What is a MIDI Controller? | Everything you Need to Know

Are you new to music production and wondering what a MIDI controller is?

MIDI controllers let you control other instruments via MIDI signals. 

There are many different types of MIDI controllers, from simple devices that give you control over notes to complex units that let you adjust nearly every parameter in your digital audio workstation.

In this article, we’ll outline everything you need to know about MIDI controllers to help you decide if you need one.


A MIDI controller is an electronic device that generates and transmits Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) data. It controls other MIDI-enabled devices, such as synthesizers, sound modules, and sequencers.

The most common type of MIDI controller is the keyboard controller, which producers use to play notes and trigger sounds on a synthesizer, sound module, or computer. 

Other types of MIDI controllers include wind controllers, drum pads, and guitar controllers.

What is MIDI?

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface

It is a protocol that allows electronic musical instruments and computers to communicate. 

History of MIDI

The history of MIDI begins in the early 1980s. 

A group of electronic music enthusiasts and engineers came together to create a standardized protocol for electronic musical instruments.

This protocol would allow different devices to communicate and exchange data. 

The team designed MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) as a way to do this and released the first version of the protocol in 1983.

MIDI quickly became popular among musicians and producers as it allowed for greater flexibility and creativity in the studio.

The protocol has undergone several revisions over the years, and today it is an essential part of many electronic music production setups. 

What is a MIDI Controller?

A MIDI controller generates MIDI data. It uses MIDI data to control synthesizers and virtual instruments that respond to MIDI commands. 

MIDI data consists of a series of messages that are sent between devices to control them. These messages contain information about things like note values, velocity, and pitch.

The most popular form of MIDI controllers are MIDI keyboards, but there are also MIDI drum machines, guitars, and wind controllers. 

What is a MIDI Keyboard? 

MIDI keyboards typically have a built-in keyboard for playing notes and a variety of buttons and pads that you can use to send MIDI commands.  

Some MIDI keyboards also include knobs and sliders for additional control over sound parameters.

They range between 25 and 88-keys – from synth-action to fully-weighted keys. 

25 and 49 key models are ideal for playing basic note and chord progressions, while 61 and 88 key models can accommodate complex piano playing. 

There are also MIDI keyboards with a built-in arpeggiator, sequencer, automatic DAW integration, and more. 

How to setup MIDI Controller in FL Studio

There are a few things you need to do to set up a MIDI controller in FL Studio. 

First, connect your MIDI controller to your computer. 

Once your MIDI controller is connected, launch FL Studio and open the MIDI Settings menu. 

To do this, select the Options tab and click “MIDI Settings.” Then, go down to the Input section and select “enable.”

How to setup MIDI Controller in Logic Pro X

1. First, plug your MIDI controller into your computer’s USB port.

2. Next, open Logic Pro X and go to the Preferences menu.

3. Select the “Audio” tab and then click on the “MIDI” sub-tab.

4. In the “MIDI Controllers” sub-tab, make sure that your MIDI controller is selected in the “Input” drop-down menu.

5. You can customize your MIDI controller in the Control Surfaces > Controller assignments tab. 

How to Set up a MIDI Controller in Ableton Live 11

1. Connect your MIDI controller to your computer using a USB cable.

2. Launch Ableton Live.

3. Go to Preferences > MIDI.

4. In the MIDI section under inputs, select your MIDI controller. 

Takeaway: What is a MIDI Controller?

MIDI controllers are devices that allow you to create and control digital music. 

They come in various shapes and sizes, but all MIDI controllers have certain features in common. These features include:

  • Buttons: Buttons are used to trigger sounds or create drum beats.
  • Knobs: Knobs are used to control a sound’s volume, pitch, or other parameters.
  • Sliders: Sliders can be used to control the same things as knobs, or you can use them to create effects like tremolo or vibrato.
  • Pads: Pads are usually velocity-sensitive, meaning they will make a louder sound if you hit them harder. You can use pads to play chords, create drum beats, or trigger samples.

If you’re looking to get more out of your music, a MIDI controller may be just what you need.