What Is A MIDI Controller?

This guide will answer what is a MIDI Controller, what they are used for, how to use them, and provide a list of the best MIDI controllers for beginners.

What Is A MIDI Controller?

  1. What Is A MIDI Controller
  2. What Is A MIDI Controller Used For
  3. How To Use A MIDI Controller
  4. The Best MIDI Controllers
  5. How Do I Get Sound On My MIDI Controller
  6. Why Do I Need A MIDI Controller
  7. Is 25 A Key MIDI Controller Enough
  8. MIDI Keyboard vs. MIDI Controller
What Is A MIDI Controller
What Is A MIDI Controller

What Is A MIDI Controller?

Any hardware or software that creates and sends Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) data to MIDI-supported devices often to stimulate sounds and manipulate parameters of electronic music performance, is referred to as a MIDI controller.

MIDI controllers typically provide information about the frequency of chords to play using a musical keyboard.

What is MIDI? What is a MIDI Controller? Guide and Tutorial – Source

However, a MIDI controller may activate lights and control other features of electronic music performance.

A sensor in a wind controller translates breathing strength to volume input and lip pressure to pitch adjustment.

There are drumming and stringed instrument controllers, as well as specialist and exploratory devices. Some MIDI controllers are linked to specific digital audio workstation (DAW) software. Over the years, the original MIDI definition has been expanded to provide more control functions and greater accessibility.

MIDI controllers do not often generate or emit rhythms on their own. The performer generally presses hits, blows, or contacts some manner of the interface on MIDI controllers. This operation creates MIDI data, which may subsequently be sent to a MIDI-compatible sound subsystem or synthesizer through a MIDI connection.

Related: What Is MIDI?

In turn, the sound component or synthesizer generates a sound that is enhanced by a megaphone.

The electronic musical keyboard MIDI controller is perhaps the most widely used MIDI device. The MIDI controller delivers MIDI data regarding the tone’s frequency, how forcefully it was pressed, and how long it lasted when the keys were struck. Wind controllers, which a performer breathes into and hits buttons to convey MIDI data, and electronic drum pads are two more popular MIDI controllers.

The MIDI controller may be outfitted with a number of adjusters, sliders, keys, pedals, and other sensors, as well as a piano. Much audio control equipment is MIDI-based and so functions as MIDI controllers.

Before You Buy A MIDI Controller…

While MIDI controllers are most commonly used to activate musical sounds and play musical instruments, they may also be used to control other MIDI-compatible devices, such as studio lighting, digital audio synthesizers, and complicated guitar impact units.

MIDI was created with keyboards in consideration, and any controller that is not a keyboard is referred to as a “substitute” controller. Musicians who were not concerned with keyboard-based composition saw this as a constraint. The standard proved adaptable, and MIDI interoperability was extended to other types of controllers, such as violins, trombones, guitars, wind instruments, and various kinds of drums.

MIDI Controller support is available through USB and Bluetooth to connect to Windows, Mac, and Linux computers.

Related: 10 Best MIDI Drum Controllers

What Is A MIDI Controller Used For?

A MIDI controller is a device to play virtual instruments and compose music on your personal computer. It delivers MIDI data (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) to a PC or synthesizer, translating the signals and producing audio.

While MIDI controllers are most commonly used to produce musical sounds and play musical software instruments, they may also be used to control other MIDI-compatible devices such as stage lighting, digital audio mixers, and complicated guitar effects units.

How Do You Use A MIDI Controller?

MIDI controllers are the deal when it comes to producing flawless symphonies.

