How to Set Up MIDI Controllers?

20 minutes read

Setting up MIDI controllers involves connecting them to your computer or audio interface using USB cables, installing any necessary drivers or software, and configuring them in your digital audio workstation or music production software.


First, plug in your MIDI controller to your computer using a USB cable. Make sure the controller is powered on.


Next, check if any drivers or software need to be installed for the controller to work properly. This information can usually be found on the manufacturer's website.


Once everything is connected and installed, open up your digital audio workstation or music software. Go to the settings or preferences menu and look for the MIDI devices section.


In the MIDI devices section, you should see your MIDI controller listed. Make sure it is enabled and set as the input device for MIDI input.


You may also need to set up specific MIDI mappings or assignments for your controller in your software, depending on the functions you want to control.


Test that your MIDI controller is working properly by playing some notes on a virtual instrument or controlling parameters in your software.


Once everything is set up and working correctly, you can start using your MIDI controller to make music, control virtual instruments, or automate parameters in your software.

Best MIDI Controllers of May 2024

1
Akai Professional MPK Mini Plus - USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 37 Mini Keys, 8 MPC Pads, Sequencer, MIDI/CV/Gate I/O, Music Production Software

Rating is 5 out of 5

Akai Professional MPK Mini Plus - USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 37 Mini Keys, 8 MPC Pads, Sequencer, MIDI/CV/Gate I/O, Music Production Software

  • Full Creative Control - A dynamic 37-Key MPK Mini keybed for 3 full octaves of melodic and harmonic performance. Easily connect to your DAW or studio equipment with the USB-powered MIDI Controller
  • Advanced Connectivity - Connect to different sound sources with CV/Gate and MIDI I/O. Control modular gear, sound modules, synthesizers, and more to bring new sound sources into your music production
  • Record and Compose Without a Computer - Connect to your production station and use the built-in 64-step sequencer featuring one track for drums and one for melodies or chords, with up to 8 notes each
  • Control Your DAW - Transport section for intuitive hardware control of your DAW. Arm and start recordings, stop playback, rewind or fast-forward for easy navigation of large sessions and projects
2
AKAI Professional MIDImix - USB MIDI Controller Mixer with Assignable Faders & Master Fader, 24 Knobs and 16 Buttons, 1 to 1 Mapping With Ableton Live

Rating is 4.9 out of 5

AKAI Professional MIDImix - USB MIDI Controller Mixer with Assignable Faders & Master Fader, 24 Knobs and 16 Buttons, 1 to 1 Mapping With Ableton Live

  • Mixdown Essentials - 8 individual line faders and 1 master fader for controlling track volume, virtual instrument parameters, effect settings and more
  • Assignable Control - 24 knobs, arranged 3 per channel for controlling EQ, bus sends, virtual instrument parameters, effect settings and more
  • Get Hands-On - 16 buttons arranged in 2 banks provide mute, solo and record arm functionality per channel
3
M-Audio Keystation 88 MK3 – 88 Key Semi Weighted MIDI Keyboard Controller for Complete Command of Virtual Synthesizers and DAW parameters

Rating is 4.8 out of 5

M-Audio Keystation 88 MK3 – 88 Key Semi Weighted MIDI Keyboard Controller for Complete Command of Virtual Synthesizers and DAW parameters

  • Music Production Essential – MIDI keyboard controller with 88 full-size velocity-sensitive semi weighted keys for MIDI control of virtual instruments, software samplers and plug-in synthesisers
  • MIDI Keyboard Must-Haves - Volume fader, transport & directional buttons; pitch & modulation wheels, octave up & down buttons and sustain pedal input for expressive performances
  • Your Music Studio Equipment Centrepiece – Slimline design fits any desk, studio or stage setup perfectly and advanced functionality customizes your controls for your recording software
4
Arturia MiniLab 3 - Universal MIDI Controller for Music Production, with All-in-One Software Package - 25 Keys, 8 Multi-Color Pads - White

