I received an email from a blog reader who had recently bought a MIDI keyboard so they could start practicing a bit of piano at home.
My previous blog posts on MIDI keyboards had all said something along the lines of “plug in your MIDI device and open up you DAW software to play”. But what if you don’t want to purchase any expensive software for writing and producing whole musical tracks? What if you just want some free software for practicing piano or messing around?
So following that I set out to find the best FREE MIDI keyboard software out there on each of the most common platforms Windows, Mac/ Apple and Android so you can plug in your MIDI keyboard and start playing straight away. This article summarises what I found.
But first, some context:
How does MIDI Work?
First things first, I always find it useful to briefly explain how MIDI works. If you, like me, came from playing a traditional acoustic instrument such as a piano or guitar, the world of MIDI and digital music production may be a little confusing. If you already know how it works feel free to skip this section!
MIDI is a digital signal, basically a series of 1s and 0s that allows different electronic devices to communicate with one another (I know, it sounds very dystopian!). This code communicates all manner of things from the note pressed, to how hard it is pressed and when it is released.
This is different to traditional instruments that produce an audio signal you can hear either straight away for acoustic instruments or through an amplifier for electric ones.
With a MIDI keyboard or other MIDI device not producing an audio signal, it needs to be plugged into another device which can convert the code into something we can hear. In the modern era this is usually a laptop or computer.
Modern MIDI devices pretty much always plug in and communicate via a USB connection. But simply connecting the device isn’t enough. The computer will receive the code but to produce a sound it will need software of some sort.
That is where I hope this article will help.
Best Free Midi Keyboard Options – Windows
1) Piano Time for Windows 10
Piano time is a nice option if you simply want to plug in and play the piano.
It is an “app” but that doesn’t mean you need a tablet or phone to use it. Windows is changing to become more similar to Apple in the way they present software creating less of a disconnect between computers, tablets and phones. This means if you have Windows 10, you can now head to the Microsoft store and download apps to your computer.
There are paid apps in the windows store but as with the Apple and Android “stores” that you may be more familiar with on your phones and tablets, many of the apps are free to download and use.
Ease of Use
Piano time is really easy to plug in and get going. I plugged in my Novation Impulse MIDI keyboard and it instantly recognized it without me having to go into the settings.
Piano time is meant to be simple and for mimicking the sound of a piano. For this reason, you can’t really adjust the sound. You won’t find different instrument sounds, reverb or delay for example. But this might be a good thing if all you want to do is play the piano.
You can record and save clips of what you are playing which is a nice feature, and this allows you to record one part, play it back and then play something else over the top. Handy if you are doing a bit of songwriting. However, be warned, on the free version these clips will only remain in place whilst the program is open, to save or export the tracks you record as MP3 files you will have to pay a small fee to upgrade.
It comes pre-loaded with a few very basic tracks for you to play along with, think Amazing Grace or Mary Had a Little Lamb. The keys will light up and show you how to play along and you can slow it down or speed it up to suit. Perhaps this is most suitable for the absolute beginner or for a child learning the piano. Also useful for anyone using this to learn the piano are a few basic scale exercises you can play along with.
Other features include a metronome that can be adjusted. I did find the clicking a bit annoying but it does the job.
As with most pieces of MIDI software, you can use your computer keyboard to play if you don’t own a MIDI keyboard. I would not recommend this as it is very hard to do, but Piano Time does have a feature called “key mapping” which will show the corresponding keyboard letters above the relevant keys to help you play.
Sound and Performance
I found the sound to be ok. A nice bit of sustain and reverb make it sound quite realistic. However, the lower notes can sound a bit quiet compared to the higher notes and chords don’t sound that great. This is annoying if you are trying to play notes with the left and right hand, as the right hand notes tend to drown out those of the left.
This can be frustrating as a quick ‘stacatto’ press of a key isn’t any different from when you hold it down. This makes notes merge together when you don’t want them to or not ring out for as long as you might have hoped.
For me, the app had virtually no latency (time between pressing a key and hearing the sound). This is partly due to the app, but will also be due to your computer. If you are trying to use it with a computer or laptop that doesn’t have much RAM or has a slow processor then this may not be the case. If you are experiencing MIDI delay check out this article.
Other people have noted that when adverts load it can cause the app to crash. This did happen to me once which was a pain. You can get rid of the ads by paying just a small fee so this might be worth doing if you are having this issue.
2) Piano 10 for Windows 10
Piano 10 is very similar in many ways to Piano Time. It is available for download from the Windows app store on any windows device.
Ease of Use
I plugged my keyboard in and it didn’t work straight away this time. The menus in the app are also not the easiest to find with a series of symbol buttons to press, so I had to do a bit of random clicking to find out how to do it.
A button saying “general MIDI” brings up a menu when clicked where you should be able to turn MIDI support on and then select your MIDI keyboard from the list.
So once you figure out what each button symbol means it isn’t too hard to use.
Different to Piano Time, Piano 10 has a few different effects and amazingly 126 different sounds for you to chose from. Including reverb, sustain and echo but unfortunately only one of these can be turned on at once.
An auto-chords function is pretty cool and is a great way to help learn different chords and chord types as the keys of the chords light up whilst you play.
As with piano time you can record short clips of yourself playing. You can save these clips but only as .xscore files to re-open in Piano 10 another time.
A metronome is also included with adjustable bpm.
Sound and performance
When testing the default piano sound it was ok, but pressing the keys too lightly meant no sound was played. So if you are trying to practice playing softly you may find this frustrating.
However, when the sustain effect is turned on I thought it sounded much more realistic and it felt nice to play.
Although it is cool having 126 different sounds to choose from, be warned, most of them sound pretty terrible. Fun to mess around with but you would never want to use them in a performance.
Probably the most annoying thing about Piano 10 is the fact you can’t change the key size or get more keys to show on the screen. The whole keyboard will still play but you won’t see all the keys light up on screen.
Being a free app it also has a banner with ads at the top but these are fairly standard and don’t really interfere with the usability.
If you want something a bit more advanced which will allow you to edit and export your MIDI tracks then MIDI Editor is free software that is a great introduction to some more advanced techniques.
Ease of Use
In terms of downloading and installing things are fairly simple. However, unlike the previous two options, this is a more traditional piece of software that you download from a website rather than the Windows App Store.
Once downloaded the settings are easy to find and here you can select your MIDI device and connect.
You should then hear a basic piano sound.
So in terms of getting a sound, it is fairly simple. However, if you are not familiar with MIDI you may find the software slightly confusing due to the more advanced features it has….
The screen shows what is known as a ‘piano roll’. This is something to get familiar with if you plan on using MIDI in production.
As you play on your MIDI keyboard and press record you will see lines appear on the screen. This is a visualization of the digital code for each note. You can see it shows which note was played, how long for and other parameters such as velocity (how hard you played that note).
