How to use a midi keyboard

How to use a MIDI keyboard: A Beginner’s Guide

Estimated reading time: 17 minutes

How do you use a MIDI keyboard? Simple, just hit a few keys, right? Well, not really. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll take you through the basics of MIDI keyboards, from setup to recording and editing. Read on to make some sweet, sweet music.

Ready to take your music production skills to the next level? A MIDI keyboard can be a game changer. With its ability to create and control electronic sounds, it has become an essential tool for music producers and musicians alike. But if you’re new to the world of MIDI, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Fear not, because we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of MIDI keyboards, from setup to recording and editing. Let’s dive in!

What is a MIDI Keyboard?

A MIDI keyboard is a musical instrument designed to generate MIDI messages that can be used to control digital audio workstations (DAWs), software instruments, and other MIDI-equipped devices. When you press a key or pad on a MIDI keyboard, it sends a MIDI message to the device to which it’s connected, allowing you to trigger sounds and control various parameters.

MIDI keyboards typically connect to computers or other devices using USB or MIDI cables. Some MIDI keyboards come with additional features, such as programmable pads, encoders, and faders, for even more creative control. These additional features can be especially useful for live performances and in the studio.

There are two main types of MIDI messages used with MIDI keyboards: MIDI notes and MIDI CC. MIDI notes are used to trigger sounds and are either on or off, like a light switch. MIDI CC, on the other hand, is used to control parameters and can be a range of values, like a dimmer switch. Some common uses for MIDI CC include controlling volume, changing patches, and modulating sounds.

Whether you’re new to the world of MIDI or an experienced musician looking to add more control to your setup, a MIDI keyboard is an essential tool for creating and performing music. For more information on MIDI, be sure to check out our essential guide to getting started with MIDI and our DAW controller quick start guide for more information on using MIDI with your digital audio workstation. Also, don’t miss our how to make midi files guide to dive even deeper into midi and music production.

Setting Up Your MIDI Keyboard

Before you can start using your MIDI keyboard, you’ll need to set it up. The first step is to connect it to your computer or other device. Most MIDI keyboards connect via USB, so all you’ll need is a USB cable. Once your keyboard is connected, you’ll need to install any necessary drivers and software. This will vary depending on your keyboard and computer, so be sure to consult your manual. Finally, you’ll want to configure your keyboard’s settings for optimal performance. This includes selecting the MIDI channel you’ll be using.

When it comes to connecting your MIDI keyboard to your computer, you have a few options, depending on the hardware you have available. If your keyboard has a USB port, simply connect the USB cable to your computer and skip to the next section of this article. If your keyboard doesn’t have a USB port, don’t worry-you can still connect it to your computer. For FL Studio users we have an extra article in which we show how to connect a MIDI keyboard to FL Studio.

The MIDI Cable and Interface

Many keyboards, including popular Yamaha models, have MIDI IN and MIDI OUT ports. These ports are circular and have small holes in them, and cannot be connected directly to your computer. To connect your keyboard to your computer, you will need a MIDI cable and a MIDI interface.

A MIDI cable is a simple cable that connects your keyboard to the MIDI interface, which then connects to your computer via USB. Most keyboards do not come with this cable, but they can easily be found online or in music stores. The MIDI interface itself is a small device that converts the MIDI connection to a USB connection, allowing you to connect your keyboard to your computer. Simply connect the keyboard to the MIDI interface using the MIDI cable, and then connect the MIDI interface to your computer using a USB cable. With these components in place, you’re ready to start making music with your MIDI keyboard.

Installing the MIDI Keyboard Drivers

Installing the MIDI Keyboard Drivers

Once you have connected your MIDI keyboard to your computer, the next step is to install the drivers. Drivers are necessary for the computer to recognize the keyboard and send and receive messages to and from the device.

The good news is that most modern MIDI keyboards come with built-in drivers. This means that your computer will automatically recognize the keyboard when you plug it in. In most cases, you won’t need to download drivers from the Internet or insert a CD to install them. Your computer will do that for you.

However, if for some reason your computer does not recognize your device, you might need to download drivers from the keyboard manufacturer’s official website. To find the drivers, simply search the Internet for the make and model of your MIDI keyboard. It is important to download the drivers from the official website to avoid downloading random software that could damage your computer.

Once you have downloaded the drivers, follow the setup wizard to complete the installation. This is usually as simple as clicking the “Next” button. Once the drivers are installed, your MIDI keyboard should be recognized by your computer and you can start making music.

Installing the MIDI Music Creation Software

After connecting your MIDI keyboard to your computer and installing the necessary drivers, the next step is to install MIDI music production software. This software is commonly referred to as a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) and allows you to record, produce, edit, and convert MIDI information to audio, among other things. There are many different DAWs available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Some popular options are Ableton Live, Logic Pro, and FL Studio. When choosing a DAW, consider factors such as compatibility, features, and ease of use.

