What if you own a MIDI keyboard and just want a piece of software for practicing piano or messing around? Then you most certainly don’t need to purchase any expensive DAW. In this post, we take a deep dive into the best free MIDI keyboard software for both Windows, iOS, Linux, and Android.
Let’s dive right in!
At a Glance: Our Pick of the Best Free MIDI Keyboard Software
- Best Overall: Waveform Free
- Best for macOS: GarageBand
- Best for Windows: Piano 10
- Best for Linux: Surge
- Best Android App: Perfect Piano
For Every Platform
Compatibility: macOS | Windows | Linux
Waveform Free is a fully-featured DAW software with built-in MIDI keyboard software that offers some great compositional tools on hand.
If you’re a mediocre keyboardist like myself, the MIDI Chord Player puts all chord types at your fingertips. It’s a great way to create and experiment with interesting chord patterns without having to play the chords yourself. It also allows producers to create custom chords, which expands the possibilities even further.
The MIDI Pattern Generator is a great MIDI tool for generating leads and basslines. It allows you to create synchronized melodies at the push of a button. This is great if you want to experiment and unlock some ideas quickly.
Overall, Waveform Free is more than a great free MIDI keyboard software. Its powerful working environment allows for seemingly endless possibilities for both audio recording and MIDI sequencing.
Download: Waveform Free
LABS by Spitfire Audio
Compatibility: macOS | Windows
Unlike Waveform Free, LABS by Spitfire Audio is standalone software, and it requires a DAW like Waveform to act as a host. Feel free to take a look at our list of the best free DAWs that you can download immediately and start using LABS.
With that being said, it’s definitely one of the best free MIDI keyboard software on the market.
Spitfire Audio’s LABS is a free MIDI library that encompasses a wide range of beautiful, organic-sounding instruments. The library includes instruments such as strings, pianos, drums, vocals, synths, and brass.
Even if the tweaking possibilities are limited compared to premium VSTs, you’ll get tons of pre-configured high-quality sounds at your fingertips. The interface is simple yet intuitive, and easy to use for beginners.
One drawback is that you have to download the Spitfire Audio app to be able to use any of the sounds in LABS. Installing the instruments can be frustrating. For instance, I had some error messages that kept popping up even if I installed everything correctly.
Lastly, if you want to use the full library of instruments you probably need to free up some space on your hard drive. Each LABS instrument requires a minimum of 500 MB.
Download: LABS by Spitfire Audio
Compatibility: macOS | Windows | Linux
If you’re into electronic music, you’ll love this free MIDI keyboard software. Surge is a powerful, versatile, open-source, award-winning synthesizer. Since Surge offers many synthesis methods, the tweaking possibilities are endless. This free VST does everything a $200 premium synthesizer does. In fact, it was previously sold for $99.
At a first glance, Surge looks rather complex. But because of how it’s put together, the effortless workflow is easy to learn. So what makes Surge a great software for MIDI controllers?
First, you can create just about any sound you want. Secondly, if your MIDI device features knobs or faders, you can map them to any parameter within Surge and control them directly from your keyboard.
With Surge, you can both practice synthesis and sequence in your DAW. It’s the perfect software for your MIDI controller!
Compatibility: macOS | Windows | Linux
Before explaining MuseScore any further, it’s important to point out that this is a scoring and composing tool dedicated to notation. Even if it supports MIDI keyboard input, if you’re not interested in notation I would recommend any other free MIDI keyboard software on this list.
One of the coolest things about MuseScore is that you can input MIDI files and convert them into music notation. You can also import PDF files of orchestral music and have MuseScore create notations that you can edit with the help of your MIDI controller.
Even if MuseScore is completely free, it can compete with premium music notation software. The interface is clean yet powerful, and if you’re a beginner you’ll find it very easy to navigate. Also, the software gets updated frequently with even more powerful features.
Compatibility: macOS | Windows | Linux
Tired of messing around with downloading software? Then I’ve got some good news for you! Pianu.com is a web-based MIDI keyboard software that allows you to start playing within seconds. All you need is a network connection and to have your MIDI keyboard connected to your computer. Then, head over to pianu.com/keyboard-page and press “Detect My Keyboard”. That’s it!
Pianu.com is not very complex. Think of it as a platform for learning to play the piano rather than recording and editing MIDI. There is a lot of built-in piano lessons that can take you from an absolute beginner to a decent keyboardist.
One drawback is the piano sound. Although it works like a charm for practice, you don’t want to use pianu.com for recording or live performances. The notes lack sustain and they don’t ring out as a real piano would.
