Windows 7 and General MIDI (another sad, true story)

February 2011 Ed note: From Sept 2009, in response to a posting from Microsoft’s Guru Larry Osterman at: (you might want to peruse so the context below is clear).  It’s somewhat redundant with my July 2009 post where it became clear that Microsoft was not doing anything to help entry level music makers with it’s soon to be released Windows 7 Operating system.

I just want to keep a voice alive that suggests that a  offering simple/quality solution regarding Audio/MIDI output is the ultimate Noob feature for the Music Maker!   If your wife’s riding instructor chose to try and learn piano with a PC in the mix (Gallup NAMM says 85% of americans would like to learn a musical instrument)  – she would have a number of big problems off the bat given current options/configuration.

1.  Latency/GM Sound Quality:  Most software programs for music making still refer to MIDI as the only source of input data.  For output most edu programs look to a General MIDI OUT sound source.  USB Controller keyboards (M-audio et al) outputting only MIDI data are THE growth category in the keyboard/music products industry – with shipments in the hundreds of thousands per annum.  And you know what largely they use to make sound – the computer – since sound modules are dead. The only default PC option – GM Wavetable Synth (Licensed from ROland in the 90’s) has unusable latency and very poor quality sound.    This one-size-fits-none approach is killing options for the PC as an easy to use music making tool.

2.  USB MIDI Driver (probably another dept – but needs to be mentioned).  Running two programs calling upon a MIDI IN device is not  supported by the compliant USB MIDI driver in Windows?  THus, it either crashes the program  – or kicks an error message that will confuse and dissapoint.

Solving these two problems would stem market losses in this category to the fruit based competitor that offers these key features.  We lose PC licenses based on poor music making support on an increasing basis every month.

Listen, if I’m some lunatic barking at the moon here – let me know – and I’ll stop –  but on behalf of a lot of music makers, educators, and folks across the world where music making is active – let me say…help!  Is there any way tweak this in Windows 7 or going forward?

If there is another place at MS where I can share our experience in this category, please channel me there…owwwwwwwwwwww (that’s me barking…)

Windows and General MIDI (a sad, true story)

February 2011 Ed note: I wrote this in July 2009 for ePiano – and have slightly edited and republished here:

Dear Chris (an MS support engineer), As founder of a company that develops music software and integrates music systems for schools as our primary business, and has installed over 300 PCs solely focused on their MIDI capabilities – mostly leveraging properties of Creative Labs Soundcards, I am continuously anxious about Microsoft’s direction/support of MIDI and aspects of the Audio stack.

While Music and Arts is clearly not the prime target for Microsoft, to REMOVE or decrease support/functionality in this area is going to challenge this portion of your business…

Here are the two simple requirements that Microsoft must consider to remain a functional competitor to Mac in this area (Mac has both of these):

1.  Multiclient USB Midi support in Compliant Driver:   Running more than one program that makes use of MIDI in or OUT will cause a program or the system to generate an alert/error condition to the effect of “Cannot find a MIDI driver on the system”.   There are solutions to this via Third party hardware/drivers – but more and more keyboards/instruments guitars featuring USB ports and “compliant” MIDI outputs will experience this error/condition and will only serve to diminish the Windows experience and create confusion.

2.  Low Latency upgradeable GM sound source.  GM wavetable synth may have been a great innovation at one time, but it is an unusable output for music making.  The latency is unusable, and even though the sound quality poor, it’s the latency that kills it.  A solution with 20ms or less latency is the right choice.  Being able to insert a soundfont would be strategic, and in one single move, regain the support of music education and entry level music production.

This is a request based upon living daily the possibilities of a software-enhanced music making world and its ability to benefit the hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who will use the power of a USB keyboard and a desktop/laptop computer for music making.  PC laptops are already handicapped for music making/MIDI, but don’t kill the desktop too!  Help?  Is there anyone, anyplace I can direct this line of thinking to at Microsoft?   This is my first post regarding this and I’d like to get in touch with a dept as MS that might benefit from some of our experience on this front.