Choosing the right software is essential to your music production. There are many options available, and the choice you make will ultimately depend on your personal preferences and budget. For beginners, however, a free option like LMMS is a great place to start. This software focuses on MIDI and has all the basic features you need to start making music.

Testing the MIDI Keyboard

Once you have the software installed, it’s time to test it out by playing the MIDI keyboard and hearing the notes through your computer speakers. Most commercial options like Reason, Cubase, FL Studio, and Ableton also focus on MIDI, but they tend to be expensive, especially if you’re just starting out.

It’s important to note that some MIDI keyboards come with their own music production software. These programs are usually compatible with the keyboard and are a great option if you’re just starting out and don’t want to spend money on expensive software.

Before you start making music, it’s a good idea to take some time to familiarize yourself with the software’s interface and features. Watch online tutorials, experiment with the software, and practice different techniques to get the most out of your music production. With a little patience and practice, you’ll be able to create amazing music with your MIDI keyboard and the right software.

Configuring Your Computer’s Speakers

Once you have installed your MIDI software, the next step is to configure your computer speakers. Before you begin, make sure that your MIDI software is properly installed and that you can send audio to your speakers.

The configuration process varies depending on the DAW you are using, but the general idea is to select your computer’s sound card as the output for any audio generated within the DAW. If you have studio monitors and an audio interface, you will need to select your audio interface instead of your computer’s sound card.

Here is a quick guide to configuring your computer speakers for some popular DAWs:


  • Go to the Preferences menu.
  • Click on the speaker icon to display the audio settings.
  • In the “Interface Audio” section, select your interface. The usual option that works for most people is SDL (Simple DirectMedia Layer).

FL Studio:

  • Select “Options” from the top menu and then “Audio Preferences”.
  • Click on the “Audio” tab.
  • In the “Device” list, locate your installed hardware.


  • Go to the Preferences menu.
  • Click “Driver Type” to select CoreAudio for MAC or ASIO for Windows.
  • Click “Output Config” to select your hardware from the list.


  • Go to the Devices menu.
  • Select “Device Setup”.
  • A dialog opens. Select “VST Audio System”.
  • On the right side, select the ASIO driver of your audio card.
  • Save and return to the Devices menu.
  • Select “VST Connections”.
  • Make sure that “Output” is pointing to your audio card.


  • Go to “Edit” and then “Preferences” in the top menu.
  • Select “Audio” from the top list.
  • Under “Audio Card Driver”, select your audio card.

After selecting your audio output, test your speakers by creating an audio channel, importing any audio file (mp3, wav, etc.), and placing the audio file in the audio channel. Then hit play and you should hear some audio.

Note that while the names of the menus and options may vary from DAW to DAW, the general idea is the same: select your installed hardware for audio output. Once you’ve completed this step, you’re ready to start creating and producing your music!

Configuring the MIDI Keyboard

Now that you’ve successfully set up your DAW’s audio output, it’s time to configure your MIDI keyboard so you can start playing. This process may seem a bit tricky at first, but with a little patience and persistence, you’ll be up and running in no time.

First, make sure your MIDI keyboard is turned on and connected to your computer. Once that is done, open your DAW and look for anything related to “inputs,” “midi inputs,” “midi instruments,” or “devices.

Next, look for an option that relates to your keyboard. This will usually show the make or model of your keyboard. Sometimes you may need to enable MIDI inputs before you can use your keyboard.

The steps for configuring your MIDI keyboard may vary slightly depending on the software you are using, but in general you will need to follow these steps:


  • Create an instrument track by dragging an instrument into the Song Editor.
  • Click on the new track name to open the Instrument Editor.
  • In the Instrument Editor dialog, select the MIDI tab.
  • Click the ENABLE MIDI IN button.
  • Then click on the small keyboard icon. Your MIDI keyboard should be there if you installed the drivers correctly.
  • Choose your MIDI keyboard from the list.
  • If your speakers are turned on and you have an audio output assigned to LMMS, you should hear some sound.

FL Studio:

  • Go to the “Options” menu and check the “Enable MIDI remote control” option.
  • From the top menu, select “Options” and then “Audio Settings.”
  • Click on the “MIDI” tab.
  • Select your keyboard from the “Input” list.
  • Click “Controller Type” and select your keyboard again.
  • With the controller highlighted, select the “Enable” switch below the “Input” list.
  • You will probably have to create a MIDI track before being able to hear some sound.

For even more details read our article how to connect a MIDI keyboard to FL Studio.


