Over the years, the use of electronic musical keyboards has been steadily rising.
With the frequent usage of MIDI keyboards, they are gaining a permanent place as an instrumental tool in the kits of modern artists.
Their increasing popularity makes a lot of individuals wonder if they can use this instrumental device without going through the unnecessary hassle of booting up their computers.
A straightforward answer to this dilemma is yes, MIDI controllers can be used without a computer.
However, the real question is: How to use a MIDI controller?
While you don’t require a personal computer to play or practice on a MIDI keyboard, you do need to connect it to a device that can process and produce audio.
MIDI keyboards on their own are not capable of producing sound, instead, they create MIDI signals.
These signals are then sent to a connected device where they are translated into audible sound.
If you are feeling the need to fiddle around or practice with your MIDI controller, but are unable to or aren’t willing to connect it to your computer, there are a few alternatives that you can opt for instead.
Here is a mini-guide to help you get started with the process:
Can I Use My Digital Piano As a MIDI Controller?
Nowadays, digital pianos offer countless features including, but not limited to, hundreds of different instrument sounds, layering, multiple piano sounds, multi-track recording, etc.
While these features are more than enough for some, others crave for more applications from their electronic keyboards.
Here is all you need to know about using your digital piano as a MIDI controller:
Firstly, to answer the question right away: Yes, you can use your digital piano as a MIDI controller.
A MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) keyboard is computer software or an instrumental device that is capable of transmitting MIDI data to devices that are MIDI-compatible.
These devices are responsible for interpreting that data into corresponding musical parameters and further producing the relevant sounds.
As mentioned earlier, MIDI controllers are incapable of producing any sound on their own.
However, digital pianos, having built-in speakers and being MIDI-capable have bridged that gap.
MIDI features have become a necessity in modern-day digital pianos as using a digital piano as a MIDI controller comes with its perks.
Here are some of the benefits of having this two-in-one musical instrument:
Speakers and MIDI Features
While a MIDI controller doesn’t have inbuilt speakers and sounds, digital pianos do.
Unlike digital pianos, MIDI controllers are only capable of transmitting MIDI data that reflects various musical parameters like notes and their magnitude.
Therefore, digital pianos do not need the assistance of an external source of sound to produce music and audios.
Not only do you get to create MIDI data but also send it, receive it and most importantly, play it.
Different Instrument Sounds
Along with having the ability to imitate the sound that an acoustic piano produces, a digital piano is also capable of mimicking the sounds produced by hundreds of other musical instruments.
The sound varies in quality and degrees (depending on the type of digital piano you purchase).
The keys of a MIDI keyboard are light and they do not come with a touch sensitivity mechanism.
This is because most MIDI keyboards aren’t designed and manufactured while considering acoustic pianos.
Digital pianos, on the other hand, are manufactured specially to replicate the feel of acoustic pianos.
Their keys tend to be fully-weighted, heavy and enhanced with modern features such as touch sensitivity mechanisms.
As mentioned above, most MIDI controllers aren’t manufactured keeping acoustic pianos in mind.
However, some models of MIDI keyboards feature 88 fully-weighted keys similar to acoustic pianos.
The latter cost a fortune as compared to a digital piano that offers the same key quality; only at quite a reasonable cost.
This is a great benefit for low budget music producers who are looking to start their music production journey without putting too much stress on their pockets.
Aesthetic Appeal and Easy Usage
Unlike MIDI controllers, digital pianos are plug-and-play instruments.
They don’t require any complicated software installations or need special connections.
Therefore, if you aren’t a tech expert, a digital piano might just be the device you need to fulfill your instrumental needs.
Lastly, digital pianos are also the best choice for you if you are looking for an instrument that is just as attractive as it is productive.
Not only do digital pianos deliver immersive sounds but they are also ideal instruments for mini-concerts and home entertainment in terms of their aesthetic appeal.
Why Do You Need a Computer for Your MIDI Controller?
When it comes to needing a computer for your MIDI controller, the truth is, you don’t necessarily need one.
It is possible to use your MIDI keyboard without connecting it to a computer.
However, is it truly worth it to go through the hassle of setting up your controller with sound modules, mobile phones and alternative devices other than your standard PC?
The answer to this query depends completely upon your personal preference.
The PC-based digital audio-workstation market that features MIDI connectivity is massive and it comes with its own convenience and versatility.
If purchasing a hardware synthesizer requires you to cross your budget limit, it might be the best choice to stick with computer software.
However, if you’re looking to play and practice on an audio output device, you can invest in a MIDI sound module or a mobile app accordingly.
Figuring out the audios and sounds you wish to produce will help you make an informed decision about how you should go about your MIDI journey.
Therefore, choosing whether you need to use a computer for your MIDI controller is ultimately your choice and depends on how you are planning to use your electronic keyboard in the long run.
How to Connect the MIDI Controller with Your Computer?
Connecting MIDI Controller to the Computer
When it comes to connecting the MIDI keyboard to a computer, the process greatly depends on the connection types available in the hardware you own.
Most MIDI controllers come with a USB connection i.e. a USB type-B jack in the back.
These controllers are quite easy to connect as all you need to do is connect one side of a USB cable to that jack and the other side i.e. the USB type-A plug to any USB port on your PC.
If your MIDI keyboard doesn’t have the aforementioned USB connection, you need a MIDI cable and a MIDI interface to execute this step of the process.
A MIDI cable connects the controller to the interface, which is then connected to the computer.
Installing the MIDI Controller Drivers
Once you have successfully connected your MIDI controller to your computer, it’s time to plug your keyboard device in.
Just like any other USB hardware, the keyboard drivers of your computer are required to recognize the MIDI keyboard and receive and send messages from and to it.
While most USB devices today come with built-in drivers, if your device doesn’t, you can download an installation file from the web or insert a CD to help your computer recognize your MIDI controller or interface.
If your computer still fails to recognize your keyboard, you might need to download the necessary drivers from your hardware provider.
All you need to do is search the brand and model of your MIDI keyboard or interface on Google and download the relevant drivers.
Make sure you use the official website of hardware providers in order to avoid any scams or viruses.
Installing the MIDI Music Production Software
Lastly, you need to move to the software segment. Select MIDI software that fits your budget and allows you to record and produce good-quality music.
You can look for software that allows you to record and receive MIDI data, transform the data into audio and produce quality music, edit sounds, equalize and compress the music, etc.
You need to be able to play your MIDI controller and hear clear and precise notes through your computer speakers.
Now that you have successfully learned how to use a MIDI controller, go on to finally make some music!Last updated on: