Your complete quick guide to connecting your keyboard to: PC or Mac; Laptop or Desktop; Tablet or Smartphone.
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, tablet or phone. This will enable you to use any interactive MIDI software and apps: quickly record virtual instrument tracks; write your own songs and music; learn to play and more.
Why Connect Your Keyboard?
The MIDI Keyboard or Digital Piano 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.
MIDI Connection – Step By Step Video Tutorial
There are THREE main ways that you will be able to connect your digital piano or keyboard up. It will depend on your keyboard. You can connect your keyboard if it has any of: traditional MIDI ports; a USB (sometimes labelled as USB host); or maybe even bluetooth. Here is a quick video which covers all the aspects of how to connect your MIDI keyboard to your iPad, Mac or PC, whether it has MIDI ports, USB or Bluetooth. Scroll down below if you want more detail, and links to the products mentioned.
Do You Have Traditional MIDI Ports?
Check the outputs on your keyboard. Does it have MIDI ports? MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is the protocol for communication between your keyboard and your computer. When you press a key the action is registered by the software you are using through the MIDI link.
Most traditional keyboards and Digital Pianos have MIDI in and out as standard. Look for ports like the one in the image below. It is possible your keyboard is only a controller, and may only have MIDI out. That’s OK. The principal of MIDI connection is still the same.
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Connect Keyboard/Piano with MIDI Ports to any Mac or PC – Option 1: USB-MIDI interface
So if you have a keyboard with MIDI ports, then the simplest and cheapest solution is a USB-MIDI interface. The following are all highly recommended USB-MIDI interfaces which will do the job easily and cost-effectively.
- 8 in x 12 out 5-pin DIN-MIDI ports
- 10x USB-MIDI host ports support multiple USB-MIDI CLASS COMPLIANT MIDI peripherals
- Ethernet RTP-MIDI Network port - 22 virtual network ports can easily be assigned to onboard DIN and USB ports as well as any other connected computing devices....
- Get everything you need in one box, and start recording straight away
- Usb-c bus-powered, 2x2 audio interface with MIDI for macOS and Windows
- 2 balanced ¼” TRS main outputs with front-panel level control
- Captures 16 mic and line inputs to your computer with clear sound quality and advanced features to manage big sessions
- Eight Ultra-HDDA microphone preamps deliver the cleanest and quietest operation in their class while delivering up to 56dB of gain
- An additional eight line inputs are provided, two of them switchable to instrument level for direct guitar or bass recording
- One-in/one-out MIDI interface with high-performance FPT processing
- Compatible with Mac and Windows operating systems, and now with iOS on the iPad via the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit
- Data indicators for both MIDI input and output
- MIDI connectivity - eight independent MIDI inputs and outputs (128 MIDI channels)
- Expansion - add additional MIDI ports by plugging in another MOTU MIDI interface
- Works with your favorite software (includes drivers for Mac OS X and Windows)
Last updated on 2021-12-16 / Affiliate links / Images via Amazon Product Advertising API
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 read our guide to the best USB MIDI interfaces.
Option 2: Audio Interface + MIDI Leads
Rather than just sticking with solving the MIDI connection, if you want to make high quality audio recordings too, then you could purchase an Audio Interface with MIDI i/o and a pair of MIDI leads. Here are two really reasonably priced, and high quality options:
The iTwo AudioBox Interface is a brilliant choice for MIDI Musicians. Not only does it have two line inputs on the front so you can record the sound of your keyboard – or connect a couple of microphones or guitars – it also has MIDI in and out on the back. It comes with recording software, an app which can be used on iPad, and is multi-platform (PC/Mac/iPad) out of the box.
The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 Audio Interface is the one I currently own. Brilliant because it has 4 line inputs available – so plenty of scope to record the sound of your keyboard or other line level instruments, 2 built-in pre-amps for microphones, and MIDI ports on the back too. You can see and hear it in action in all my latest home recording studio videos.
Does Your Keyboard Already Have a USB Port?
If you have digital piano or keyboard have a USB output? It is sometimes labelled USB-Host or similar. If so, then you should be able to connect very easily to your Mac or PC with a standard USB Printer cable. Simply refer to the manual for your particular keyboard to find out how to set it up. Easy.
Got an iPad? Then you should be able to connect with a standard USB cable and a lightning to USB adapter (as mentioned above).
OR, to connect to iPad you could buy the Voker Midi Cable to Lightning Connector. This is an interface especially designed to connect from the USB output of a digital piano to ipad, via lightning.
Bluetooth MIDI | A Brilliant Multi-Platform Solution
Some manufacturers are now including Bluetooth audio/MIDI support for connecting your keyboard with your smartphone or tablet. For example, the Roland Go:Piano and Roland Go:Keys both have bluetooth – use them with any compatible apps on your iPad or smartphone.
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. You will find almost all modern keyboards and pianos feature USB MIDI connections.
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. Or refer to our complete step-by-step guide on how to record audio and MIDI tracks simultaneously.
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. Or … see the Focusrite 2i4 and the Audiobox iTwo USB Audio/MIDI interfaces mentioned above.
Your MIDI FAQs
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 From Your Keyboard?
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.