How do I turn on MIDI on my Android?

What is MIDI?

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is a standard protocol that allows electronic instruments, computers, tablets, phones and other devices to communicate and share data. As explained by Indiana University, MIDI allows devices to control one another and exchange information like musical notes, tempo, volume and more.

The MIDI protocol transmits digital data over a simple serial connection using 8-bit words at a 31.25 kbps baud rate. This allows for the efficient transfer of performance data between devices. Via MIDI, a musician can play a keyboard and have the notes instantly converted to data that a computer can understand and record. Or a MIDI file can playback on any device equipped with a MIDI sound generator, regardless of brand.

Some key advantages of MIDI are that it is an open standard, widely adopted across the music industry, and easy to implement even on low-cost hardware. MIDI has remained highly useful over decades by enabling many music applications, such as recording, editing, playback, controlling synthesizers, lighting rigs and more.

Why Use MIDI on Android?

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) allows you to make music and control instruments and audio software with your Android device. Here are some of the cool things you can do with MIDI on Android:

Play virtual instruments and record music directly on your phone – There are many synthesizer, drum machine, and other MIDI instrument apps available for Android. With a MIDI keyboard or pad controller connected, you can play these virtual instruments to record and produce your own tracks and beats on your phone.

Use Android as MIDI controller for external synthesizers or PC software – With the right cabling or wireless connection, you can use your Android device as a MIDI controller to play sounds from hardware synthesizers, drum machines, or MIDI software running on a computer. This turns your phone into a powerful and portable music production tool.

Sync lighting, animation and other events with your music – By sending MIDI clock and other sync data, you can make lights, visuals, or other external hardware and software sync perfectly with the tempo and playback of your MIDI sequences on your Android device.

Check if Your Device Supports MIDI

Before using MIDI on your Android device, you’ll want to confirm that your hardware and software supports it. MIDI capability was added in Android 3.0 and higher, so you’ll need Android Honeycomb or newer to use MIDI features (source).

To check your Android version, go to Settings > About Phone/Tablet and look at the Android Version or Software Version. If it’s older than 3.0, your stock OS does not support MIDI.

You’ll also need to make sure your Android phone or tablet supports MIDI over USB or Bluetooth. Most modern Android devices allow MIDI over USB using an OTG cable or adapter. For Bluetooth MIDI, your phone must have Bluetooth Low Energy/Bluetooth 4.0 or higher (source).

Check your device specs or manual to confirm USB/MIDI and Bluetooth compatibility. If your hardware does not support MIDI connectivity, you may need to get a different device to use MIDI apps and controllers.

Install a MIDI Software App

There are several excellent MIDI software apps available for Android that allow you to record, edit, and play back MIDI files. Some of the most popular and full-featured options include:

  • Caustic 3 – A powerful modular synthesizer and music creation app with support for VST plugins. Caustic lets you build tracks by routing MIDI between synths, effects, and more (source).
  • FL Studio Mobile – The mobile version of the popular FL Studio DAW. It offers piano roll editing, drum pads, automation, effects, synth plugins and more (source).
  • Nanostudio – A sequencer app focused on electronic music production. It includes a built-in synth, mixer, effects and supports importing/exporting MIDI files (source).
  • MIDI Control – Allows you to use your Android device as a MIDI controller by connecting to DAWs on Mac/PC via WiFi or USB. Includes keyboard, drum pads, faders and more (source).

The top apps provide synthesizers, effects, editing capabilities and tools tailored for creating full tracks and songs. Evaluate your own needs to determine which option has the best features and workflow for your MIDI projects.

Connect MIDI Controller or Instrument

To connect your MIDI controller or instrument to your Android device, you have a couple options:

You can connect via a USB cable. Plug the USB cable from your MIDI device into your Android device’s USB port. Some Android devices like phones may require an OTG cable adapter to allow you to connect USB devices.

Or you can connect via Bluetooth. First, make sure your MIDI controller is Bluetooth compatible. Then, go into your Android settings, turn on Bluetooth, and pair your MIDI device so it shows up available for connection.

Once connected via USB or Bluetooth, your Android device should recognize your MIDI controller as a connected input device ready for use in MIDI apps.

Configure MIDI Settings

Once you have MIDI software installed, you will need to configure your MIDI settings to route the MIDI signals properly. Here are the main settings to check:

Locate the MIDI settings in your synthesizer or DAW app. There is usually a settings menu or preferences screen where you can configure MIDI. Look for options to select MIDI input and output ports. On Android, the MIDI input ports available will depend on your connected hardware, such as a MIDI keyboard or controller. The output ports allow you to route MIDI to other apps or hardware synths.MIDI – Android Source

Select the appropriate MIDI input and output ports to match your hardware setup. For example, if you have a MIDI keyboard connected, choose it as the MIDI input port. If you want to send MIDI out to an external synth, select that synth as the MIDI output port.