This is what separates digital MIDI data from a traditional audio recording. It is stored as a series of numbers (note, note length, etc) and then a sound is ‘overlayed’ on top of that. So you could play the original notes with a piano sound but then change that to strings or a flute for example.
Features such as quantize, which automatically moves mistimed notes onto the correct beat are cool to mess around with.
Sound and performance
As a basic free introduction to MIDI editing software, MidiEditor does a pretty good job.
There are a couple of things that frustrated me though.
For example, when you record a track you can’t see the notes appearing on the screen, you have to wait till you have finished recording and then they will appear. This just felt weird compared to the MIDI input I’m used to in a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).
There are also no other built-in sounds to test apart from the piano and I couldn’t find a way to import my own sounds either. Perhaps I’m expecting too much from free software.
Best Free Midi Keyboard Software on Mac (and Apple devices)
Garageband has to be my favorite of all the free music making software available. I’ve written entire songs on the bus using this software on my iPad and have been happier with the sound than some tracks I spent weeks on in the studio!
It comes pre-installed on most Apple products but if not it can be downloaded from the app store for free.
Ease of Use
Garageband is quite a bit more advanced than some of the simple piano apps already mentioned in this article.
It is the closest you are going to get to proper a DAW without having to pay. A DAW is a Digital Audio Workstation. It is where all song artists create songs by piecing together tracks. There are many different ones with different people having different preferences. But if you are new to the music recording world then Garageband is a great place to start.
For this reason, it has massive potential but it does make it a bit confusing for the beginner. For example, when I connected my keyboard, it didn’t work straight away. I had to navigate to preferences and select my device and I also had to change the output so I could hear the sound.
It is a similar process when connecting to an iPad, however, you will have to buy a USB to lightning adapter (such as this one).
All that said it is still very easy to get started in comparison to most DAWs which can be very overwhelming. There are plenty of great videos on Youtube to help you if you get lost.
This is where Garageband excels over the other simpler apps. The possibilities are almost limitless.
You can choose from hundreds of pre-loaded MIDI sounds. There are pre-made drum loops to add in and play along to. Then when you want to add even more sounds or effects you can download free ‘plug-ins.
Because it is a DAW you can layer up multiple tracks, MIDI or Audio to create full songs and there are great built-in features such as EQ and compression so you can even try your hand at mixing!
Sound and Performance
The pre-loaded sounds do sound quite robotic and it is hard to compose a full song that will sound professional using just the MIDI samples. That does, of course, depend on your genre, for some electronic music you can do a pretty good job.
This may not bother you if you just want to practice the piano.
The performance is pretty good, I rarely ever experience any latency when playing. This is dependent on your laptop age and spec.
This option technically applies to Windows too but I couldn’t find another free app on the Apple app store that wasn’t either terrible or tried to give me a virus.
So Pianu.com is actually a web-based MIDI keyboard and is a great option if you don’t want to mess around downloading software and just want to get playing right away.
Ease of Use
This software is so simple to use (at least it was for me anyway!) Just head to pianu.com/keyboard-page and there you will see a big yellow button that says “Detect My Keyboard”. Press this and you will see the following screen.
You are then ready to start playing
Pianu is not very complex and won’t give you all the features of Garageband. But many people have written to me to say they don’t want something as complicated as that and just want to play some piano. For this it is perfect.
What Pianu is really meant for though is learning the piano. For this it has lots of built-in lessons, starting with the absolute basics and building you up from there. What I like most is you can play along with a lot of contemporary songs (Coldplay, Taylor Swift etc.) rather than the usual Ode to Joy or Amazing Grace which you get on most apps.
Sound and Performance
You would never want to use this piano for recordings or live performances, but it sounds fine for learning. The one annoying thing is the notes don’t fully ring out and eventually just stop suddenly. But this is a minor issue when you are just practicing.
For a web-based application I expected performance to be dodgy, but it really wasn’t. In fact I would say I noticed less latency than many other apps and my laptop fan was whirring away.
Best Free Midi Keyboard Software on Android
Yes, that’s right, these days you don’t even need a computer to use a MIDI device. You can now plug your MIDI keyboard directly into your phone or tablet and use that to create music.
I bought this simple USB C to USB adapter for under $10 and it allows me to play my 49 key MIDI keyboard through my phone.
As with the other devices mentioned above, you will need to download some software (an app) to do this and there are plenty of great free options to choose from.
1) Perfect Piano
Ease of Use
You may already know how to connect your android device to a MIDI keyboard, but if you don’t it is very simple (you can find out in this step by step guide).
Once plugged in the Perfect Piano app should automatically detect that a MIDI keyboard is connected and it should work straight away without you having to mess around with any setup! A real bonus for those who just want to plug in and play.
The app has a keyboard that is set as default to a piano sound. But additionally, you get the choice of many more from strings to synths and loads of additional free sounds to download.
There is a sustain button to create the effect of using a piano pedal and you can record your efforts either in MIDI format or in audio format.
The app has some nice additional features such as ‘learn to play’. Where you can play along as notes descend on the screen, very similar to guitar hero (if you remember that game) except you are actually learning a real instrument.
Sound and Performance
With my android phone (which is a few years old now) I had no noticeable lag which amazed me. I’ve experienced many issues with MIDI latency using computers and laptops over the years. I can’t guarantee you won’t have issues but if your phone is newer than mine I’m sure it will be fine!
The sounds are really quite impressive. The piano does have that programmed sound but no more so than most other MIDI pianos out there. The synths and strings are great fun to mess around too.
I like how you can adjust the number of keys on the screen. A feature often lacking from many mobile MIDI apps.
Nowadays there are plenty of free MIDI apps and software programs to choose from. The key thing is to ask yourself, what do I need the software to do? If it is to simply practice piano or mess about then stick to something simple. But if you think you might want to create full tracks or use more advanced techniques there is probably something out there for you too.
Once you are ready to progress the best option is to move to a DAW of your choice. I personally use Ableton Live which is particularly good for MIDI. But there are loads of others to choose from. My suggestion would be to download a free trial, watch a few ‘how-to’ videos and see which one you find best.
The possibilities of music production using MIDI are pretty endless!
6 Best Free Piano VSTs That Sound Incredible
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- Finding the perfect piano or keyboard sound can be a difficult task
- From upright, to full grand, to electric pianos and Hammonds, this list has you covered
- 6 piano/MIDI keyboard software to get you inspired
If you’ve ever spent an hour or two (or ten) flicking through a library of snares or kickdrums to find the one perfect sound for your drum rack, the likelihood of you having the same issue with pianos is probably rather high.
Some of the free ‘virtual pianos’ out there are mind-bogglingly incredible, but unfortunately, some of them leave a lot to be desired.
