MIDI Files

MidiFile objects can be used to read, write and play back MIDI files.

Opening a File

You can open a file with:

from mido import MidiFile

mid = MidiFile('song.mid')


Sysex dumps such as patch data are often stored in SYX files rather than MIDI files. If you get “MThd not found. Probably not a MIDI file” try mido.read_syx_file(). (See SYX Files for more.)

The tracks attribute is a list of tracks. Each track is a list of messages and meta messages, with the time attribute of each messages set to its delta time (in ticks). (See Tempo and Beat Resolution below for more on delta times.)

To print out all messages in the file, you can do:

for i, track in enumerate(mid.tracks):
    print('Track {}: {}'.format(i, track.name))
    for msg in track:

The entire file is read into memory. Thus you can freely modify tracks and messages, and save the file back by calling the save() method. (More on this below.)

Iterating Over Messages

Iterating over a MidiFile object will generate all MIDI messages in the file in playback order. The time attribute of each message is the number of seconds since the last message or the start of the file.

Meta messages will also be included. If you want to filter them out, you can do:

if msg.is_meta:

This makes it easy to play back a MIDI file on a port (though this simple implementation is subject to time drift):

for msg in MidiFile('song.mid'):
    if not msg.is_meta:

This is so useful that there’s a method for it:

for msg in MidiFile('song.mid').play():

This does the sleeping and filtering for you (while avoiding drift). If you pass meta_messages=True you will also get meta messages. These can not be sent on ports, which is why they are off by default.

Creating a New File

You can create a new file by calling MidiFile without the filename argument. The file can then be saved by calling the save() method:

from mido import Message, MidiFile, MidiTrack

mid = MidiFile()
track = MidiTrack()

track.append(Message('program_change', program=12, time=0))
track.append(Message('note_on', note=64, velocity=64, time=32))
track.append(Message('note_off', note=64, velocity=127, time=32))


The MidiTrack class is a subclass of list, so you can use all the usual methods.

All messages must be tagged with delta time (in ticks). (A delta time is how long to wait before the next message.)

If there is no ‘end_of_track’ message at the end of a track, one will be written anyway.

A complete example can be found in examples/midifiles/.

The save method takes either a filename (str) or, using the file keyword parameter, a file object such as an in-memory binary file (an io.BytesIO). If you pass a file object, save does not close it. Similarly, the MidiFile constructor can take either a filename, or a file object by using the file keyword parameter. if you pass a file object to MidiFile as a context manager, the file is not closed when the context manager exits. Examples can be found in test_midifiles2.py.

File Types

There are three types of MIDI files:

  • type 0 (single track): all messages are saved in one track
  • type 1 (synchronous): all tracks start at the same time
  • type 2 (asynchronous): each track is independent of the others

When creating a new file, you can select type by passing the type keyword argument, or by setting the type attribute:

mid = MidiFile(type=2)
mid.type = 1

Type 0 files must have exactly one track. A ValueError is raised if you attempt to save a file with no tracks or with more than one track.

Playback Length

You can get the total playback time in seconds by accessing the length property:


This is only supported for type 0 and 1 files. Accessing length on a type 2 file will raise ValueError, since it is impossible to compute the playback time of an asynchronous file.

Meta Messages

Meta messages behave like normal messages and can be created in the usual way, for example:

>>> from mido import MetaMessage
>>> MetaMessage('key_signature', key='C#', mode='major')
MetaMessage('key_signature', key='C#', mode='major', time=0)

You can tell meta messages apart from normal messages with:

if msg.is_meta:

or if you know the message type you can use the type attribute:

if msg.type == 'key_signature':
elif msg.type == 'note_on':

Meta messages can not be sent on ports.

For a list of supported meta messages and their attributes, and also how to implement new meta messages, see Meta Message Types.

About the Time Attribute

The time attribute is used in several different ways:

  • inside a track, it is delta time in ticks. This must be an integer.
  • in messages yielded from play(), it is delta time in seconds (time elapsed since the last yielded message)
  • (only important to implementers) inside certain methods it is used for absolute time in ticks or seconds

Tempo and Beat Resolution


Timing in MIDI files is centered around ticks and beats. A beat is the same as a quarter note. Beats are divided into ticks, the smallest unit of time in MIDI.

Each message in a MIDI file has a delta time, which tells how many ticks have passed since the last message. The length of a tick is defined in ticks per beat. This value is stored as ticks_per_beat in MidiFile objects and remains fixed throughout the song.

MIDI Tempo vs. BPM

Unlike music, tempo in MIDI is not given as beats per minute, but rather in microseconds per beat.

The default tempo is 500000 microseconds per beat, which is 120 beats per minute. The meta message ‘set_tempo’ can be used to change tempo during a song.

You can use bpm2tempo() and tempo2bpm() to convert to and from beats per minute. Note that tempo2bpm() may return a floating point number.

Converting Between Ticks and Seconds

To convert from MIDI time to absolute time in seconds, the number of beats per minute (BPM) and ticks per beat (often called pulses per quarter note or PPQ, for short) have to be decided upon.

You can use tick2second() and second2tick() to convert to and from seconds and ticks. Note that integer rounding of the result might be necessary because MIDI files require ticks to be integers.

If you have a lot of rounding errors you should increase the time resolution with more ticks per beat, by setting MidiFile.ticks_per_beat to a large number. Typical values range from 96 to 480 but some use even more ticks per beat.