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General MIDI Specification

GM device features
GM sound set
GM instrument patch map
GM percussion key map


In September of 1991 the MIDI Manufacturers Association (MMA) and the Japan MIDI Standards Committee (JMSC) created the beginning of a new era in MIDI technology, by adopting the "General MIDI System Level 1" specification (GM). The specification is designed to provide a minimum level of performance compatibility among MIDI instruments, and has helped pave the way for MIDI in the growing consumer and multimedia markets.

GM Device Features:

To be GM compatible, a GM sound generating device (keyboard, sound module, sound card, IC, software program or other product) must meet the General MIDI System Level 1 performance requirements outlined below, instantaneously upon demand, and without additional modification or adjustment/configuration by the user.

    Voices: A minimum of either 24 fully dynamically allocated voices are available simultaneously for both melodic and percussive sounds, or 16 dynamically allocated voices are available for melody plus 8 for percussion. All voices respond to velocity.

    Channels: All 16 MIDI Channels are supported. Each Channel can play a variable number of voices (polyphony). Each Channel can play a different instrument (sound/patch/timbre). Key-based percussion is always on MIDI Channel 10.

    Instruments: A minimum of 16 simultaneous and different timbres playing various instruments. A minimum of 128 preset instruments (MIDI program numbers) conforming to the GM Instrument Patch Map and 47 percussion sounds which conform to the GM Percussion Key Map.

    Channel Messages: Support for continuous controllers 1, 7, 10, 11, 64, 121 and 123; RPN #s 0, 1, 2; Channel Pressure, Pitch Bend.

    Other Messages: Respond to the data entry controller and the RPNs for fine and course tuning and pitch bend range, as well as all General MIDI System Messages.

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The General MIDI Sound Set:

General MIDI's most recognized feature is the defined list of sounds or "patches". However, General MIDI does not actually define the way the sound will be reproduced, only the name of that sound.

Though this can obviously result in wide variations in performance from the same song data on different GM sound sources, the authors of General MIDI felt it important to allow each manufacturer to have their own ideas and express their personal aesthetics when it comes to picking the exact timbres for each sound.

Each manufacturer must insure that their sounds provide an acceptable representation of song data written for General MIDI. Guidelines for developing GM compatible sound sets and song data are available through the MMA.



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General MIDI Instrument Patch Map

  • The names of the instruments indicate what sort of sound will be heard when that instrument number (MIDI Program Change or "PC#") is selected on the GM synthesizer.
  • These sounds are the same for all MIDI Channels except Channel 10, which has only percussion sounds and some sound "effects". (See "GM Percussion Key Map")

General MIDI Instrument Families

The General MIDI instrument sounds are grouped by families. In each family are 8 specific instruments.

PC#     Family                  PC#     Family
1-8     Piano                   65-72   Reed
9-16    Chromatic Percussion    73-80   Pipe
17-24   Organ                   81-88   Synth Lead
25-32   Guitar                  89-96   Synth Pad
33-40   Bass                    97-104  Synth Effects
41-48   Strings                 105-112 Ethnic
49-56   Ensemble                113-120 Percussive
57-64   Brass                   121-128 Sound Effects
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GM Instrument Patch Map

Note: While GM does not define the actual characteristics of any sounds, the names in parentheses after each of the synth leads, pads, and sound effects are, in particular, intended only as guides).

