Do You Need MIDI For Music Production?

If you are new to MIDI and music production you may be wondering, “Do You Need MIDI For Music Production?”. The truth is there are many ways to produce music, but you may want to know the advantages of using MIDI to supplement your work.

Do You Need MIDI For Music Production?

Do you Need MIDI for music production? The quick answer is no. You can record and produce music without using MIDI. The better answer is that MIDI is a great tool for creativity and opens many doors for the Home Recording Studio Setup. MIDI allows you to play many different virtual instruments for things like drums, bass, orchestra, string sections, and different creative synthesizer sounds. You can even control your DAW software with a decent MIDI keyboard. MIDI is a great tool that can be easily harnessed to your advantage.

What Is MIDI?

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface.

It’s a protocol that allows computers, musical instruments, hardware and software to communicate and share information.

An example of MIDI would be when you play a note on a midi keyboard you can record the notes MIDI information in your DAW software.

The note length, the velocity of the note, amount of effect, modulation, and expression are just some of the different midi information that is stored and can be edited.

MIDI is the note information that can be easily edited, transposed, and copied in your DAW’s piano roll function.

Video Credit: Rolling Stone

How Does MIDI And Music Production Work Together?

Let’s say you are using a MIDI keyboard as your main source for MIDI creation.

Most people think in terms of the sounds that come directly from the keyboard.

Try and think about the notes information and not the sound coming from the keyboard.

In fact, a MIDI keyboard has no sound at all.

A MIDI keyboard simply sends MIDI information to your computers DAW software where it can be recorded and edited.

You can then copy the information in the DAW piano roll function and add all sorts of different virtual instruments to play the same parts but with different instruments, create chords, or create different harmonies performed by different virtual instruments.

Let’s say you just created a piano melody that you want to use for a project you are working on.

Perhaps you decide you would rather hear the melody played by a string ensemble rather than the piano.

With MIDI and virtual instruments all you have to do is plug the MIDI information into the virtual instrument of your choice to create endless musical instrument possibilities.

Different MIDI Controllers

There are different ways we can generate and play MIDI notes.

MIDI Keyboard

A MIDI Keyboard is probably the most common and effective way to work with MIDI.

A good MIDI keyboard will of course have a piano keyboard function but may also have sliders and pads built in as well.

You can use the pads on a MIDI keyboard to play drum and percussion parts.

You can use the sliders to control expression and modulation editing functions.

Guitar With Onboard Midi Pickup

Jamstik Studio MIDI Electric Guitar

If you are a guitar player, you can equip your guitar with a MIDI pickup.

The MIDI pickup on your guitar will turn the analog signal into MIDI information that can be edited in the piano roll function on your DAW software.

If you can’t play a keyboard this is a great option for guitar players who want to take advantage of MIDI.

A MIDI equipped guitar is a great way to generate chords and melody lines.

A MIDI guitar is also a cool way to work with Virtual Instruments like Violin and string ensembles.

Electronic Drum Set

If you are a drummer, you may not care to work with tiny finger pads to create your drum parts.

You can use a full electronic drum set and feel more comfortable creating your drum and percussion MIDI parts.

An electronic drum set will be limited in creating melodies and chords but is a great way for drummers to work with different percussion virtual instruments.

MIDI Pads Controller

A MIDI pad controller is simply a device with lots of different pads that can be programed to play different chords, drums, percussion, and even melodies.

MIDI pad controllers are very popular and are good for keeping things simple.

A MIDI pad controller gives musicians a way to work with midi that is portable, flexible, and lots of fun to work with.

Improve Creativity With MIDI

MIDI is a great way to improve creativity.


Alesis Electronic Drum Set With MIDI

Let’s say you are a drummer and are accustomed to recording your acoustic drum set but have often wondered what a different drum set would sound like.

Or let’s say you wish you could add in all sorts of different percussion parts, but you don’t have the instruments to do this.

MIDI and virtual instruments will allow you to completely change your drum set into a different sounding drum set and add in as many different percussion instruments as you want.

You can use an electronic drum set and play any drum set you want and any percussion instruments that you want.

