Can I connect a midi keyboard to my Android?

What is a MIDI Keyboard?

A MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) keyboard is a type of electronic keyboard that generates MIDI data instead of audio signals (Wikipedia). MIDI keyboards allow you to connect to computers, smartphones, tablets, or other devices in order to control software instruments and audio workstations.

MIDI keyboards are a popular tool for music production, performance, and composition. They provide a simple interface that allows you to play virtual instruments or control various parameters in digital audio workstation (DAW) software. Unlike traditional pianos that produce sounds acoustically, MIDI keyboards transmit note and controller data that must be interpreted by a receiving device in order to make sound.

The main benefits of MIDI keyboards are their versatility, connectivity, and smaller size/portability compared to acoustic pianos. They open up a world of options for making music digitally across various devices and platforms.

Benefits of Connecting a MIDI Keyboard to an Android Device

Connecting a MIDI keyboard to an Android device offers some great benefits for mobile music production and composition:

The portability of an Android device combined with a compact MIDI keyboard allows you to practice and perform anywhere. Just load up your favorite synth apps or DAWs on your phone or tablet, connect your MIDI keyboard over USB or Bluetooth, and you have a powerful mobile music production rig. This makes it easy to write music on the go without being constrained to a desktop setup.

MIDI keyboards are designed to control external sound sources rather than produce sound themselves. By connecting a MIDI keyboard to your Android device, you gain precise control over the many synth, sampler, and effect apps available. This turns your phone or tablet into a flexible synth workstation allowing you to play software instruments with realistic expression using physical keys and controls (Source).

Unlike acoustic keyboards or controllers with built-in sounds, MIDI keyboards output pure MIDI data rather than audio signals. This allows you to take full advantage of your Android device’s audio capabilities and manipulate sounds after they are played. MIDI data is smaller in size than audio, meaning you can play complex projects on mobile devices that strained built-in sounds may struggle with.

In summary, connecting a MIDI keyboard to an Android device allows for extremely portable music production, gives you tactile control over soft synths and FX, and harnesses the power of mobile CPU and audio.

Hardware Requirements

To connect a MIDI keyboard to an Android device, you will need the following hardware:

  • An Android device with a USB port or Bluetooth connectivity. Most modern Android smartphones and tablets support USB or Bluetooth MIDI.
  • A MIDI keyboard with a USB port or Bluetooth MIDI support. Many keyboards now come with Bluetooth capabilities to wirelessly connect to devices.
  • Optional: A USB OTG (On-The-Go) cable for non-Bluetooth MIDI keyboards. This allows you to connect the keyboard’s USB out to your Android device’s USB port.

Make sure your Android device has the capability to act as a USB host or supports Bluetooth MIDI. You can check your device’s specifications to confirm. The version of Android should be 5.0 or higher for robust MIDI support over USB.

For Bluetooth connections, both the keyboard and Android device need Bluetooth MIDI support. Not all Bluetooth keyboards have this capability, so check before purchasing if wireless connection is important.

USB OTG cables are inexpensive and allow you to use any standard USB MIDI keyboard. However, a wired connection can be limiting if you want to play untethered. If mobility is a priority, getting a dedicated Bluetooth MIDI keyboard is recommended.

Software Requirements

To use a MIDI keyboard with an Android device, you’ll need some apps to send MIDI data and process the audio. The main software requirements are:

A MIDI driver app like MIDI Bridge or amidiControl to route MIDI data between your keyboard and other apps.

A digital audio workstation (DAW) app to record and produce music, such as Caustic 3 or FL Studio Mobile.

Synth and effects apps like Pandora Synth or TX16Wx to generate sounds and process the MIDI data from your keyboard.

With the right apps, you can produce professional music entirely on your Android device using an external MIDI keyboard for more expressive and tactile control.

Setting Up a Wired Connection

The most reliable way to connect a MIDI keyboard to an Android device is using a wired USB connection. Here are the steps to set it up:

First, you’ll need a USB-A to USB-B cable to connect the MIDI keyboard to your Android device. Plug the USB-B end into the MIDI keyboard and the USB-A end into your Android device.

If your Android device doesn’t have a full-size USB port, you may need an OTG (On-The-Go) adapter to add a USB port. This allows you to connect USB devices to Android phones and tablets that lack a full-size USB port.

Next, install a MIDI driver app like MIDI Drivers on your Android device. This will configure your device to accept MIDI input from the keyboard.

Open the MIDI driver app and enable permissions. Then select your MIDI keyboard from the list of available input devices. You may need to change some settings like MIDI channels as well for compatibility with synth apps.

Once connected via USB and configured with a MIDI driver, your keyboard should be able to send MIDI data to any music apps on your Android device like synthesizers or DAWs.