Rating is 4.7 out of 5

Arturia MiniLab 3 - Universal MIDI Controller for Music Production, with All-in-One Software Package - 25 Keys, 8 Multi-Color Pads - White

  • GO WITH YOUR FLOW: MiniLab 3 is an easy keyboard controller that adapts to your needs, your style and your workflow, so you can make music just the way you like it. It lets you control instruments, mute tracks, punch in your 8 pad drums, and adjust your 4 faders with a flow so fluid you’ll forget you had a mouse. Hook it up, discover fresh sounds, enjoy premium velocity-sensitive keys, and get hands-on with your music like never before!
  • ALL THE ESSENTIAL CONTROLS IN A COMPACT CONTROLLER: MiniLab 3 is USB powered with 25 note velocity-sensitive slim keyboard, 2 banks of 8 high quality pads with RGB backlighting, 8 rotary encoders, 4 sliders, Mini display & clickable browsing knob, Built-in Arpeggiator, Hold and Chord modes, 2 touch sensors for pitch bend and modulation wheel, USB-C Port, MIDI Out. Great for beginners, it also fits for pros, and allows you to tweak every aspect of your mix in an instant.
5
Novation Launchkey Mini [MK3] — Portable 25-Key, USB, MIDI Keyboard Controller with DAW Integration, Chord Mode, and Arpeggiator — for Music Production

Rating is 4.6 out of 5

Novation Launchkey Mini [MK3] — Portable 25-Key, USB, MIDI Keyboard Controller with DAW Integration, Chord Mode, and Arpeggiator — for Music Production

  • Get creative easily with arpeggiator - Easy to use but deeply controllable, Launchkey Mini’s creative arpeggiator allows you to change rhythm, beat, pattern, octave, gate and more to add a whole range of diversity to your ideas and melodies.
  • Play chords with one finger - Lay down chords for your track quick with fixed chord mode. Play a chord with one finger by assigning a fixed shape to the keys and it’ll transpose as you move up and down the keyboard.
  • Finest-tech at your fingertips - The Launchkey Mini might be small in size but it’s packed with features. The 25-key device has 16 velocity-sensitive RGB, eight rotary controls, pitch and mod touch strips, and sustain input. Our finest mini keymech to date is also included.
  • DAW Integration - In addition to Apple Logic and Ableton Live, Launchkey Mini also has excellent integrations with Reason, as well as any HUI compatible DAW, such as Cubase, Pro Tools, and more.
6
AKAI Professional APC Mini MK2 - USB MIDI Pad Controller for Clip Launching with Ableton Live Lite, 64 RGB Pads, Drum and Note Mode and MIDI Mixer

Rating is 4.5 out of 5

AKAI Professional APC Mini MK2 - USB MIDI Pad Controller for Clip Launching with Ableton Live Lite, 64 RGB Pads, Drum and Note Mode and MIDI Mixer

  • Complete Control – Ableton Live Clip Launching MIDI Controller, perfect for creative looping, mixing, home studio and live performing. Connect to Ableton Live and control all your studio equipment
  • Bright 8x8 RGB Pad Matrix - 64 RGB pads for launching clips in Ableton Live providing visual color feedback. Trigger everything from Loops, Vocals, and melodic samples for instant creativity
  • 9 Assignable Faders - With 8 assignable faders + 1 master fader instantly map to Ableton Live's mixer for hands-on mix control of volume, pan, or devices. Use Device mode to control Ableton macros
  • Drum and Note Modes -The Drum sample mode features seamless integration with Ableton Drum Rack. With the inbuilt "Smart Scale View", Note mode enables you to visually play melodies effortlessly
7
AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 - 25 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller With 8 Backlit Drum Pads, 8 Knobs and Music Production Software Included, Grey

Rating is 4.4 out of 5

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 - 25 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller With 8 Backlit Drum Pads, 8 Knobs and Music Production Software Included, Grey