Today’s electronic drum sets with mesh heads are very realistic and very quiet, so you don’t disturb your neighbors.

Top quality drum virtual instruments sound very realistic and give you tons of options.

Keyboard Players

If you are a keyboard player and want to work with MIDI, you have a whole world of possibilities at your fingertips.

You can use the MIDI keyboard to play any instrument you can think of.

Full orchestras are available, any instrument you need to enhance your creativity is available and the sound quality and realism is better than ever.

You can use the sliders on your MIDI keyboard to edit functions like modulation and expression to really bring the virtual instruments to life.

Get yourself a nice MIDI keyboard with sliders and pads built into the keyboard to maximize the functions available to play and articulate many different instruments.

Even if you can’t play a keyboard in the traditional sense, having a midi keyboard around is great for creating chords, melody lines, drums, and percussion parts.

Guitar Players

If you want to use your guitar to work with MIDI, there are MIDI pickups you can get and mount on your guitar without too much trouble.

You can also buy guitars with the MIDI pickup already installed.

Guitar players will find that you can still bend a note to create a unique MIDI note that will be fun to experiment with.

Honestly, I don’t think guitar virtual instruments sound very realistic but some of the amp simulators sound phenomenal.

However, you can control different MIDI instruments with your guitar and some virtual instruments like violin, cello, string ensembles, and lots of others are fun to work with on the guitar.

With all this said, MIDI is a great way to improve creativity by adding different sounds and instruments to your projects.

MIDI and Virtual Instruments allow you to use different instruments that you do not own or have to know how to play.

Does MIDI Improve Workflow?

I think MIDI can improve workflow and here’s why.

Record and Edit MIDI In Your DAW Software

1. You can use the transport functions like play, stop, rewind, and record on your MIDI keyboard or controller to operate your DAW software.

2. You can quickly edit MIDI notes in the piano roll section of your DAW software to correct timing issues and note length.

3. You can quickly copy and paste MIDI or drag and drop MIDI information from one instrument track to create a new instrument track using a completely different instrument.

Once you perfect a piece of MIDI notes just the way they should be simply copy and paste them into another instrument track and add a new virtual instrument to create unison tracks.

You can also transpose the notes up or down to create perfectly timed harmonies.

4. You can quickly select a group of MIDI notes in the piano roll function of your DAW to create harmonies. Simply select the group of notes you want and move them up or down a third, fifth, etc.

5. You can easily draw in MIDI editing functions like modulation and expression to give your virtual instruments a more realistic sound.

These ideas are easy to incorporate into your workflow and do save you quite a bit of time.

One MIDI Keyboard Equals Many Different Instruments

If you own a midi keyboard, a computer, and DAW software you can create and produce music with some of the best virtual instruments available today.

East West Hollywood Orchestra OPUS Edition

Yes, you can buy a regular keyboard with tons of built-in sounds to work with and go that route, but you are limited to the sounds built into the keyboard.

What if you could hand pick the instruments that you like to work with?

You can get a midi keyboard and start building a collection of virtual instruments to work with in your DAW software.

I know some of you like to compose and write music for film and cinematic projects.

Some of you like to write and create fantasy-based music for video games and New Age style music.

Some of you want to write and produce classical style music with a full orchestra.

With the quality of virtual instruments these days you can certainly create high quality professional mixes with virtual instruments and a midi keyboard.

There are unlimited possibilities with MIDI and Virtual Instruments.

Relevant Article: Can You Play Any Instrument On A Midi Keyboard? Be sure and check this out when you get time.

MIDI Is Great For Making Beats

MIDI makes it easy to create your own beats.

I know you want your beats to be original and unique.

Open up you DAW software and go to your piano roll function. You can pencil in different chord structures and melodies by sound or fire up your MIDI keyboard and enter chords and melodies.

Of course, you need the beat.

You can use your favorite virtual instrument and MIDI to make beats.

If you don’t have a MIDI keyboard, most virtual instruments have a virtual keyboard built in that you can use to start playing the drum or percussion parts on the virtual instrument.

Some DAWs like Studio ONE have a drum view as well as a piano roll view where you can manually draw in your drum sounds with your mouse.

