Can You Plug A Keyboard Into A Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface?

Are you looking for the best way to connect your midi keyboard to your computer? You may be wondering, “Can You Plug A Keyboard Into A Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface?” Let’s take a look at connecting your keyboard to a Focusrite Scarlett audio interface and some of the advantages of using an audio interface.

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1 Can You Plug A Keyboard Into A Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface?

Can You Plug A Keyboard Into A Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface?

Yes, you can plug your keyboard or midi keyboard controller into a Focusrite Scarlett audio interface. You can connect your keyboards 1/4″ audio outputs directly to your Focusrite Scarlett audio interface line inputs. You can also connect your keyboards midi output to your Focusrite Scarlett midi input. The audio and midi information are then sent to your computer via the Focusrite Scarletts USB connection.

How Do I Connect My Keyboard To My Audio Interface?

There are several ways that you can connect your keyboard to your audio interface.

First, we need to determine what type of keyboard you have and what you want to accomplish by connecting your keyboard to your audio interface.

When I say what type of keyboard you have, I simply mean is it a traditional keyboard or synthesizer with onboard sounds or is it a midi keyboard controller?

Midi Keyboard or Midi Keyboard Controller

A midi keyboard controller does not have built in onboard sounds. A midi keyboard controller will most often have a USB output and midi in and midi outputs.

Often times a midi keyboard comes with a software package of instruments than you can download onto your computer and use the virtual instruments and sound modules inside your DAW software.

This software package of sounds is referred to as virtual instruments. (VST’s).

Keyboard or Synthesizer

A keyboard or synthesizer will have built in onboard sounds, 1/4″ audio outputs, USB output, and most often will have midi in and midi outputs.

A keyboard or synthesizer can be used as a standalone unit. This simply means that you can play the keyboard or synthesizer without the need for a computer to generate the sounds.

So, for simplicity we can break down the difference as: Do you have a keyboard with onboard sounds, or do you have a midi keyboard without onboard sounds?

Let’s take a look at how to connect each type of keyboard to your audio interface and the advantages of connecting your keyboard to your audio interface.

Video Credit: DSoundman

How To Connect Keyboards With Onboard Sounds To An Audio Interface

If you have a traditional keyboard or synthesizer with onboard sounds, you can connect your keyboard to your audio interface two different ways.

1. Connect The Audio Signal

Connect your keyboards audio output jack to your audio interfaces audio input.

Take a look on the back of your keyboard. You will probably see one or two 1/4″ audio output jacks.

Simply, come out of the 1/4″ audio jack with a 1/4″ cable and plug the other end of the cable into a 1/4″ audio input jack on your audio interface.

If you want to record in stereo, you can connect both left and right 1/4″ outputs on your keyboard into two 1/4″ audio inputs on your audio interface.

If you only need to record in mono, then just connect the left side 1/4″ audio output to your audio interface.

2. Connect The Midi Data

If your keyboard has midi in and outputs on the back of your keyboard and you have midi in and outputs on your audio interface, you can connect the midi from your keyboard to your audio interface.

Simply, come out of the midi out port on your keyboard with a midi cable and plug directly into the midi input on your audio interface.

You can then come out of the midi output on your audio interface and loop back to your keyboard’s midi input, or you can send the midi data on to another midi device.

The Advantages

The advantages of connecting your keyboards audio and midi directly to your audio interface are huge.

  1. You have a complete library of sounds on your keyboard that you can use inside your DAW to create unlimited amounts of music.
  2. You have midi data that you can use to control virtual instruments inside your DAW giving you a greater library of sounds.
  3. You can use midi to control your DAW software and virtual instruments.
  4. You can write and compose with midi in your piano roll inside your DAW software.
  5. You can record audio directly from your keyboard.
  6. You can listen to your keyboard and music playback from your DAW directly through your studio monitors or headphones.
  7. You will have better audio quality for recording and playback because you are using a quality audio interface.
  8. You can connect all of your instruments and microphones to your audio interface for simplicity and consistency.

The possibilities and advantages to using an audio interface with your keyboard are endless.

How To Connect All Of Your Instrumets To Your Audio Interface Diagram

How To Connect Keyboards Without Onboard Sounds To An Audio Interface

If you have a midi keyboard or keyboard controller you can connect it to your audio interface if your midi keyboard has midi in and outputs and your audio interface has midi in and outputs.