How To Set Up Your Midi Keyboard and Drumpa

To use a MIDI controller:

  • You can also connect your MIDI controller to different devices so that they can function as MIDI signal receivers. Many top music producers diversify their MIDI exposure but work with several MIDI-enabled devices at the same time.
  • Find an appropriate software for MIDI that allows you to control and manipulate your musical cadences. Software with a wide selection of virtual instruments like synthesizers, drums, and samplers is a plus. The best MIDI software is the one that allows you to edit, record, and play music files.
  • Use MIDI sound modules. The MIDI sound module is a compact mobile platform that functions as a sound library. That is, it takes MIDI signals from your keyboard, translates them to digital representation, and stores them. Furthermore, it may be used as an output device, which means it can recreate digital information as auditory sounds. In simpler terms, you may use it to listen to your own songs.
  • Invest some time to explore the options your MIDI keyboard has to offer. Familiarize yourself with the most important controllers on your MIDI keyboard. These include foot controllers, breath controllers, knobs, pads, faders, buttons, and more.
  • Work with the modulation wheel. It is a controller on your device in the design of a wheel, positioned such that just the upper half of it displays on the surface. This gadget may be used to add effects or adjust the many characteristics of the sound you make. Artists commonly use it to generate vibrato by regulating an LFO (Low-Frequency Oscillations). Others choose to use it to control the rotational speed of the speaker simulation.
  • Start creating your sequences. Using pre-recorded MIDI sequences, templates, and sound effects, you may easily compose various musical works. However, if the sound is subjected to too many digital alterations, it becomes fake, mechanical, and uninteresting.

Related: 11 Best Free Online MIDI Editors & MIDI Players

What Are The Best MIDI Controllers for Beginners?

If you’re a beginner, here are the best-selling MIDI keywords on Amazon with thousands of customer reviews.

Bestseller No. 1
AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 - 25 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller With 8...
  • Music Production and Beat Maker Essential – USB powered MIDI controller with 25 mini MIDI keyboard velocity-sensitive keys for studio production,...
  • Total Control of your Production - Innovative 4-way thumbstick for dynamic pitch and modulation control, plus a built-in arpeggiator with adjustable...
  • The MPC Experience - 8 backlit velocity-sensitive MPC-style MIDI beat pads with Note Repeat & Full Level for programming drums, triggering samples and...
  • Complete Command of your Virtual Instruments and FX - 8 360-degree knobs assign to all your music studio plugins for mixing, tweaking synth controls...
  • 1500 plus Sounds and Everything You Need for Pro Production – Complete Music Production Starter Kit including MPC Beats, 6 Virtual Instruments and...
Bestseller No. 2
Akai Professional MPK Mini Plus - USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 37 Mini...
  • Full Creative Control - A dynamic 37-Key MPK Mini keybed for 3 full octaves of melodic and harmonic performance. Easily connect to your DAW or studio...
  • Advanced Connectivity - Connect to different sound sources with CV/Gate and MIDI I/O. Control modular gear, sound modules, synthesizers, and more to...
  • Record and Compose Without a Computer - Connect to your production station and use the built-in 64-step sequencer featuring one track for drums and...
  • Control Your DAW - Transport section for intuitive hardware control of your DAW. Arm and start recordings, stop playback, rewind or fast-forward for...
  • Handle Any Style Or Genre - 8 premium RGB MPC Pads with responsive feel and durable construction for dynamic performance and music creation. Use the...
Bestseller No. 3
MIDIPLUS AKM320 USB MIDI Keyboard Controller, Black, 32-key
  • 32 mini-keys velocity sensitive keyboard
  • Pitch, modulation, octave, transpose function
  • Sustain interface (Not include sustain pedal)
  • USB B-type to connect computer (include USB cable)
  • Plug and play with Windows, Mac devices
Bestseller No. 4
M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 - Synth Action 49 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller...
9,543 Reviews
M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 - Synth Action 49 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller...
  • Ultimate Expression - 49 full-size velocity-sensitive keys provide a natural feel that captures every subtle nuance of your performance
  • Total Control - Volume fader, transport and directional buttons for easy control of your software, plus ergonomically-designed pitch and modulation...
  • Immediate Creativity - Easy plug-and-play connection to your Mac or PC—no drivers or power supply required; compatible with iOS devices via the...
  • Your Studio Centrepiece - Compact design fits any desk, studio or stage setup perfectly and advanced functionality customizes your controls for your...
  • Premium Software suite included - MPC Beats, Ableton Live Lite, Velvet, XPand2, Mini Grand, and Touch Loops
Bestseller No. 5
AKAI Professional LPK25 - USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 25 Responsive Synth...
  • Mini Keys, Major Performance - 25-key MIDI controller keyboard with responsive keys to play with feel and dynamics. Enjoy expressive songwriting,...
  • Full Range Experience - Play every note with ease. Use the dedicated octave up and down buttons to transpose the range of your software instruments...
  • Feature Packed - Use the built-in arpeggiator and clock for creative control of any of your sound sources like software instruments, synthesizers, or...
  • Customized Production - With 8 programmable preset slots you can instantly recall your mappings for DAWs, virtual instruments, and more. Create, edit,...
  • Versatile Performance - The USB Studio MIDI controller is perfect for your songwriting, beat-making, and DJ remixes whenever you're inspired. The...

