How do I enable MIDI on my Android phone?

What is MIDI?

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is a technical standard that describes a protocol, digital interface, and connectors that allows a wide variety of electronic musical instruments, computers, and other equipment to connect and communicate with one another (Source).

The MIDI specification was first published in 1983 by music industry manufacturers to establish a standard way for musical equipment like keyboards, drum machines, sequencers, and computers to communicate and synchronize with each other. This allowed users to control multiple instruments from a single controller or computer (Source).

The purpose of the MIDI protocol is to transmit real-time performance data like notes played, intensity/velocity, vibrato, panning, clock signals that synchronize tempo between instruments, and cues that trigger playback and recording (Source). This data is sent over 16 channels which allows each device to receive data intended only for itself.

There are two main types of MIDI messages – Channel Voice messages and System Common messages. Channel Voice messages transmit performance data related to notes, controllers, pitch bend, etc. System Common messages are used for timing and synchronization between devices (Source).

Why Use MIDI on Android?

Using MIDI on an Android device opens up new creative possibilities through music apps. MIDI allows Android devices to connect to musical instruments, sequencers, and digital audio workstations (DAWs). Here are some of the key benefits:

MIDI enables Android devices to control virtual software instruments and effects running in music apps. There are synth, guitar/bass amp, and drum machine apps that can be played via MIDI.

DJ apps with advanced performance features take advantage of MIDI controllers like pads, faders, and knobs. MIDI connectivity allows for more precise and expressive real-time control while mixing and performing.

DAWs and sequencers running on Android tablets and phones can record, edit, and playback MIDI data from instruments, controllers, and other sources. This makes it possible to produce music while on the go.

In summary, with the right apps and hardware, Android + MIDI opens up professional music production, performance, and creativity in the palm of your hand.

MIDI Hardware Options

There are several types of MIDI hardware you can connect to an Android device. The most common are:

MIDI Keyboards: These function similar to a piano, allowing you to play notes and chords to control synths or other instruments on your Android device. There are MIDI keyboards available in various sizes, form factors, and price ranges. Many are quite portable and bus-powered, working well with Android phones and tablets on the go. Popular options include:

  • Akai LPK25
  • M-Audio Keystation Mini 32
  • Alesis Q Series

MIDI Guitars and Other Instruments: Many MIDI guitars, drums, and other digital instruments can connect to Android devices via MIDI as well. This allows you to trigger sounds and control instruments/effects using the specialized controllers. For example, using a MIDI guitar, you can access synthesizer and virtual instrument sounds not available on a traditional electric guitar.

MIDI Controllers: There are also dedicated MIDI control devices like mixing boards, drum pads, wind controllers, and more. These specialized devices map their controls to parameters in MIDI apps. This allows extensive real-time performance control over software instruments and effect

Enabling MIDI on Android

To use MIDI on an Android phone you’ll need to enable USB host mode and connect a MIDI device using an OTG cable. Enabling USB host mode allows your Android device to act as the host for USB connections instead of acting only as a client.

To enable USB host mode on Android:

  • Go to Settings > Developer options > Networking and check the box for MIDI under Select USB Configuration
  • While your MIDI device is connected via an OTG cable, a notification will confirm the MIDI connection

Some popular MIDI apps on Android include:

  • Caustic 3 – Modular music creation studio
  • MIDIscope – See incoming MIDI messages
  • MIDI Marker – MIDI recorder and timeline

It’s important to note that USB/MIDI latency can be an issue on Android so professional musicians may want to use dedicated hardware MIDI interfaces or audio interfaces with onboard MIDI to ensure reliable, quality performance.

Connecting MIDI Devices

To connect a MIDI device like a keyboard or controller to your Android phone, you have a few options:

Wired USB Connection

Many MIDI keyboards and controllers have a standard USB port that you can connect directly to your Android phone using a USB-A to USB-B cable (sometimes called a “printer cable”). This will provide the most reliable, low-latency connection. You’ll need to enable MIDI over USB in your phone’s developer settings.

Audio Interfaces

If your MIDI keyboard has traditional 5-pin MIDI ports, you’ll need an audio interface with MIDI inputs to connect it to your Android device via USB. Look for an audio interface that specifically supports connecting to Android phones and tablets.

Wireless MIDI

Some MIDI controllers support wireless connections over Bluetooth or WiFi. This allows for cable-free operation which can be more convenient when performing or recording. You’ll need to pair your wireless MIDI controller to your Android device through your phone’s Bluetooth settings menu.

Be aware that wireless connections may introduce slight latency which could impact timing-critical applications like music production. For best results, use a wired connection when possible.


There are lots of great MIDI apps available for Android. The most common types of MIDI apps are digital audio workstations, sequencers, and synths.

Digital audio workstations (DAWs) allow you to record, edit, and mix MIDI and audio within the app. Some top DAW apps include Caustic 3, Audio Evolution Mobile Studio, and FL Studio Mobile. These offer professional tools like virtual instruments, mixing, effects, and more for creating songs and compositions.

Dedicated sequencers focus on MIDI sequencing. Top options include Genome for highly customizable MIDI sequencing and Modularium for vintage-inspired drum machine sequencing. The Fugue Machine app is also popular for generated interesting MIDI patterns.