Keep in mind that your midi keyboard does not have onboard sounds.

We are only concerned with getting your midi data inside of your DAW software so you can use the midi data to play virtual instruments.

The virtual instruments, drum machines, and virtual synthesizers will be creating the sounds for your midi keyboard inside your DAW software.

You can listen to your DAW software playback through your audio interfaces headphone jack and studio monitors connected to your audio interface.

1. Connect The Midi Data

Simply connect the midi data coming out of your midi keyboard to the midi input on your audio interface.

If you look on the back of your midi keyboard you will see two or three midi ports.

You want to come out of your midi keyboards midi out port and connect directly to your audio interfaces midi in port. You will need a midi cable to do this.

You can then come out of your audio interfaces midi out port and connect to your keyboards midi in port or you can send the midi data on to another midi device. You will need a midi cable to do this.

The Advantages

  1. You have endless amounts of Virtual Instruments that you can use inside your DAW software.
  2. You can use midi data to control your DAW software, effects, and virtual instruments.
  3. You can write and compose with midi data directly in your DAW software’s piano roll.
  4. You can record audio and midi data directly from your virtual instruments inside your DAW software.
  5. You can listen to your DAW music playback through your headphones or studio monitors.
  6. You have better audio quality because you are using a quality audio interface.
  7. You can connect all of your instruments and microphones directly to your audio interface for simplicity and consistency.
  8. Your midi keyboard is always connected and ready to practice or create music.

The possibilities and advantages of connecting your midi keyboard controller to your audio interface are endless.

How To Connect Your Midi Keyboard To Your Audio Interface Diagram

Do Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interfaces Have Midi Inputs?

Yes, the Focusrite Scarlett line of audio interfaces currently have several models you can choose from that have midi in and out connections.

1. Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

The Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface is the smallest audio interface that Focusrite makes with a midi in and output.

On the front of the Scarlett 4i4 you have two XLR / 1/4″ connectors with phantom power for your condenser microphones, gain control knobs, main volume control for playback volume, and a headphone connection with volume control.

On the back of the Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 you will find two more 1/4″ line inputs, midi in and midi outputs, 4 1/4″ balanced line outputs for your studio monitors or effect sends, and a USB connection to connect your audio interface to your computer.

This is a great unit to get started with and will give you excellent audio quality for recording and audio playback.

Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

2. Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

The Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface is the next step up from the Scarlett 4i4 with a midi in and output.

On the front of the Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 you have two XLR / 1/4″ connectors with phantom power for your condenser microphones, gain control for each channel, a master volume control, and two headphone connections with volume control.

On the back of the Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 you will find four 1/4″ balanced line inputs, four balanced 1/4″ line outputs for studio monitors or effect sends, SPDIF In and Out, midi in and out, USB output to go to your computer, a 12v DC connection for the power supply, and an on and off switch.

If you have more instruments, microphones, or keyboards you want to connect this model may be a better choice.

Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

3. Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface is the next step up from the Scarlett 8i6 with a midi in and output.

On the front of the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 you have four XLR / 1/4″ balanced inputs with phantom power for your condenser microphones, gain control for each channel, a master volume control, and two headphone jacks with volume control.

On the back of the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 you will find four 1/4″ balanced line inputs to connect your keyboards or other gear, four 1/4″ balanced line outputs for studio monitors or effect sends, midi in and out, SPDIF in and out, USB out to connect to your computer, an optical input, 12v DC power supply connection, and an on and off switch.

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 has enough connections to record a small band, is great for drummers and is great for connecting all of your keyboards and instruments.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

4. Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface is the next step up from the Scarlett 18i8 with a midi in and output.

On the front of the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 you have 2 balanced XLR / 1/4″ Inputs and 6 more on the back, Phantom power for your condenser microphones, gain control for each channel, pad controls for the main channels, level indicators, monitor talk back function, main volume control, and 2 headphone connections with volume control.

On the back of the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 you will find six balanced XLR / 1/4″ inputs, 10 1/4″ balanced line outputs for your studio monitors and effect sends, midi in and out, USB connection to connect to your computer, 2 optical inputs and outputs, word clock output, SPDIF in and out, and an AC cord connection.

The Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 is a great way to set up a full-blown home recording studio and gives you plenty of room to connect all your keyboards, instruments, microphones, and gear.

Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface

Can I Connect My Keyboard Directly To My Computer?

Now that you have learned about how to connect your keyboard to your audio interface, you may be wondering, “Can I Connect My Keyboard Directly To My Computer?”

How To Connect Your Midi Keyboard To Your Computer With A USB Cable

The answer is yes, you can connect your keyboard or midi keyboard controller directly to your computer via the USB connection on the back of your keyboard.

Look on the back of your keyboard and see if it has a USB connection.

If it does, you can connect directly to your computer with the USB connection.

Keep in mind that the USB connection will only transfer the midi data and not the sound from your keyboard if it has onboard sounds.

This is a quick and easy way to get connected if you do not want to use an audio interface.

Advantages Of Using An Audio Interface

There are several advantages to using an audio interface that you may find helpful.

1. One Convenient Location To Connect All Of Your Instruments And Microphones

If you are reading this article, you probably already have a midi keyboard or are thinking about purchasing a keyboard of some type.

You may also play guitar, drums, bass, or are a singer and need to record your instruments or vocals.

An audio interface provides you with one central location to connect all of your instruments and microphones directly to your computer so you can record, write, produce, and practice when inspiration hits.

I’m sure you would agree that an audio interface is the better option for serious musicians, beatmakers, singers, and producers.

2. Easy To Connect Studio Monitors And Headphones

If you are wondering how to connect your studio monitors or headphones, all you need is an audio interface.

Simply connect your studio monitors to the audio outputs on the back of your audio interface.

Your audio interface will also have a connection for your headphones.

3. Better Sound Quality

One of the main functions of an audio interface is to convert analog signal coming from an instrument like a keyboard, guitar, or vocal microphone, into a digital signal that your computer can work with.

To do this, the analog signal will pass through an ADC (Analog to Digital Converter). The ADC converts Analog signal into Digital signal.

Now that the signal is in digital format your computer and DAW software can work with the signal inside your DAW software.

You will want to hear what your projects sound like that you are working on.

The digital signal coming out of your DAW software and computer will now get converted from Digital to Analog to be played back through your studio monitors or headphones.

This is accomplished through the DAC (Digital to Analog Converter). Humans need to hear analog signal. It’s what our ears hear and understand.

Long story short, The ADC and DAC converters in a quality Audio Interface will give you better sound quality for recording and listening to playback coming from your computer.

Your computer has ADC and DAC converters, but they are not designed for professional music production and are not as high quality.

4. Great Way To Connect Midi Devices

An audio interface with midi in and out ports is a great way to connect your midi keyboards and midi devices like drum machines and midi controllers.

The midi information will go directly into your computer and DAW software from your audio interfaces connection to your computer.

You can lay down a beat with your midi keyboard or drum machine and record some keyboard parts as well.

You can play any instrument you want with your midi keyboard and virtual instruments.

5. Easy To Set And Monitor Your Gain Settings For Recording

One of the most important parts about recording instruments and vocals is setting a proper input level.

You do not want the incoming signal to be too loud or too quiet.

Most audio interfaces will tell you if your signal is too loud or too quiet via led lights or halo rings on the focusrite scarlett line of audio interfaces.

If the sound is too loud this will create a clipping noise in your recordings. Simply turn down the gain settings on the audio interfaces channel input.

If the signal is too quiet, it will not give you a good full sound. Simply turn the gain setting up on the audio interfaces channel input.

An audio interface makes it simple to get your gain settings just right.

Advantages Of Using An Audio Interface

6. Easy To Record Your Instruments With Direct Inputs.

If you need to record an instrument like guitar, bass, or keys, all you need to do is plug the instrument or microphone directly into the audio interface.

The channel that you have the instrument or microphone plugged into will now be feeding this signal into your DAW software.

When you are ready to record the instrument or vocal, simply arm the track in your DAW software and hit record.

It’s as simple as that.

7. Phantom Power For Your Condenser Microphones

If you have a condenser microphone, it will require phantom power to operate properly.

Most all good audio interfaces come with built in phantom power.

Just activate the phantom power for the input you have your condenser microphone plugged into.

This will provide the correct amount of power to your condenser microphone so that the microphone can do its job.

If your microphone is not a condenser microphone, leave the phantom power off.

Always connect your microphones to the XLR inputs.

