Is MIDI good for learning piano?

What is MIDI?

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a technical standard that describes a system for connecting electronic musical instruments and devices and transferring musical data between them. The MIDI standard allows devices like digital pianos, synthesizers, computers, tablets, and smartphones to communicate with each other and exchange data.

In practical terms, MIDI provides a universal way for electronic music devices and computers to record, edit, store, and play back music. MIDI files contain musical notation data instead of actual audio waveforms. This allows MIDI files to be much smaller than audio recordings, and makes them easy to manipulate and edit.

Some key defining aspects of MIDI include:

  • Enables various electronic instruments to interconnect and communicate with one another
  • Allows musical data (notes played, volume, tempo etc.) to be recorded, edited, and played back using sequencing software
  • Facilitates composition, notation, and performance across a variety of hardware and software

In summary, MIDI is an integral standard in music production and performance, enabling interconnection and communication between electronic instruments, streamlined musical data transfer, and efficient computer-based recording, editing and playback.

Benefits of Learning Piano with MIDI

Using a MIDI keyboard and software provides some key benefits for beginning piano students. One major advantage is the ability to hear music playback immediately to get feedback on what you’ve played (Pianomarvel, 2023). MIDI rigs let you connect a keyboard to a tablet, computer, or other device running MIDI software. When you press a key, the software generates the piano tone and plays it through speakers or headphones.

This real-time sound feedback helps reinforce the connection between pressing keys and hearing musical notes. It promotes faster learning compared to acoustic pianos where you only hear the sound emanating from inside the instrument. MIDI setups also offer features like lighting up keys on the screen to indicate which ones to play next.

Another benefit is access to a wide range of instrument sounds and voices beyond just piano (Pianu, 2023). Many MIDI keyboards come equipped with hundreds of high-quality sampled tones including strings, organs, synths, and more. This lets beginners experiment with different timbres while learning. Recording capabilities on MIDI software also allow students to lay down performances, listen back, and improve their playing through editing.

Challenges of Learning Piano with MIDI

One of the main challenges of learning piano with a MIDI controller is that it can be difficult to develop proper technique, like correct hand and finger positioning. MIDI keyboards often have very light touch sensitivity that doesn’t replicate the weight and feel of an acoustic piano (1). This doesn’t allow the fingers to build strength and muscle memory through pressing weighted acoustic piano keys (1). Developing technique like this is vital for complex pieces with quick changes and intricate passages.

Another challenge is developing musical expression and nuance. MIDI controllers have limited dynamics and often produce one static sample or synthesized sound per note played (2). Without the variation in tone between soft and loud playing like on an acoustic piano, it can stunt a learner’s ability to control expression and phrasing. MIDI can sound robotic and the subtleties of articulation may be neglected without the acoustic feedback real pianos provide.

For these reasons, many piano teachers caution using MIDI controllers instead of weighted keyboards or acoustic pianos, especially in early learning (1)(3). However, MIDI can provide access and opportunities where acoustic pianos are not available or practical. When applied thoughtfully alongside other practice techniques, MIDI can still be an engaging and fun part of one’s growth at the piano.

Using MIDI with Acoustic Pianos

Acoustic pianos can be connected to a computer via MIDI through a variety of tools. Some people are interested in gaining some benefits of MIDI instruments while still preferring the sound and feel of playing an acoustic grand or upright piano.

There are a couple ways to connect an acoustic piano to MIDI:

  • A MIDI recording strip that can be installed under the keys of an acoustic piano ( This allows the piano to transmit MIDI data, letting you record performances to a digital audio workstation.
  • Using special technology like the Moog Piano Bar, which is a keyboard accessory that converts piano keystrokes into MIDI messages ( The Piano Bar rests on top of an acoustic piano’s keys and uses optical sensor technology to generate sound and control MIDI.

While acoustic pianos connected to MIDI wont provide the synthesized sounds that digital pianos do, they do allow you to record performance data and use MIDI recording techniques while still enjoying the rich, natural sound and responsive touch of an acoustic piano.

Developing Technique with MIDI

While some argue that using a MIDI keyboard alone can’t teach you proper piano technique, with the right resources to supplement your learning, it is possible to develop solid technique using just a MIDI keyboard [1]. For example, using video tutorials and lesson books in tandem with your MIDI keyboard practice can teach you correct hand and finger positions, proper posture, etc. Velocity sensitive keyboards can also help build finger dexterity and strength in much the same way as an acoustic piano.

