If you work on a piece of music using MIDI inside some DAW software, when you’re finished rendering the piece to audio, there’s one more step which may be essential. DAW software changes all of the time. If you come back to the piece years later, the software and or the computer OS may have changed and the file is unuseable. (This is also an argument against using software synths for serious work.)

MIDI, on the other hand, is forever. So as you create the piece, create it so that the MIDI parts can be recreated. This means that you will export the parts to a Standard Midi File. Along with the tracks, save all the patches used by all the synthesizers in SYSEX as well. (You DID save the manual, right?) You may put all of the SYSEX strings on a separate track … which you can ‘play back’ to set up all the equipment … or put each in front of the track where it’ll be used. (Lots of people reserve the first few bars just for that purpose.)

After you do the export, take the time to check your work by importing the MIDI and seeing that everything works as expected. (If one of your synths receives MIDI slowly, you may need to drop the tempo for that section of the piece.) Once everything checks out, burn the SMF to a CD. Write what you’ve saved right on the CD.

Now when you come back weeks, months, years later, you simply import the MIDI file into whatever software you’re using on whatever CPU. Play the SYSEX back into the gear (if you still own it) and you’ll recreate all the patches and settings used by the synthesizers. You’ve upgrade-proofed your work, and have a reference you can return to later … or maybe re-awakened some unique patches that would otherwise be lost forever.