8. All Of Your Instruments Are Connected To Your Computer With One USB Connection

We talked about a scenario where you have a guitar, keyboard, midi keyboard, bass, drums, and vocal microphones all connected to your audio interface.

All of the signal from all of the instruments and microphones gets connected to the computer through one USB connection.

This is super clean and will free up USB ports on your computer for other devices.

9. Separate Volume Control For Your Studio Monitors And Your Headphones

Most all audio interfaces will have a master volume control for your studio monitors and a separate volume control for your headphones.

You may be doing a late-night session and only want to use your headphones. You can set the volume to where it’s comfortable and no one else will hear what you are doing.

You may be listening to a mix on your studio monitors at one level and need to listen in to something detailed on your headphones.

You can listen to your studio monitors at a lower level and listen in on your headphones at a little higher level to catch some details like a reverb trail or delay settings.

This really comes in handy in a mix scenario.

10. Connect More Than One Set Of Studio Monitors

Most serious mix engineers and producers like to check their mixes on more than one set of speakers.

You can connect two or even three different sets of speakers to one audio interface if your audio interface has enough outputs.

This is a good way to reference your mix on different speakers all controlled from one audio interface.

Supper convenient and easy.

Relevant Article: I put together an article about smaller audio interfaces with midi connections that you may enjoy: The Best Audio Interface For A Home Studio. Be sure and check it out.

How To Edit Midi Inside Your DAW Software

Now that your midi data is connected to your audio interface or is connected directly to your computer, the midi data is being feed directly into your DAW software.

This is where the magic starts to happen.

You can use the midi data to play different virtual instruments.

You can record midi data along with the audio coming out of the virtual instruments.

This way you have a midi recording that can be edited, and you have an audio recording that can also be edited.

Simply copy and paste the midi data into a new track and play it through a different virtual instrument.

Now you have two different instruments playing the same notes. You didn’t have to go back and replay and record the part.

So, for instance, now you have a string orchestra and a brass section playing the same parts.

Do you want to drop the brass section down an octave, or a third for harmonies?

This is simple. Just transpose the midi data in your DAW software’s piano roll view to where you want it.

How To Edit Midi In Your DAW Piano Roll

Now you have two separate instruments playing harmonies. Super cool and easy!

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do with midi data inside your DAW software.

The possibilities are truly endless, and the virtual instruments are Really Good these days!

It’s a great time to be a musician and producer, especially if you have a keyboard.

If you are interested in Virtual Instruments you need to check out; EastWest Sounds, Spitfire Audio, Native Instruments, UJAM, and there are many other great virtual instruments manufactures out there.

Does Audio Sound Better Through An Audio Interface?

You may be wondering, “Does Audio Sound Better Through An Audio Interface?” The answer is Yes.

An audio interface is built to give your audio the best quality it can be.

We already talked about the ADC and DAC converters inside an audio interface. The converters in a good quality audio interface were created to give you the best sound possible.

If you want pro sound, then you need to invest in a good audio interface. It’s that simple.

Should I Get An Audio Interface With Midi Connections?

If you are a keyboard player or are thinking about getting a keyboard to use in your home recording studio setup, then you should get an audio interface with midi connections.

Yes, you can connect your midi keyboard directly to your computer with a USB connection. But you will be missing out on some really great advantages that we already discussed.

If you have other instruments and microphones that you will be using, then you will need an audio interface to connect all your gear.

Get an audio interface with midi connections for the midi data that you will want to take full advantage of.