Adjust the MIDI timing/latency if notes are triggering early or late. Look for a setting like “MIDI Latency” or “Buffer Size.” Start with a low latency and increase slowly if needed to prevent timing issues. Some apps may have an auto-calibration tool to optimize the latency.Troubleshoot MIDI on your Android Device – Simply Piano 101

Properly configured MIDI settings will ensure your MIDI messages get routed to the correct devices with proper timing. Take time to test and tweak the settings until your virtual instruments and hardware are in sync.

Record and Play MIDI

Once you have a MIDI controller or instrument connected and a MIDI software app installed, you’re ready to start recording MIDI tracks. Here are the basic steps:

1. Open your audio app like Caustic and create a new MIDI track. Make sure the input is set to your MIDI controller if you have one connected via USB.

2. Press record and start playing your MIDI controller. The notes and controller data will be recorded as MIDI information in your project.

3. Stop recording when you are finished. The MIDI notes will appear as colored blocks that you can edit.

4. You can edit the MIDI notes by changing their pitch, length, velocity and more. MIDI editing allows powerful options like quantization and transposition.

5. Each MIDI track can have its own channel and synth sound assigned. This allows layering parts with different instruments.

6. When you play back the MIDI track, you will hear the synthesized sound of the MIDI notes.

Recording MIDI data rather than audio allows extensive editing options. With the right mobile apps, Android provides full-featured MIDI recording and playback capabilities.

Use Android as MIDI Controller

Android devices can also function as MIDI controllers for external hardware or software. By mapping on-screen controls to MIDI messages, you can trigger and manipulate sounds on external gear or computer software.

Most MIDI controller apps allow you to customize the virtual controls and connect to external MIDI devices either via USB cable or wireless MIDI. This means you can turn your Android tablet or smartphone into a touch controller for various music production applications, synthesizers, samplers, and more.

By tapping on-screen buttons, turning knobs, or sliding faders, the app will generate MIDI messages that your external MIDI device can recognize and respond to. Essentially, you are using Android’s touch input capabilities to trigger and manipulate sounds and sequences on external gear.

The app MIDI Controller is a great example of software that lets you map various controls like pads, faders, and knobs to MIDI messages. You can customize these mappings to best control your external devices.

Sync MIDI with Other Apps

You can use MIDI to sync your music and timing with other apps and devices. For example, you can sync lighting or animation effects to the tempo of your MIDI sequences using apps like Link to MIDI. This app creates a virtual bridge between Ableton Link sessions and MIDI devices.

To sync effects, you need to send MIDI clock data from your MIDI app to the other app. Many music making apps on Android support syncing over Ableton Link or MIDI clock. For guitar effects apps like Bias FX, you can sync tempo-based effects like tremolo or phaser to your MIDI clock.

Some older apps may only support MIDI Timecode (MTC) for synchronization. You can use a MIDI bridge app to translate MIDI clock to MTC. Always check the capabilities of each app before trying to sync them.

Setting up MIDI sync requires configuring both the sending and receiving apps. Make sure MIDI out and MIDI in are enabled in the appropriate apps. Tempo and time signature may also need to be set correctly on both ends. Test the sync and troubleshoot any issues before relying on it during a performance.

Troubleshooting MIDI on Android

If you are having issues getting MIDI to work properly on your Android device, there are a few troubleshooting tips you can try:

First, check all your connections and cables. Make sure your MIDI controller or keyboard is securely plugged into your phone or tablet, either via USB or Bluetooth. Verify the cables are tightly attached at both ends and that you are using a quality cable. Also ensure MIDI in/out settings are enabled in any MIDI apps.

If that doesn’t resolve the problem, try restarting both your Android device and the connected MIDI devices. Restarting can fix software glitches and reinitialize hardware. You could also close other open apps that may be interfering with the MIDI app’s functionality.

Some sources recommend updating to the latest Android OS version and app versions. Newer software releases often include MIDI improvements and bug fixes. Updating may optimize performance.

Additionally, go to Developer Options, and under Networking > USB configuration select MIDI. Also turn “Disable USB Audio Routing” ON in Developer Options. This properly configures Android for MIDI operation.

If MIDI is still not working properly after trying other basic troubleshooting, it likely points to an incompatibility issue between your devices and software. You may need to use alternative hardware or apps.

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