Are you wondering if you can use your Android phone or tablet as a MIDI controller, the answer is Yes. You can definitely use your Android device as MIDI on different DAWs like Garageband, FL Studio etc. If you are a budding music producer or just a casual music lover who likes to play piano, make cool beats, play with synthesizers, or do song covers now and then, you are going to love this.
Here in this article, we are going to talk about how you can use your phone or tablet as a MIDI controller and play music on your favorite DAW and make beats using the touch screen of your phone or tab.
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Benefits of using Phone as MIDI controller
There are a lot of dedicated MIDI controllers available in the market already. So why do you need to use a phone as a MIDI controller? Are there any specific benefits of using a phone or tablet as a MIDI controller? Are you thinking about the same, here is the answer.
1. Cost Effective
Everyone owns a smartphone but not everyone owns a MIDI controller. Although there are some cheap MIDI controllers available in the market but if you are a casual music player and don’t want to spend $200-$300 even on the cheapest MIDI controller, a phone can help you big time. If you already own a big-screen tablet, things will get even more interesting. Here are some of the best 10-inch tablets you can use as MIDI controller, watch Netflix, play games and more.
You don’t need to buy anything for using Android as a MIDI controller which makes this a cost-effective music setup for you. This is one benefit of using a phone or tablet as a MIDI controller.
Another benefit of using a phone or tablet as a MIDI controller is portability. You can carry your phone in your pocket but carrying even a 49 keys MIDI controller seems like a big task. So if you are someone who travels for music sessions or play/produce/record music on the go, this is a pretty good option for you. For a better experience, you can use a tablet instead of a phone which is also easy to carry than a MIDI controller.
The interface of the MIDI controller on phone is super customizable. You can increase or decrease the number of keys, add drum pads, add modulation, and much more. While a physical MIDI controller hardware is not customizable at all. If you are getting 25 keys MIDI controller like Akai MPK Mini MK3, you cannot increase the number of keys on it and it became impossible to play piano chords, song covers with those limited keys in an octave.
4. Touch Interface
Every smartphone has a touch screen and that’s what makes this MIDI controller setup even more interesting. You can play drum kick, add hit-hat, and snare with just the touch. There is no need to exert pressure on the keys and there is no fear of wear and tear on the buttons. The touch interface also comes in handy when you are adding effects to your music. Simply seeks, and scroll the knobs on the phone’s or tablet’s screen to add effects.
5. Wireless Connectivity
Harnessing the power of Wifi and Bluetooth technology, many MIDI controller apps allow for wireless connectivity between the phone and the DAW. This eliminates the need for extra cables and can make for a cleaner setup. No adapters, no cables, no compatibility issues, and no extra cost for cables. But here, we are going to connect via cable only. The wireless connectivity is available on FL Studio via the Image-Line Remote app and we are using Garageband.
6. Universal Compatibility
Not every MIDI controller is compatible with every DAW. There are incompatibility issues in them and you might even switch to a new DAW or new MIDI controller. Then there is a learning curve to getting comfortable with the new DAW. This is not an issue with MIDI on the Phone.
Almost modern music production software like FL Studio, Logic Pro, Garageband, Ableton LIVE, etc allows for seamless integration with a phone as a MIDI controller. This makes it easy to incorporate the phone as part of an existing music production setup without any discomfort.
These are some of the benefits you will notice right away. Once you start using an Android phone as a MIDI controller, you must experience more advantages of this modern MIDI setup.
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How to use Android Phone/Tablet as MIDI Controller
Let’s see how you can use your Android phone or tablet as a MIDI controller. Here I am using Samsung Galaxy Note 9 which is an Android smartphone running on Android 10, One UI 2.5. You can use any other Android smartphone as well as a tablet as a MIDI controller.
1. First, go to the play store and download this MIDI Keyboard app on your phone/tablet. You will also find other MIDI keyboards but this one is super simple to set up and comes with a minimalistic design. You can even use this app to play piano on your phone. This MIDI keyboard app is compatible with Android 7.0 and above android version.
2. Once installed, open the DAW you want to use. Here I am using Garageband on Macbook Pro. You can also use FL Studio, Abelton LIVE, Logic Pro or any other DAW of your preference. Just keep it open, you don’t need to do anything as of now.