MIDI Is Great For Drum Tracks

If you are a drummer, you may like the idea of using MIDI to create your drum tracks.

You can use an electronic drum set to play the drums.

The electronic drum sets main control module takes the signal coming in from the drumheads you are playing and converts what you are playing to MIDI.

The MIDI information can then be recorded in your DAW software.

Keep in mind you can also connect the audio signal from the drum control module to your computer/DAW and record the audio generated by the electronic drum control module.

This way you can record the MIDI data and the audio signal.

You can also just use a drum virtual instrument in your DAW software to generate your drum sounds and MIDI data.

You may also like the idea of using a MIDI keyboard to play your drum tracks using the keyboard keys or the finger pads on a MIDI controller.

Drum Virtual Instruments have come a long way over the years and sound very realistic and very good.

MIDI Makes It Easy To Create Chords

I know that not all of us are trained on playing keyboard or piano.

Some of you may be struggling with creating chord structures for rhythm and fills for your music.

Some of you may play by ear and can hear in your mind what needs to happen.

Let me offer a couple tips that may help you get started.

1. If you have a MIDI keyboard but not trained to play the keyboard, pick up a piano chord chart.

The piano chord chart will show you what keys need to be played to create different chords.

MIDI Production With Captain Chords

2. Try out Captain Chords. This is a great software program made by Mixed In Key that will give you different chords to try based on the key your writing in.

Simply pick the chords that you want to use and build your chord structure.

after you have built your chord structure simply drag the MIDI data from Captain Chords to your instrument track in your DAW software.

Once you have the chords you like you can use any virtual instrument you want to play back the chords in your production.

You can easily copy the MIDI chords and place them in a different track, edit the chords to raise or lower them an octave etc.

A MIDI Keyboard Is Great For Creating Melody Lines

Let’s say you have created a beat, or a nice rhythm track and you want to add some melody lines to really bring your project to life.

You can use your MIDI keyboard to play any kind of virtual instrument you want.

Need a Gypsy Violin? Maybe a unique synthesizer lead? It could be you want a Nordic Choir to sing a haunting melody?

A MIDI keyboard makes it easy to play along with your project to work out simple melody lines in real time.

You can record the MIDI data in your DAW software and easily edit your MIDI melody line to make changes whenever you want.

You can also try out different virtual instruments to find the right sound for your project.

Simply copy and paste the MIDI information to a new track with a different virtual instrument or combine different virtual instruments playing the same melody in different octaves.

Having a MIDI keyboard in your studio is a great asset that you will find many uses for.

MIDI Makes It Easy To Create Bass Lines

I have listened to and played music all my life.

One thing I have learned over the years is that if it aint got a good bass line you are in trouble.

Bass brings the rhythm; bass is what makes the hips shake and breathes life into the drums and percussion.

What’s That? You don’t have a bass player or a bass guitar…? Bummer Dude!

Never fear, MIDI is here.

So, if you have been reading this article you know about the power of MIDI and virtual instruments.

You can create your own bass lines on a MIDI keyboard and a good bass virtual instrument.

You can play a stand-up bass, a Rickenbacker bass, an 808 bass, you can play any kind of bass you want with a MIDI keyboard and virtual instruments.

Capture the MIDI data in your DAW software and plug in your favorite bass virtual instrument. Change out the virtual instrument or edit the MIDI data whenever you like.

Control Your DAW With A MIDI Keyboard

Some MIDI keyboards and different MIDI controllers have transport functions such as play, stop, rewind, record, and undo.

Arutria Keylab 61 MK2 Midi Keyboard

You can control your DAW software with these different transport functions.

This ability to control your DAW from your MIDI keyboard or MIDI controller is nice because you do not have to keep going back to your mouse to select different DAW functions.

If you are trying to record a track from your MIDI keyboard all you need to do is hit record and start playing your MIDI keyboard.

Simply hit stop when you are finished. If you need to redo the recording, simply hit undo and then rerecord your track all from your MIDI keyboard.

Some MIDI keyboards also have sliders that can be used to control your track volume and knobs that can be used to control panning.

Can You Produce Music Without MIDI?