PC#         Instrument
1.      Acoustic Grand Piano            65.     Soprano Sax
2.      Bright Acoustic Piano           66.     Alto Sax
3.      Electric Grand Piano            67.     Tenor Sax
4.      Honky-tonk Piano                68.     Baritone Sax
5.      Electric Piano 1                69.     Oboe
6.      Electric Piano 2                70.     English Horn
7.      Harpsichord                     71.     Bassoon
8.      Clavi                           72.     Clarinet
9.      Celesta                         73.     Piccolo
10.     Glockenspiel                    74.     Flute
11.     Music Box                       75.     Recorder
12.     Vibraphone                      76.     Pan Flute
13.     Marimba                         77.     Blown Bottle
14.     Xylophone                       78.     Shakuhachi
15.     Tubular Bells                   79.     Whistle
16.     Dulcimer                        80.     Ocarina
17.     Drawbar Organ                   81.     Lead 1 (square)
18.     Percussive Organ                82.     Lead 2 (sawtooth)
19.     Rock Organ                      83.     Lead 3 (calliope)
20.     Church Organ                    84.     Lead 4 (chiff)
21.     Reed Organ                      85.     Lead 5 (charang)
22.     Accordion                       86.     Lead 6 (voice)
23.     Harmonica                       87.     Lead 7 (fifths)
24.     Tango Accordion                 88.     Lead 8 (bass + lead)
25.     Acoustic Guitar (nylon)         89.     Pad 1 (new age)
26.     Acoustic Guitar (steel)         90.     Pad 2 (warm)
27.     Electric Guitar (jazz)          91.     Pad 3 (polysynth)
28.     Electric Guitar (clean)         92.     Pad 4 (choir)
29.     Electric Guitar (muted)         93.     Pad 5 (bowed)
30.     Overdriven Guitar               94.     Pad 6 (metallic)
31.     Distortion Guitar               95.     Pad 7 (halo)
32.     Guitar harmonics                96.     Pad 8 (sweep)
33.     Acoustic Bass                   97.     FX 1 (rain)
34.     Electric Bass (finger)          98.     FX 2 (soundtrack)
35.     Electric Bass (pick)            99.     FX 3 (crystal)
36.     Fretless Bass                   100.    FX 4 (atmosphere)
37.     Slap Bass 1                     101.    FX 5 (brightness)
38.     Slap Bass 2                     102.    FX 6 (goblins)
39.     Synth Bass 1                    103.    FX 7 (echoes)
40.     Synth Bass 2                    104.    FX 8 (sci-fi)
41.     Violin                          105.    Sitar
42.     Viola                           106.    Banjo
43.     Cello                           107.    Shamisen
44.     Contrabass                      108.    Koto
45.     Tremolo Strings                 109.    Kalimba
46.     Pizzicato Strings               110.    Bag pipe
47.     Orchestral Harp                 111.    Fiddle
48.     Timpani                         112.    Shanai
49.     String Ensemble 1               113.    Tinkle Bell
50.     String Ensemble 2               114.    Agogo
51.     SynthStrings 1                  115.    Steel Drums
52.     SynthStrings 2                  116.    Woodblock
53.     Choir Aahs                      117.    Taiko Drum
54.     Voice Oohs                      118.    Melodic Tom
55.     Synth Voice                     119.    Synth Drum
56.     Orchestra Hit                   120.    Reverse Cymbal
57.     Trumpet                         121.    Guitar Fret Noise
58.     Trombone                        122.    Breath Noise
59.     Tuba                            123.    Seashore
60.     Muted Trumpet                   124.    Bird Tweet
61.     French Horn                     125.    Telephone Ring
62.     Brass Section                   126.    Helicopter
63.     SynthBrass 1                    127.    Applause
64.     SynthBrass 2                    128.    Gunshot


General MIDI Percussion Key Map

On MIDI Channel 10, each MIDI Note number ("Key#") corresponds to a different drum sound, as shown below. GM-compatible instruments must have the sounds on the keys shown here. While many current instruments also have additional sounds above or below the range show here, and may even have additional "kits" with variations of these sounds, only these sounds are supported by General MIDI.
Key#   Drum Sound          Key#   Drum Sound
35	Acoustic Bass Drum	59	Ride Cymbal 2
36	Bass Drum 1		60	Hi Bongo
37	Side Stick		61	Low Bongo
38	Acoustic Snare		62	Mute Hi Conga
39	Hand Clap		63	Open Hi 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	Hi 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	Hi 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		

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