second midiOut / Microsoft MIDI Mapper choice (this is the one that came with Winamp v5.63):

Winamp MIDI Device Setting

Note: If you change the default MIDI Mapper device back to Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth in the VirtualMIDISynth Configurator then Winamp will show two entries for midiOut / Microsoft GS Wavetable. In this scenario, pick the second one. Why it doesn’t list VirtualMIDISynth specifically I do not know. I may send feedback to Coolsoft and/or Winamp about it.

Just for the heck of it, I swapped out Winamp’s current MIDI plug-in with a really old one that supported auto-loading Soundfonts. Its device listing is somewhat different and lists VirtualMIDISynth by name:

Winamp MIDI v2.63b Device Setting

I tried the auto-load Soundfont option that this plug-in has for MIDI files that use a specific Soundfont; however, it didn’t work. Pretty sure that option only works with Sound Blasters (this did work in my old system).

Anyway, I’m still playing with different Soundfonts to get the best sound. Now I need to install a virtual MIDI keyboard so I can play specific instruments. Hope this information helps someone out there. :)

Updated MIDI embedding method on DVD pages.

I’ve updated the method I’m using to embed MIDI files in my DVD pages that had them. A couple of example pages are The Best of Benny Hill and Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace. I am using the JavaScript method that is described at MIDKar.com. It’s basically the same thing I was doing before directly within the page’s code without JavaScript; however, this script now adjusts the code based upon the browser it detects which should make it more compatible.  I did modify their code slightly by adding an optional autostart parameter with a default value of 0 if no value is given so that it does not automatically start playing.  Here’s my modified code:

// This script determines correct code required to embed MEDIA files 
// for a large number of browsers, including AOL and WebTV
// Windows Media Player is required and always used, except for WebTV
// Written by Les Gorven, http://midkar.com/ 
// Ver. 4.0 (simple) auto-start parameter is true - Created: February 2, 2008
// autostart parameter added by Mark Headrick December 2, 2009
 
function playMedia(mediaURL,rpt,height,width,autostart) {
var mediaURL,rpt,height,width,autostart;
 
if (typeof autostart == "undefined") {
	autostart = 0;
}
 
if (GetBrowser() == "IE")
	playAll(mediaURL,rpt,height,width,autostart) ;  
else if (GetBrowser() == "unknown")
	embedSource(mediaURL,rpt,height,width,autostart) ;
else if (navigator.appName.substring(0,5) == "WebTV")
	embedSource(mediaURL,rpt,height,width,autostart) ;
else
	playAll(mediaURL,rpt,height,width,autostart) ;
}
 
function embedSource(mediaURL,rpt,height,width,autostart) {
 
	var CodeGen = "";
	var mediaURL,rpt,height,width,autostart;
 
	CodeGen = '<embed src="' + mediaURL + '"' + '\n' ;
	if (autostart == 0) {
	 	CodeGen += ' height=' + height + ' width=' + width + ' autostart="false"' + '\n';
	} else {
		CodeGen += ' height=' + height + ' width=' + width + ' autostart="true"' + '\n';	
	}
	CodeGen += ' LOOP=' + rpt + '>';
	document.write(CodeGen);
}
 
function playAll(mediaURL,rpt,height,width,autostart) {
	var CodeGen = ""; 
 
	CodeGen = '<embed type="application/x-mplayer2" ' + '\n' ;
	CodeGen += ' pluginspage="http://www.microsoft.com/Windows/MediaPlayer/" ' + '\n' ;
	CodeGen += 'Name="Player" ' + 'src="' + mediaURL + '" ' + '\n' ;
	CodeGen += 'autoStart=' + autostart + ' ' ;
	if ((height == 24) && (width == 299)) 
		CodeGen = CodeGen + 'ShowStatusBar=1 '; 
	if ((height >= 50) && (height <= 75) && (width >= 200)) 
		CodeGen = CodeGen + 'ShowStatusBar=1 '; 
	if ((height > 75) && (width >= 200)) 
		CodeGen = CodeGen + 'ShowStatusBar=0 '; 
	if ((height <= 49) && (width != 299))
		CodeGen += 'ShowStatusBar=0 '; 
	CodeGen += 'enableContextMenu=1 cache=0' + '\n' ;
	CodeGen += 'playCount=' + rpt + ' ' ;
	CodeGen += 'volume=-1 ' ;
	CodeGen += 'HEIGHT=' + height + ' WIDTH=' + width + '>' ;
	document.write(CodeGen);
}
 
function GetBrowser()
{
   var agt=navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase();
   if( ((agt.indexOf("msie") != -1) && (agt.indexOf("opera") == -1)) )
       return "IE";
   else if( ((agt.indexOf('mozilla')!=-1) && (agt.indexOf('spoofer')==-1)
         && (agt.indexOf('compatible') == -1) && (agt.indexOf('opera')==-1)
         && (agt.indexOf('webtv')==-1) && (agt.indexOf('hotjava')==-1)) )
       return "Netscape";
   else
       return "unknown";
}

Within the page itself, I just put the following where I want the player to appear:

	<script type="text/javascript"> 
	playMedia("/midi/SomeFileToPlay.mid",3,65,300)
	</script>

If I want the song to automatically start playing, then I would change the code to:

	<script type="text/javascript"> 
	playMedia("/midi/SomeFileToPlay.mid",3,65,300,1)
	</script>

Seems to work well in both Firefox 3.5.5 and Internet Explorer 8. :)

Has hell frozen over? Website no longer using frames!

