Dan Ellis : Resources: Matlab:

alignmidi - Aligning MIDI files to music audio

To obtain ground-truth transcriptions of real music audio, it is sometimes possible to find a MIDI version of the track which can then be aligned in time. The time-aligned MIDI events can then be taken as an approximate transcription of the audio. There are several ways to do this, including several choices of the domain in which to do the matching; one popular approach is to synthesize the MIDI version to audio, then do a time alignment between the original audio and the synthetic audio (see, e.g., Turetsky and Ellis ISMIR 2003, or Hu, Dannenberg, and Tzanetakis, WASPAA, 2003).

This matlab code refines that approach by first beat tracking both the original audio and the resynthesized MIDI, then doing the time warp alignment over units of complete beats. Since the remapping of MIDI event times will be done using each beat as an anchor point, the temporal precision is usually good (as long as the beat tracker worked.

Note that this code has been significantly improved in March 2014. Firstly, we made a range of improvements to the local similarity computation and DTW path picking (v0.03). Then we replaced DTW with full Viterbi alignment, which allows arbitrary jumps to accommodate missing or repeated sections etc. You can still select DTW paths (which avoid really big jumps) as an option to alignmidi (params.usedtw=1); DTW runs a lot faster.


Example usage

The code below shows how to run the alignment using the main alignmidi routine, and a couple of ways of how the outputs can be used.

% We will use a modified version of Christine Smit's readmidi_java
% from http://www.ee.columbia.edu/~csmit/karaoke_midi.html .
% If this doesn't work, you need to make sure KaraokeMidJava.jar
% is in Matlab's classpath.txt
if exist('readmidi_java') ~= 2; ...
addpath(['midi_lib']); end
% The main function takes a MIDI file and an audio file as input
% The third arg is a flag to plot figures, and the fourth is a stem
% for the output midis.
midifile = 'SoS.mid';
wavfile = '06_Sultans_of_Swing.mp3';
doplot = 1;
stem = 'tmp';
% With doplot set, the routine already plotted the results. zoom a little
axis([0 300 0 300])
% A midi file warped to match audio is written to <stem>-mix.mid
outmidi = [stem, '-mix.mid'];
% Let's read it in, and play in stereo
sr = 11025;
domono = 1;
[da,sr] = audioread(wavfile, sr, domono);
[dm,sr] = midireadasaudio(outmidi, sr, domono);
soundsc([da(1:20*sr), dm(1:20*sr)], sr); [sound]
Tempo: MIDI=285.7143 audio=297.0297
Using viterbi alignment
col 100
col 200
col 300
col 400
col 500
col 600
col 700
col 800
col 900
col 1000
col 1100
col 1200
col 1300
col 1400
col 1500
col 1600
best path log prob per step = -0.14492
Warn: 2 negative time events removed
Warn: 8 negative time pitch wheel events removed
Saved to tmp-mix.mid
Wrote tmp-vox.mid
Warn: 2 negative time events removed
Warn: 8 negative time pitch wheel events removed
Wrote tmp-ins.mid

Comparing Outputs

We can plot log-frequency spectrograms to show the effect and quality of the alignment. Note that the aligned MIDI is not just shifted in time, but also scaled appropriately to keep every beat time lined up.

% Read original audio
[da,sr] = audioread(wavfile,11025,1);
% Read unaligned MIDI as audio
[dm,sr] = midireadasaudio(midifile,11025,1);
% .. and aligned version
[dma,sr] = midireadasaudio(outmidi,11025,1);
% Now plot
caxis([-40 40])
axis([0 10 0.5 73.5])
title('Original audio')
caxis([-40 40])
axis([0 10 0.5 73.5])
title('Aligned MIDI')
caxis([-40 40])
axis([2.45+[0 10] 0.5 73.5])
title('Original MIDI (offset 2.45 sec to line up start)')


alignmidi accepts a number of different parameters as fields of a "params" structure, passed as the fifth argument. They are:

%        params.tightness = 800 - beat tracking rigidity
%        params.voxchan = 4     - MIDI channel to isolate as vox
%        params.usedtw = 0      - 1 = use DTW; 0 = use Viterbi
%        params.gulley = 0.33   - proportion of edges where DTW can start/end
%        params.horizwt = 0.5   - penalty factor for horiz/vert DTW steps
%        params.priorwidth = 0.33 - spread of prior on Viterbi initial state
%        params.txwidth = 2.0   - viterbi transition with scale
%        params.txfloor = 0.001 - worst-case viterbi jump probability


This package has been compiled for several targets using the Matlab compiler. You will also need to download and install the Matlab Compiler Runtime (MCR) Installer. Please see the table below:

ArchitectureCompiled packageMCR Installer
64 bit Linux alignmidi_GLNXA64.zip Linux 64 bit MCR Installer
64 bit MacOS alignmidi_MACI64.zip MACI64 MCR Installer

The original Matlab code used to build this compiled target is available at http://www.ee.columbia.edu/~dpwe/resources/matlab/alignmidi

All sources are in the package alignmidi-v0.04.zip.

Feel free to contact me with any problems.


The included function audioread is able to read a wide range of sound file types, but relies on a number of other packages and/or support functions being installed. Most obscure of these is ReadSound, a MEX wrapper I wrote for the dpwelib sound file interface. See the audioread homepage for more details.

To link to the Java code for reading and writing MIDI files, you need to "edit classpath.txt" within Matlab, as described in Christine's instructions. And then you'll have to restart Matlab. Else you'll get an error like "Undefined variable "PianoRollViewParser" or class "PianoRollViewParser.parse"."

This code needs to convert MIDI to audio; this is accomplished by midi2wav.m. What this function does depends on the architecture: on my Mac, it runs the AppleScript script midi2aiff.scpt, which uses QuickTime Player 7.app to import MIDI and export a waveform. If you don't have QTP7 installed, it won't work. On Linux, it uses the open-source MIDI synthesizer timidity, which works well as long as you change the default sound font to be fluidr3_gm.cfg instead of freepats.cfg, by editing /etc/timidity/timidity.cfg. The bass drum in the freepats sound font is inexplicably awful.

This code supercedes an earlier effort, alignmidiwav .


If you use this work in a publication, I would be grateful if you referenced this page as follows:

D. P. W. Ellis (2013). "Aligning MIDI files to music audio", web resource. http://www.ee.columbia.edu/~dpwe/resources/matlab/alignmidi/


This project was supported in part by the NSF under grant IIS-1117015. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Sponsors.


% v0.03  2014-03-12 - Major fixes to transposition estimation, DP penalty
%                     scoring, correct weighting of paths in
%                     gulleys, contrast binarizing of CQ spectra,
%                     and promoting consistency between
%                     tempos in MIDI and audio.
% v0.02  2013-07-19 - beat2 modified to use full bandwidth when
%                     estimating onset strength (was losing hi-hats
%                     by downsampling to 8kHz).  Small changes to
%                     beat timing in beat2.
% v0.01  2013-07-17 - Initial release
% Last updated: $Date: 2013/08/24 13:04:10 $
% Dan Ellis <dpwe@ee.columbia.edu>