Last update on 2024-05-08 / Affiliate Disclaimer

Related: Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers

How Do I Get Sound On My MIDI Controller?

Most MIDI controllers do NOT play sound on their own.

To play sound with your MIDI Controller, you need to connect your controller to a MIDI-supported device and play sound through that device.

This can be a computer with music software, an instrument rack, or another MIDI-supported device.

Why Do I Need A MIDI Controller?

MIDI controllers are used for creating a “human touch” to a specific piece of music. Composing harmonies and chord progressions live using a MIDI controller adds a “personal vibe” to them that programming them with a mouse and computer keyboard does not.

It’s difficult to get a humanly sounding touch while manually inputting notes into a piano roll; therefore, a MIDI controller will allow you to simulate operating a real instrument and produce a more genuine and natural-sounding recording.

Most MIDI keyboard controllers can detect how firmly or softly you hit a note. This allows them to synchronize your input into a more “human” form.

Is 25 A Key MIDI Controller Enough?

There are numerous key options to choose from and apply to your beat when it comes to MIDI controllers. Some MIDI keyboards only feature 25 keys, while some go as high as 88 keys. The number of keys you require in your MIDI controller is hinged on your musical requirements and specific tune expectations.

If you don’t consider yourself an expert pianist or keyboardist and will mostly be using the MIDI keyboard to write basic bass lines or leads, then the smaller keyboards, 25 to 49, maybe more than enough for you.

Which MIDI Controller Is Right For Me?

A 25-key MIDI controller can perfectly suffice for an entire production, and it can even carry you very far while performing on stage if it has some additional control aspects than the basic keys. Some individuals can play beautiful melodies on 25 keys because they correctly understand when to use the Octave Up and Down controls.

Conversely, if you aspire to be a pianist destined for stardom, then you must want to go to a full-sized 88-key keyboard and learn its ups and downs. This head-start will allow you to perform piano music, among other great things using a MIDI controller. If you want to birth anything with a piano that is sure to turn some heads, you should aim for a MIDI controller with 49 keys, at the very least.

The Difference Between MIDI Keyboard & MIDI Controller?

MIDI keyboards and MIDI controllers are pretty much the same.

They are physical devices that allow you to play notes and modify settings on a MIDI-supported device.

They are just different physical interfaces. A MIDI controller can be a keyboard, drum pad, knob, slider, wheel, and more.

Both MIDI Keyboards and MIDI controllers are engineered for your computers and other devices to read or instigate sounds using hardware synthesizers and samples.

MIDI controllers don’t create sounds on their own; they transmit signals so that an output device might fashion them into a full-fledged sound.

MIDI devices need an external source to hear the sounds they produce. Usually, a computer accompanied by appropriate software can edit the sounds you have created using a MIDI controller.

Related: 10 Best Websites for Free MIDI Files

Summary Of MIDI Controllers

A MIDI Controller is any software or hardware that produces and sends MIDI messages to MIDI-supported devices. These signals are generated and transmitted to devices to play different sound effects and control and regulate the parameters of electronic music performance.

I hope you found this information on MIDI controllers helpful.

If we missed anything, please share it in the comments.

Mark V.

Written By Mark V.

Mark Valenzuela is a professional blogger, entrepreneur, and educator with more than 15 years of experience in music production. In 2008, Mark founded Hip Hop Makers, a top resource for aspiring music producers and beatmakers. He specializes in content on music production, software, gear, and free music resources. Committed to empowering creators of all levels, Mark continues to inspire and help music creators pursue their dreams.

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