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Maybe you just got your MIDI keyboard. Or maybe you’ve had it for a while.
Either way, you might be looking for things to do with your MIDI keyboard. When it comes right down to it, it’s an amazing, versatile tool, and it’s more than just a piano or synthesizer. It can literally be used alongside any virtual instrument, including strings, drums, bass, and more.
But that’s not all. There are also MIDI sequencers and editors, scoring and composing apps, piano apps, Digital Audio Workstations, and various VST plugins, all of which you can use to unlock the full potential of your MIDI keyboard.
In this guide, we’ll be looking at the best MIDI keyboard software for Windows PC, Mac, iPhone, Android, and even Linux and Raspberry Pi.
MidiEditor is a simple, attractive, no-nonsense graphical interface (featuring a design circa mid-2000s) you can use to edit, play, and record MIDI data.
From creating new MIDI content with your MIDI keyboard to loading in and editing existing MIDI files, MidiEditor is a capable workhorse for Windows and Linux.
Sequencing and recording MIDI is often done inside Digital Audio Workstations these days, but DAWs can take a while to learn, and all the clutter onscreen can prove a little distracting when you’re just trying to write and edit new parts.
That’s where we think MidiEditor shines. It offers a distraction-free environment where you can focus on the notes and get your sequencing done perfectly and to your satisfaction (before loading it up in a DAW or another editing environment).
That’s about all there is to this, really. If you need help, refer to the video below, or spend some time going through the manual on the MidiEditor website. It’s always good to familiarize yourself with the software you’re using, as that gives you the ability to make the most of it!
Piano Time by Revel Software
For those who want a dedicated environment in which to play, experiment, and work on their piano parts, Revel Software’s Piano Time hits the spot.
This is a Windows-only multitouch piano app with 36 onscreen keys and selectable octaves. The app comes with several fun and handy features like the metronome, as well as unlimited record and playback. You can even customize the look and feel of the app to your liking.
In addition to MIDI controller input, the app supports multitouch screen, keyboard, and mouse inputs.
Recordings can be saved as MP3s and shared with your friends.
So, if you’re passionate about the piano and want to document your journey, this is an excellent and fun distraction-free tool to help you grow as a musician and instrumentalist.
The app works on HoloLens, PC, mobile devices, and Hub.
Download: Microsoft Store
GarageBand for Mac by Apple
With GarageBand, Apple made music production accessible to even the greenest of beginners. With its launch, it wasn’t long before everyone and their dog was making beats and publishing online.
With the included samples and loops, anyone could combine them in their own unique ways, and create their own beats. Fun!
Turns out GarageBand is so much more than just a beginner DAW, or at the very least, it has evolved into more. It is streamlined and easy to use, to be sure, but in addition to messing around with loops and samples, or recording MIDI tracks, you can also record audio tracks, mix and master, and even publish your projects!
If that wasn’t enough, GarageBand has built-in lessons for piano and guitar, so if you’re looking to become a better musician and instrumentalist, or don’t know your way around a MIDI keyboard yet, you can take advantage of these.
We also like the built-in virtual instruments like piano, organ, synth, and more. These all sound surprisingly good and are capable even for professional projects.
GarageBand is usable on all Apple devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. It is not compatible with Windows or any other platform, though there are some free GarageBand alternatives for Windows PC that are worth a look (some of these work with other OS platforms too).
With all these features and a great deal more, it’s hard not to recommend GarageBand as a competent tool for MIDI keyboard. And if you own an Apple device, it might be installed on it already!
Piano 10 by JEFBCreating, A Top Free Midi Keyboard App
Here’s another simple Windows Piano app compatible with HoloLens, PC, mobile devices, and Hub. It’s called Piano 10, and it’s an acoustic piano app with the ability to choose your octave.
The interface is simple and attractive. It creates a nice distraction-free environment where you can practice and work on your piano skills.
There’s not a whole lot more to say about it, but if you’re looking for a simplistic piano app to mess about with, you’ll probably enjoy Piano 10.
Download: Microsoft Store
Waveform Free by Tracktion
Tracktion’s Waveform Free is one of our favorite free DAWs, and whether you’re looking to record or sequence MIDI tracks, it’s an excellent, streamlined working environment in which to do exactly that.
Additionally, you might be inclined to play with piano, synth, strings, or other virtual instruments. The easiest way to do this is with a proper host, like Waveform Free.
