The artist’s attitude towards the MIDI keyboard is not unique. Some of them consider it an instrument, while it is only a helpful tool to create music for others. This keyboard is a device that doesn’t produce any sound but sends MIDI signals to a PC or cellphone you should plug in when playing.
Basically, the MIDI keyboard is a digital piano that doesn’t have built-in speakers and offers numerous possibilities to add sound effects to your music. At first glance, it may look not very easy since it has many commands and controls buttons, but there are 7 tips to use a midi keyboard that can help you while using it.
How to Use a MIDI Keyboard
1. Connect the Midi Keyboard to a Cellphone
The first models of MIDI convertors were equipped with standard 5-pin DIN jacks. They had MIDI out controllers without onboard sound, and the musician couldn’t connect the headset or a microphone on it.
Contemporary MIDI keyboards also include these DIN connectors, but they mostly use USB ports to connect with any audio device. Plus, the smaller, portable keyboards have a wireless connection, and you can use them wherever you want.
That way, you can connect the MIDI keyboard to your smartphone or iPad and work even when you are outside. Imagine how great it is to use a traffic jam to prepare material for production once you get home.
When you use your computer to work on the MIDI keyboard, you need to set up DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Recently, some of the most popular DAWs launched mobile apps for musicians who prefer working on more portable devices.
So, you can use one of the numerous applications while connecting to the smartphone. Most modern apps come with a wide choice of MIDI synths and other MIDI instruments, so you have all the freedom to create music as when you sit at home, by your computer.
Keep in mind that you need a connection kit to convert the lightning connector to a USB, and connect the MIDI keyboard to an android phone or iPad. The device then powers up the MIDI converter, and you can see the light indicator of its functionality.
Top Mobile Apps for the MIDI Keyboard
Most MIDI mobile apps contain many options and almost entirely replace working on DAW on a computer. Both Android and Apple operating systems mainly support these applications. Plus, all you need to connect them to your MIDI keyboard is a USB cable.
- Wireless mixer – On this app, you can find 12 different channels with three knobs and two buttons you use to modify sound, record, etc. Plus, the app includes level sliders for many functions.
- Touch DAW – It is one of the most efficient applications on the market, providing countless possibilities. Many features can seem complicated to you, so you need to download the instructions for their use. The app supports all significant workstations and provides complete control over the music you create.
- MIDI commander – You can customize this app and set up the buttons’ functions in the interface to your preference. The app will help you control frequency, tempo, velocity, and other attributes of the sounds you play.
- DJ control – Specially designed for the MIDI keyboard, this app allows you to change the tempo and control the pitch. Plus, it can transfer MIDI files over Wi-Fi and includes channel level sliders and master volume control.
- Piano MIDI legend – You can use this dual app as a MIDI signal transmitter and a piano keyboard. Its main flaw is that you can only connect it via USB since it doesn’t use a wireless connection.
2. Connect the Midi Keyboard to Different Devices
You can use other devices as a receiver of MIDI signals, besides the smartphone and PC. Some professional musicians connect one MIDI keyboard to another or even create a string of several appliances.
They set each keyboard to a different sound module and play at all of them simultaneously, using the primary, control MIDI. That way, they can combine the electric bass, piano, and any other instrument sound.
Plus, you can also get a hardware synthesizer to receive, produce, and listen to your creations. Keep in mind that the quality instruments tend to be pricey. However, some players still purchase them because this combination allows playing the instrument without bothering with the software alternatives.
3. Choose the Right Software
Most MIDI keyboard users find it convenient to connect it to the PC and work on the big screen. Still, you need the appropriate software for something like that. Even though they share the basic features, not all programs are the same.
Use the trial periods many sites provide and take your time to get familiar with the DAW you are working on. You can buy the full version once you select the program that fulfills your needs as a musician. Check out the reviews from the people that used it, as well.
You probably want the software that allows you to control and modify every note in the piece you work on. Plus, it needs to have a few virtual instruments, such as a sampler, drum, or synthesizer, so you can start to produce music as soon as you connect the MIDI keyboard.
A five-star software has various options you can use to record, modify, and play the music. Another feature you can benefit from is a library with pre-recorded MIDI files, including a series of chords and notes you can include in your piece.
4. Use Midi Sound Modules
The MIDI sound module is a small portable device that has the role of a sound-bank. That means it receives the MIDI signals from your keyboard, converts them to digital format, and saves them.
Plus, you can also use it as an output device, which means it can reproduce the digital signals as audible sounds. In layman’s terms, you can use it to listen to the music you have created.
Modern MIDI sound modules come with the USB ports so you can connect them with several keyboards. Some models include a headphone jack and a USB output jack. They have a high sound quality, but you can always add a separate speaker if you need one.
5. Explore Music Production Features
The MIDI keyboard keys are the most prominent part, but the models designed for music production also include other gadgets. Each of them has a specific function, so you can use them to start recording, turn vibrato on or off, control the mixer, and adjust parameters for the plugins you installed.
Spend some time to explore all the possibilities your MIDI keyboard provides and learn to recognize and control all the buttons. The essential controllers on the MIDI keyboard are:
- Pads – You can use these rubber-made controllers to define the tempo and speed of the sound playing.
- Knobs – It is possible to assign various functions to these buttons. However, they are commonly used for encoding and potentiometers.
- Faders – The role of faders is to control equalization.
- Buttons – You can use them to access the menus, settings, music cutting, transposing, and change octave up or down.
- Breath controller – Use it to refine vocals and singing quality.
- Screen – Some models come with a screen, which displays your activity on the keyboard.
- Foot controllers – Some MIDI keyboards have foot controllers that offer additional possibilities for music production. There are four types you can buy:
- Piano pedals – They are designed to mimic the function of the regular piano pedals.
- Expression pedals – Use them to change volume, add a sound effect, and change patch.
- MIDI stomp-box – It serves as a guitar pedal. Plus, you can play chords with it.
- Organ foot pedal keyboards – It moderates and organizes the bass notes.
6. Don’t forget the Modulation Wheel
Once you discover the MIDI keyboard’s functions, it is easy to forget how useful a modulation wheel is. It is a controller on your device in the wheel’s shape, set on the way that only its top half appears on the surface.
You can use this device to add effects or change the various parameters of the sound you produce. Typically, musicians use it to produce vibrato controlling LFO (Low-Frequency Oscillations). Others prefer setting it to control the speed of rotating speaker emulation.
Of course, you can decide what function the Modulation wheel has, including lowering the volume and serving as a trigger for automated recording. Its function solely depends on your preferences.
7. Create Some Original Sequences
You can quickly create various pieces of music using pre-recorded MIDI sequences, templates, and sound effects. However, when you pass the sound through too many digital modifications, it sounds artificial, metallic, and lifeless.
Try to compose the original sequences without many equalizers and effects. Take your keyboard off-grid and manually change your MIDI notes offbeat little by little to get a more personal arrangement. You can boost the bass, add velocity to your tune, and combine the previous patterns in a new, original style.