How to Use MIDI


MIDI, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface, is the most common way to record music on a computer. MIDI allows you to change effects on instruments at will no differently than highlighting a piece of text and changing the font. MIDI is core to the computer-recording revolution.

Things You'll Need

  • Digital audio workstation
  • MIDI controller
  • Check to see if your PC's sound card has Midi compatibility.

  • Get yourself a MIDI to USB adapter. Older components, such as non-MIDI compatible keyboards will need a MIDI interface so you can plug the component directly into the computer.

  • Get a MIDI controller. This is the No. 1 way to use MIDI. A standard keyboard can play guitar, drums, strings and most any other instrument. There are other MIDI instruments as well, such as MIDI guitars.You'll need a software program that contains musical instruments, as a MIDI controller just triggers sounds and doesn't make sounds on its own. The Microsoft GS Wavetable SW Synthesizer software is built into Windows.

  • Use a sequencer. This is more complicated than using a single controller. A sequencer lets you set MIDI controls on several channels at once, similar to a multitrack recorder. However, hardware sequencers are not as necessary now that computer software can act as the sequencer, and house virtually unlimited tracks. In addition, you must ensure that a sequencer and keyboard are compatible before sending data back and forth between the MIDI In and Out ports.

Tips & Warnings

  • When buying new components, such as keyboards or drum machines, make sure that they have MIDI In and Out ports.
  • Get MIDI files for popular songs and play along -- it's sort of like playing MIDI karaoke.
  • Some software -- but not all -- lets you tranfer MIDI files into printable sheet music.
  • You can use MIDI to coordinate lighting cues on stage.


  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images
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