Get Funding & Stay in Control

Get an Estimate

What is a MIDI Interface and How Does It Work?

What is a MIDI Interface and How Does It Work?

Everyone and anyone who’s ever had an interest in making music has heard of, or experimented with MIDI. It’s one of the most thrown-around words in the music industry, but for beginner musicians or producers, what it stands for might not actually be very clear. Is it a keyboard? Is it a production tool? What exactly can you do with it, and which are the best options available on the market today? We’ll dwell into all of that, and more, so read on to learn everything you need to know about this iconic piece of equipment. 

What is a MIDI interface?

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a technical standard in the music industry that connects various electronic musical instruments, computers, amps, and other audio devices for the purpose of recording, playing, or mixing music. You might have heard about MIDI keyboards, but a MIDI interface is much more than that. A MIDI keyboard can produce various sounds, not just piano or keyboard sounds, thus eliminating the need for multiple music instruments. This means it comes in handy when working from a home recording studio or having limited space to accommodate various instruments like drums, guitars, or pianos.

How does a MIDI interface work?

As its name suggests, a MIDI interface is just that - an interface. It’s not an instrument per se, but a protocol, or interface, between electronic musical instruments, computers, and other audio devices. It doesn’t just reproduce the sounds made by a musical instrument, but analyzes the information about the music notes and sounds, sends it to another device, like a receiver, which then generates the sounds. 

A MIDI interface serves as a bridge between other MIDI devices and electronic musical instruments or computers. It receives and generates sound through input and output ports that connect it to other devices, such as laptops, synthesizers, keyboards, electronic drum machines, and any other similar devices. 

For instance, a MIDI interface connected to a drum machine will send information about the notes played to a receiver device, such as a laptop running a DAW. The software will use this information and translate it into sounds, according to pre-established settings. This way, you can play around with sounds, mixing and fine-tuning until you get the exact drum sound and feel you’re looking for. 

[banner bold_title="Copyright Your Music" title="And keep your work protected" cta_title="Copyright Your Music" cta_url=""][/banner]

Types of MIDI interfaces

Now that we know what a MIDi interface does, let’s look at some of the most common types of interfaces you might come across, and what they’re used for. Depending on what your specific needs are, you might opt for different types of devices. The most common MIDI interfaces feature USB ports that allow you to easily connect them to any device of your choosing. They also usually feature various input and output ports, so you can connect multiple devices and instruments at the same time, if you need to. 

Another option is to use a MIDI interface that connects via traditional 5-pin DIN connectors. You might have a lot of older or analog devices that don’t all feature USB ports, so in that case, this is the type of connection you’ll be needing. Then you have certain devices, like drum machines or synthesizers, that have MIDI ports built in, in which case you’ll have no problem connecting other MIDI devices to them directly. In fact, these MIDI-enabled devices can also function as MIDI interfaces on their own. Last but not least, some modern versions of MIDI devices allow for wireless connection via Bluetooth technology, eliminating the need for annoying cables. 

What to look for when choosing a MIDI interface 

If you’re in the market to explore and experiment with MIDI interfaces, but are not sure where to start, there are a few things to keep in mind before making your decision. First is compatibility. You want to make sure - obviously - that the devices you have can connect seamlessly among each other. Find out if you need wireless connections, analog 5-pin connectors, USB or even USB-C ports, and narrow your search from there. 

At the same time, don’t forget about software; are you using Windows, macOS, or some other operating software? Make sure the MIDI device you purchase is compatible with that, to ensure a truly seamless experience. Some types of MIDI devices are developed to work best on a specific operating system, so do a little bit of research to make sure you’ve got the right fit. 

Then you’ll have to think about how many electronic instruments and devices you have, or plan to have in the future. This factor is critical, because you want to look at MIDI devices that have multiple input or output ports, to accommodate what you have, or any additional devices and instruments you might want to add in the future. Of course, when it comes to wireless devices, things are a lot easier, but as you know, Bluetooth connections are not always perfect, so you’ll have to take that into consideration, as well. 

[banner bold_title="Get an Advance" title="without losing creative control" cta_title="Get Funded Now" cta_url=""][/banner]

Last but not least, if you’re not an expert on MIDI devices, you’ll want to look at recommendations by other artists or producers. What brands and manufacturers do they use and recommend? There are certain names that ring heavy in the industry, like Yamaha, Akai, Korg, or Native Instruments, just to name a few, and you won’t go wrong with these in most cases. They offer high-end devices but also affordable, basic options for beginners, so don’t spend your money on cheap, low-quality products and do some thorough research instead. A good MIDI device is worth the investment in the long run, and it will serve your recording and producing needs for years to come. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a MIDI interface used for? 

A MIDI interface is used to facilitate communication between electronic musical instruments, computers, and other MIDI-enabled devices by transmitting and receiving MIDI data. It allows musicians to connect MIDI keyboards, synthesizers, drum machines, and controllers to computers for music production, recording, and performance. MIDI interfaces enable users to trigger virtual instrument sounds, record MIDI performances, synchronize multiple devices, and control software parameters, thus serving as a vital tool in modern music production and composition.

Do you need a MIDI interface? 

Whether you need a MIDI interface depends on your specific musical setup and goals. If you plan to connect MIDI-compatible instruments or controllers to a computer for music production, recording, or live performance, a MIDI interface is often essential for reliable communication and integration. However, if you're solely using standalone MIDI hardware without connecting to a computer or if your devices feature built-in MIDI connectivity and meet your requirements, you may not necessarily need a separate MIDI interface. Ultimately, consider your workflow, connectivity needs, and the compatibility of your devices to determine if a MIDI interface is necessary for your setup.

Join Xposure Music and gain access to some of the best music industry professionals in the U.S. Top experts from Sony, Columbia, Def Jam, or Universal have already joined our platform, and they’re ready to give invaluable, on-point feedback on your work, which can help you land that dream record deal or publishing deal you’ve been working towards. Sign up now and reap the rewards.

If you’re looking to kickstart your music career but have limited resources, we can help you get funding for your next project while staying in control of your own work and career trajectory. You keep 100% ownership of your masters and get an advance ranging from $1,000 to $3 million to get your career off the ground. Get an estimate now and start turning your dream into reality.

No items found.


Gregory Walfish
Co-founder of Xposure Music, Gregory Walfish stands at the intersection of music, tech, and culture. With a software engineering background, he's passionate about artist development and technology.

Artist Development

Xposure Blog Topics