  • Music Production and Beat Maker Essential – USB powered MIDI controller with 25 mini MIDI keyboard velocity-sensitive keys for studio production, virtual synthesizer control and beat production
  • Total Control of your Production - Innovative 4-way thumbstick for dynamic pitch and modulation control, plus a built-in arpeggiator with adjustable resolution, range and modes
  • Complete Command of your Virtual Instruments and FX - 8 360-degree knobs assign to all your music studio plugins for mixing, tweaking synth controls and more
8
AKAI Professional MPD218 - USB MIDI Controller with 16 MPC Drum Pads, 6 Assignable Knobs, Note Repeat & Full Level Buttons and Production Software

Rating is 4.3 out of 5

AKAI Professional MPD218 - USB MIDI Controller with 16 MPC Drum Pads, 6 Assignable Knobs, Note Repeat & Full Level Buttons and Production Software

  • Beat Production, Anywhere - Ultra-portable, feature-packed and USB powered pad controller with 16 thick fat MPC pads for triggering drums, melodic samples, effects and more
  • Expandable Banks - Easily accessible dedicated controls for three pad banks provides a total of 48 assignable pads
  • Feature Packed - MPC note repeat and full level controls for immersive expressive performances
  • Comprehensive Software Suite Included - Ableton Live Lite, Drum Synth 500 by AIR Music Tech
9
Arturia KeyLab Essential mk3 — 61 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Analog Lab V Software Included

Rating is 4.2 out of 5

Arturia KeyLab Essential mk3 — 61 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Analog Lab V Software Included

  • New creative features: Scale Mode, Chord Mode, and Arpeggiator, making composition, songwriting, and beat-making more intuitive than ever.
  • Custom DAW integration: KeyLab Essential 3 features custom scripts for deeper control over DAWs, including Ableton Live Logic Pro X, FL Studio, and more.
  • Easier controls & interface: RGB-backlit pads with velocity and pressure sensitivity, contextual button, and a bright new 2.5” LCD screen for real-time feedback.
10
Alesis V49 MKII – USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 49 Velocity Sensitive Keys, 8 Full Level Pads, Arpeggiator, Pitch/Mod Wheel, Note Repeat and Software Suite

Rating is 4.1 out of 5

Alesis V49 MKII – USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 49 Velocity Sensitive Keys, 8 Full Level Pads, Arpeggiator, Pitch/Mod Wheel, Note Repeat and Software Suite

  • Plug in the USB Powered V49 MKII MIDI keyboard, and turn your PC, Mac, or iOS device into a feature packed production studio - Ideal for home studio producers, piano beginners, and desktop djs
  • 49 Full-Size, Velocity Sensitive, Synth Action Keys alongside 8 velocity sensitive backlit beat pads with full level and note repeat controls, all in a design that fits easily into your workspace
  • Pitch Bend and Modulation wheels for added expression, and an Arpeggiator with 6 modes for creating unique melodies and inspiring creativity


What is the importance of MIDI controller presets?

MIDI controller presets are important because they allow musicians and producers to easily access specific settings and configurations for their MIDI controller without having to manually adjust them each time they use the controller. This can save time and streamline the workflow, making it easier to quickly switch between different setups or instruments. Presets can also help ensure consistency in sound and performance, especially for live performances where quick changes are necessary. Additionally, presets can be customized and saved to suit individual preferences and specific musical needs.


How to customize MIDI controller settings for specific software?

  1. Download and install any necessary drivers or software for your MIDI controller on your computer.
  2. Open the software you wish to customize the MIDI controller settings for.
  3. Go to the Preferences or Settings menu in the software. Look for a section related to MIDI or external controllers.
  4. In the MIDI or external controller section, you should see a list of available MIDI devices. Select your MIDI controller from the list.
  5. Check for mapping options or customization settings for the MIDI controller within the software. This will vary depending on the software you are using.
  6. Follow the instructions provided by the software to map specific buttons, knobs, sliders, or pads on your MIDI controller to functions within the software.
  7. Save your custom MIDI controller settings within the software.
  8. Test out the customized settings on your MIDI controller to ensure they are working correctly with the software.
  9. Make any necessary adjustments or tweaks to the custom settings as needed.
  10. Save your custom settings within the software and your MIDI controller should now be set up to work specifically with that software.


