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What is a MIDI instrument and how does it work

A MIDI instrument (also known as a MIDI controller) is a musical instrument (mostly used in the digital recording studios) to play the built-in sounds or control the features (operations) of a Music studio software (digital audio workstation AKA DAW).

A MIDI controller is just like an external controller (interface) of a recording studio software (digital audio workstation). Just like we use a remote control of a TV to control or trigger the features (operations) of a television,  the computer music producers also use a MIDI device to control (trigger) the features (operations) of a music studio program.

Types of MIDI Instruments.

There are various types of MIDI instrument and each MIDI device controls (triggers) a specific feature (function) of a music studio software (digital audio workstation). Some popular MIDI controllers include;

MIDI Keyboard controllers; A MIDI keyboard controller is a piano-like device that is mostly used to play (trigger) the built-in sounds (i.e. the piano samples,synth and VST instruments) in a music studio program. To make an instrumental (beat) using your preferred music studio software, you will need to create melodies and chord progressions. A MIDI keyboard controller will enable you to play the built in piano samples and virtual instruments in a music studio software (digital audio workstation).

MIDI Mixing console; Used to control the built in mixing feature of a music studio program. You can map (link up) all the knobs and faders found on a MIDI mixer to the built in knobs and faders of your music studio program (digital audio workstation) and effectively use your MIDI mixing console to mix and master your music without using your mouse.

MIDI Drum machine (MIDI drumpad); is a musical instrument (which looks like a drum machine). They are used to trigger (play) the drum samples in a Music studio software (digital audio workstation). A midi drum machine makes it very easy for computer musicians to create complex and catchy drum rhythms. Its very easy and quicker to create drum rhythms by tapping on the pads on a MIDI drum machine than using a mouse.

Difference between a MIDI keyboard and a Keyboard workstation.

Many people don’t know the difference between a MIDI keyboard and a keyboard workstation(keyboard synthesizer). They think that a MIDI keyboard is like a piano or keyboard workstation (synthesizer); a musical instrument that generates sound.

Unlike a keyboard workstation (keyboard synthesizer), a MIDI keyboard can’t be used as a stand-alone music instrument. A MIDI keyboard doesn’t generate sound unlike the keyboard workstations. Like i said before, a MIDI keyboard is just a controller used to play the built in sounds in a music studio software. So you can only use a MIDI keyboard with any DAW (Music software). Without a music software, a MIDI keyboard will be useless just like without a TV a remote control will be very useless.

Summarily, a MIDI keyboard is not a piano or a keyboard workstation. It doesn’t generate sound and so can’t be used as a stand-alone musical instrument. The MIDI instruments were specifically designed for use with a music studio program ( as controllers).

Advantages of a MIDI controller.

  • The MIDI music equipments makes the process of making a beat (an instrumental) with a music studio software (digital audio workstation) quicker and less stressful. For example you can create a catchy melody or Chord progression 10 times faster with a MIDI keyboard than with a mouse (without a MIDI keyboard).A MIDI recording console also makes the mixing and mastering in a digital recording studio easy peasy.
  • MIDI controllers are very affordable. They serve as cheaper alternatives to the expensive keyboards, mixing consoles and MPC (drum machines) found in the hollywood recording studios. So instead of spending more than $10,000 to buy a keyboard workstation, a large record console and an MPC to set up a professional recording studio, you can buy a music studio software and relevant MIDI instruments with less than $1000 and set up a professional recording studio. The availability of cheap music softwares and MIDI instruments has made it very possible for many people to set up complete home recording studios in their bedrooms.

How to use a MIDI Instrument.

It’s  easy to use a MIDI instrument. Most MIDI instruments are plug-and-play devices. For those of you who don’t know, plug and play device are device that doesn,t require any manual installation or configuration to use them. After you have successfully installed your preferred music studio software (DAW) on your laptop (PC), you just need to connect your MIDI device through the USB port of your PC and start using your MIDI device to make music (no configuration and no installation needed). As easy as ABC.

Things to consider before buying a MIDI Device.

  • Check compatibility.

Before before buying any MIDI device, do a simple Google search to know whether the MIDI device you intend to buy is compatible with your preferred music studio software (digital audio work station). For example if i (you) wish to check whether a particular MIDI device is compatible with FL Studio (my preferred music studio software), i will simply type FL Studio + the name of the MIDI device in to the Google search bar.

  • Read reviews

Just like any other category of products, not all MIDI products are good. So you have to read the reviews of any MIDI device you intend to buy before investing your hard earned money. Amazon is the best place to get honest reviews about virtually any product. Read only buyer reviews. Don’t rely on the reviews from blogs. Most bloggers are affiliate marketers i.e. they can recommend any product just to earn a commission of the sales.

Important points to note.

  • MIDI instruments doesn’t generate sounds i.e. they are just controllers (hardware interface of a music studio software).
  • MIDI instruments can’t be used as a stand-alone music instrument like the keyboard workstations and pianos. You only use a MIDI device with a music studio software (DAW).
  • MIDI instruments are often specific i.e. each MIDI device will control a specific feature (function) of a music studio software.
  • MIDI instruments are external hardware interface of a digital audio workstation.
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