Your complete quick guide to connecting your keyboard. If you are just starting out with your home recording studio set-up, the first thing you may wish to do is find out how to connect a MIDI keyboard or digital piano up to your computer. This will enable you to use any interactive MIDI software products: quickly record virtual instrument tracks; write your own songs and music; learn to play and more.
The MIDI Keyboard is often the heart of a small home recording studio, and the easiest and fastest way to enter bass lines, edit drum tracks, and of course record keyboard tracks. The other benefit of making a MIDI connection is if you want to learn to play keyboard or piano. Once you have a MIDI connection you can benefit from interactive piano lesson software and online piano courses. It is also a great way to benefit from interactive music theory software and apps.
The quickest and easiest way to connect is using a USB-MIDI interface like one of the high quality branded devices below.
[The following content contains affiliate links. For more information, read our disclosure policy here.]
Our Top 4 choices For Simple USB-MIDI interfaces which work!
Roland UM-ONE MK2 USB MIDI Interface High-performance FPT processing, very compact, affordable, and easy to use. Compatible with PC, Mac and iPad.
iConnectivity mio 1-in 1-out USB to MIDI Interface Plug and play – no drivers or difficult installation needed, ultra low latency MIDI Input and Output
Creative EMU XMIDI 1X1 USB MIDI Interface Active-Sensing messages filtered, MME, DirectMusic and CoreMIDI supported
M-Audio USB Midisport Uno MIDI Interface Perfect for connecting a keyboard or controller to your computer with upward mobility – add as many USB Midisport interfaces to your computer as you have USB ports
We advise that you always stick with a well-known brand which is why we recommend any of the above. They all have good manufacturer support, up-to-date drivers and good guarantees in the event of any problems. If you want even more choice, then you can follow this link to find the current top 10 most popular MIDI interfaces.
No MIDI Keyboard Yet?
Although you can get other kinds of MIDI controller, the keyboard is the most popular, widely available, and reasonably priced. If you have not yet got any kind of keyboard, then look first at Getting started – choosing the right keyboard. It will help you decide the best MIDI keyboard for you.
Want To Record MIDI and Audio?
If you not only want to use your keyboard or digital piano as a MIDI controller, but also want to record the sound of it, then do look read our post on how to record your keyboard. There are lots of recommendations in there for kit that will let you do BOTH. And put your keyboard right at the heart of your home recording studio.
A Step-By-Step Guide on How To Connect Your Piano Or Keyboard
Let’s start with your keyboard or piano. You first need to establish that it has got a means of connecting with your computer. Look to make sure it has a MIDI port. MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is the protocol for communication between your keyboard and your PC. When you press a key the action is registered by the software you are using through the MIDI link.
Most keyboards and Digital Pianos have MIDI in and out as standard. Look for ports like the one in the image below.
MIDI to USB Interfaces
If you have an available USB port, you can use a MIDI to USB Interface . This is the simplest, high speed, no-fuss solution. Ideal if you want to use your laptop. Most USB interfaces are fully Plug-and-Play so will work without any further software configuration – though check the manufacturer’s site as some will have drivers available for advanced usage on certain platforms. If you can, buy a high quality branded one as you will get more support from the manufacturer to help with any setting up and they do work better and last longer. Roland, Alesis and M-Audio all make a USB-MIDI interface and all have excellent documentation and back-up. For example, the Roland UM-ONE Mk2 shown below
Typical USB MIDI setup
MIDI to MIDI
Some soundcards come already equipped with MIDI ports like the ones shown above. If that is the case, all you require is a MIDI Cable 5 pin to 5 pin 3 metre .
USB to USB
Some of the newer keyboards now have a USB MIDI port – all you need is a standard USB cable to connect directly from the keyboard to the USB port of your PC or laptop.
Why do MIDI IN jacks connect to MIDI OUT jacks? Surely it makes more sense to connect a MIDI IN jack to a MIDI IN jack. After all, they’re both labeled IN. Same goes for MIDI OUT to MIDI OUT”
The accepted way actually makes a lot of sense. Think about it. You want MIDI data to go out of your controller and in to your sound module. After all, you wouldn’t connect the audio out jack of your sound module to the outputs of your mixer, would you? No, you connect the audio output to an audio (mixer) input. And then you connect the mixer outputs to the inputs of your amplifier. And then you connect the amp’s speaker outputs to the speaker inputs. Same thing with MIDI. Think of MIDI data as “flowing” in the same way that audio signals “flow” through your audio system.
Still Confused? Or Want To Record Audio Tracks?
This is just a quick guide if you simply want to hook up your keyboard to start using MIDI software. If you want a more in-depth set of tutorials, or you want to record the sound of your keyboard then you can either refer to our quick guide on how to record your piano, or see our full length free video course which explains the difference between MIDI and Audio in detail and shows you step-by-step exactly what you need to either record your keyboard or use it as a MIDI controller.