How to set up MIDI controllers for DJing?

Setting up MIDI controllers for DJing involves a few steps:

  1. Connect your MIDI controller to your computer using a USB cable.
  2. Install any necessary drivers or software for your specific MIDI controller. Check the manufacturer's website for the latest drivers and software.
  3. Open your DJ software and go to the settings or preferences menu. Look for an option to select your MIDI controller as the input device.
  4. Map your MIDI controller's buttons, knobs, and faders to the functions in the DJ software. Most DJ software allows you to customize the mapping of your controller by assigning specific functions to different buttons and knobs.
  5. Test your MIDI controller to make sure all the buttons, knobs, and faders are working correctly. You can do this by playing a track in your DJ software and adjusting the volume, EQ, and other settings using your MIDI controller.
  6. Save your MIDI mapping settings so you can easily load them again in the future.
  7. Start DJing with your MIDI controller! Experiment with different mappings and settings to find the setup that works best for you.


What is the role of MIDI controllers in digital mixing consoles?

MIDI controllers play a crucial role in digital mixing consoles by allowing users to easily manipulate various parameters and settings via physical knobs, faders, and buttons. These controllers enable users to have hands-on control over elements such as volume levels, EQ settings, effects, and more, providing a tactile and intuitive way to interact with digital audio software. This can greatly enhance the workflow and efficiency of mixing and editing audio, as well as provide a more engaging and personalized experience for the user. MIDI controllers can also be customized and programmed to suit the specific needs and preferences of the user, allowing for a highly versatile and adaptable control system.


How to set up MIDI controllers for controlling video playback?

To set up MIDI controllers for controlling video playback, follow these steps:

  1. Connect your MIDI controller to your computer using a USB cable or MIDI interface.
  2. Open your preferred video playback software (such as Resolume, VDMX, or Modul8) and go to the settings or preferences menu.
  3. Look for a section related to MIDI or external control devices. This is where you will be able to assign MIDI controls to various functions within the software.
  4. Press a button, twist a knob, or move a fader on your MIDI controller. You should see a corresponding message appear in the software indicating that the MIDI controller has been recognized.
  5. Assign the MIDI control to the specific function you want to control. This could include playback controls (play, pause, stop), video effects, transitions, or any other parameter that can be controlled with MIDI.
  6. Test out your setup by pressing the assigned MIDI controls on your controller and see if they activate the desired functions in the video playback software.
  7. Fine-tune your setup by adjusting MIDI mappings, sensitivity settings, or any other parameters to optimize the control of video playback with your MIDI controller.
  8. Save your settings so that you can easily recall them in the future.


By following these steps, you should be able to set up your MIDI controller to control video playback with ease. Enjoy experimenting with different ways to interact with your videos using your MIDI controller!


What is the relationship between MIDI controllers and DAWs?

MIDI controllers and DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) are often used together in the process of music production.


MIDI controllers are hardware devices that use MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) technology to send signals to a computer or other electronic device. These signals can control various aspects of a DAW, such as virtual instruments, effects, and mix parameters. Common types of MIDI controllers include keyboards, drum pads, and control surfaces.


DAWs, on the other hand, are software applications used for recording, editing, and producing audio. They provide a platform for musicians and producers to create and arrange music, as well as manipulate audio files using various tools and effects.


When used together, MIDI controllers can be used to input musical data into a DAW, such as playing virtual instruments, triggering samples, or adjusting parameters in real-time. This allows for a more hands-on and interactive approach to music production, as opposed to using a mouse and keyboard. MIDI controllers can greatly enhance the workflow and creativity of users working in a DAW environment.

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