  • Go to the “Preferences” menu.
  • Select the “MIDI Sync” tab.
  • Look for your keyboard in the “Control Surface” section and select it for Input and Output.
  • You will probably have to create a MIDI track before being able to hear some sound.


  • On the “Devices” menu, select “VST Instruments.”
  • On the VST Instruments window, right-click on an empty area.
  • Click “Add Track.”
  • A dialog with the instrument configuration opens.
  • If your speakers are on and you have assigned an audio output for Cubase, you should hear some sound.


  • Go to “Preferences.”
  • For the page, select “Keyboard and Control Surfaces.”
  • Select the manufacturer of your keyboard.
  • Select the connection type on the “Midi Input” menu.
  • If your speakers are on and you have assigned an audio output for Reason, you should hear some sound.

Remember, this process can be a bit frustrating, but with some persistence, you should be able to get your MIDI keyboard working with your DAW. Good luck!

Understanding MIDI

To use your MIDI keyboard effectively, it’s important to understand how MIDI signals work. MIDI (short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a protocol that allows electronic instruments to communicate with each other. MIDI signals contain information such as note values, velocity, and duration. Each MIDI signal is transmitted on a specific channel. Most MIDI keyboards have multiple channels, allowing you to control more than one device at a time. It’s important to select the correct channel when using your keyboard.

Playing and Recording MIDI

Now that you have your keyboard set up and your software installed, it’s time to start making music! To play notes on your MIDI keyboard, simply press the keys. You can play single notes or chords, and adjust the velocity (how hard you press the key) to create dynamic variations. If you have a sustain pedal, you can use it to sustain notes and create longer, more legato phrases. When you’re ready to record, just hit the record button in your DAW. You can record MIDI in real time, or enter notes manually using the Piano Roll Editor. If you are new to music production and composing melodies, you can also use midi files with ready-made midi melodies.

Editing MIDI

Once you’ve recorded your MIDI, you can edit it to fine-tune your performance. Most DAWs offer basic editing functions, such as changing note length, adjusting velocity, and quantizing (aligning notes to a grid). You can also add and edit MIDI Continuous Controller (CC) data, such as modulation or expression. With MIDI, you can adjust every nuance of your performance, from timing to dynamics.

Using MIDI with Virtual Instruments

One of the most exciting aspects of MIDI is its ability to control virtual instruments. Virtual instruments are software programs that emulate the sounds of traditional instruments such as pianos, guitars, and drums. When you play your MIDI keyboard, you can trigger these virtual instruments to create a variety of sounds. Most DAWs come with a variety of virtual instruments, and there are many third-party options available as well. Using virtual instruments with MIDI can unlock.

1.Connect MIDI keyboard to computer via USB or MIDI cable
2.Install MIDI drivers on computer
3.Install Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software
4.Configure DAW audio outputs
5.Configure DAW MIDI inputs
6.Play MIDI keyboard to create MIDI messages
7.Record MIDI messages in DAW
8.Use DAW to edit, mix, and produce music
9.Connect MIDI keyboard to other MIDI-equipped devices for live performances
How to use a midi keyboard


Congratulations! You have successfully connected your MIDI keyboard to your computer and configured it to work with your DAW. We understand that this process may seem daunting at first, but with a little patience and practice, you can achieve your musical goals.

To recap, the process involved connecting your MIDI keyboard to your computer and installing any necessary drivers. Then you installed a digital audio workstation (DAW) and configured the audio outputs and MIDI inputs. Now that you have completed these steps, you are ready to start playing and recording music.

Remember, this is just the beginning of a musical journey that can take you to new heights. Don’t be afraid to experiment and explore all the possibilities your DAW and MIDI keyboard have to offer.

We hope this guide has been helpful and that you enjoy making music with your MIDI keyboard. Remember to have fun and let your creativity flow!


Is a MIDI keyboard OK for beginners?

Yes, a MIDI keyboard is a great option for beginners because of its affordability, versatility, and compatibility with digital audio workstations (DAWs).

How do I play sounds on my MIDI keyboard?

To get sound from a MIDI keyboard, you must connect it to a device that can produce sound, such as a computer running a DAW or an external synthesizer.

What do you need to connect a MIDI keyboard to?

A MIDI keyboard can be connected to a computer or other MIDI-compatible device using a USB or MIDI cable.

What is the purpose of having a MIDI keyboard at all?

The purpose of a MIDI keyboard is to send MIDI messages that can trigger sounds or control parameters in a DAW or other MIDI-enabled device.

What are the 3 advantages of MIDI?

Versatility, ease of editing, and the ability to control multiple parameters simultaneously are three advantages of MIDI.

Is it possible to use a MIDI keyboard as a piano?

Yes, a MIDI keyboard can be used as a piano by connecting it to a device that can produce piano sounds, such as a software synthesizer or digital piano.