Say you’ve got a keyboard or digital piano and want to hook it up to a tablet or smartphone and see what it can do alongside the many sound-generating and tweaking apps out there. In this blog, we will find out if your keyboard or piano will be compatible, what kind of software you’ll need, and more!

The first thing I advise is to (if possible) use a tablet instead of a phone. While a phone works just as well, it’s much easier to use the various available apps via a larger screen.

Can You Connect a Keyboard or Digital Piano up to a Smartphone or Tablet?

Using MIDI with a Tablet or Smartphone

A lot of information about MIDI can be found on the internet and as such, some of it can get pretty confusing. The only thing you need to know about MIDI for this particular blog is that MIDI essentially refers to little pieces of information – and doesn’t refer to the sound of your keyboard. Via a MIDI-carrying signal, your keyboard is able to let your tablet or phone know which note is being played and for how long, and with many keyboards, how much pressure has been applied to the key to produce the note. The software on your tablet or phone then takes all of that information and applies it to a selected sound.

Can You Connect a Keyboard or Digital Piano up to a Smartphone or Tablet?
On the far left, you can see a USB-B port and on the right, a classic MIDI DIN port

Why Use MIDI? What Can it Do?

Next, we find out how to make a MIDI connection between your keyboard or digital piano and your tablet or phone. Once connected, you’ll be able to use apps like Garageband (iPad), or Walk Band (Android) and countless other apps that support MIDI, so that, using nothing but your keyboard, you’ll be able to play a mass of different virtual instruments. If you record something in MIDI and make a little mistake, then fixing it is easy since everything can be changed later. Another good reason to use MIDI is that, when using educational software like Simply Piano, the results are far better than just using the built-in microphone of your tablet or phone since the app is able to ‘see’ exactly the notes that have been played thanks to the incoming MIDI signal.

Is My Keyboard MIDI Compatible?

If you have a keyboard, the first thing you need to check is if it can be hooked up to your phone or tablet via a MIDI connection. This means that your keyboard needs to be fitted with a MIDI OUT port or a USB-MIDI port. Normally, you’ll find the port on the back of your keyboard or digital piano, but if you’re not sure if you’ve got one, take a look at your user manual. If you don’t have any kind of MIDI port, then unfortunately, the rest of this blog might not be that useful – unless you’re willing to get a new piano or keyboard.

What if it’s Not?

If your keyboard isn’t MIDI compatible and doesn’t come fitted with some kind of MIDI port, and you still want to use MIDI, then you’ll need to upgrade your instrument. To do the stuff we explain later on in this blog, all you’ll need is a simple MIDI keyboard, which can be pretty cheap, but what you need to know before you buy one is that they don’t come with any built-in sounds. To use a MIDI keyboard, you always need to couple it with some kind of external device that can serve as the sound source, like a tablet, phone, or computer.

My Keyboard has MIDI! What’s Next?

The next step is, of course, to connect your keyboard to your phone or tablet. But what if your phone or tablet only came with a port for the charger? No bother! There are special cables and adapters that you can pick up to quickly solve this problem. Just make sure to pick one that’s definitely compatible with your device. So, you might have an iPad or iPhone with a Lightning port, a modern Android phone, or an older Android phone with a micro-USB port – whatever you’ve got, we’ll explain how it can be hooked up to your keyboard below.

Step-By-Step Connection Guide

In this bit, we’ll take you through the whole process. To make a MIDI connection between your keyboard and phone or tablet, you need be aware that there are two different ways to send and receive MIDI signals: via USB and via ‘classic’ MIDI plugs and sockets.

Does Your Keyboard or Piano Have a MIDI-USB Port?

Then use this one! This port is way easier to use that the classic MIDI ports, and here’s how you connect it up:

1. If your keyboard has a USB port, then it’s likely to be a USB-B output (which is more square), and you can immediately assume that it’s MIDI compatible. By using the USB-B MIDI port, you don’t need to add a MIDI-interface, since as long as the port is Class Compliant, you just need to use the right kind of cable.

2. As we’ve said already, the USB-MIDI output of a keyboard is almost always a USB-B port. On this basis, we’ll carry on with the blog. If you do have a different kind of USB port on your keyboard, then it’s unlikely that it’s designed for a MIDI connection, and is probably for slotting in a USB stick. If you’re not sure, check your manual.

3. Here’s the kind of cable you’ll need depending on your device:

  • For a device with a USB-C port (like an Android tablet or phone) then you’ll need a USB-B to USB-C cable like this one.
  • For an iPad or iPhone that has a Lightning port, you’ll need a Lighting to USB adapter. Then, you can use a USB-B to USB-A cable to connect it up to your keyboard.
  • For the 30-pin port of older iPad models, you’ll need the more classic iPad Camera Connection Kit. Then, you can use a USB-B to USB-A cable to connect it up to your keyboard.
  • For any device with a micro-USB port (like the older Android gear), then all you’ll need is a micro-USB to USB-B cable.

Does Your Keyboard Have an Old-School DIN-MIDI Port?

