What do I need to connect my keyboard to my computer?

There are various ways in which you can connect your MIDI keyboard to your computer. Here are details of the main ways:

Sound card

Many soundcards often come fitted with a joystick port, a 15-way female D-type connector. As well as being a joystick port, this connector can also work as a MIDI port. You can buy a special cable, called a Soundblaster MIDI cable, to make the connections.

Typically, a SoundBlaster cable has a 15-way male D-type connector on one end that plugs into the joystick port of your soundcard (it doesn't have to be a SoundBlaster card) and two 5-pin din plugs on the other that plug into the MIDI sockets on your MIDI instrument. One of these dins is MIDI IN and the other is MIDI OUT. Typically, the dins plug directly into the sockets on your keyboard. Several SoundBlaster MIDI cables also come with an additional 15-way female D-type connector into which you can plug a joystick.

If you have the option of using the soundcard MIDI port, the cable is often cheaper than a dedicated MIDI interface.

MIDI interface

The other typical way of connecting a MIDI keyboard to a computer is to use a dedicated MIDI interface. This is a special piece of hardware which you attach to your computer. Many of these are USB.

MIDI interfaces range from simple devices, providing one MIDI IN and one MIDI OUT, to advanced configurations providing many sets of INs and OUTs. Some MIDI interfaces are simply a special cable, with all the necessary electronics built into a housing unit integral to the cable. Others are physical boxes into which you must plug separate standard MIDI cables and a USB connector. There is a wide variety of types and styles, available from several manufacturers.

In nearly all cases, you will probably have to install a driver (which should be supplied with the MIDI interface) in order to use the interface.

If you do need extra standard MIDI cables, make sure you use MIDI cables, not DIN cables (the wiring configuration is different).

Other connector

Some keyboards, as well as having standard MIDI sockets, also have special sockets for direct connection to a computer. These sockets might be USB or, in older instruments, a serial port. In either case, if you decide to use the special computer socket on your MIDI instrument, you will probably need to install a driver and use an appropriate cable (sometimes you have to purchase such cables separately).


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