Compatibility: macOS | Windows | Linux
Aria Maestosa is an open-source MIDI sequencer and editor. Although the interface looks rather bare-bones, it’s full of editing capabilities. Similar to MuseScore, Aria Maestosa is more of a composition tool than it is a recording tool. However, it’s a MIDI keyboard software that allows you to record and edit MIDI files.
The software includes a standard piano editor where you can see notes and chords. It also features a guitar editor for tablature, a drum editor for beats, and a score editor for editing of classical musical notation. Lastly, the controller editor allows you to adjust levels, envelope, sustain, dynamic curves, and more.
Unfortunately, Aria Maestosa is limited when it comes to voicings. All you have are tracks for piano, guitar, and drums. As with any MIDI track, you can always export it to your DAW of choice and manipulate the voicing.
Overall, Aria Maestosa is an easy-to-handle environment for creating and editing MIDI files. The software is light and it runs smoothly even if you don’t own a high-end computer
Download: Aria Maestosa
MIDI Keyboard Software For Windows
Compatibility: Windows 10 (10240.0 or higher)
Piano Time is a great option if you’re on a Windows 10 system and want a free MIDI keyboard software that allows true plug-and-play.
It’s more of an app but that doesn’t mean you need a phone or a tablet to use it. Similar to Apple, Windows is narrowing the gap between their different devices. This means that if you have Windows 10240.0 or higher, you can head over to the Microsoft Store and download Piano Time for free.
The ease of use is incredible as Piano Time will instantly recognize your MIDI keyboard as soon as you plug it into your computer. On the other hand, all you can really do with the app is jam and record. If you want to export your tracks, you’ll have to pay a small fee to be able to upgrade to the premium version. There are no options for tweaking the sound and you won’t find any additional effects like reverb or delay.
With that being said, Piano Time is great for learning as it comes pre-loaded with a few very basic tracks that you can play along with. The keys will light up and show you how to play along, and if you’re a beginner you have the option to slow the track down. There are also a few basic scale exercises you can play along with.
So who is Piano Time for? Any absolute beginner or child who wants to learn to play the piano. If you’re into songwriting and producing your own tracks, a dedicated DAW like Waveform Free will be more suitable for your needs.
Download: Piano Time
Compatibility: Xbox | Windows 10 (10240.0 or higher) | Windows 8.1
Similar to Piano Time, Piano 10 is a free piano app available for download in the Microsoft Store. To be able to use your MIDI keyboard, you have to enable MIDI support in the main menu and select your controller. It took me a while to figure that one out, and by only looking at the interface you can’t really tell what the different symbols in the top left corner mean.
So what differs Piano 10 from other piano apps? Surprisingly, it includes 126 different sounds to choose from. You can also alter the sound with various effects like reverb, echo, and sustain. Unfortunately, only one effect can be used at the same time.
Besides the effects and many sounds, Piano 10 also includes an auto-chord function. It lights up the keys of the chords while you’re playing, and you can scroll through different chord types to see how they’re played. Great for learning!
With Piano 10, you can save your work by exporting the clips as .xscore-files. Unfortunately, you can’t import them into another software, as they only can be opened in Piano 10.
Overall, Piano 10 is a great free MIDI keyboard software with more features than you would expect. The interface has some limitations, but that’s usually the case when it comes to pianos in pocket format.
Download: Piano 10
Compatibility: Windows | Linux
MidiEditor is a capable free MIDI software for Windows and Linux. Even if the graphical interface is outdated with its design from the mid-2000s, there is a lot of features under the hood. You can play, record, and edit MIDI data without any complications, and the distraction-free environment is a lot simpler to use than a full-featured DAW.
MidiEditor also comes with VST support, meaning you can load external virtual instruments to expand your compositions even further. It’s probably not necessary for beginners since MidiEditor already includes a wide range of patches, drum samples, loops, and more.
Overall, this is one of the best free MIDI software available today. Thanks to its simplicity, it’s a great learning tool for those who have never edited MIDI files before. It’s easy to adjust the BPM and make changes to your note patterns or drum beat.
The user interface isn’t that creative to work with but when you’re ready for more functionality, you can easily export your MIDI files into a full-featured DAW.
MIDI Keyboard Software For Mac
Compatibility: Mac | iPhone | iPad
The widely popular free audio editing software GarageBand needs no introduction. It comes with every iOS device, and the app is incredibly powerful for a free DAW. The Smart Controls is particularly powerful as they dynamically highlight the most effective parameters to tweak for any given sound you’ve loaded in GarageBand.