1. Can you only find one or two older DIN MIDI ports on the back of your keyboard or piano? Then a MIDI cable can be connected to the MIDI OUT. Even if you have a double MIDI cable with two DIN MIDI plugs, you only need to use one of the two plugs and it doesn’t matter which one you use.

2. Now, we need to send that MIDI signal to a tablet or phone and to do this, we use a MIDI interface. A great example of a MIDI interface is the iRig MIDI 2 interface, which is specially designed for working with iOS and Android and therefore will be compatible with most tablets and phones.* It’s also compatible with Windows and Mac computers.

*If you’d prefer to use a different MIDI interface, check that it’s compatible with smartphones and tablets. Otherwise, you run the risk of too little power being transferred via the USB or Lightning port.

3. The iRig MIDI 2 comes with a Mini-DIN to Lightning cable and a Mini-DIN to USB-A cable included. This way, modern iPads and iPhones can be connected up as well as most Windows and Mac computers. Is your gear different?

Now you know what you need to connect your keyboard to your tablet or smartphone!

Is Bluetooth-MIDI Any Good?

Wireless technology is only growing in popularity and much wireless equipment is more stable than ever. As such, some keyboards and digital pianos are Bluetooth-MIDI capable as standard, and if not, you can get external Bluetooth MIDI adapters so you can send a MIDI signal from a Bluetooth-capable MIDI device to your keyboard without needing any cables. Bluetooth MIDI is great if you’re working in a studio space and want to keep it as clean and organised as possible – or if you simply want to bridge a wider distance between the keyboard and device without having to use a ridiculously long cable.

But… There are Two Things That Need Checking First

  • Check and then double check that your phone, tablet or other device is supported since this will depend on the model. Also, adapters don’t often simply connect via Bluetooth in the way that you’re probably used to – instead, you need to use a special app.
  • While it varies depending on the make and model, there will often be a small delay in signal transfer. Sometimes the delay is just a little too big and more experienced musicians will notice it immediately and be unable to play well. While I’m certainly not advising against using Bluetooth-MIDI, it’s this problem – which is often caused by connectivity issues – that can mean that things won’t necessarily work perfectly. So, I’d rather not give you in-depth instructions on the matter since the goal of this blog is to set you up with a watertight plan!

Can You Connect a Keyboard or Digital Piano up to a Smartphone or Tablet?

I Don’t Want MIDI, Just Audio!

In some cases, it might be nicer to record the sound of your keyboard rather than work with MIDI. Maybe you have a specific sound that only your keyboard has, or sounds that you’ve created yourself and you want to record with them! Usually, this is also possible:

1. Around the back of your keyboard, you’re likely to find one or two jack outputs:

  • If you have two line-outputs, or a Left (L) and Right (R) port, then you can connect up two jack cables fitted with standard 6.3mm jack plugs.
  • If you only have a smaller mini-jack headphone output (like the one you get with most smartphones), then you can use this kind of cable. If the output is bigger, then you can use a standard 6.3mm jack cable like this one.

2. Then, you need to use these jack cables to send the audio to your phone or tablet. But, most of the time, a tablet or phone only has a headphone/microphone input which isn’t compatible, so you’ll need an interface, like the IK Multimedia iRig Pro DUO: an audio interface that’s specifically designed to work with iOS and Android gear. Of course, there are other interfaces available that do this, but for ease, we’re going to use the iRig Pro DUO to explain how to connect it up and how it works.

3. Plug the other end of the jack cables you have connected to your keyboard into inputs 1 and 2 of the iRig Pro DUO. The interface also comes with a number of different cables included so you can connect it to your device: a Lightning cable, a normal USB-A cable, and a USB-C cable. If you have an older iOS device, then you will need to buy a 30-pin cable separately. If you have an older Android device, then you’ll need a USB micro-B to Mini-DIN cable.

4. Now, you can use software like iOS-compatible Garageband to record the sound of your keyboard to your iPad or phone and then listen back to it. If you have an Android device, there are plenty of free DAW apps available via the Google Play Store – n-Track Studio is a really good example.

Can You Connect a Keyboard or Digital Piano up to a Smartphone or Tablet?

So, did everything work out? Let us know how it went in the comments below!

See Also…

» Keyboards
» Digital Pianos
» MIDI Keyboards
» Synthesizers
» All Keyboard Instruments & Accessories

» MIDI Cables
» USB Cables
» Audio Cables
» MIDI Interfaces
» Audio Interfaces for iOS/Android
» All Audio Interfaces

» How to Solo Over Chord Progressions
» How to Play Basic Piano Chords
» What’s the Difference Between a Keyboard & a Synthesizer?
» Help! My MIDI Keyboard isn’t Making Any Sound!
» What’s the Difference Between a Keyboard & Digital Piano?

4 responses
  1. Maria says:

    hi I’ve got a casio ap 80r I’ve bought the USB cable and otg adapter to fit my android phone but its dosent seem to connect I’m wating to use flowkey with the cable to play as the microphone dosent pick up all the notes can anyone help me as its driving me crazy thanks

  2. Doug says:

    Is it possible to connect a digital piano to a Polycom phone used for conference calls?

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