How To Use Keyboard Or Digital Piano As MIDI Controller

You're able to use your keyboard, digital piano, or any MIDI controller with the help of this guide! Why don't you give it a try?

by Derrick Reeves | Updated: October 11, 2021

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You know that keyboards, digital pianos, and MIDI controllers, are not the same thing. However, can you use a keyboard or digital piano as a MIDI controller? 

The answer is Yes, both keyboards and digital pianos can be used as MIDI controller. 

This is a great way to get more use out of your keyboard or digital piano! You might not have considered this before, but it's really easy to do. 

Take advantage of this opportunity by learning how to use your keyboard or digital piano as a MIDI controller.  

This will open up new possibilities for you, making it possible for you to record in different ways and have more control over what goes into your songs. 

Here's how you do it. 

How To Use Keyboards Or Digital Pianos As A MIDI Controller  

Keyboards Or Digital Pianos

What will you need:  

  • A USB to MIDI cable 
  • A keyboard or a digital piano with MIDI output 

How to do it: 

  • Connect the MIDI interface cable to your keyboard or digital piano. You should have an adapter for this, and it will plug into a USB port on your computer.  
  • Turn it on and make sure that you can hear sound coming from both devices with headphones plugged in.  
  • Open up your favorite DAW program (Ableton Live, Logic Pro X) and make sure it recognizes the input.  
  • Once you have your software working, start recording! If everything is going well then this should work just like any other MIDI controller. 

One thing to keep in mind is that MIDI controllers can only be used for recording purposes. This means you cannot actually play the music as it would sound on a piano or keyboard using your computer, but this does not mean there are no benefits!  

Your lessons will reflect what you're doing at home because if you want to record and make a keyboard or digital piano sound like it's being played, you can do that.  

This is great for those who want to learn more about music production and studio recording techniques because they'll have the opportunity to experiment with them on their keyboards or digital pianos!  

You're also able to record your lessons in this way which will give you more control over what you're teaching. 

Why You Should Use Your Keyboard As A MIDI Controller? 

Why You Should Use Your Keyboard As A MIDI Controller 

The benefit of using a keyboard as a MIDI controller is fairly simple. It requires little setup, and only one button needs to be assigned as the designated "play" button for any particular sound.  

Furthermore, if you're looking for more complex control over your instrument (i.e., different notes played on different strings and/or regions), then you'll have an easier time with a keyboard than trying to use it in one hand while simultaneously manipulating knobs or sliders with the other hand. 

In this way, typing keys becomes a lot like playing them on the actual musical instrument as they'll have similar ranges of dynamics and expression when being used appropriately - something that can't be done with most common MIDI controllers (i.e., knobs and sliders). 

This also has the added benefit of being able to customize your MIDI controller layout or "keymap" with different instruments, as opposed to having only one default configuration that's usable by any instrument.  

Here is an example of how you can map keys on a keyboard device for use with Logic Pro X: 

- Audio Device - Output (Logic Pro X) > MIDI Inputs, go to "External Control Surface" and select the desired bank of keys.  

This will automatically assign a range of parameters to each key you choose without taking up any extra space on your keyboard layout!  

Additionally, if you have different instruments that you'd like to use for different sounds you can customize a keyboard device layout specifically for that instrument and map it accordingly - without the need for any additional hardware outside of your MIDI controller! 

electronic keyboard with MIDI

Musicians and Producers can automatically generate MIDI data because of its key-value buttons, or if you are playing live, notes can be recorded and played back with the keyboard.  

The benefits are that it cuts out all the difficult tedious steps of manually following a sheet while writing or recording music.  

What is even better about this is that one musical idea can become many different versions with only a few tweaks to the software. 

An aesthetically pleasing layout makes it easy to find any note or command on your screen at any given time which means less scrolling when needing to play live. 

It has multiple pages for Program Changes, controllers (accelerometers and knobs) as well as up to 13 different screens per page which means an entire song can be played with just one finger! 

Conclusion 

Hopefully, this article has given you enough information to make a decision on whether or not it is worth using your keyboard as an external MIDI controller. It can be a great way for hobbyists to get some inexpensive gear. 

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