Absolutely you can produce music without using MIDI.

MIDI is a great way to enhance your regular music production.

If you do not want to use MIDI in your music production, there is nothing wrong with that.

For me, I like the ability to use MIDI with different virtual instruments. This opens the doors of creativity and gives you the ability to use instruments that you do not own or know how to play in your productions.

What Others Are Saying

Direct QuoteSource
“Although there are still many ways to create music without a MIDI keyboard or controller they now considered a necessary tool for modern music production due to their ability to enhance creativity and improve workflow in any music studio.”
“MIDI keyboards are not necessary to make music. However, they make music production easier since they permit you to listen to your ideas right away, hit several keys simultaneously, and adjust your note’s velocity. They also help improve your musical knowledge.”
“A MIDI Keyboard is a device that plugs into your computer to help you produce music. You do not need one to produce music but they are very useful and is a recommended product for music producers as it improves the ease of use which lets you be more creative and efficient.”
“Most MIDI keyboards don’t make any sound on their own. They just send MIDI data to your music making software. The actual sound is generated inside your computer by different types of software like plugins, virtual instruments (VSTi), Kontact libraries, etc.”
“I have a keyboard but I can hardly play anything so I end up just drawing notes and MIDI CC manually. If you’re willing to learn to play it even decently it will make a great tool for coming up with ideas. Also recording keyboard drums is fun.”
“Its more for convenience as you’re able to play chords and preview sounds fast.
When I first got into music I bought a keyboard and it helped me out no end. I was able to play chords and get ideas for tunes fast. Its more convenient.”
“I would say MIDI Keyboards are totally worth it. They are not mandatory for music production. You can still work without a keyboard or without any other MIDI controller and still come up with a great production. However, there are very good reasons to have and use MIDI controllers to make your beats!”
“Having a MIDI keyboard can be very useful in the studio, but you can get away with making 24-bar loops to full-length tracks—solely relying on production techniques, a computer, and music production software.”
“MIDI keyboards are not necessary to make music. However, they make music production easier since they permit you to listen to your ideas right away, hit several keys simultaneously, and adjust your note’s velocity. They also help improve your musical knowledge.”

Final Thoughts

Do you need MIDI for music production?

At the end of the day whether you use MIDI or not will be up to you.

MIDI is a great tool that allows you to play many different instruments from your MIDI controller.

MIDI is a great way to create music and has some great time saving advantages.

If you like to play, write, record, and produce music then you are in the right place.

I have many different articles you can read to learn about music production. Make yourself at home and have a look around.

Feel free to leave your questions and helpful comments below.

6 thoughts on “Do You Need MIDI For Music Production?”

  1. This is a very detailed article on using MIDI, or musical instrument digital interface, for music production. Although it is not essential for producing music, the benefits and variety of music that you can produce with this tool,makes it well worth using for your music production. 

    I love the way in which different sounds can be created, making it very easy to add a different dimension to your music production. Adding a MIDI controller to your home recording equipment is worth it. 

    • I’m not a trained piano player but I have a MIDI keyboard and I use It all the time.  It’s a great tool to have around.  You can play any part you need to create endless possibilities. 

  2. Music production is nothing without its instruments. A lot of the music we hear today is created with instruments like guitars, pianos and many more. These instruments are the fuel of music production and creating quality music couldn’t be done without them. While there are many different kinds of musical instruments in the World, MIDI along with virtual instruments stand out for creating some really high quality sounds with unique characteristics.

    • MIDI makes it possible to play any instrument that you want without having to buy the instrument, learn how to play it, or hire someone to play the instrument for a project you may be working on.  This opens many doors for a home studio and virtual instruments are very realistic sounding today.

  3. This midi is a tool that although it is not necessary but the benefits of having one is incredible I like to play the guitar and I use the midi to generate chords and melody lines I’m not very good with the piano or my keyboard but since my wife bought me the midi keyboard on my birthday it changed the way I do my music production I love it and totally recommend it.

    Thank you such a great article very informative.

    • I agree, MIDI is a great way to add chords, fills, and melody lines.  When you put a MIDI keyboard together with virtual instruments you have unlimited possibilities. 


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