In this article, I’ll help you navigate past the trash and straight to some of the best and most usable piano VSTs/MIDI keyboard software.
One of my favorite examples of a premium high-end piano plugin is the Native Instruments collaboration with Alicia Keys aptly titled “Alicia’s Keys” which runs within Native Instruments’ infamous Kontakt sampler, which retails at £89, and that’s not including the Kontakt 6 software itself, which itself retails at a hefty £359.
This article will list a selection of quality and unique piano plugins available to you for free, right now, as you’re reading this, wasting time on digesting my words instead of running out and grabbing everything on this list because it’s free and it’s great.
6 Of The Best Free Piano VST/MIDI Keyboard Software
1. A73 Piano Station Review
The A73 Piano Station has 128 instruments built-in. This includes basic sequencer functionality and features bass riffs, instrumental loops, and percussion options – allowing up to 3 layers to be stacked in order to make a ‘mini performance’ which can then be exported.
This program utilizes 73 on-screen keys which can be either clicked or controlled via the computer keyboard or a MIDI device, giving you 6 octaves to play with, which is more than enough to be able to play across a dynamic range.
Ease of Use/Functionality
The A73 Piano Keyboard supports both 32-bit and 64-bit systems with the ability to be controlled in a number of ways including via external MIDIkeyboard devices. This piano also has the ability to save internal projects when used in stand-alone mode.
- Allows the user to stack up to three different melodic and percussive elements to create a unique composition
- Over 20 user-controlled settings including Rock, Blues, Jazz, Waltz, and more, with full tempo and swing control.
- This virtual piano works with any General MIDI compatible software and hardware synthesizer, including Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synth, amongst others.
- Customizable user interface with an aesthetically pleasing selection of color palettes.
As far as MIDI piano sounds go, this is a cheap and cheerful sounding example. Although sampled in a very dry-sounding way, this piano actually sounds really nice when some reverb and pre-delay is applied to it.
Given the fact that this comes with over 128 different instrument sounds built into it, it’s a really cheap (FREE) and easy way to add a chunk of extra content to your plugin library.
2. Spitfire Audio ‘LABS SERIES’ Soft Piano
The SpitFire Audio SOFT Piano is a brilliant little bit of free software from spitfire audio’s free range of plugins titled ‘LABS’. This particular piano was sampled by Nick Taylor using a matched pair of Schoeps MK4 microphones on a ‘Felt’ piano.
The recordings took place in ‘Air Adel Studios’ in London and have been treated and sampled using the highest possible standards, delivering a really truthful and honest sounding piano with all the delicate and subtle nuances you would expect from a real piano.
Regarding the capability of most MIDI piano keyboards, The ‘LABS’ range of plugins exceeds standard expectations and aims to work in a way similar to NI’s Kontakt Player. Not only does it give users a really playable experience, but it also provides a platform that can be built upon and used moving forward as a versatile sampler for other instruments like drums, brass, strings and more.
Ease of Use/Functionality
SpitFire has made the SOFT piano super easy to use, featuring three easy to use controls, a simple dynamics control (managing the minimum and maximum velocity of the notes), a volume expression control (used to shift volume within the plugin as opposed to externally), and a nice big fat reverb knob for all that shiny glittery magic.
- Super streamlined GUI makes for easy use and understanding of the plugin without overcomplicating it (it’s a piano after all)
- Recorded in a premier London studio by an industry professional using the highest quality gear and standards.
- This plugin sits perfectly alongside a selection of other free plugins from the SpitFire LABS range, Spitfire’s own version of the infamous Native Instruments Kontakt Player.
Whether you’re looking for something bluesy, jazzy, or modern, this plugin manages to provide only three settings which when used correctly can give you a multitude of different piano sounds, easily controlled from any USB MIDI keyboard controller.
From the dry heavy slamming low end of a big grand piano to the tiny tinkle of the gentle pattering of keys; this piano won’t leave you feeling anything other than glad that you own it. Alongside the other LABS plugins offered by SpitFire, this resource is really hard to beat and should be considered when looking for a piano with a more realistic feeling and emotion.
3. SampleScience Room Piano
SampleScience has delivered us a wonderful FREE Lo-Fi piano, designed for use with USB MIDI keyboards modeled from an upright vintage Kawai room piano. This plugin is not only zero-dollars but gorgeous to look at, exhibiting some unique and underrated (in my opinion) effects that really help this piano lend itself to a variety of applications.
The ‘Room Piano’ features a selection of cool tape-effects, lo-fi, vinyl, and reverb effects as well as having a fully controllable ADSR envelope to help shape and craft your sound.
Ease of Use/Functionality
The Room Piano is super easy to use with a ‘front-facing’ display, offering the user everything in one easy place without any menu-diving or scrambling around the interface. The plugin is beautiful to look at, with a warm vintage woodgrain and toned layers of paisley, it is clear that this piano was inspired by a certain period in time, with its dusty sound matching it perfectly.
- Beautiful and unique interface, features full ADSR envelope control and multi LFO settings.
- Fits perfectly into the Lo-Fi genre and vintage hip-hop niche.
- Designed with ease of use and narrow purpose in mind, but fits into a very wide variety of moods and genres.
All up, this is a very good MIDI keyboard plugin for those who are into ‘boom-bap’ style beats or anything sample-based.
This free piano will fit in well with vintage samples and sounds, and melds with its surrounds as if it personally knows that it belongs in the sonic landscape of sample-based hip-hop, while also offering users a multitude of other purposes including use as a cleaner sounding and more classical piano.
4. RDG Audio Free Piano
This multi-sampled piano comes from RDG Audio group, known for their quality free and paid plugins. RDG has been around for a while and offers a selection of amazing snare, string, and other orchestral plugins; but today I want to talk about their Free Piano. This plugin allows you to layer up to three separate tracks and record, edit, and playback your piano parts within your favorite DAW or OS.
Ease of Use/Functionality
The faceplate of the plugin leaves something to be desired, having a faux-futuristic look about it.
This Piano features a large number of features including staccato, auto sustain, and was recorded in a round-robin’ format (achieved by recording several different iterations of the same notes and arranging the software so that no two notes play one after the other). This helps bring a real human feeling to the RDG FreePiano and gives it a much more interesting appeal beneath the covers, as it were.
These samples were collected using a four-microphone setup, meaning the overall result is a very rich and authentic-sounding piano. With front-facing features like a fully functional ADSR envelope, panning, tuning, low pass filtering, and a nice sounding reverb, this piano delivers a genuine thundering low end that you’d expect from a typical grand, whilst maintaining all the subtleties that might be expected from a higher level piano player when using a properly weighted MIDI keyboard.
- Has a distinctly rich and vibrant sound, similar to that of a Steinway stage piano or something of a much higher caliber than what you’re actually dealing with.