There are many virtual synthesizer apps as well for sound creation. Some popular free synth apps include Soundcamp, WolframTones, and Tonepad. Paid options like Sunrizer
, NanoStudio 2, and Thor offer more advanced professional-grade synth engines.

Some apps offer in-app purchases to unlock additional features, while some provide outright paid pro versions. Free apps can be great for initially trying out Android MIDI, while paid pro audio apps provide more advanced, customizable tools for production. Evaluate your needs and budget when selecting between the quality free and paid MIDI apps available.

Latency Considerations

Latency refers to the delay between the time a note is played on a MIDI controller and the time it is heard from the audio output of your Android device. There are several factors that can contribute to latency:

Delay factors
– Audio buffer size, as larger buffers lead to longer delays but help avoid glitches.

Optimize settings
– Reduce audio buffer size as low as possible without getting glitches. Many MIDI apps provide a latency setting.
– Some MIDI interfaces and Android audio drivers add additional latency which cannot be avoided.

Hardware limitations

– The processing power and architecture of the Android device’s CPU/DSP chips impacts the achievable latency.
– USB host vs OTG modes on device’s USB ports affects MIDI timing.

– Bluetooth MIDI tends to introduce more latency than wired USB MIDI connections.

Troubleshooting MIDI

Many potential issues can prevent Android MIDI from working properly. Here is a quick guide to troubleshooting some common problems.

Connection issues

The most common cause of MIDI not working on Android is a problem with the physical MIDI connection. Ensure all cables are securely plugged in and the MIDI interface is properly powered. USB host mode must be enabled on the Android device. Try a different cable or port on the MIDI interface. Interference from other USB devices or Wi-Fi can disrupt MIDI timing and note messages, so eliminating potential conflicts can help.


Missing notes/events

If MIDI notes or controller messages fail to trigger as expected, first rule out physical connectivity issues. An overloaded MIDI port, excessive MIDI traffic, or incorrectly configured devices can lead to dropped messages. Reducing the amount of MIDI channels/cables in use, lowering baud rates, or optimizing MIDI channel assignments may help. Adding MIDI Thru boxes can alleviate bottlenecks. Enabling “Full Speed USB” in developer options can improve MIDI timing and reliability in some cases.

App compatibility

Due to fragmentation across thousands of Android devices, MIDI apps may have compatibility problems or bugs on certain phones/tablets. Check app developer forums and sites like for known issues. Ensure the latest OS and app updates are installed. Granting special permissions, disabling battery optimizations, or using a different MIDI API may be necessary. As a last resort, switching devices or downgrading OS versions could resolve otherwise unfixable compatibility problems.

Advanced MIDI Uses

MIDI over WiFi opens up many possibilities for controlling hardware wirelessly and building complex rigs. Apps like TouchOSC allow you to create customizable MIDI control interfaces on your phone or tablet that can be connected to synths, DAWs, and more over a WiFi network. This takes away cable clutter and allows for controlling MIDI gear from anywhere in a studio or performance space.

Multi-app workflows utilize the power of specialized MIDI apps on Android. For example, you could use ChordBot to generate chord progressions that get sent to a synth app like Caustic 3, adding expressive MIDI modulation using MIDI Designer Pro, and then recording the output in FL Studio Mobile or Audio Evolution Mobile. The MIDI routing capabilities between apps unlocks creative potential.

Since MIDI data is highly manipulable, apps like MIDI Modifiers and pizmidi provide realtime MIDI effects like arpeggiators, chord generators, quantization, transposition, and more. MIDI data can be creatively altered on an Android device before being sent to external gear. This allows mobile music production workflows not possible on hardware alone.

The Future of Android MIDI

The MIDI standard has been evolving ever since it was first introduced in the 1980s. With the rise of mobile devices like Android phones and tablets, MIDI is poised for new innovations and improvements in the years ahead.

One major development is the release of MIDI 2.0, the first major update to the MIDI specification in decades. As noted on the MIDI Manufacturers Association’s website, MIDI 2.0 aims to “provide meaningful new features for music creators by dramatically increasing MIDI’s versatility, resolution and expressiveness” (MIDI Manufacturers Association). This includes expanded resolution for more subtle musical expression, more flexible device synchronization, and bidirectional communication for more interactive instruments.

On the hardware side, mobile MIDI interfaces and controllers continue to shrink in size while expanding in capabilities. Products like the iRig Pro Duo I/O from IK Multimedia can provide both MIDI and audio capabilities in a pocket-sized device designed for mobile music making (IK Multimedia). Such mobile MIDI solutions provide users unprecedented freedom when combined with Android devices.

App developers are also pushing the boundaries of MIDI functionality on Android. For instance, apps like FL Studio allow full music production and sequencing capabilities right on Android devices (Image-Line). As Android device capabilities improve, expect to see more professional-grade music apps emerge.

The possibilities for MIDI on Android are expanding thanks to new standards, advancing hardware, and innovative software. While mobile MIDI is already powerful today, the future looks even more promising as Android and MIDI evolve together.

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