Making Music MIDI Style


by alex suskind

Compose Songs like a Pro with MIDI

Composing full songs can be difficult when you only know how to play one instrument. Coming up with an accompanying string or horn section to add may seem nearly impossible. However, with the help of MIDI, amateur musicians are able to produce full-range compositions and songs on their computer without having to spend thousands of dollars on additional equipment and lessons.

What is MIDI?

MIDI stands for musical instrument digital interface. MIDI gives you the ability to record a variety of different instruments onto your computer without having to buy (or learn) the actual instrument. For example, one MIDI keyboard controller can record a simple piano riff, a backing drum track, a catchy bass line, and a booming horn section.


When using a MIDI keyboard controller, the only instrument you need to know how to play is the piano.  If you know some basic chords and scales, recording songs via MIDI is easy.

If you do not know how to play the piano, but still have aspirations of recording a song on your own, there are many different types of MIDI controllers available. For those who are just beginning to play music, but are still interested in creating full songs with different instruments, MIDI drum pads can be the most helpful. These controllers usually consist of several square pads that can each be programmed with a different sound. To play each sound you simply tap its pad.

How to Use a MIDI Controller

A MIDI controller connects to your computer through a USB cable. A third-party music recording program like ACID Pro, or the user-friendly program GarageBand, allow you to select the different sounds and instruments you would like to record.

When you select an instrument for the controller, signals are sent to the computer, which in turn produces the sound you chose. Unlike a normal instrument that can emit its own sound, a MIDI controller cannot emit sound without the use of a computer and a recording program.

In addition to MIDI controllers there are MIDI instruments. The major difference between the two is that MIDI instruments function as both controllers and actual instruments, capable of producing their own sounds.

This means that the same piece of equipment you use to record full band compositions can be played without having to connect it to a computer. The majority of electronic keyboards come with MIDI capabilities.

There are many types of MIDI controllers and instruments available today. There are even devices to give standard instruments MIDI capabilities.

Here are several MIDI devices that could help you record your masterpiece.


M-Audio Axiom 25 USB MIDI Controller includes a drum pad, as well as pitch bend and modulation wheel. Effects, such as panning and reverb, can be assigned to the knobs on the top of the controller.

nano-pad MIDI

Korg nanoPAD MIDI drum pad controller is compact and affordable. The high response drum pad triggers can be programmed with chords as well as single-note sounds.

roland-gk-3 MIDI

Roland GK-3 Guitar Pickup transforms your guitar into a MIDI device giving you the ability to play a variety of sounds through the instrument.

yamaha-ypg MIDI

Yamaha YPG 235 76-Key Grand Piano Keyboard connects to your computer’s USB port. It comes equipped with hundreds of built-in sounds and a six-track song recorder

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