It just so happens that Waveform also has an amazing synth called 4OSC built right into it. It might not look like much from the outside, but it can produce a lot of different classic synth sounds, making it highly versatile. It also has multiple presets you can choose from, if you need a little inspiration, or don’t know how to dial in your own synth sounds.
Waveform also comes with an FM synth, sampler, and micro drum sampler. Not a huge selection of tools, but still handy. Besides, the DAW is compatible with most VST plugins, and there might be a few virtual instruments on this list you’d like to install on your machine.
Waveform’s MIDI editor might seem intimidating at first (at least it was to me), but once you get used to it, you’ll be sequencing like a pro in no time. And there are an insane number of presets for grooves and chords, not to mention the ability to transpose and quantize on the fly.
There’s a lot of noise out there about MIDI chord packs these days, and sure, these can be great, but Waveform puts all chord types at your fingertips. All you need is a bit of a theory background, a willingness to Google ideas, or a spirit of experimentation to come up with effective progressions your listeners will be mesmerized by.
Much of this can be done without your MIDI keyboard, of course, but there’s nothing stopping you from recording MIDI tracks inside Waveform. It’s practically built for it!
You can basically do all your MIDI editing work inside Waveform, and you can even import your other saved MIDI tracks and load up your favorite virtual instruments inside.
Amazingly, Waveform is compatible with Mac, Windows, Ubuntu, and Raspberry Pi.
If you don’t mind taking some time to learn the Waveform workflow, it will probably become a fast favorite of yours.
Perfect Piano by Revontulet Soft Inc
Revontulet Soft Inc’s Perfect Piano has been described as an “intelligent piano simulator” for Android phones and tablets.
This app features an 88-key piano keyboard, multiple modes (single-row, double-row, dual players, chords), multitouch screen support, force touch, keyboard width adjustment, built-in effects (grand piano, bright piano, music box, pipe organ, Rhodes, synthesizer), MIDI and ACC audio recording, metronome, direct sharing of your recorded files (as well as the ability to set them as ringtones), and Open SL ES low latency audio support.
Perfect Piano also makes multiplayer connection and competitions possible, with real-time online chat, weekly song challenge rankings, guilds, and more.
Demo videos of Perfect Piano show a user using the app on multiple phones, with the keyboard set to different octaves on each device. You could certainly have a lot of fun doing something like that!
But the app does indeed support standard MIDI protocol, which means you can connect your MIDI keyboard through USB to start experimenting with the app.
So, if you’re looking for a fun and convenient Android piano app you can take with you wherever you go, you’ll love Perfect Piano.
Download: Google Play
LABS by Spitfire Audio
Welcome to the ultimate composer’s playground.
Spitfire Audio’s LABS encompasses a wide range of beautiful, organic sounding virtual instruments, including strings, guitars, pianos, brass, drums, vocals, percussion, synths, and experimental. There aren’t many gaps in their incredible library!
These virtual instruments “stay in their lane,” as it were, and though not configurable to the nth degree as some virtual instruments are, what they do, they do exceptionally well.
To use LABS instruments, you’ll need a host (DAW) like Waveform. If you’re already using a DAW you like, then you should be good to go. Otherwise, you may want to take a moment to look over our list of best free DAWs you can download immediately (each of them can be great MIDI keyboard applications in their own right).
If you’re going to be playing around with your MIDI keyboard anyway, it’s nice to be able to work with high quality sounds, and LABS puts a ton at your fingertips.
LABS is not all sunshine and rainbows, though, which is something we figured out through trial and error.
For one, to download any of the LABS instruments, you will need to download the Spitfire Audio app. In theory, this would be fine, but we find their app to be quite error prone. Oftentimes, plugins would not get installed properly, and even after they were, we would still sometimes get error messages. “Repair” functions either worked poorly or didn’t work at all.
Personally, I would much prefer being able to download DLL files and store them away under the appropriate category in my VST plugin library. I like to keep my VST library organized! Spitfire Audio is messing with my system.
Each LABS instrument also requires 500 MB of hard drive space, if not double or quadruple that amount.
I guess it can’t all be upsides, right? But if Spitfire Audio ever works out all the kinks, they would probably be our go-to for most if not all virtual instruments, and we’d be able to give them a “perfect” rating.
Download: Spitfire Audio
The Surge synth is one of those VST plugins that lives up to the hype. If you haven’t heard of it, here’s the lowdown – it’s a free, powerful, versatile, open source, award-winning, hybrid synth that’s compatible with Linux, Mac, and Windows systems.
