28 Apr

How to use MIDI to learn Piano?

Index

  1. An Introduction to MIDI.
  2. What is Synthesia?
  3. How to setup Synthesia?
  4. Final thoughts.

 

Hello to all my fellow music fans who are into learning music.
I know it’s really costly to get a teacher and you have to invest a lot of time in learning the theory, which is great once you have learned it, you’ll understand music from its soul. Nevertheless, you want to learn a specific song before a deadline and don’t have much time to invest. Let’s say you’re going to be at a party and want to show off your musical skills to someone. You need to learn a song for now. Then let’s learn it together. I am going to guide you on your awesome journey, for now, with the help of MIDI.

An Introduction to MIDI:

MIDI is a technical standard for connecting Musical Instruments, computers and audio playing devices, editing and recording music. This highly popular standard was released on 1983 by Dave Smith and his team. From then to now, MIDI has been one of the most popular standards in recording, editing music and for you: Learning Music.

Shortly before the appearance of MIDI, DCB, another polyphonic control system was made. But due to the success of MIDI it was short lived.

What is Synthesia?

For learning using MIDI we need a MIDI file of the song you want to learn and also a MIDI software. And what’s Synthesia? You guessed it right! Synthesia is a MIDI Software. Synthesia is described as a way to learn a song without absolutely knowing nothing about Sheet Music reading. And it delivers what the developer say.

Image: Falling notes in Synthesia with finger indications.
Image: Falling notes in Synthesia with finger indications.

This MIDI programming tool can be used to learn Piano (Digital)/Keyboard with ease. To learn any song you need the MIDI file of that song, which you can find on the internet. Our store has MIDIs for many Bollywood Songs. Then using the MIDI file you can learn to play the song by the help of falling notes. It’s like you’re having your tutor near you to guide you on which key to press and when.

How to setup Synthesia?

 

Synthesia can be downloaded for free from their website which is a trial version. Duh! But good things come at a cost. Maybe they heard Joker? “If you’re good at something, never do it for free” or in this case never give your software for free. But, let’s omit that.

 

 

Download Synthesia for Windows

Download Synthesia for macOS

Download Synthesia for Android

Download Synthesia for iOS

Note: To play MIDI files other than the included songs you need to buy Synthesia Premium.

Once you have completed installing. Let’s complete the setup.

 

Perquisites

· A computer. Windows/Mac.

· MIDI Supported Keyboard.

· An USB B Type Cable.

· MIDI Software. We’ll be using Synthesia for this time.

If you’re ready with all these things, let’s proceed.

Synthesia on Windows/macOS

Image: Synthesia welcome screen.
Image: Synthesia welcome screen.

1. Open Settings and click “Your Keyboard Name followed by USB-MIDI”. For me it’s Casio USB-MIDI.

Image: Synthesia settings [Music Devices]
Image: Synthesia settings [Music Devices]

2. Now, enable “Use input from this device”

Image: Input from CASIO USB-MIDI is now enabled.
Image: Input from CASIO USB-MIDI is now enabled.

3. Now, let’s set the note range. It simply is the number of keys in you Keyboard. A directed by the software you have to play the lowest (Key at the left end) and highest (Key at the right end) note on your keyboard.

Image: Note range has been set. My keyboard has a note range from C2 to C7.
Image: Note range has been set. My keyboard has a note range from C2 to C7.

CASIO keyboards don’t come in 88 standard keys. They come in 49, 61, or 76 keys. Dunno why! And because this dissimilarity between different manufacturers, it’s important to set note range. 

4. Go back to settings and from Music Output choose your Keyboard and enable music output.

Image: Music Output has been enabled. Now Synthesia will route the sounds to my Keyboard.
Image: Music Output has been enabled. Now Synthesia will route the sounds to my Keyboard.

5. Scroll down to find an option to Test. If the test gave sounds from your Keyboard. Everything’s set and good to go.

Synthesia on Android/iOS

Yes, you can use your small device too. And I feel it’s more convenient than taking your whole PC or Laptop near your Keyboard. And if you have a Tablet it will be icing on cake. You can keep it on your Music Book Rest and play along with Synthesia.

Image: Synthesia on Android
Image: Synthesia on Android
Image: Synthesia asking permission in Android.
Image: Synthesia asking permission in Android.

The setup is same as doing on Windows/macOS. But for the sake of completion I am going to briefly describe the process. Maybe with images.

1. Download and install Synthesia.

2. Open Synthsia.

3. Then connect your Keyboard to your phone/tablet using an OTG connector. Or a USB type C to B (Male) cable. For iOS devices you have to get Lightning to USB B type cable. Which is hard to find, so it’s better to take Lightning to USB A adapter and use it. (Not applicable to iPad Pro 2018 and later users. Apple got rid of their old connector in favor of USB C.)

4. In Android you’ll get a notification seeking permission from Synthesia to use the connected MIDI Device, which in this case is your Keyboard.

Image: Synthesia asking permission in Android.
Image: Synthesia asking permission in Android.

5. Give Synthesia the permission and then follow the guide above to configure the rest. The process is completely identical to Windows and macOS hereafter.

Image: Me using Synthesia free play on my Android device.
Image: Me using Synthesia free play on my Android device.

Synthesia for Android/iOS is cheaper than PC/macOS version. But, identical in features.

Bonus: My keyboard doesn’t have a USB Port!?

Yep, many keyboards, mainly older ones don’t come with a USB Port. They have a dedicated MIDI port instead.

Image: MIDI Port. OUT and IN.
Image: MIDI Port. OUT and IN.

If your keyboard has these ports, you need a “MIDI to USB converter” for connecting your keyboard to the computer. Then you can follow the guide above to finish the setup.

Image: MIDI to USB converter.
Image: MIDI to USB converter.

4. Final thoughts

Synthesia is a great software to learn music and is a stepping stone towards your musical journey behold. You can learn any song with ease and without knowing anything about Keyboard, but with a will and some google searches maybe or visit here to get more tutorials and learn. It’s free stuff. Make use of it 🙂 Will meet you in the next article. Till then, good bye!

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