PipeWire  0.3.36
MIDI Support

This document explains how MIDI is implemented.

Use cases

MIDI devices are made available as processing nodes/ports

Applications need to be able to see a port for each stream of a MIDI device.

MIDI devices can be plugged and unplugged

When devices are plugged and unplugged the associated nodes/ports need to be created and removed.

Applications can connect to MIDI devices

Applications can create ports that can connect to the MIDI ports so that data can be provided to or consumed from them.

Some MIDI devices are sinks or sources for midi data

It should be possible to create a MIDI sink or source that routes the midi events to specific midi ports.

One example of such a sink would be in front of a software midi renderer.

An example of a MIDI source would be after a virtual keyboard or as a mix from many midi input devices.

Applications should autoconnect to MIDI sinks or sources

An application should be able to be connected to a MIDI sink when it wants to play midi data.

An application should be able to connect to a MIDI source when it wants to capture midi data.

Design

SPA

MIDI devices/streams are implemented with an SPA Nodes with generic control input and output Ports. These ports have a media type of "application/control" and the data transported over these ports are of type spa_pod_sequence with the spa_pod_control type set to SPA_CONTROL_Midi.

This means that every midi event is timestamped with the sample offset against the current graph clock cycle to get sample accurate midi events that can be aligned with the corresponding sample data.

Since the MIDI events are embedded in the generic control stream, they can be interleaved with other control message types, such as property updates or OSC messages.

The PipeWire daemon

Nothing special is implemented for MIDI. Negotiation of formats happens between "application/control" media types and buffers are negotiated in the same way as any generic format.

The session manager

The session manager needs to create the MIDI nodes/ports for the available devices.

This can either be done as a single node with ports per device/stream or as separate nodes created by a MIDI device monitor.

The session manager needs to be aware of the various MIDI sinks and sources in order to route MIDI streams to them from applications that want this.

Implementation

pipewire-media-session

PipeWire media session uses the SPA_NAME_API_ALSA_SEQ_BRIDGE plugin for the midi features. This creates a single SPA Node with ports per MIDI client/stream.

The media session will check the permissions on /dev/snd/seq before attempting to create this node. It will also use inotify to wait until the sequencer device node is accessible.

JACK

JACK assumes all "application/control" ports are midi ports.

The control messages are converted to the JACK event format by filtering out the SPA_CONTROL_Midi types. On output ports, the JACK event stream is converted to control messages in a similar way.

There is a 1 to 1 mapping between the JACK events and control messages so there is no information loss or need for complicated conversions.