We’ve already covered Surge in multiple guides (and raved about it), so we won’t be going over all its features again. Suffice it to say, Surge is so versatile that you could create entire projects with it (without the need of relying on another synth – hardware, software, or otherwise).
That’s kind of what makes it a hard product to review, honestly, because you can do just about anything with it sound wise, though a lot of the sounds seem primitive, or video game inspired.
As with other virtual instruments mentioned here, Surge needs a host to work. If you don’t have a DAW, you’ll want to download and install one on your machine.
What makes Surge a great product for your MIDI keyboard is obviously that you can create just about any kind of sound you want with it. That makes practicing, sequencing, and messing around with your MIDI keyboard that much more fun!
So, if you’re looking for the ultimate synth to add to your virtual instrument library, this is probably it!
Atmos Piano by Prism Audio
This one is a recent discovery for us, though it’s entirely possible you’ve come across Prism Audio’s Atmos Piano before.
So far as free “soft piano” sounds are concerned, yeah, LABS – Soft Piano might do a better job, but Atmos Piano is still quite solid for evocative, atmospheric, ambient piano sounds. Throw on a little reverb or delay and play around with it. I’m sure you’ll get some pleasing, usable sounds for projects requiring toned-down piano sounds.
With Atmos Piano, I like that, unlike many modern plugins, you can just download the DLL file and add it to your VST library on your hard drive, instead of having to download an unreliable installer or worse, an app that manages all your downloads, before having to scan for new plugins within your DAW, crossing your fingers, and hoping that it all works out (and sometimes it doesn’t).
Look, in our production environments, speed is of the essence!
Anyway, this is more of a free VST than anything, and it requires a host (Digital Audio Workstation) to run. If you don’t already have a DAW, then grab one of the free ones from above, or check our guide on the best free DAWs.
Atmos Piano is simplistic. It only features a few controls. But again, for soft piano sounds, it’s quite reliable, and fun to play with. A great practice and recording tool overall.
Atmos Piano is available as a VST or AU for Mac, and VST for Windows.
Download: Prism Audio
BRELS MIDI Editor
Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in the 90s? Do your friends always find subtle ways to remind you that you’re not “with” the times?
Well, you might as well embrace who you are (and what you like), and with BRELS MIDI editor, you can pretend that you’re still in the early days of computer software. It even brands itself as a free, open-source, old-school MIDI editor.
And while it indeed carries an old-school look, it was originally developed in 2004.
This editor gives you the ability to create and edit MIDI files in a straightforward interface. Saved file sizes are optimized to remain small (not that MIDI files are large to begin with!).
The entire content of MIDI files can be edited inside BRELS, and the composition length is controllable too.
This one is a tribute to all those who liked old school applications and prefer simple interfaces to more complex ones.
Download: BRELS MIDI Editor
MuseScore is the self-proclaimed “world’s most popular notation software” for Windows 10, with millions of users.
The latest version of MuseScore is a free, open-source application, and the most significant change they’ve made is with the appearance of the sheet music itself, which is more professional than ever.
Multiple staves can be added for each of the instruments you’re looking to compose for, and individual instruments can even be set up as soloists. All instruments automatically organize themselves onscreen in the appropriate sections too.
MuseScore put a lot of effort into their typefaces, which is probably the biggest change they’ve recently made.
Naturally, MuseScore supports MIDI keyboard input, which means you can easily write music for piano, guitar, orchestra, jazz, choir, band, marching, and more.
In case you didn’t get this from what we’ve said so far, though, it should be stressed that MuseScore is a scoring and composing tool more than anything. So, if you aren’t interested in notating your music, or don’t need a tool dedicated to notation, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
MuseScore is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Aria Maestosa is yet another bare-bones open-source MIDI sequencer and editor. Inside, you can compose, edit, and play MIDI files quickly and easily, utilizing its user-friendly interface. All this can be done in multiple, convenient views including score, keyboard, guitar, and controller.
For those who like sequencing MIDI, but also want to be able to see their music in standard notation form, this could prove quite handy.
Aria Maestosa is available for Mac, Linux, and Windows, and has been translated to multiple languages, including French, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and Russian.
Download: Aria Maestosa
Here’s another free music notation program for Linux, Mac, and Windows.
Music can be typed in using a PC keyboard, played on a MIDI controller, or even be inputted acoustically into a microphone connected to your computer’s soundcard.
