With the advent of music technology and developments in music software industry, light weight music keyboards with good deal of editing capabilities have been designed and used since 1990s. These keyboards are called MIDI Keyboards which have found their place in music studios, with touring musicians and digital music creators world-wide.
Playing PIANO on a MIDI KEYBOARD is easy, convenient and hassle-free. Just with few connections to your Personal Computer / Laptop or even a Tablet (such as Android or IPAD), you can start playing the great sounding Pianos which sound similar to the world-famous acoustic, grand or upright pianos. However, you need to choose a good MIDI keyboard with weighted keys that should give you the playing feel of a real piano.
In this article, exactly we are going to discuss about MIDI Keyboards and how to play Piano on a MIDI Keyboard. We would cover in depth about how to get started with MIDI Keyboards at your home or in your studio and most importantly how to play the best sounding pianos from your MIDI Keyboards.
What is a MIDI Keyboard?
MIDI is an acronym for MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS DIGITAL INTERFACE. MIDI actually is a set of rules and protocols that have been developed in the 1990s and integrated with new generation music keyboards or synthesizers. MIDI helps musicians to connect various keyboards, synths to each other and also to a Digital Audio Workstation Software (DAW) installed in a computer (PC or MAC).
MIDI Keyboard has various critical components which are found on a regular piano or digital synthesizer keyboard. With MIDI the capabilities are endless and sound quality is also optimum. Sky is the limit for music production and playing with a MIDI Keyboard and a PC/MAC System.
Free License: Piano Picture (Pexels.com)
Advantages of using a MIDI Keyboard
Here are the key advantages of using the MIDI keyboard over Acoustic Pianos or high-end music workstation synthesizers:
- MIDI Keyboards are ultra-light, highly portable solution in comparison to the bulky synthesizers or workstation keyboards
- Using MIDI and VST Plugins / Instruments has endless possibilities in terms of sound quality and content. Pianos and synthesizers are limited in terms of sound library and content with less expandable features.
- Editing and sound design using a MIDI keyboard is much more convenient than doing the same using pianos and synths.
- MIDI Keyboards are a boon to the pocket friendly musicians. With free VST plugins available in high quality, investment is quite low for a MIDI keyboard setup in comparison to the high-end music keyboards and workstation keyboards.
Can you Play Piano on a MIDI Keyboard?
Playing piano on a MIDI keyboard is very much feasible. You need to choose the following devices/gigs to get started with your music playing or recording project using MIDI keyboard
- MIDI Keyboard: Choose a decent MIDI keyboard of 61 – 88 keys range to get the real piano feel just like you have it on the acoustic or grand pianos. The keys should be weighted or hammer action type on your MIDI keyboard to get that acoustic piano feel while playing / recording music.
- Audio Interface / Sound Card: Choose a decent soundcard such as M-Audio or Focusrite Scarlet 2X2 for your playing or recording setup. For more details, please visit our in-depth article on Top 10 Audio Interfaces for playing and recording music <Link>
- PC/MAC Computer: Choose a good quality PC (Windows based) or MAC (from Apple) with a good build quality (minimum configuration: 4 GB RAM / 8GB best recommended, 250 GB HDD Space, Intel Core I3 – I7 Processors or AMD equivalent).
- Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) : The next step is to choose the music playback / recording software popularly known as the DAW. There are wide variety of professional and fee DAW softwares available – Protools, Nuendo, Cubase, Garage band, Logic Pro to name a few. For more details, check out our article on Choosing the best Music recording software (DAW) for your Music Needs <link>
- VST / RTAS Plugins for your Computer: The final step is to choose the VST/RTAS Plugins that are required for your music. There are a wide variety of VST Plugins / Instruments with Piano, Guitars, Ethnic Instruments, Strings, Woodwinds, Drums and many more to select for your music needs.
How to Play Piano Using a MIDI Keyboard In Your Home or Studio?
Follow these simple steps to start instantly playing your Piano sounds on your MIDI Keyboard:
- Install the PIANO VST PLUGIN/INSTRUMENT which you have downloaded from internet (could be a free version or paid version depending on your needs)
- Check in your DAW Software, whether the VST instrument loads and plays correctly
- Now connect the Soundcard / Audio Interface to your computer using the USB/Firewire/Thunderbolt cable (depending on your interface model and Computer requirements)
- Then you must connect your MIDI Keyboard to your soundcard/audio interface using the USB to HOST cable. Once the connections are completed, you can start playing and recording notes by triggering the keys from your MIDI keyboard.
Check out our MIDI Connections checklist and Handbook for reference.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does a MIDI keyboard have a sound on its own? Can I use a MIDI keyboard without using a PC / Sound Card?
No, MIDI keyboards do not have speakers or sound emitting devices in them. The sound only comes out of the sound card used in the PC/MAC or the Tablet.
Without a PC/Soundcard, you can only use your MIDI keyboard by connecting to a synthesizer or a Sampling device.
2.What are the best sounding acoustic and grand piano VST plugins available for my PC / MAC which I can play using my MIDI Keyboard?
We recommend to use IVORY II Pianos by Synthogy or Keyscape Piano by Spectrasonics which are currently the top sampled piano instruments available as VST instruments to play with your MIDI keyboard on a PC/MAC.
For more details, please visit our in-depth Piano VST review article on Top 10 Piano VSTs in 2022.
3. Should I go for a 61 key MIDI Keyboard or an 88 key range version? What is the exact key range that’s best for music production using MIDI keyboards?
If you are an avid traveller and make music on-the-go, the best option would be to use a 2.5 to 3 octave MIDI Keyboard (such as NATIVE INSTRUMENTS Komplete Control M32 MIDI keyboard or M-Audio Oxygen PRO MINI 32 keys MIDI keyboard) . You can choose a 61 or 88 keys large format MIDI keyboard (such as M-Audio KEYSTATION PRO 88 or M-Audio HAMMER 88 PRO) if you want a grand piano feel for your studio or shows.
M-Audio Oxygen PRO MINI 32 Keys MIDI Keyboard
M-AUDIO KEY STATION PRO 88 – MIDI KEYBOARD
NATIVE INSTRUMENTS KOMPLETE CONTROL M32 MIDI KEYBOARD
4. How do I manage the latency problem in a MIDI keyboard while playing the piano sound for a live concert?
The best way to manage latency is to use a professional sound card / audio interface with ASIO low latency drivers that have almost negligible latency while playing live for any concert or shows.
5. Which is the best MIDI keyboard I should purchase for my live and recording needs?
We recommend the AKAI Series MPK261 Keyboard which is our top choice and a highly recommended keyboard for your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) integration. This MIDI keyboard seamlessly integrates to all your music Softwares and helps make music effortlessly.
<Image is Copyright of AKAIPRO>
Therefore, MIDI Keyboards can be fairly used to play beautiful and rich sounding Piano VST plugins using PC/MAC or even tablets. The connections are almost hassle free and the setup is much less bulky and easily transportable for shows and concerts.
We have also shared the details of MIDI Connections checklist and a mini handbook guide for your reference. This would help you to connect your MIDI keyboard to your PC/MAC/Tablet and setup the first piano sound with Free Piano VSTs which sound superb.
For more insightful articles on Piano, music keyboards, VST Plugins and many more, please visit our website www.musicdetailed.com