- ‘Round Robin’ sampling, ensures a more human and organic feel when playing repeated notes, rather than mechanically playing the same sample of the same note without differentiation.
- The thundering low end is outstanding as one of the loudest and deeply ranged MIDI pianos on this list.
If you don’t mind the dated ‘early 2000’s’ look of this MIDI keyboard plugin, you’re going to be pretty happy with this one, considering it’s FREE.
This plugin has everything required to get a huge grand piano sound and would be highly recommended for use when scoring or writing musical parts, particularly accompanying dramatic visual content.
Along with its great sound comes a lack of menu-diving (this is a good thing), and a healthy dose of attention to detail, making this a must-have for those interested in immersing themselves in one of the richest low-end frequencies on this list.
5. 99Sounds Upright Piano
Made in collaboration with 99Sounds and Italian pianist Rudi Fiasco, The 99Sounds Upright Piano is modeled from the classic wooden tallboys of yesteryear.
This ‘digital’ upright piano has a beautiful resonance and features a snazzy and unique set of effects. Featuring 6 recorded layers per note, this piano gives a rich and timbral sound and embodies the resonance of an upright wood-body piano.
Ease of Use/Functionality
The 99Sounds Upright Piano makes use of some often overlooked features such as tremolo, key dampening, reverb, and Attack/Release envelope control to give you an authentic-sounding experience from the comfort of your own home or office.
This simple-yet-powerful plugin creates an authentic vibe that sits neatly amongst most mixes and tends to use subtlety in favor of power.
- Tremolo function gives an alternative to typical LFO type movement and introduces a more melodic and rhythmic motion to the sound of the keys.
- Created in conjunction with well-known pianist Rudi Fiasco, the original untreated samples are also available for download on Rudi’s website.
- Made for simple tasks and to function as a basic piano utility, while maintaining the full integrity of the original sound source in a brilliant manner.
The Upright Piano from 99Sounds pulls you out of your studio and into an intimate setting, with its charming natural-sounding reverb and true-to-life dampening effect, this plugin gives anyone with a MIDI keyboard and a sustain pedal a license to jam, with a super simple interface and no unnecessary bells and whistles, the piano purists are most likely to really enjoy this little freebie.
It is also worth mentioning that 99Sounds also has a plethora of other cool free stuff to give away, including their drum machine and clap machine, both of which are really great additions to anyone’s percussive repertoire. This is a great free MIDI keyboard plugin.
6. Versilian Upright No. 1
This classically recorded upright piano from Versilian Studios was designed to be used as a ‘sketching piano’ – namely, it was created for quick jams, recordings, or notations, should inspiration strike. This classic upright is designed to be playable and reminiscent of the standard upright pianos found in bars, clubs, and homes all over the world.
Ease of Use/Functionality
The Upright No. 1 comes with everything you’d expect from a basic upright piano model. Sticking to the simplicity of the essence of the upright piano, this plugin has full ADSR envelope control functionality, a reverb dial, and a panning dial, all easily and conveniently located on the front-facing design of the plugin itself.
- Simple, easy to use, sounds great with no bells and whistles needed, recorded using a wide stereo configuration, using multiple microphones.
- Has a bright and clear tone, with the ability to be played softly and savagely with appropriate realism.
- Sampled in ‘Round Robin’ format so that repeated notes have slightly different sounds or timbres, giving the sound a more realistic feeling when a key is pressed repeatedly, rather than playing the same static note, which is very noticeable.
A great little on-the-go style plugin, this one is really for those true piano purists who want something that will cheaply and cheerfully fit the bill at a moment’s notice. Versilian Upright No. 1 does a faithful job of re-creating the sound of the more common ‘everyman’ upright piano.
With a pretty acceptable file size and more than enough attention to detail, this plugin is a great little option for those looking for a simple and effective virtual piano.
MIDI keyboards are useful for at-home music composition. Instead of managing an audio signal that requires a recording device, this instrument sends a code to your DAW that registers as music.
That code transfers to the software to indicate where specific notes get played. When you play back the recording, you’ll hear the music that wasn’t available from the instrument.
Headphones connected to your hardware (computers, laptops, tablets, etc.) can let you hear the music from your MIDI keyboard in real-time.
Finding the best free MIDI keyboard software for your platform ensures that you can have fun playing and composing music daily.
How Does a MIDI Keyboard Work?
A Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) keyboard uses digital protocols to communicate with computers, hardware, or other instruments. It was invented to make multiple musical products compatible with those from other brands. Ikytaro Kakehashi proposed the first MIDI solution in 1981.
MIDI is a universal language that works through a digital signal. It uses binary code to help instruments from different manufacturers communicate with each other and other hardware to let artists make music.
This outcome is different than the traditional keyboard that products an audio signal you hear immediately.
You must plug a MIDI keyboard into a device that can convert the played notes into audio. Some instruments act as stand-alone products with MIDI connectivity to offer an extra level of diversity for artists to enjoy. The best items include an amplifier connection as a third performance option.
Older instruments use pin-based connections to transfer the instrument language to another device. Manufacturers now use USB technologies and compatible software to create audio.
If you are missing one of these elements, your MIDI keyboard will not work.
Can a MIDI Keyboard Play Sound Without a Computer?
MIDI keyboards require a device that can read its code to produce audio. Although it doesn’t need to be a computer, you must still use something else if the instrument doesn’t generate internal sounds. Tone generators, MIDI controllers, and synthesizers are possibilities.
When you choose something other than a computer for a MIDI keyboard, you lose the advantages of this technology. The goal is for the instrument to transmit code to DAW software to produce recording information.
If you use an alternative connection for your MIDI keyboard, the instrument becomes a standard product. It plays sounds when you contact the keys.
That’s why the best solution for a new keyboard is to have one with multiple connectivity features. It can play when you turn the instrument on, send code to software for recording, or direct the output to an amplifier to produce the desired music.
Some models allow you to connect all three functions simultaneously. You choose the one to use from the control menu based on the current need.
Best MIDI Keyboard Software for Every Platform
If you need free software for your MIDI keyboard, these are the best options to consider downloading right now.
Choose this free MIDI keyboard software if you want opportunities to record, edit, and play your output. This product opens existing files to modify the content if you’ve tried other platforms without success. It also creates new compositions from direct input or software instruments within the program.
The one issue with this software is that it isn’t very intuitive. You’ll see lines appear in DAW format as you play. This information represents the digital code for the notes, creating the foundation for authentic playback. You must wait until after the recording is over to see the results of your work.
Once you have the recording edited, you can change instrument tones to create unique sounds. The software lets you automatically move incorrect notes to the correct beat and correct other errors to minimize your editing time.
