Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections

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Standard MIDI File Format

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Format Description Properties Explanation of format description terms

Identification and description Explanation of format description terms

Full name Standard MIDI File Format

Wrapper format for MIDI data. From the specification from (an arm of the MIDI Manufacturers Association): "This chunk architecture is similar to that used by the Electronic Arts IFF format, and the chunks described herein could easily be placed in an IFF file. The MIDI file itself is not an IFF file: it contains no nested chunks, and chunks are not constrained to be an even number of bytes long." (Section 4, p. 3)

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface

Production phase May be used by composers or arrangers for initial-state activities, in middle-state exchange of data or archiving, or for final-state, end-user delivery.
Relationship to other formats
    Contains MIDI_SD, MIDI sequence data
    Affinity to IFF, IFF (EA Interchange File Format 1985)
    Affinity to RMID, RIFF-based MIDI File Format
    Affinity to XMF_1_0, XMF, eXtensible Music File Format, Version 1.0

Local use Explanation of format description terms

LC experience or existing holdings The Library of Congress has a small amount of Standard MIDI File Format in its collections.
LC preference See the Library of Congress Recommended Formats Statement for format preferences for Audio Works.

Sustainability factors Explanation of format description terms

Disclosure Fully documented. Developed by the MIDI Manufacturers Association.
    Documentation The Complete MIDI 1.0 Detailed Specification (2001), available for purchase from
Adoption See MIDI_SD.
    Licensing and patents See MIDI_SD.
Transparency Transparent wrapper. See also MIDI_SD.
Self-documentation Header chunks are used to identify track chunks within the file; Meta-Events include sequence information, text inclusions, copyright notices, track names, and more.
External dependencies See MIDI_SD.
Technical protection considerations None known to the compilers of this document.

Quality and functionality factors Explanation of format description terms

Normal rendering Not applicable; see MIDI_SD.
Fidelity (high audio resolution) Not applicable; see MIDI_SD.
Multiple channels Not applicable; see MIDI_SD.
Support for user-defined sounds, samples, and patches No; see XMF.
Functionality beyond normal rendering See MIDI_SD. The compilers of this document have not investigated the degree to which such added functionality is provided by SMF as distinct from other file formats and/or application software. See Notes for comment on karaoke applications.

File type signifiers and format identifiers Explanation of format description terms

Tag Value Note
Filename extension mid
Selected from The File Extension Source. Also listed at the site: mff, mdi, and kar for karaoke MIDI files; see also Notes.
Internet Media Type audio/mid
Selected from The File Extension Source; for kar karaoke files, x-music/x-midi is added. No Internet Media Type for MIDI found at
Magic numbers Hex: 4D 54 68 64
From Gary Kessler's File Signatures Table. The File Extension Source reports this for Hex: 4D 54 68 64 00 00 00 06 00 01 00.
Pronom PUID x-fmt/230
Wikidata Title ID Q80535

Notes Explanation of format description terms


MIDI data is placed in numerous types of files, including files used in games and specialized devices. One alternative to SMF is RMID, based in the Microsoft RIFF specification but deprecated at the site.

The File Extension Source reports that "the .KAR [karaoke] file format was designed by Tune 1000 Corp. They have abandonded it, but it is still the prevailing file format in shareware/public domain market. Other Karaoke formats include: .MID+.TXK, .MID, .CRT, and .ST3. . . . Various programs use this extension; too many to list individually."

History See MIDI_SD.

Format specifications Explanation of format description terms

Useful references


Last Updated: 03/21/2024