How to Write Music

This is our old "How to Write Music" course. It has been replaced by our new Pop Music Theory course.

A. Enabling Sound

Appendix A: Enabling Sound

First, the short story:

1. Use Google Chrome. Chrome is the only browser which has the "Web MIDI API", which lets these lessons play your computer's synthesizer. Details below.

2. (On Windows:) Install a synthesizer. On Windows computers, even when using Chrome, you are likely to see this error message in our sound-playing lessons:

Sound requires an installed MIDI synthesizer.

To install a synthesizer in Windows, please see Appendix B: Enabling Sound in Windows.

Now the details:

Unlike most Web pages, these lessons don't play prerecorded sound files; instead, they play your computer's music synthesizer. Mac computers have a built-in synthesizer. So do Windows computers, but Google Chrome won't use it, so on non-Mac computers, you must install a software synthesizer or connect an external synthesizer to hear sound in these lessons. The synthesizer you choose should be a "General MIDI" (GM) synthesizer; otherwise it will play the wrong instrument sounds.

These lessons play your synthesizer using a browser feature called the Web MIDI API. As of 2015, the only browser with the Web MIDI API is Google Chrome (version 43 or newer). (Google Chrome can update itself, so if you have Google Chrome, it's likely that you already have the version you need.)

What if you don't hear anything? On our lesson pages which use sound, if you don't see any error message in the lesson, then that means that as far as our lesson page can tell, sound should be working. If you don't hear sounds when you should, it could be because your synthesizer's volume is turned down.

The way you turn up your synthesizer's volume varies from computer to computer. On Windows XP, in the Windows Volume Control, the synthesizer had its own volume slider called "SW Synth". Newer versions of Windows have removed this SW Synth volume control, because the synthesizer volume is supposed to just be turned up automatically. One way to check your computer's synthesizer setup is to download a MIDI file (there are thousands of free MIDI files on the Web) and play it.

by Conrad Albrecht 2015. Questions, comments, ideas? Tell me on Facebook!

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