[SDL] ALSA midi support in SDL_mixer?

E. Wing ewmailing at gmail.com
Wed Dec 12 17:35:39 PST 2007

Some random blurbs because I always am amused at seeing MIDI threads
in this day and age :)

You might check out the PortAudio/PortMusic/PortMidi projects. They
may already do what you need, and they may have code you can learn

Midi may still have some interesting applications. Imagine Guitar Hero
with real instruments (educational games?). This obviously presumes
the actual musical instrument digital interface of "MIDI" and not just
the playback/sound generation part though.

Timidity's playback quality is comparatively low by today's standards
in my opinion. Even the default soft synth patches on today's cheapie
sound chips have exceeded Timidity in my opinion. (I think by Windows
98, Microsoft had already licensed samples for the default GM .DLS
from Roland which came from their (Virtual?) Sound Canvas line and I
think Apple had already licensed samples too from Roland for the
QuickTime midi synth. I think Timidity uses Gravis Ultrasound sound
fonts which I think have more technical limitations than the current
generation of sound fonts.)

So unless you only have an FM Synth chip (or worse), native midi will
probably sound better than Timidity now-a-days. So assuming the Linux
drivers support all the semi-modern sound cards and SoundFonts, I
would think a 'native' midi implementation would be the best thing for

Btw, for midi use in way-back things like ScummVM, the hard core tend
to get Roland MT-32s, Roland Sound Canvases, and sometimes Yamaha XG
series cards. Creative Labs was anti-standards with the AWE line and
General Midi was poorly emulated. Though if you're into the classic
Demo scene, nothing beats a Gravis Ultrasound.


On 12/9/07, Stephen Anthony <sa666666 at gmail.com> wrote:
> On December 9, 2007 9:08:02 am Ryan C. Gordon wrote:
> > > Since ALSA seems to be the way forward for sound in Linux, has
> > > anyone ever attempted this?  Is it worth my time to investigate
> > > this, or will SDL_mixer be replaced soon by SDL 1.3??
> >
> > SDL 1.3 won't add midi support in the base library. It's really a
> > dying standard in a post-mp3 world, and mostly it's needed for legacy
> > titles anyhow.
> >
> > SDL_mixer could certainly add ALSA-specific midi support, though, in
> > the same way that we have win32-specific midi support too, if someone
> > were to step up and submit a patch.
> >
> > Timidity is generally "good enough" for most cases--and there aren't
> > many cases in the first place--so there's not a great deal of urgency
> > on the issue, I guess.
> Yes, that's what I figured.  I guess I'd really be targeting a small
> subset of an already small userbase (*hardware* midi users from midi
> users in general), since I believe only SB Live and Audigy and AWE32/64
> cards support it.
> However, for those that do have it, it's a real letdown to use Timidity.
> ScummVM is one such application that can use hardware midi, and they
> even recommend it if you have the hardware.  Another is eDuke32, which
> is why I asked the question in the first place; it's my current pet
> project (converting it to 64-bit mode).
> Anyway, if I find time I will develop an ALSA patch and submit it to
> you.  Thanks for the info.
> Steve
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