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General Midi

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Musicians often make midi clips to be played on a particular synth with particular choice of instruments - just as an intermediate step towards realising it as an audio file. If you play the midi clip on another synth, the voices might be completely different - the original piano may now be an oboe and so forth. To deal with this issue so that midi clips could be easy to share the General Midi format was developed.

In a GM synth, the first voice is always going to be some variety of acoustic piano for instance, so even if your piece maybe mightn't get played with the exact timbre of acoustic piano you heard when you created it, it will be played on a piano voice of some description.


General Midi Voices


You can select any of these voices into a part using the Voices menu, - see Parts

For an overview of General Midi, have a look at this on-line page General Midi (GM) and the Roland GS standard from the Midi Musical Interface manuals at the Computer Lab for Image and Sound web site.

If you use the Roland GS sound set - as you have with QuickTime or the Roland Sound Canvas then you have a wider range of standard instruments, which you can select from by changing the bank number in the Parts window in FTS.

See The Roland GS Compatible Instrument List (on-line).

Some of the more unusual midi voices, with links

Some general sites: Musical Instruments resources, Glossary of Folk Musical Instruments & Styles from Around the World

Clavinet - modern electric version of clavichord. Clavinet home page

Koto - Japanese plucked instrument in the zither family.

Shakuhachi - Japanese end blown bamboo flute.

Shamizen - Japanese banjo like lute.

See Reiko Obata's Koto page - About the instruments.

Taiko drum - Japanese drum.

Kalimba - African thumb piano, Same instrument as the Mbira of the Shona people of Zimbabwe.

This page has some information about it: Kalimbas - African thumb piano.

You can find a virtual Mbira here - Tuning your Mbira.

Agogo - african double cowbell. Some pictures on this page of african instruments (scroll down), or here.

Shanai - Indian shawm, oboe family. This page has a picture of one

This page has pictures, and descriptions of Sitar, Kalimba, and ocarina,

This page recommends General Midi voices for the sounds of early music

Rhodes piano - vintage electric piano, Rhodes piano , from Melmusic vintage articles, by Brad Coates

Rhodes piano history / description

SynthMuseum - Rhodes Piano , Synthzone Rhodes links .

Hammond organ - vintage electric organ. See pictures and links from the theatre organs site.

The standard musicians reference on music is the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians which you will find in most libraries - it is now on-line as well, on a subscription basis.

Many instruments links (with emphasis on unusual ones)

This site has many pictures of the various instruments with information about them: Lark in the Morning on-line Catalog.

The English horn is the same as the Cor anglais , which you may know it as instead - a member of the oboe family.

. .. to be continued...

General Midi voice numbers


Acoustic Grand Piano 0
Bright Acoustic Piano 1
Electric Grand Piano 2
Honky-tonk Piano 3
Rhodes Piano 4
Chorused Piano 5
Harpsichord 6
Clavinet 7

Chromatic Percussion

Celesta 8
Glockenspiel 9
Music Box 10
Vibraphone 11
Marimba 12
Xylophone 13
Tubular Bells 14
Dulcimer 15


Hammond Organ 16
Percussive Organ 17
Rock Organ 18
Church Organ 19
Reed Organ 20
Accordian 21
Harmonica 22
Tango Accordian 23


Acoustic Guitar (nylon) 24
Acoustic Guitar (steel) 25
Electric Guitar (jazz) 26
Electric Guitar (clean) 27
Electric Guitar (muted) 28
Overdriven Guitar 29
Distortion Guitar 30
Guitar Harmonics 31


Acoustic Bass 32
Electric Bass (finger) 33
Electric Bass (pick) 34
Fretless Bass 35
Slap Bass 1 36
Slap Bass 2 37
Synth Bass 1 38
Synth Bass 2 39

Strings / Orchestral

Violin 40
Viola 41
Cello 42
Contrabass 43
Tremolo Strings 44
Pizzicato Strings 45
Orchestral Harp 46
Timpani 47


String Ensemble 1 48
String Ensemble 2 49
Synth Strings 1 50
Synth Strings 2 51
Choir Aahs 52
Voice Oohs 53
Synth Voice 54
Orchestra Hit 55


Trumpet 56
Trombone 57
Tuba 58
Muted Trumpet 59
French Horn 60
Brass Section 61
Synth Brass 1 62
Synth Brass 2 63


Soprano Sax 64
Alto Sax 65
Tenor Sax 66
Baritone Sax 67
Oboe 68
English Horn 69
Bassoon 70
Clarinet 71