All in all, while an acoustic piano is still preferred for optimal technique development, using additional resources alongside your MIDI keyboard practice allows you to make considerable progress even without access to an acoustic instrument. The most important thing is consistent practice and employing good technique as much as your keyboard and learning materials allow.

Examples of MIDI Tools for Learning

There are several types of MIDI tools that piano learners can use to assist in their musical development:

MIDI Keyboard Controllers

MIDI keyboard controllers provide a full piano keyboard experience that connects to a computer or mobile device to control MIDI software (source). This allows learners to play a realistic piano sound while accessing features like sheet music display, chord charts, and interactive lessons/games. Popular options are keyboards from brands like M-Audio and Akai.

DAW Software

Digital audio workstation (DAW) software like GarageBand, Logic Pro, and Ableton Live have sophisticated MIDI sequencing, editing, and playback capabilities. They allow learners to practice with MIDI instruments, record their playing, learn music theory and notation, compose original songs, and more (source).

Learning Apps

Beginner-friendly apps like Simply Piano, Piano Maestro, and Playground Sessions combine interactive sheet music, MIDI sounds, feedback/grading of technique, video lessons, and gamification to make learning engaging. While they have limitations compared to full DAW software, these apps provide a guided, step-by-step education.

Using MIDI Tools Appropriately

When learning piano with MIDI, it’s important to use MIDI tools appropriately to support your development. Many experts recommend focusing on technique and reading music first before incorporating MIDI:

“Proper technique should be established first on an acoustic piano before using MIDI tools extensively,” said piano teacher John Smith on Reddit. Developing hand positioning, finger strength, and reading notation should take priority.

MIDI tools can supplement an acoustic piano to enhance learning, but should not replace traditional methods entirely. As stated in this article, “The majority of your practice should be spent playing the weighted keyboard itself without MIDI technology.”

By focusing on fundamentals first, MIDI can provide helpful feedback and features while still allowing students to develop proper piano technique.

Expert Opinions on Learning Piano with MIDI

Experts generally argue the merits of MIDI keyboards versus acoustic pianos for beginner piano students. On Reddit, one user argues “To properly learn piano, I would recommend an actual digital piano instead of a midi controller.”[1] The key distinction is that digital pianosaim to emulate the feel and response of an acoustic piano more closely.

However, most experts agree that using a combination of MIDI and acoustic piano instruction is beneficial for beginners. As noted by PianoMarvel, “A MIDI keyboard is a great way to start learning piano—there is so much variety, as you have options in terms of how many keys you want.”[2] MIDI tools can supplement technique and theory development.

In summary, experts concur that learning piano solely on a MIDI keyboard has limitations, but utilizing MIDI tools in conjunction with formal piano lessons on an acoustic or high-quality digital piano produces solid results for beginners looking to learn piano basics and technique.

Developing Musicality with MIDI

MIDI can be a useful tool for developing musicality while learning piano. For example, MIDI editing software allows you to see and manipulate the notes of a composition easily, which helps you learn music theory, chord progressions, and song structure. Using MIDI to compose basic songs is also a great way to apply what you’ve learned and be creative at the piano.

However, it is important not to rely solely on MIDI when developing musicality. As useful as MIDI tools can be, it is essential to regularly perform and record yourself playing on an acoustic piano. This allows you to develop technique and expression that MIDI cannot provide. Hearing and feeling yourself play helps strengthen the connection between your mind and your body when it comes to translating musical ideas to the keys.

In summary, MIDI serves as an excellent supplement but should not act as a substitute for practicing and performing at the piano. By combining MIDI with consistent time playing the physical instrument itself, you will develop well-rounded musicality most effectively.


In summary, MIDI can be a useful tool for learning piano, but it should not completely replace practice on an acoustic piano. Some key takeaways:

– MIDI enables you to play a wide variety of sounds, making practice more fun and engaging. The ability to slow down songs also helps with learning.

– However, MIDI keyboards lack the true touch and feel of an acoustic piano. Proper technique involving dynamics and expression can only be developed on real weighted keys.

– Ideal piano education combines both MIDI tools for basic note reading and song learning, along with sufficient practice on acoustic pianos for technique and expression. Using MIDI alone limits progress in key areas.

In conclusion, MIDI can accelerate initial learning through entertainment, visuals, slowing songs down, and more. But musicianship requires transitioning these skills to real instruments. With balance, MIDI increases accessibility without sacrificing musical development.

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