What is a MIDI keyboard?

What is a MIDI keyboard?

While browsing the range of keyboard instruments, you may come across devices, or a whole category, described as “MIDI keyboards”. Attention is drawn to the often attractive price of these devices, and the availability of all sizes and types of keyboards, including full hammer keyboards. Could it be a cheaper alternative to a keyboard or digital piano?

What are MIDI keyboards? Attention! MIDI keyboards themselves are not musical instruments. MIDI is an electronic note protocol, while a MIDI keyboard is just a controller, or more musically speaking, an electronic manual, with no sound. Such a keyboard only sends a signal in the form of a MIDI protocol which notes should be played, when and how. So, to use a MIDI keyboard, you need a separate sound module (synthesizer without keyboard) and a set of speakers, or a computer. Connecting a MIDI keyboard to a computer, however, does not offer you the option of having the instrument at half the price.

What is a MIDI keyboard?
AKAI LPK 25 control keyboard, source: muzyczny.pl

Firstly, because a computer without a specialized sound card and an appropriate set of speakers is not able to produce a sound that is even close to that of an acoustic instrument (and often this sound is also much worse than that generated by electronic instruments).

Second, when using a computer, appropriate software is required, which must be purchased if the player wants to sound a good quality acoustic instrument.

Third, even with a fast computer and the use of a specialized sound card for a few hundred zlotys, such a program will probably run with a slight delay. If the delay is small and constant, then you can get used to it. However, delays can be significant and, even worse, inconstant, especially if we do not have the appropriate card or the operating system decides that it has “more interesting things to do” at the moment. In such conditions, it is impossible to maintain the pace and the right rhythm, and thus, it is impossible to perform a piece.

In order to be able to treat a MIDI keyboard and a computer as a fully functional instrument, the latter must be properly adapted and specialized for musical use, and this unfortunately costs, often no less than a standalone instrument. A MIDI keyboard will not work as a cheap way to perform music. It is also not needed for people who want to play with a virtual synthesizer from time to time or use a program that teaches note recognition, because every modern digital piano, synthesizer or keyboard has the ability to handle the protocol.

MIDI and computer connectivity via the MIDI port, and many also have the ability to support MIDI via the built-in USB port.

What is a MIDI keyboard?
Roland dynamic MIDI foot keyboard, source: muzyczny.pl

Not for the performer, so for whom? The situation is completely different for people who want to compose on a computer. If all the music will be created on the computer and it will be the only synthesizer and final performer used, and the creator does not intend to perform the music live, then the most cost-effective solution will actually be a MIDI keyboard.

It is true that you can compose music with the help of the software only with the mouse, entering notes is much faster when using the keyboard, especially when entering chords. Then, instead of laboriously entering each tone separately, one short hit on the keyboard is enough.

The choice of MIDI keyboards is wide, ranging from 25 keys to full 88 keys, including a graded hammer-action mechanism that feels similar to the keyboard mechanism on an acoustic piano.


I already have a third keyboard (always 61 dynamic keys, connected to the Yamaha MU100R module. For a home composer and performer in a small club, the best solution.

EDward B.

Short and to the point. The great essence of the topic. Thank you, I understand it 100%. Regards the author. M18 / Oxygen


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