Can You Use MIDI Keyboards With No Computer? (3 Things To Know)

No recording setup is complete without a MIDI controller of some kind, and most musicians opt to use MIDI keyboards. MIDI keyboards are very useful tools – they are ideal for recording, and they are wonderfully versatile.

But what if you want to use your MIDI keyboard or MIDI controller without a computer or a recording setup? Is this MIDI setup possible – and if so, how is it done?

A MIDI keyboard can be used without a computer. Using a MIDI without a computer makes it similar to a regular keyboard and perfect for practicing, creating, and moving your rig around. Use a sound module with your MIDI keyboard and a set of speakers or headphones to use it without a computer.

MIDI keyboards unlock a world of opportunity and versatility when used correctly. However, these devices require external equipment to run and produce a sound.

This is why many musicians and producers who use MIDI keyboards find themselves wondering if they can be used without the usual peripheral gear. Let’s explore the use of MIDI keyboards in this way and find out how to do it easily.

Can A MIDI Controller Be Used Without A Computer?

MIDI keyboards and other MIDI controllers are incredible tools in the studio and in other recording environments as well. These devices are powerful for what they are, and they can be used in a myriad of creative ways so long as you understand how to use them well.

MIDI keyboard 2
A MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) can be used in many ways for music production.

However, these keyboards are typically only used in recording situations, even though they are so versatile, and this is generally because they require a computer with an audio interface and a DAW of some kind to produce the sound.

This issue arises because MIDI keyboards are simple digital triggers that are used to activate sounds within a larger program. MIDI keyboards are not instruments on their own, and they produce no sound without speakers and without sound files to trigger.

bookshelf speakers
A MIDI keyboard cannot product any sound without speakers.

However, if you want to use your MIDI keyboard as a keyboard without using a computer, an audio interface, and an external sound card, there are ways to do it, making the MIDI keyboard a legitimate instrument on its own.

The best and most straightforward way to use a MIDI keyboard without a computer is to connect the keyboard to a MIDI tone generator, otherwise known as a sound module.

sound module tone generatorsound module tone generator
A tone generator (or sound module) will give a MIDI keyboard sounds to trigger.

With the use of a sound module, the keyboard will have sounds to trigger, and now all it needs is a means for projecting the sounds that it creates. This means that you will also need some form of a speaker, whether it be a set of headphones or earbuds or a speaker or speaker set of some kind.

This is the easiest way to run a MIDI keyboard without a computer, and depending on how you set up the rig, you may be able to build a portable MIDI system to allow for busking, moving your rig to gigs, or even practicing on the go.

This type of MIDI setup is still very versatile and is only limited by your own understanding of how to use the system. This setup is versatile, it can be portable, and it provides all of the MIDI functionality without requiring the keyboard to be connected to a computer at all.

How To Use A MIDI Keyboard Without A Computer

We have established that it is possible to use a MIDI keyboard without a computer, but it is important to understand how to do this. The setup that you use for running a MIDI without a computer is important, as the hardware can make a real difference in how functional and practical the setup is for you.

Using a sound module is the best way to use a MIDI keyboard without a computer. A sound module has many sounds onboard that can be triggered with the MIDI keyboard. A sound module is essentially a digital instrument that has no means of projecting or triggering sound and only requires an interface of some kind to use it.

sound module tone generator 2
A sound module has no way to trigger sound on its own – it needs an interface (like a MIDI keyboard) to use it.

This is why the MIDI keyboard and sound module setup can be so powerful, as the sound module is a full-fledged instrument in its own right, and using a MIDI keyboard to control it unlocks its potential.

 To use a MIDI keyboard in this way, simply establish which sound module you would like to use, be it a portable and battery-powered unit or a larger unit that requires wall power to run. This will determine the sounds available for you to use and how portable the system is.

Once you have determined which module is best for you, all you need to get going is a way to project the sound that you make. This is done by connecting a set of headphones or speakers to the audio output of the sound module.

headphones
You also need a set of headphones (or speakers) to project the sound you make with your MIDI keyboard and sound module.

This will allow you to use the keyboard without a computer, as the sound module and speakers/headphones are all you require to run the keyboard and make music with it.

Benefits Of Using A MIDI Keyboard Without A Computer

MIDI keyboards are very versatile, and they can be used in so many different ways, but what are the real benefits of using a MIDI controller or keyboard like this without its intended hardware? Why use a MIDI keyboard without a computer?

laptop
There are several good reasons to use a MIDI keyboard without a computer. One is that no computer makes your setup more portable.

There are many benefits of using MIDI keyboards without a computer. Depending on the way the setup is constructed, using a MIDI controller with a sound module rather than a computer allows for a great level of portability for practicing on the go or even for gigging.

Using a MIDI keyboard without a computer allows a musician to practice with the keyboard as they would with a regular piano or keyboard, allowing for undistracted practice sessions to improve their musical skills.

MIDI keyboard 2
Using a MIDI keyboard without a computer allows you to practice as you would without a regular piano.

This setup is also often cheaper than buying a regular keyboard or a piano, and it allows the benefits of a digital piano in that it can be used with headphones for the sake of keeping things quiet and for controlling the volume overall.

This type of MIDI keyboard setup is very useful for many musicians, and there are many uses for this type of rig for writing, recording, and creating new music.

Being able to travel with your MIDI setup may be the inspiration that you need to write your next masterpiece, so if you haven’t already, consider setting your MIDI keyboard up in this way, and you may be surprised by what you discover!

Moon & Back Preview
Moon & Back Preview

Conclusion

Using a MIDI keyboard without a computer is simple and very easy to do. All it takes is a sound module or MIDI tone generator and a simple set of headphones or speakers. This is the best way to set up a portable or practice MIDI rig.

If you want to use your MIDI keyboard for something other than recording, there are ways to do so. This rig can be very useful in many ways, so test it out for yourself to unlock the true potential of your MIDI keyboard and bring it out of the realm of MIDI trigger and into the world of fully functional instruments.

You can learn about MIDI keyboards with varying numbers of keys (25, 49, 61, 88) here.

References

https://learn.sparkfun.com/tutorials/midi-tutorial/midi-devices
https://www.instructables.com/Portable-MIDI-Tone-Generator-On-the-Cheap/

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