Although there isn’t a way to import sounds directly into this free software, it does serve as a learning tool for MIDI editing. You’ll be ready to step up to a paid platform with a little practice.
2. Piano Time
If your goal is to create a plug-and-play experience for your MIDI keyboard, this software solution is the perfect download. It gives you 36 keys and four octaves to choose with several additional configurable features.
Unless you have an older keyboard, the app recognizes your equipment immediately. The goal of the software is to mimic the sound of a traditional piano, so there aren’t many ways to adjust the tone or instrument. It doesn’t include delay or reverb, although the sustain is available if you have a pedal with your device.
It does provide the option to record and save clips of your favorite compositions. If you have a DAW to use, this app gives you layering options that may not be available with other techniques. The free version doesn’t maintain the file, which means it must stay open to remain usable.
You have the option to use a computer keyboard if you don’t have a MIDI instrument. The key-mapping feature is the same as what you’d find in Cakewalk, GarageBand, and similar DAW options.
3. Piano 10
You have over 100 different sounds from which to choose if you download this free MIDI keyboard software. One of the best options is the auto-chord feature, helping you learn the different types that can go into your music. You can add echo, sustain, or reverb, but they must get used individually.
The sound representation is surprisingly good. Although it doesn’t give you volume variations like other free downloads, what you do hear is authentic.
You’ll discover that many of the sounds are fun to play with when using your MIDI keyboard. Still, they aren’t usable from a performance standpoint. Think of it as a way to experiment without risk before starting a gig or trying your hand at some songwriting.
Piano 10 doesn’t offer the option to change your key size or to get more of them on the display. The entire instrument plays (not all software allows that feature), but you don’t get to see the keys illuminate on your screen. If you prefer a visual representation of your music, this download may leave you feeling disappointed.
The banner ads at the top of the screen don’t interfere with the software’s usability, which does get a little annoying when you’re trying to work out a melody.
Each recording is savable as a proprietary file on this platform. The clips are only playable from this software, but you could layer a composition to play with other recordings.
The issue with this free MIDI keyboard software is that you must use the web-based product to avoid malware. If you don’t like the idea of downloading something to your computer or mobile device, it’s a suitable option for playing your instrument immediately.
It provides a user-friendly experience from the start. Pianu detects your keyboard, which allows you to begin playing.
The software isn’t overly complicated. It allows you to learn how to play the piano with its built-in lessons. You can discover the basics of each note, how to build chords, and play along with contemporary songs.
It’s a lot better than the days of repeating “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” when learning how to play the piano.
This free web-based product is not suitable for a live performance or general recording. It works well for learning, although it would be better if the sustain were authentic. The one benefit you will notice right away is that there is virtually no latency at all.
This iOS app is the best option for anyone who wants to learn how to use a DAW. It provides a full recording suite for free that includes percussion tracks, synthetic instruments, and direct recording capabilities.
Garageband is compatible with downloadable loops from third-party providers to enhance your compositions. Your MIDI keyboard can create unique ones if you want something more custom.
You have a limit of 255 tracks when creating music, but that is more than enough for most compositions. It is arguably more potent than Logic without the added cost.
Digital representations of your audio are infinitely adjustable. You can change sine waves, alter notes, or change instruments with a single mouse click. When the composition is ready for publication, several file options are available to create a shareable experience.
This free MIDI keyboard software only runs on Apple laptops or the iMac. A mobile version provides fewer features, although it still helps you to create music with its functionality. It is typically pre-installed on new devices today or downloaded from the App Store.
6. BandLab Cakewalk
This free MIDI keyboard software was one of the first DAW solutions for recording artists. Gibson had control over the programming for more than a decade until the instrument maker decided to move in another direction. Once BandLab took over, the fees went away.
This download is a complete music production package. If you prefer to work on Windows PC, it is a viable alternative to platforms like Garageband. You receive several advanced mastering tools, mixing filters, and unlimited MIDI tracks to finalize your composition.
The DAW includes numerous editing tools to help you create the perfect sound from your keyboard, vocals, or recorded instruments. You can change the tone, add compression, and make all of the expected tweaks you’d see in any other DAW package.
When you are satisfied with the work you’ve done, the music can publish on several platforms directly. YouTube, Facebook, and SoundCloud are all compatible.
You must have Windows 10 on your computer to use the free BandLab Cakewalk MIDI keyboard software.
7. Tracktion T7
The unique business model for this DAW is that the older versions get released for free when something new gets released. They hope that you’ll want to upgrade after seeing how useful the software is with your MIDI keyboard.
Each section of this DAW is scalable. It adapts to your preferred workflow with a couple of clicks, displaying whatever parameters you prefer. Create an unlimited set of MIDI and audio tracks, host multiple plugin formats, and record live if you have the equipment. The only limitations on your creativity are the performance statistics of your hardware.
This free MIDI keyboard software is one of the few no-cost solutions that allows you to use Audio Units and VST.
You must create an account to access the DAW. After you load the software for the first time, you’ll get prompted to unlock the free features.
8. Perfect Piano
This free app automatically detects your connected MIDI keyboard. It lets you choose several sounds for when you play, with more even downloadable choices available and free to use.
The standout feature for this software is the sustain. If you have a pedal with your keyboard, you’ll receive an authentic sound with fade when playing. It provides the capability of recording in audio or MIDI format to transition to a more formal DAW.
There’s a “learn to play” feature with Perfect Piano that lets you hit notes as they descend on your smartphone or tablet screen. It feels a lot like a game, except that it teaches you how to play your instrument.
Latency is minimal with this software. It isn’t available for iOS devices, but you’ll find it works well with most Android operating systems – including older ones. The sounds are authentic, fun to use, and easy to manage.
It even lets you adjust the number of keys on the screen when playing to ensure an accurate result.
A Final Thought on Free MIDI Keyboard Software
The best free MIDI keyboard software solutions allow you to play whenever the mood strikes. It will enable you to bypass the computer if desired or start your recording career. You stay in control of the experience from the start.
If you already have a MIDI keyboard at home, these no-cost solutions expand your instrument’s capabilities. When you’re shopping for something to play, keep these downloads in mind to accomplish your goals.
Virtual MIDI Piano Keyboard
Virtual MIDI Piano Keyboard is a MIDI events generator and receiver. It doesn't produce any sound by itself, but can be used to drive a MIDI synthesizer (either hardware or software, internal or external). You can use the computer's keyboard to play MIDI notes, and also the mouse. You can use the Virtual MIDI Piano Keyboard to display the played MIDI notes from another instrument or MIDI file player. To do so, connect the other MIDI port to the input port of VMPK.
Gymnopédie No. 1 by E. Satie (1866–1925) played by MuseScore and VMPK in Linux
VMPK has been tested in Linux, Windows and Mac OSX, but maybe you can build it also in other systems. If so, please drop a mail to the author.