3. Now connect your smartphone/tablet to your computer via USB. You might need to use USB Type-C to Type-A adapter/hub if your laptop doesn’t have USB Type-A port.
4. After connecting your phone to your laptop or PC, you need to change the USB Settings from File Transfer/Android Auto to MIDI. Simply tap on USB settings from the drop-down menu and change to MIDI.
5. Once you changed your USB settings to MIDI, you will get a notification on your DAW about 1 MIDI input available.
6. Now open the MIDI keyboard app on your smartphone. Go to Input and select ‘Android USB Peripheral Port’ and tap on ‘Ok’. That means, your DAW will take input from your smartphone or tablet.
Now go to ‘Output’ and select the same ‘Android USB Peripheral Port’. That means MIDI keyboard app output data will be sent to the USB port of your phone to DAW.
7. Once you are done with that, open the DAW to change some MIDI settings. I am using Garageband and for MIDI settings, you need to go to Garageband Settings > MIDI Settings.
Make sure it is showing 1 MIDI input which is your smartphone. Since it is not a dedicated MIDI controller, you will not see any name of your device. It just works on the basis of drivers. You can also change output settings and get output directly to your Audiophile headphones.
8. You are all set to use your phone or tablet as a MIDI controller. Play some notes on your smartphone/tablet screen and you will see them on your DAW.
If you are hearing double sound from your PC/laptop speakers as well as from your phone’s speaker, you can go to MIDI keyboard app’s settings in your smartphone and turn off the ‘Enable Sound’ option.
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MIDI controller Not working on the Phone/tab? – Fix it
If you are not seeing any movement or hearing any sound in your DAW when you play any note on your phone, there are chances that something is not working. Here is some troubleshooting you can try to fix this.
1. USB Setting
Make sure you have selected ‘MIDI’ as USB settings. If it is selected as File transfer, Android Auto or any other USB settings, your phone will not be able to interact with DAW as a MIDI controller. Every time you connect the USB for the MIDI controller, make sure you change USB Settings to MIDI.
2. Input/Output Settings
There are 2 important settings that let the MIDI keyboard know where to take and send the MIDI output. Make sure you have selected ‘Android USB Peripheral Port’ in both input and output. Check now to see if it is on the right option or on ‘None’.
3. Reset MIDI Driver
If your DAW is not recognizing your smartphone as a MIDI controller, you might need to reset the MIDI driver. For that, you need to go to Garageband Settings > MIDI Settings > Reset MIDI Driver.
For FL Studio, you need to go to MIDI settings FL Studio and tap on Refresh Device list. Your phone must be listed in the Output and Input list as a MIDI controller.
4. Replace the Adapter or USB Cable
Crosscheck if the USB adapter and cable are working fine. If either of them is faulty or not doing its function, there would be a communication barrier between smartphone and computer. For smooth working, make sure you are using the original cable and a good USB adapter (if using).
5. Check the Volume
Chances are volume knobs are somehow jumped to zero and you are not hearing anything. Make sure the master volume is more than 0 so that you can hear some sound from the speakers. Also, check Velocity on the MIDI keyboard app and it must be more than 0 otherwise you will not hear anything.
These are some of the things you can do if your phone is not working as a MIDI controller. Also, the MIDI keyboard app only works on Android 7.0 and above devices. If you are running below Android 7.0, this app will not work.
Use Android Phone/Tablet as MIDI controller: Its Your Turn Now
That’s how you can use your Android smartphone as a MIDI controller. The whole interface gets super intuitive while playing music on a smartphone and getting recorded in your DAW. Playing music on a smartphone’s touch screen is far better than playing piano notes on a keyboard.
It also solves the issue of limited keys on a MIDI controller. The 49 keys MIDI controller is not only expensive but also takes up space whereas this MIDI keyboard app on your smartphone offers you 88 Keys that make it easy to play chords, and melodies without any octave issues.
If you want to play music on your smartphone with a professional DAW and don’t want to buy an additional, expensive, bulky 49 keys MIDI controller, you will be more than happy to use an Android phone/tablet as a MIDI controller.