Connecting via Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a popular option for wirelessly connecting your MIDI keyboard to your Android device. Here are the steps to get set up:

First, you’ll need to enable Bluetooth on both your MIDI keyboard and Android device. Consult your keyboard’s user manual for specifics on enabling Bluetooth – usually there is a dedicated Bluetooth button or setting. For your Android device, open Settings and ensure Bluetooth is switched on.

With Bluetooth active on both devices, you can then pair them. On your keyboard, enter pairing mode per the manufacturer instructions. Then on your Android, access the list of available Bluetooth devices and select your keyboard’s name to pair them.

Once paired, you will need a MIDI driver app on your Android device to communicate with your keyboard. Bluetooth MIDI Connect is a popular free app for this purpose. Install it, open the app, and select your keyboard from the list of paired devices. You can then configure app settings like MIDI channel.

Your keyboard should now be able to send MIDI data wirelessly to your Android device. Open up your favorite music apps like synthesizers or DAWs, and you can start playing! Bluetooth provides a convenient cable-free connection, just be mindful of potential latency issues.

Using MIDI Keyboard with DAW Apps

A great use case for connecting a MIDI keyboard to an Android device is to control virtual instruments and effects within a digital audio workstation (DAW) app. There are several fully-featured DAWs available on the Google Play store such as TouchDAW and Caustic 3.

To use a MIDI keyboard with a DAW app:

  • Load virtual synth and effect plugins into the DAW’s mixer
  • Open the MIDI settings in the DAW app and route the MIDI input from your keyboard to control the synth and effect plugins
  • Play notes and chords on your MIDI keyboard to hear the synth sounds
  • Adjust synth parameters like filters, envelopes, and effects using your keyboard’s knobs, faders, and buttons
  • Record your playing by arming a track and hitting record – the MIDI notes will be recorded as a sequence in the piano roll
  • Edit the MIDI notes and automation after recording
  • Export the final mixdown as an audio file

Using an Android device as a portable DAW with a MIDI keyboard provides endless possibilities for music production, beatmaking, and sound design on the go.

Controlling Other Synth & Effect Apps

In addition to dedicated DAW apps, there are many virtual instrument and effect apps available for Android that can be played via a connected MIDI keyboard.

Apps like Surge Synth, Caustic 3, and Synth One offer high-quality synthesizers and effects that can be triggered with an external MIDI keyboard using the Android MIDI driver.

This allows you to assemble a portable yet powerful mobile music rig, combining your MIDI keyboard with various synth and FX apps. You can jam, perform, and create music productions entirely on your Android device.

The MIDI keyboard serves as the master controller, sending note and automation data to drive the synth and effect apps. With a simple MIDI connection, your Android setup becomes an all-in-one studio and instrument.

Recommended MIDI Keyboards

When looking for a MIDI keyboard to connect to your Android device, there are several good options at various price points. Here are some of the top MIDI controllers that work well with Android:

Akai MPK Mini MK3 – This portable 25-key MIDI keyboard is popular for its great price, compact size, and intuitive controls. It connects via USB or Bluetooth and is widely compatible with Android devices.

Nektar SE25 – With 25 velocity-sensitive keys, this MIDI controller offers a premium build quality and DAW integration at an affordable price. It works with Android over USB.

Arturia KeyLab Essential 49 – For more keys, this 49-key keyboard provides pro-level features like aftertouch and transport controls. It connects via USB-C or wirelessly.

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 – A portable 32-key MIDI keyboard with advanced integration with NI instruments and effects. Connects via USB-C or Bluetooth.

Alesis V49 – This 49-key keyboard offers semi-weighted keys, pitch and mod wheels, and beat pads at a reasonable cost. It works wired via USB-OTG or wireless over Bluetooth MIDI.

Korg microKEY Air – An ultra slim 37-key Bluetooth MIDI controller made for mobile music production. Features velocity-sensitive mini keys and iOS/Android compatibility.

Roland GO:KEYS – With its slim form factor, built-in speakers and iOS/Android support, this Bluetooth MIDI keyboard is designed for mobility. Available in 25, 37, and 49-key options.

These keyboards provide a good balance of portability, features, and connectivity for controlling music apps on your Android device. Look for USB, Bluetooth, and iOS compatibility when choosing a MIDI controller for mobile music production.

Tips for Mobile Music Production

Taking your music production on the go with an Android device and MIDI keyboard opens up exciting possibilities, but also requires some optimization for best performance. Here are some tips:

Reduce latency (delay) by turning off unnecessary apps and features like Bluetooth and WiFi when not needed. Go into Developer Options and reduce animation scales and transition durations. Use professional audio apps designed for low latency like FL Studio Mobile.

Add studio quality audio with an external USB audio interface like the Behringer U-PHORIA UM2. This allows XLR and 1/4 inch connections for mics, instruments, studio monitors and headphones.

Collaborate on the go using apps like Soundtrap to record songs together over the internet. Share your creations on sites like SoundCloud and YouTube right from your mobile device.

With some optimization and pro gear, an Android device can become a powerful mobile music production studio.

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