The Virtual Keyboard by Takashi Iway (vkeybd) has been the inspiration for this one. It is a wonderful piece of software and has served us well for many years. Thanks!
VMPK uses a modern GUI framework: Qt5, that gives excellent features and performance. Drumstick RT provides MIDI input/output features. Both frameworks are free and platform independent, available for Linux, Windows and Mac OSX.
The alphanumeric keyboard mapping can be configured from inside the program using the GUI interface, and the settings are stored in XML files. Some maps for Spanish, German and French keyboard layouts are provided, translated from the ones provided by VKeybd.
VMPK can send program changes and controllers to a MIDI synth. The definitions for different standards and devices can be provided as .INS files, the same format used by QTractor and TSE3. It was developed by Cakewalk and used also in Sonar.
This software is still in development. See the TODO file for a list of pending features. Please feel free to contact the author to ask questions, report bugs, and propose new features. You can use the tracking system at SourceForge project site.
Copyright (C) 2008-2020, Pedro Lopez-Cabanillas <plcl AT users.sourceforge.net> and others.
Virtual MIDI Piano Keyboard is free software licensed under the terms of the GPL v3 license.
MIDI is an industry standard to connect musical instruments. It is based on transmitting the actions performed by a musician playing some instrument to another different instrument. Musical instruments enabled with MIDI interfaces typically have two DIN sockets labeled MIDI IN and MIDI OUT. Sometimes there is a third socket labeled MIDI THRU. To connect a MIDI instrument to another one, you need a MIDI cable attached to the MIDI OUT socket of the sending instrument, and to the MIDI IN of the receiving one. You can find more information and tutorials like this one all around the Net.
There are also hardware MIDI interfaces for computers, providing MIDI IN and OUT ports, where you can attach MIDI cables to communicate the computer with external MIDI instruments. Without needing hardware interfaces, the computer can also use MIDI software. An example is VMPK, which provides MIDI IN and OUT ports. You can attach virtual MIDI cables to the VMPK's ports, to connect the program to other programs or to the computer's physical MIDI interface ports. More details about this coming later. You usually want to connect the MIDI output from VMPK to the input of some synthesizer which transforms MIDI into sound. Another common destination for the connection would be a MIDI monitor that translates MIDI events into readable text. This will help you to understand what kind of information is transmitted using the MIDI protocol. In Linux you can try KMidimon and in Windows MIDIOX.
VMPK doesn't produce any sound. You need a MIDI software synthesizer to hear the played notes. I recommend you to try QSynth, a graphical front-end to Fluidsynth. In Windows you can also use the "Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth" that comes with all Windows versions, or a better alternative like CoolSoft Virtual MIDI Synth. Of course, an external MIDI hardware synth would be an even better approach.
Keyboard maps and instrument definitions
VMPK can help you to change sounds in your MIDI synthesizer, but only if you provide a definition for the synthesizer sounds first. The definitions are text files with the .INS extension, and the same format used by Qtractor (Linux), and Sonar (Windows).
When you start VMPK the first time, you should open the Preferences dialog and choose a definition file, and then select the instrument name among those provided by the definitions file. There should be one instrument definitions file installed in the VMPK's data directory (typically "/usr/share/vmpk" in Linux, and "C:\Program Files\VMPK" in Windows) named "gmgsxg.ins", containing definitions for the General MIDI, Roland GS and Yamaha XG standards. It is a very simple format, and you can use any text editor to look, change, and create a new one. You can find a library of instruments definitions at the cakewalk ftp server.
Since the release 0.2.5 you can also import Sound Font files (in .SF2 or DLS formats) as instruments definitions, using a dialog available at menu File->Import SoundFont.
Another customization that you may want to tweak is the keyboard mapping. The default layout maps about two and half octaves for the QWERTY alphanumeric keyboard, but there are some more definitions in the data directory, adapted for other international layouts. You can even define your own mapping using a dialog box available in the Edit->Keyboard map menu. There are also options to load and save the maps as XML files. The last loaded map will be remembered the next time you start VMPK. In fact, all your preferences, selected MIDI bank and program, and the controller values will be saved on exit, and restored when you restart VMPK the next time.
MIDI connections and virtual MIDI cables
In Windows, VMPK connects automatically to the default MIDI output, which is usually the "Microsoft GS Wavetable Synth", included in all Windows versions. This MIDI synthesizer produces very poor quality sound, and suffers of high latency. A better (and free) alternative is CoolSoft Virtual MIDI Synth.
To connect hardware MIDI devices you need physical MIDI cables. To connect MIDI software you need virtual cables. In Windows you can use some virtual MIDI cable software, like MIDI Yoke, Maple, LoopBe1, or loopMIDI.
MIDI Yoke setup process will install the driver and a control panel applet to change the number of MIDI ports that will be available (you need to restart the computer after changing this setting). MIDI Yoke works sending every MIDI event written to an OUT port to the corresponding IN port. For instance, VMPK can connect the output to the port 1, and another program like QSynth can read the same events from the port 1.
Using MIDIOX you can add more routes between MIDI Yoke ports and other system MIDI ports. This program also provides other interesting functionalities, like a MIDI file player. You can listen the songs played in a MIDI Synth and at the same time see the played notes (only one channel at a time) in VMPK. To do so, you can use the "Routes" window in MIDIOX to connect the input port 1 to the Windows Synth port. Also, configure the player's MIDI port to send to MIDI Yoke 1. And configure VMPK Input port to read from MIDI Yoke 1. The player will send the events to the out port 1, which will be routed to both the input port 1 and at the same time to the synth port.
In Linux, you have ALSA sequencer to provide the virtual cables. The ports are dynamically created when you start a program, so there is not a fixed number of them like in MIDI Yoke. The command line utility "aconnect" allows to connect and disconnect the virtual MIDI cables between any ports, being hardware interfaces or applications. A nice GUI utility for doing the same is QJackCtl. The main purpose of this program is to control the Jack daemon (start, stop and monitor the state). Jack provides virtual audio cables to connect your sound card ports and audio programs, in a similar way to the MIDI virtual cables, but for digital audio data.
QJackCtl connections in Linux
Frequently Asked Questions
How to display 88 keys?
Since VMPK 0.6.0 you can use the settings dialog to choose this exact number of keys.
There is no sound
VMPK doesn't produce any sound by itself. You need a MIDI synthesizer.
Some keys are silent
When you select channel 10 on a standard MIDI synth, it plays percussion sounds assigned to many keys but not to all of them. On melodic channels (not channel 10) you can select patches with a limited range of notes. This is known in music as Tessitura.
Patch names don't match the real sounds
You need to provide an .INS file describing exactly your synthesizer's sound set or soundfont. The included file (gmgsxg.ins) contains definitions for only standard GM, GS and XG instruments. If your MIDI synth doesn't match exactly any of them, you need to get another .INS file, or create it yourself.
