Question about MIDI controllers


I’ve been using Audacity for format conversion for a while now, but I had some questions that prompted me to create an account here.

I am looking into a MIDI controller, specificqally the M-Audio Keystation 88ES.

My primary use for it will be as an electronic keyboard ~ I don’t need to record and export to files, I only need to set it up so that when I press a key on the MIDI controller, I hear a note on my headphones. However, everything I’ve read has been in agreement that MIDI controllers don’t do this on their own, and require software to take MIDI input from the controller and play it with the sound card.

You may ask why I don’t just buy an electronic keyboard instead. The reason is that, for the same functionality, MIDI-only controllers are much cheaper than digital pianos. If I want to be able to afford something with weighted, touch-sensitive keys, I have to go with a MIDI controller.

So, my question is, will Audacity allow me to use a MIDI controller as a piano, simply playing the notes I press through my computer’s speakers?

If so, can someone kindly inform me as to how to set that up?

And if not, any recommendations on free software that will do what I want it to would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

Audacity does not support recording or playing MIDI.

To connect the MIDI keyboard to a computer you may need a MIDI interface, although some MIDI keyboards use USB. If you need a MIDI interface, quite a few (inexpensive) sound cards have a MIDI interface built in.

Alternatively, you could use a standalone MIDI “sound module” with the keyboard instead of a computer.

If you prefer to use a computer for creating the sounds, the choice of software depends on what operating system you use (Windows, Mac or Linux).
On Linux you could use “Linux Sampler”.

The device I’m looking at uses USB for input/output, and gets power from the same USB cable, much like how devices like phones can connect to a computer’s USB port and both charge their batteries from it while simultaneously transferring files to and from the computer on it. Connecting the device to my computer is definitely simple.

I only want to use my computer’s default audio output (my USB headset) to hear whatever note I press on the MIDI controller in real-time. The ability to save recordings to a file would be nice, but is not imperative. Basically, I want to use it as a piano, not as a recording device, and a MIDI controller is about half the price of a digital piano for the same functionality (i.e., touch-sensitive, weighted keys to play dynamics, 88 full-sized keys so I don’t press a bunch of wrong notes because the keys are thinner or something), but MIDI controllers apparently don’t have speakers or produce their own sound, unless they’re dual-purpose MIDI controllers / digital pianos, which this one isn’t.

Do I need specific software to do that, or will it simply play sound through my computer’s sound card right out of the box?

If I do need to download some kind of MIDI suite, since Audacity doesn’t seem to be what I’m looking for, can you make a recommendation as to which software I might use? What about FL Studio?

There’s a free demo version of “True Piano” that may be worth trying:

I think I once used a free version of CakeWalk to connect my computer with the keyboard. My original keyboard was nothing special. It was a 66 key “ironing board” and I got it on special at the local Big Box Retailer. I enjoyed it for years until I wore it out.

I put the simple CakeWalk license in and connected the MIDI cable. I could create or download a MIDI song in the computer and it would tell the keyboard which keys to press. The keyboard made the music. I could also press keys (silently) on the keyboard and the MIDI instructions would “press the keys” on the computer’s built-in MIDI interpreter. The computer would make the sound.

At the time, the instrument sounds in the physical keyboard were head and shoulders better than the ones from the sound card.

That’s very basic MIDI. You can do that to 16 different instruments at once before you have to get fancy and expensive. Many MIDI systems come with samples of multi-instrument orchestral music to get you going.


The Midi sounds from the computer are mostly quite ugly.
I’ve replaced the internal midi sounds by an Sound-font capable player. The above mentioned linux sampler is such a free player for linux. If you’re on Windows, try “SyFonOne”. It’s pretty easy to use. After starting, it appears in the info line where you can make certain adjustements.
The so called “Sound fonts” are simply collections of instruments that can be addressed by your controller. Those files may contain hundreds of instrument or just one (there’s for example a sampled Stainway available that is pretty good - and large…).
You may also want to install “Putzlowitschs Vista-MIDIMapper” if you’re on Vista or Windows. It’s a control panel tool that lets you change the default midi player (an option that is disabled in the new Windows versions). I hope you don’t mind to google those programs yourself. :wink:

Thanks for all the suggestions! I’ve got a lot of reading to do. If I still need help, I’ll pop back in here <3