I have finally done it!!! My website is no longer using frames after years and years. It’s now using a combination of CSS and DIV containers to control the layout. I think I have made changes to all the pages and scripts that I needed to LOL. As you’ll notice, I no longer have my embedded midi player on the bottom left. Instead when clicking on a link to play a random midi file or any particular one, it will open a pop-up window with the midi player. Any future midi files will be targeted to that same pop-up window and start playing.

As a result of this, I have had to modify my .htaccess file to redirect any links that might be going to my old index.shtml (the file that contained my frame information) or main.php (which was the home page file loaded into the right-hand side) to just the root at “/” so that it loads the new index.php.

The main thing that is bugging me so far is that with Firefox, the pages that have an embedded object such as a media player, flash player, or YouTube player causes the left menu to be redrawn… except for the NASCAR page for some reason Confused. In IE, this does not happen. Trying to make things behave the same or as close to possibly can be a real pain sometimes. Anyway, now my website will be easier for search bots to handle and for people to bookmark and refresh pages! Big Grin

Blog has been updated to WordPress v2.2.3 and other changes.

I’ve updated my blog to WordPress v2.2.3 which includes a few security updates, a couple of which were high priority, and some bug fixes. Like before, I only updated the changed files. Since vars.php was one of the updated files, I did have to edit it and force the $is_apache variable to be true since on my server, the server_software variable comes back with WebServerX instead of Apache. Following is the part that I changed:

// Server detection
//$is_apache = ((strpos($_SERVER['SERVER_SOFTWARE'], 'Apache') !== false) || (strpos($_SERVER['SERVER_SOFTWARE'], 'LiteSpeed') !== false)) ? true : false;
$is_apache = true;

If I do not do this, then it will not modify the .htaccess file if I change the permalink structure.

I have also decided to reduce the possible annoyance factor when loading my website by not automatically playing the random MIDI file that is loaded into in the media player in the bottom-left frame. You now have to click play in order to hear the song. All other “play” links on the site will cause the player to automatically start playing.

I am aware that my site still uses those evil frames and how taboo it is these days to use them, not to mention the difficulties some search engines have with them. I’ll investigate my options… I just don’t like a seperate pop-up window, tab or browser to be created when clicking on a “play” link. It just makes browsing the site so.. disjointed. Hmmm.. :???:

Site performing normal again and some website updates.

Well, the server seems to be behaving ok again. Haven’t seen the symptom again for two days now. Watch it happen again as soon as I post this, or tomorrow. LOL. Anyway, to make my main page more efficient, I am going to keep just including a static text file that contains my blog entries. I’ll only update that file when I actually update my blog.. like right after I make this post. My gallery image is still using the PHP Curl method. I also used to have separate log and counter scripts. I have combined both operations into the counter script in a more efficient way. I realized a better method of getting the actual referer (where a visitor to my webpage came from) which allowed me to get rid of the log script which was being called via an IMG tag. It’s a little tricky when using a framed website because the referer of the “main” page is always the “index” page that sets up all the frames and loads the menu, midi, and main frames. I am also now able to log the search bots as they visit my site. Normally, the search bots would not request my log script that was in an IMG tag. I also now save the count into a session variable so that it only counts a visitor once in a session.

In addition to all that, I have been playing around with Apache’s mod_rewrite and changed how my midi and some other items are handled so that now a normal looking link like http://www.markheadrick.com/midi/d/BeenThnk.mid is redirected to my midi database script for processing and the browser is none the wiser. Works better with search engines as well. Here’s what it looks like:

<ifmodule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
# BEGIN Midi
RewriteRule ^midi/d/([A-Za-z_0-9\)\(\-]*)\.mid$ php/mididb.php?action=download&id=$1.mid [L]
RewriteRule ^midi/d/([A-Za-z_0-9\)\(\-]*)\.kar$ php/mididb.php?action=download&id=$1.kar [L]
# END Midi
</ifmodule>

Well, I guess that’s about it as far as website updates go. :mrgreen:

Oh yeah, if you haven’t seen it, go see Bourne Ultimatum! That movie rocks!!!