When it comes to built-in sound libraries, GarageBand includes a vast array of beautiful sampled pianos, acoustic basses, drums, leads, and pads. GarageBand also offers support for third-party AU plugins, meaning you can buy or download any external virtual instruments and load them into your projects.
This free DAW supports MIDI and allows you to edit and transpose MIDI files. The piano roll gives you a detailed overview of all notes, and you can change velocity, positioning, pitch, and duration, etc. The automated drummer track can convert audio files such as drum loops into MIDI, making them easier to edit.
Lastly, GarageBand comes with 40 free basic guitar and piano lessons that you can download and import into the interface. If you’re looking to become a better musician or instrumentalist, you can practice with the help of a MIDI controller.
Overall, Garageband is one of the most powerful free MIDI keyboard software available, and if you own an Apple device you probably already have it installed.
MIDI Keyboard Software On Android
Perfect Piano (Standalone)
Perfect Piano is a great piano app for Android phones and tablets. The app support standard MIDI protocol, meaning you can connect your MIDI keyboard through USB and start playing. Perfect Piano is extremely versatile as it includes multi-functional modes such as single-row, double-row, dual players, and chords.
One cool feature is the multiplayer connection. It allows you to participate in a real-time online chat, weekly competitions, song challenges, and more. It also features a “Learn to Play”-mode which allows you to learn thousands of popular music scores.
Like with all piano apps that I’ve tested, the sounds are programmed and not sampled from a real instrument. However, the sounds in Perfect Piano are quite impressive. Even if the app has an 88-key piano keyboard set to default, you can switch between instruments such as strings, synths, pipe organs, horns, and guitar. You can also download additional instruments within the app for free. Another handy feature that I liked was the possibility to change the number of keys on the screen.
Perfect Piano is the best free MIDI keyboard software for Android devices. With the multiplayer connection, it almost feels like a game where you can learn to play the piano. If you want to get rid of advertising and have even more songs to play along with, you can upgrade to the premium version for $2.99/month.
Download: Perfect Piano
How to Connect a MIDI Controller to Android
Connecting a MIDI controller to an Android device is easy. However, no phones or tablets have a standard USB slot built-in. What you need is an adapter cable.
So which one should you buy? It depends on what connections you have available on your phone/tablet and MIDI keyboard.
These are the most common USB types available on Android devices:
- USB C
- Micro-USB (for slightly older devices)
- Mini-USB (old devices)
If you don’t know what type of USB connectivity you have on your Android device, try and Google it or have a look in your user manual.
So what about the MIDI keyboard? Most standard keyboards feature a USB type B port, while some older controllers have dedicated MIDI in/out ports.
What you usually need is a converter that has a standard USB-A slot (female connection) at one end where you can connect your MIDI keyboard. At the other end, you’ll need a USB-C connection (male).
How Does MIDI Work?
First thing first, MIDI itself doesn’t produce any sound. It’s just a series of messages like “note on” and “note off”. MIDI signals are a series of binary digits that computers understand. When you press a note on your MIDI keyboard, it sends instructions to your computer. Besides “note on” and “note off”, these instructions include:
The instructions are picked up and followed by a MIDI instrument to produce sound. It could be a piece of hardware or a virtual instrument (VST).
There are many advantages of using MIDI. First, it’s extremely easy to modify and manipulate notes without having to re-record. All you have to do is drag and drop the MIDI notes in your MIDI software.
Secondly, MIDI also makes it easy to change instruments in your tracks. Remember, MIDI only describes which notes to play, and how they’re played. This information can be sent to any instrument that understands MIDI.
What Is A MIDI Keyboard Software?
A MIDI keyboard software can be a standalone program, or as part of a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). Its job is to translate the code from MIDI controllers, into MIDI tracks where you can load and play virtual instruments.
A MIDI keyboard software is a must-have if you want to use a MIDI controller. Nowadays, there is plenty of free MIDI keyboard software and apps available that you can download. As you learn more advanced techniques for music production, the best option is to start recording MIDI straight into a DAW with more editing possibilities.
So which is the best free MIDI keyboard software available? It depends on what you want to do with it.
If you’re looking for a plug-and-play app where you can learn to play the piano, I suggest downloading Perfect Piano for Android or GarageBand for iOS.
If you need more features I recommend using Waveform Free. It offers more advanced functionality such as multitrack MIDI recording and the support of third-party plugins.