Piccolo 72
Flute 73
Recorder 74
Pan Flute 75
Bottle Blow 76
Shakuhachi 77
Whistle 78
Ocarina 79

Synth Lead

Lead 1 (square) 80
Lead 2 (sawtooth) 81
Lead 3 (caliope lead) 82
Lead 4 (chiff lead) 83
Lead 5 (charang) 84
Lead 6 (voice) 85
Lead 7 (fifths) 86
Lead 8 (brass + lead) 87

Synth Pad

Pad 1 (new age) 88
Pad 2 (warm) 89
Pad 3 (polysynth) 90
Pad 4 (choir) 91
Pad 5 (bowed) 92
Pad 6 (metallic) 93
Pad 7 (halo) 94
Pad 8 (sweep) 95

Synth Effects

FX 1 (rain) 96
FX 2 (soundtrack) 97
FX 3 (crystal) 98
FX 4 (atmosphere) 99
FX 5 (brightness) 100
FX 6 (goblins) 101
FX 7 (echoes) 102
FX 8 (sci-fi) 103


Sitar 104
Banjo 105
Shamisen 106
Koto 107
Kalimba 108
Bagpipe 109
Fiddle 110
Shanai 111


Tinkle Bell 112
Agogo 113
Steel Drums 114
Woodblock 115
Taiko Drum 116
Melodic Tom 117
Synth Drum 118
Reverse Cymbal 119

Sound Effects

Guitar Fret Noise 120
Breath Noise 121
Seashore 122
Bird Tweet 123
Telephone Ring 124
Helicopter 125
Applause 126
Gunshot 127

GM Non melodic percussion


For a brief description of some of the less known instruments such as Agogo, Timbale, Cuica, Cabasa etc, try

For a description of the modern drum set, and its history:

Drum set  ; History of the Drum and Drum Set.

Off-line, see the New Groves Dictionary of Musical Instruments.

You can select any of these instruments into a part using the Non Melod Perc.. . menu, - see Parts | Non melodic percussion menu

Some of the instruments

Many of the instruments are frequently played in pairs, one pitched higher than the other, which is why there are often two entries. For instance, High Agogo, and Low Agogo.

Agogo - struck clapperless bell (Yoruba tribe, Africa).

Bongos - paired small Afro Carribean drums in two pitches, made from hollow tree trunks.

Chinese cymbal - has high cup shaped centre and distinctive hollow sound.

Claves - 2 cylindrical hardwood sticks, one hit with the other, L. Am.

Conga - Afro Cuban drum - long tapered or barrel shaped, played with fingers or palm of hand.

Cabasa - gourd with handle, covered with beads, and sometimes with pieces inside. L. Am. and 20th c., sounded by twisting in air, moving beads, striking with palm or rotating bowl in palm.

Cuica - Brazilian friction drum with remarkable pitch range.

Guiro - elongated gourd with marks and frets on sides, switch is rubbed against frets to make sound. Afro Cuban and 20th c. music.

Hi Hat - pedal operated double cymbal, also played by striking with a stick.

Maracas - pair of gourd rattles.

Ride cymbal - large cymbal used for "ride" rhythms.

Snare drum - military / orchestral side drum tensioned with strings (these are the "snares")

Timbale = tuned pair of single headed cylindrical drums important in L. Am. and 20th c. music.

Tom - small drum, Chinese, skin attached to sides by brass nails.

Complete list with MIDI note numbers

35 Acoustic Bass Drum 59 Ride Cymbal 2
36 Bass Drum 1 60 High Bongo
37 Side Stick 61 Low Bongo
38 Acoustic Snare 62 Mute High Conga
39 Hand Clap 63 Open High Conga
40 Electric Snare 64 Low Conga
41 Low Floor Tom 65 High Timbale
42 Closed Hi-Hat 66 Low Timbale
43 High Floor Tom 67 High Agogo
44 Pedal Hi-Hat 68 Low Agogo
45 Low Tom 69 Cabasa
46 Open Hi-Hat 70 Maracas
47 Low-Mid Tom 71 Short Whistle
48 High Mid Tom 72 Long Whistle
49 Crash Cymbal 1 73 Short Guiro
50 High Tom 74 Long Guiro
51 Ride Cymbal 1 75 Claves
52 Chinese Cymbal 76 High Wood Block
53 Ride Bell 77 Low Wood Block
54 Tambourine 78 Mute Cuica
55 Splash Cymbal 79 Open Cuica
56 Cowbell 80 Mute Triangle
57 Crash Cymbal 2 81 Open Triangle
58 Vibraslap

The instrument is played by playing the note number shown on channel 10.

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