Using MIDI Files for Clarinet Practicing

MIDI files have been around since the 1980s for creating synthesized music. Technology changes so often, yet it is remarkable how MIDI files are still around and useful today. For clarinetists, MIDI files can be a wonderful practice tool for working with accompaniments. SmartMusic is great, but requires a subscription and doesn't always have the clarinet literature needed. I recently found a wonderful website, MUSIX4ME, containing a significant collection of MIDI files of clarinet accompaniments. They are all free to download. Here is how to use them with GarageBand for practicing and memorizing music.

MIDI File Workflow:

  • Download the complete collection via Google Drive
  • Open GarageBand and choose a Blank Session
  • Simply drag the MIDI file into the GarageBand window. It will ask you if you want to import the tempo. You do want to import the tempo.

Many of the MIDI tracks include the clarinet part as well as the piano part. Here some advantages of doing this with GarageBand.

  • You can mute or solo any track.
  • You can change the tempo without affecting the pitch.
  • You can set loop points for practicing specific sections of music. GarageBand will automatically return to the beginning of the loop for playback with you having to interact with the computer.
  • You can also bounce the MIDI file to an audio file, for import to your iPhone for mobile playback and practicing.

If you want a more simple approach from using GarageBand, you can download a small MIDI Player app. One nice option is MIDIPlayer X available on the Mac App Store. It is a lightweight app that does a few things well:

  • Drag any Standard MIDI File onto the App Window for Playback
  • Mute channels
  • Change Tempo

It doesn't allow for specific looped areas of playback like you can with GarageBand, or saving out audio file versions.