What Others Are Saying

Direct QuoteSource
“The rear-panel has more combi jacks, which are labelled ‘mic-line’, and you can connect your keyboards here. The keyboards both output something close to line-level outputs, so you can connect them directly as line-level inputs to the Scarlett using ordinary jack cables.”https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advice/q-can-plug-my-keyboards-my-audio-interfaces-line-level-inputs
“If your keyboard only has midi out then you’ll need a usb midi interface. If your keyboard produces its own sound you can plug in into the scarlett via a TS cable”https://www.reddit.com/r/piano/comments/865coj/connect_a_midi_keyboard_to_a_scarlett_2i2/
“To record your keyboard, you will need the correct cables and leads, and you may need an audio interface. To use your keyboard or digital piano as a MIDI Controller Keyboard you may need a MIDI Interface or an audio interface. with MIDI i/o. Check your keyboard/piano as you may be able to make a MIDI connection just using a simple USB lead.”https://www.musicrepo.com/keyboard-course-resources/
“If you have a studio full of hardware synths and drum machines, your audio interface can be your studio centrepiece and time-saver all in one, increasing the efficiency of your workflow. Recording keyboards and synths can be straightforward. These instruments usually have line-level outputs, which connect straight into an audio interface’s line inputs, making it simple to get a great recording quickly.”https://focusrite.com/en/how-record-keyboard-and-synths
“Some of our interfaces have 5-pin MIDI inputs and outputs that you can use to send and receive MIDI data. If you have a MIDI keyboard that does not have a USB output, you can connect it to the interface using a 5-pin MIDI cable. Alternatively, if you programmed some MIDI notes in some software on your computer, you can send that out to a keyboard/synthesizer/sound module to play its sounds, via the interface”https://support.focusrite.com/hc/en-gb/articles/4402418692370-Using-external-MIDI-devices-with-Focusrite-units
“In your PC, you have to have some recording software (possibly a DAW software). There are a lot of these softwares available on-line like Cakewalk Sonar, Cubase, etc. ranging from reasonably-priced entry-level versions to the more expensive “producer-edition” versions (having multiple software FX, unlimited audio/MIDI tracks, bundled virtual instruments etc.).”http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthreads.php/topics/2359413/Recording_from_Digital_Piano_t.html
“A Focusrite Scarlett is an audio interface. Every midi controller on the market in the last decade plus is equipped with a usb midi out. This can connect directly from the midi keyboard or whatever controller you’re using to a usb input on your Mac.”https://www.quora.com/What-Focusrite-Scarlett-version-would-I-need-for-MIDI-to-connect-with-my-Mac-as-well-as-any-extra-connectors
“I would recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 (249 USD). It is not bus-powered (I understand you are using a laptop) but it offers 2 jack line-ins (which bypass the interface’s preamp (!) so you can simply adjust the gain for both channels simultaneously using the single volume control on the Korg).”https://forums.taxi.com/connect-keyboard-to-focusrite-interface-t138029.html
“Get two “guitar cables” — formally, “TR” plug to “TR” plug. Run one from the Left line-out of the P125 to Input 1 of the Scarlett, run the other cable from the Right line-out of the P125 to Input 2 of the Scarlett. . . . Make sure that the MIC switches are off on the Scarlett.
That will work on the 2i2 Generation 3. I’m not sure if it will work on previous generations”
https://www.keyboardforums.com/threads/connect-yamaha-digital-piano-to-scarlett-2i2-audio-interface.31327/

In Conclusion

So, Can You Plug A Keyboard Into A Focusrite Scarlet Audio Interface? You bet you can, and you should.

It doesn’t have to be a Focusrite Scarlet audio interface. Get whichever audio interface floats your boat.

There is a good audio interface out there that will fit your needs and will come with midi in and out connections.

If you are going to get an audio interface, get one that has midi connections.

If you enjoy writing, recording and producing music, be sure and have a look around my website. I have lot’s of great articles to help you on your journey.

Be sure and leave your questions or helpful comments below. I’m always happy to help out where I can.

4 thoughts on “Can You Plug A Keyboard Into A Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface?”

  1. Your post on, can you plug in a key board into a focusrite scarlett audio interface, was quite in-depth and informative. I liked the lay out of your page, it was easy to navigate. The use of illustrations, videos and diagrams was excellent. It would make it easy for some to follow on how you did this. Even for someone who knows nothing about home audio recording, like myself. I also liked how you put the expandable contents menu on the top of the post. Keep up the good work.

    Paul

    Reply
  2. I feel like this article is for people who are into music and music producers. I actually have a friend who is a music producer so I will be sure to share this article with him. Who knows, he might pick up a few things here that he can use to better his business so thank you for this 

    Reply
  3. Great article. 

    And also, On an interface like the Scarlett 18i8, that means you can expand up to 18 inputs
    — enough for even the most serious keyboard rig. … Having front-panel
    inputs, as found on all Focusrite Scarlett interfaces, means that you
    don’t need to blindly reach behind your device every time you want to
    connect something new.

    Reply
    • I couldn’t have said it better myself.  The Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 3rd Gen Audio interface is great for any home recording studio setup.  

      Reply

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