Syntax of the Instrument Definition (.INS) files?
One explanation of the INS format is here.
Can I convert my Instrument Definition for vkeybd into an .INS file?
Sure. Use the AWK script "txt2ins.awk". You can even use the utility sftovkb from vkeybd to create an .INS file from any SF2 soundfont, but there is also a function to import the instrument names from SF2 and DLS files in VMPK.$ sftovkb SF2NAME.sf2 | sort -n -k1,1 -k2,2 > SF2NAME.txt $ awk -f txt2ins.awk SF2NAME.txt > SF2NAME.ins
You can find the AWK script "txt2ins.awk" installed in the VMPK's data directory.
You can find the latest sources, Windows, and Mac OSX packages at SourceForge project site.
If you distribute VMPK packages for any distro, please drop me an email and I will add a link to your site here.
Installation from sources
Download the sources from https://sourceforge.net/projects/vmpk/files. Unpack the sources in your home directory, and change to the unpacked dir.$ cd vmpk-x.y.z
You can choose between CMake and Qmake to prepare the build system, but qmake is intended only for testing and development.$ cmake . or $ ccmake . or $ qmake
After that, compile the program:$ make
If the program has been compiled sucessfully, you can install it:$ sudo make install
In order to successfully build and use VMPK, you need Qt 5.1 or newer. (install the -devel package for your system, or download the open source edition from qt.io
Drusmtick RT is required for all platforms. It uses ALSA sequencer in Linux, WinMM in Windows and CoreMIDI in Mac OSX, which are the native MIDI systems in each supported platform.
The build system is based on CMake.
You need also the GCC C++ compiler. MinGW is a Windows port.
Optionally, you can buid a Windows setup program using NSIS.
Notes for windows users
To compile the sources in Windows, you need to download either the .bz2 or .gz archive and uncompress it using any utility that supports the format, like 7-Zip.
To configure the sources, you need qmake (from Qt5) or CMake. You need to set the PATH including the directories for Qt5 binaries, MinGW binaries, and also CMake binaries. The program CMakeSetup.exe is the graphic version of CMake for Windows.
For some hints on using the program in Windows, please see MIDI connections.
Notes for Mac OSX users
You can find a precompiled universal app bundle, including Qt5 runtime libraries, at the project download area. If you prefer to install from sources, CMake or Qmake can be used to build the application bundle linked to the installed system libraries. You can use Qt5 either from qt.io or packages from Homebrew.
The build system is configured to create an universal binary (x86+ppc) into an app bundle. You need the Apple development tools and frameworks, as well as Qt5.
To compile VMPK using Makefiles, generated by qmake:$ qmake vmpk.pro -spec macx-g++ $ make optionally: $ macdeployqt build/vmpk.app
To compile using Makefiles, generated by CMake:$ cmake -G "Unix Makefiles" . $ make
To create Xcode project files:$ qmake vmpk.pro -spec macx-xcode or $ cmake -G Xcode .
If you need something to produce noise, maybe you want to take a look to SimpleSynth, FluidSynth. For MIDI routing, there is also MIDI Patchbay.
Notes for packagers and advanced users
You can ask the compiler for some optimisation when building the program. There are two ways: first, using a predefined build type.$ cmake . -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release
The CMake "Release" type uses the compiler flags: "-O3 -DNDEBUG". Other predefined build types are "Debug", "RelWithDebInfo", and "MinSizeRel". The second way is to choose the compiler flags yourself.$ export CXXFLAGS="-O2 -march=native -mtune=native -DNDEBUG" $ cmake .
You need to find the better CXXFLAGS for your own system.
If you want to install the program at some place other than the default (/usr/local) use the following CMake option:$ cmake . -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/usr
In addition to the aforementioned tools, VMPK uses work from the following open source projects.
Thank you very much!
You can support Virtual MIDI Piano Keyboard by adding it to your stack at OpenHub
Related Software (multiplatform)
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Virtual MIDI Piano Keyboard
VMPK is a virtual MIDI piano keyboard for Linux, Windows and OSX. Based on Qt and Drumstick the program is a MIDI event generator using the computer's alphanumeric keyboard and the mouse. It may be used also to display received MIDI notes.
- 1 MIDI IN port
- 1 MIDI OUT/THRU port
- MIDI standards compliant
- Configurable number of keys/octaves
- Configurable starting note
- Configurable key size
- Configurable computer keyboard mappings
- Touch screen support
- MIDI output to Internal synthesizers
- MIDI input and output to network, using an ipMIDI compatible protocol
- MIDI input and output to OS native drivers (Windows, Linux and Mac OSX)
- Translations to many languages
LicenseGNU General Public License version 3.0 (GPLv3)
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LanguagesFrench, Czech, English, Serbian, Galician, Swedish, German, Spanish, Russian
Intended AudienceEnd Users/Desktop
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The Best MIDI Keyboard Software (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS)
Software & Plugins
By Brian ClarkLast Updated: March 12, 2021
MIDI Keyboard Software can be in the form of standalone apps, or as part of DAW software (such as GarageBand, Reaper, and Ableton Live). We take you through some of the best options for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS.
If you want something very simple, then a standalone app might be the way to go.
However, DAWs are generally more versatile since they contain powerful music processing features that also allow you to apply audio effects, manipulate MIDI recordings, mix and master tracks, and export audio files.
MIDI Keyboard Software for Windows, Mac, and Linux (Free and Paid Options)
1. Garageband (Mac) – DAW
Garageband is an extremely popular music-making software that comes bundled with Mac devices and is also available for iOS.
It can be thought of as the younger sibling of Apple’s flagship DAW – Logic, with a similar interface and workflow but with a more beginner-friendly feature set.
Garageband comes with a host of bundled MIDI instruments in a wide array of categories, from strings and drums to electronic FX and loops.
This makes it a fantastic inexpensive way to produce demos and scratch tracks or just experiment.
2. Synthesia (Windows, Mac) – Standalone
Synthesia is a great virtual piano application that aims at lowering the entry barrier for learning the piano or keyboard.
It’s designed to be a song-playing game similar to Guitar Hero, where the correct notes to a song are displayed as falling notes which the user has to play at the correct time to score points.
The great thing is that it accepts any song in MIDI format, which is easily available. It supports connecting an external MIDI keyboard via USB to control it.
Factors like tempo and key can be adjusted to facilitate ease of use and learning.
3. Cakewalk by Bandlab (Windows) – DAW
Cakewalk (formerly SONAR) is a full-fledged DAW that is available for free for Windows.
It contains a multitude of software instruments and professional-grade plugin effects for full-scale music production.
