How to Play a Piano on a Computer

Piano keyboard near a man using a laptop

Making music is easier than ever these days: the PC makes it possible to create a huge variety of sounds by pressing a few buttons. A piano keyboard quickly transforms the computer into a complete sound station.

There are several ways to connect a piano keyboard to your PC as a regular keyboard would (which you could also modify with the ideas you can find at helveticaforever). The easiest of these is to buy a USB piano keyboard, which comes with a music software starter package. You can also connect a MIDI keyboard via a sound card or an external interface.

MIDI stands for “musical instrument digital interface”, which translates as “digital interface for musical instruments”. This allows you to control digital instruments. These are usually part of more complex music programs such as Logic, Reason, or Cubase, which cost several hundred euros in the original version and are used for the production, recording, and editing of multi-track compositions.

The advantage of a MIDI interface is the extended possibilities: For example, you can also use the weighted keyboard of a digital piano as an input for sounds from the computer. Often external sound cards or MIDI interfaces (also called interfaces) also include the possibility to connect other instruments such as guitars or microphones.

If you want to create your own compositions on the PC in the long term, and you also want to record acoustic instruments via microphone or electric instruments (such as electric guitar and electric bass) via cable, an interface like “US-122” from Tascam is recommended. You can then connect a MIDI keyboard to this via the MIDI IN input.

If you are planning to get to know making music on the PC first and prefer a quick, easy solution to connect a piano keyboard to your PC, you should buy a USB keyboard in which software with virtual instruments (e.g. various organ sounds) is included.


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A USB piano keyboard that installs itself

Recommended in the price-performance ratio is the “M-Audio eKeys37” – a MiniKeyboard with 37 keys. It is very easy to install: you plug the supplied USB cable into a free USB port. Then the operating systems Windows

XP and MAC OS X automatically install the keyboard. For Windows 98 SE / ME / 2000, as well as OMS under MAC OS 9.1 or higher corresponding drivers, are included. Prices for the device start at €44.90.

The included software is versatile and offers you numerous possibilities to use the piano keyboard both for learning and for your own compositions.

With the program, “Picture Board” children can learn animal names, numbers, or the alphabet by combining sounds with the pictures presented. The software “Music Teacher” contains 30 lessons from the basics of keyboard playing to the development of the individual composition. Furthermore, there is the accompanying function “Music Teacher Band”, which ensures a great sound experience with only a few means.

“Sound Studio II” is a multi-track recording studio where you can let your creativity run wild with the piano keyboard, from simple melodies to sophisticated arrangements.

If you want to create sounds and play the piano on your computer keyboard, you will find numerous programs for free download. The program Click MusicalKEYS, for example, shows you a piano keyboard, where you can play individual notes with the keys of the keyboard. Around 130 instruments are included, from guitar, bass & piano to pistol shots and the sound of waves. There’s even the option to record your composition and play back the sequence of notes.

Output to a MIDI file is possible via an additional plug-in from the manufacturer’s side so that you can process the compositions in other music programs. The only limitation: the software only runs on Windows.