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
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.
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.
Connect Keyboard/Piano with MIDI Ports to any Mac or PC – 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 versatile Presonus iTwo Multi-Platform USB Interface with MIDI input and output
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB Audio Interface with MIDI input and output
Standard MIDI leads to connect from keyboard to audio interface
Connect a Keyboard with traditional MIDI ports to an iPad: 4 Options
USB MIDI interface or Audio Interface + powered iPad adapter
If you want to connect your keyboard to your iPad, and it has the MIDI ports as shown above, then you have 4 different ways to do it. Options 1 and 2 are identical to the solution for PC and Mac. You buy either a USB-MIDI interface OR a USB Audio Interface with MIDI input and output (so any of the products shown above) and use a lightning to USB adapter (as shown to the left). It is very important you buy one that allows you to charge at the same time … or you will not have sufficient power!
USB MIDI interface or Audio Interface + powered iPad adapter and standard MIDI leads
Option 3: Audio Interface for iPad with MIDI
For example: the IK-Multimedia iRig Pro Duo audio interface for iPad with MIDI
Option 4: MIDI Interface for iPad
For example: the iConnect MIDI 1 Lightning Version USB-MIDI Interface
Does Your Keyboard 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 iPad 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.
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.