How to record MIDI, part 2: Connecting to the computer

You can expect to find these connectors on your digital piano or electronic keyboard:

  • MIDI OUT. You will at least have a MIDI OUT port, for sending MIDI data to other devices.
  • MIDI IN. Usually you will also find a MIDI IN port, for receiving MIDI data from other devices.
  • MIDI THRU. Some instruments also have a MIDI THRU port, for passing MIDI data from one device to another. This port mainly exists to reduce the cable spaghetti that results from tying many different devices together.

To connect your instrument to your computer you either need:

  • A direct cable connection
  • A MIDI-to-USB interface
  • A MIDI input on your soundcard (game port connector)

Direct cable connection

Many modern digital pianos and keyboards can directly hook up to a port on your computer. Some older models may need the parallel or serial port, but chances are your instrument can connect directly to USB. This is also called the “TO HOST” connection on your instrument.

Here’s what it looks like on my piano:

To HOST connector

If the instrument didn’t come with a cable, you can get one at any computer or electronics store. Refer to your manual to see which type of cable you need.

If you need a USB cable, then pay attention to the type of cable. USB cables come in two varieties: A/A (identical connectors at each end) or A/B cables (a fat and a thin connector). My digital piano uses an A/B cable:

USB A/B cable

You probably have such a cable lying around already because they are also used to connect other equipment such as printers and scanners. If not, you can pick one up at any electronics store. Be sure to get a cable that is long enough to reach your computer.

Most likely, you will also have to install a “driver” on your computer. This is a piece of software that tells the computer how to talk to the digital piano. You either received a CD-ROM with your instrument that contains this software, or you can download it from the instrument manufacturer’s website for free. Refer to your instrument’s manual for more information.

Unfortunately, on my digital piano (a Yamaha CP33) using the direct USB connection to the computer causes a lot of static on the audio output, which is really annoying. So I had to purchase a MIDI-to-USB interface to solve this.

MIDI-to-USB interface

If your instrument only has these connectors:

MIDI connectors

then you will need to get a MIDI-to-USB interface. This device has two or more MIDI cables on one end and a USB connector on the other. They cost $25 – $50 and you can get them at any music store.

This is what mine looks like:

MIDI-to-USB interface

You might have to install a “driver” on your computer to make this device work. On my computer with Windows XP no driver was necessary (in fact, installing the driver from the CD-ROM crashed my machine) but your experience may be different. In any case, the MIDI-to-USB interface comes with the required software and a manual, so be sure to read it carefully.

IMPORTANT: When you connect the MIDI cables to your instrument, make sure you put the MIDI IN cable into the MIDI OUT socket, and the MIDI OUT cable into the MIDI IN socket. If you connect IN to IN and OUT to OUT, it will not work!

Game port (joystick) connector

This last option is found on older computers. You need to get a special cable that has MIDI connectors on the source end and a game port connector on the other.

Game port MIDI interface

That’s it for the cables. Next time we’ll talk about how to record the MIDI messages and how to save them into a file.

Read more articles on Piano Clues:

Basic Theory

Chords and Harmony

The Circle of Fifths

Arrangement, Improvisation and Composition

Reading Music and Sheet Music

How to Record Piano

Software and Virtual Instruments

Scales and Exercises

Digital Pianos

Links and Other Stuff


  1. Leah says:

    This website is great! I had trouble with my MIDI connection and I couldn’t find the solution anywhere. Once I’d found this website it helped me immediately, and now my keyboard is up and running!!! Thanks!

  2. samsyu says:

    Hi, I like play pianos and I like your post.

  3. Alan says:

    i connected as u told but how to record using a software

  4. admin says:

    Alan, that is explained in part 3. :-)

  5. Mdavis says:

    omg thank you couldn’t find the answers you gave it to me right away your the best!

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