It is optimized for touch devices and has sophisticated features like VST3 support and ARA integration.
Considering the amount and depth of features on offer, Cakewalk being free is an absolute gift for budding producers and music enthusiasts.
4. Piano 10 (Windows) – Standalone
If you’re not looking for a more serious music production-centric option like a full DAW, Piano 10 available on the Microsoft Store is a nifty virtual piano program that can be controlled with an external MIDI keyboard.
It supports polyphony up to 31 simultaneous notes as well as velocity-sensitive dynamics, all in a simple to use free package, great for hobbyists or those just looking to have some fun with virtual instruments.
5. Tracktion Waveform Free (Windows, Mac, Linux) – DAW
This is a fully-featured DAW that even supports Linux and Raspberry Pi environments in addition to Windows and Mac support.
It carries all the features you’d expect in a professional DAW, adding in some nifty features like an in-built MIDI-controlled drum sequencer and an innovative concept of “Plugin Sandboxing” to prevent malfunctioning third party plugins from crashing your entire session.
Enthusiasts who want to take their production to the next level then have the option of upgrading to Waveform’s Pro version, which has even more sophisticated and deep editing and production capabilities.
MIDI Keyboard Apps for Android
Thanks to the increasingly powerful and affordable mobile technology of today, smartphones and tablets have significant music-making capabilities, which can be expanded by connecting MIDI keyboards and controllers to them.
There are several apps, both free and paid, catering to a wide range of skills and use cases for both Android and iOS.
We’ll briefly cover some of the free options to get you started with mobile musical tinkering.
If you have an Android phone running Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) and above, then you can connect a MIDI keyboard to your phone and play through any of the hundreds of MIDI keyboard apps available on the Google Play Store!
Sorting through the vast collection of apps can be tiresome, so here are a couple of great free solutions which will transform your phone into a realistic sounding musical instrument:
1. Dreamhound Studios MIDI Keyboard – Standalone App
This is a simple piano app that accepts external MIDI input. It features an 88 key piano with adjustable velocities and note name display. It’s simple to set up and use and sounds convincing enough. It’s great for beginners, teachers, or musicians on the go looking for something quick and simple to jam ideas with.
2. Perfect Piano – Standalone App
Perfect Piano is a fun and surprisingly feature-rich piano app available for free on the Play Store.
It features an authentic-sounding 88-key piano, as well as other instruments like Music Box, Rhodes, and synths.
Besides, more “timbre packs” can be downloaded to expand the sound set to include violins, flutes, etc., which can all be controlled via an external MIDI keyboard.
Apart from the piano itself, the app also contains song learning features and games with adjustable speeds and difficulties. It also incorporates social media integration with which users can collaborate and share music online or even participate in online contests and challenges.
How to Connect a MIDI Controller to Android
Before you can start cooking up music on your Android, there are a few simple steps you need to follow to connect your MIDI keyboard to your phone.
1. Check your Android phone version.
You’ll need at least Android 6.0 to have the ability to connect MIDI devices to your phone or tablet. Most devices bought in the last 3 years or so should meet this requirement.
2. Check the kind of port your phone has.
You will need an adapter to connect your MIDI keyboard’s cable to your phone’s USB port.
If your phone has a USB-C port, which is common in newer phones, you’ll need a USB-C to USB-A OTG adapter, like this one.
If you have an older phone which still uses a micro-USB port, then you’ll need a micro-USB to USB-A OTG adapter like this one.
3. Connect your MIDI keyboard to your phone.
Connect the micro-USB or USB-C end of the OTG adapter to your phone, and plug in your MIDI Keyboard’s USB cable to the other end.
In case your MIDI Keyboard doesn’t have a USB and uses the older 5-pin MIDI connection, then you will require another 5-pin MIDI to USB adapter in between to connect the keyboard to your phone.
Smaller MIDI keyboards tend to be powered over the USB connection itself, but a larger keyboard or synthesizer might need external power to turn on.
4. Check the connection
Once your MIDI keyboard is powered up and connected, it should register in your Android phone as a MIDI device. You might need to select the MIDI option from the USB configuration window that shows up when you connect the keyboard.
Open up your favorite MIDI app, and check to see if it registers the MIDI keyboard. Make any necessary input settings within the app and check that sound is produced when you press a key.
MIDI Keyboard Apps for iPhone and iPad
Apple’s iOS system provides a very powerful music-making environment within iPhones and iPads. In fact, they can host professional-grade apps that are increasingly finding their way in recording studios and pro musicians’ live setups. iOS also integrates well with macOS on Apple computers, giving you added flexibility and expansion capabilities.
The Apple app store also has a ton of free midi applications to explore for making music. We’ve covered two of the most popular ones for your perusal
1. Flowkey – Standalone App
Flowkey is a mega-popular app for learning piano. It has full MIDI support for external keyboards and features an easy and interactive way to learn or practice piano tailored to various levels of expertise.
Flowkey can monitor the notes you play on your keyboard via MIDI or even via microphone for a real piano or synthesizer and help you learn new songs across various genres and difficulties. It even features piano courses and theory concepts to aid training across levels.
2. Perfect Piano – Standalone App
Just like its Android counterpart, this is a feature-rich program with a variety of sounds and modes to play, practice, record, share, and have fun with.
iOS devices support virtually any MIDI keyboard or controller. There are, however, a few different ways to connect MIDI keyboards to an iPhone and iPad, depending on the device you have and how you intend to use it.
For a comprehensive explanation of how to connect a MIDI controller to your iOS device, as well as recommendations for the best controllers around, check out this article.
Different Types of MIDI Keyboard Software
MIDI controllers cannot function meaningfully without software that accepts MIDI signals to produce sound. This software may be for emulating anything from pianos and synths to drum kits and full orchestras. To this end, we essentially have two options:
1. Standalone MIDI software, which runs independently of any host as a separate program on a computer or mobile phone. This is usually the easiest option, but it can be quite limited.
2. MIDI plugins hosted within a Digital Audio Workstation software. This may be one of the stock plugins within the DAW itself or any number of third-party plugins available.
As mentioned previously, the DAW option is the most feature-rich and flexible option as they are an all-in-one option that allows you to record MIDI, as well as mix, master, and export audio files.
MIDI keyboards allow you to trigger an almost unlimited array of sounds.
The only real limit is the features of the MIDI keyboard software that you were using.
If you want some very simple piano and synth sounds, then just a simple standalone app might be a good option for you. Whereas if you want to get more into music production, or if you want to unlock a much more versatile sound library, then check out some of these great DAWs that we mentioned above.
DAWs almost always allow you to hook in third-party pieces of software called plugins (such as VST, AU, AAX plugins), and these can greatly enhance the sound processing possibilities of the DAW.
If you have any other good resources for MIDI keyboard software, then please write them in the comment section below.
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