Denemo utilizes the Lilypond music engraver, which generates beautiful sheet music up to high publishing standards. Music entered in can be edited after the fact in case there are any changes you want to make.
Other unique features include the ability to add links to the score to the original source document it was transcribed from.
Denemo is an excellent tool for those looking to score and compose, or even prepare music for musicians who read (rather than reading tabs or improvising).
MPC Beats by Akai Pro
For simple beat making purposes, we like Akai Pro’s MPC Beats.
This is a powerful, sophisticated, feature-rich DAW designed specifically with beat making and compact MIDI keyboards/controllers in mind.
Its built-in features make it easy for you to get up and running with your beats, with genre templates for various popular styles of music, as well as the ability to start remixing included songs, which is a great way to learn the workflow and included tools.
MPC Beats comes bundled with 2 GB worth of sample, loop, and built-in virtual instrument plugin content, which means you won’t necessarily need to hunt down additional plugins and content to begin enjoying the process of making amazing beats.
Akai Pro sets you up to win in a lot of ways, not the least of which is their various expansion packs, as well as their MPC Beats Academy for those who want to know how they can take full advantage of their MIDI keyboard and the DAW itself.
If you want to focus more on scoring, composing, or piano, then there are apps better suited to those purposes. But if you’re ready to start making beats with your MIDI keyboard, you’ll probably get a kick out of MPC Beats.
Download: Akai Pro
MiniSpillage Compact Drum Synthesizer by AudioSpillage
Sure, there’s a lot you can do with your MIDI controller (as we’ve already seen).
You can use it to work on your piano and keyboard skills.
You can use it to record and sequence MIDI tracks.
You can even score and compose entire projects for a variety of instruments, from start to finish.
But let’s not forget – you can also make drumbeats using your MIDI controller. Sure, it forces you to think a little differently about your keyboard and work on your rhythm, but that’s not a bad thing at all, is it?
That’s why we figured the MiniSpillage Compact Drum Synthesizer wouldn’t be a bad addition to this list.
The highly praised MiniSpillage features three synthesis algorithms, along with distortion effects and resonant filters. You get a single oscillator bass drum synth with pitch sweep, internal FM and harmonic controls, a flexible wooden drum with natural and synthetic timbres, and a six-oscillator closed and open hi-hat generator with noise source and dual resonant filters.
Though simple and easy to use, MiniSpillage is also powerful. You might just be amazed at how many sounds you can create using this seemingly streamlined drum synth.
Producers are giving MiniSpillage rave reviews. Though it’s basically a sample pack with a basic GUI, it’s sheer flexibility makes it one of the best free drum synthesizers available, if not the absolute best.
Is A MIDI Keyboard An Instrument Unto Itself?
MIDI keyboards require a device that can read its code – that could be a computer or another device that generates internal sounds.
Digital keyboards, for example, usually have internal sounds as well as MIDI compatibility. They are more versatile than MIDI only keyboards, but they are also more expensive.
A MIDI keyboard is most useful when connected to a computer (and DAW) because it gives you the ability to transmit code to your DAW to produce recording information.
Once your keyboard is connected, not only can you record your MIDI tracks and edit them after the fact, but you can use any virtual instrument with it. That means you aren’t limited by its internal sounds (which digital keyboards are), but only by the number of virtual instruments installed inside your DAW and the tweakable parameters (which can be quite extensive, especially for synths).
I suppose it could be argued that the best keyboard is one with multiple connectivity options, with internal sounds, the ability to send code to software recording, and the ability to plug it into an amplifier or speaker. As already noted, such options do exist, and they can be a little more expensive.
The advantages of a MIDI keyboard are that they are generally cheaper, more portable, and give you the flexibility of composing, songwriting, sequencing, and making beats anywhere, assuming you have your laptop with you (with DAW software installed).
The MIDI keyboard can be an exciting discovery for some, especially when they realized it can be used to trigger any virtual instrument installed in their DAW.
Best Free Midi Keyboard Software, Final Thoughts
Do you feel unleashed on your MIDI keyboard yet?
At this point, we might be beating a dead horse, but there is just so much you can do with your MIDI keyboard you may not have even been aware of. In some ways, it truly is the most versatile and useful studio tool you could have!
Of course, it works great for general usage too – songwriting, jamming, sequencing, composing, scoring, and even practice.
And, if we’re being honest, there’s a near endless supply of free virtual instruments, DAWs, and apps you can take advantage of. So, if for whatever reason the above isn’t enough, you can always go looking for more.