Did you know that your PC keyboard can double as a musical instrument? Using MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), you can play your computer's keyboard just like a piano. This is useful if you want to record music on the go without lugging around a lot of heavy equipment, and it can also be beneficial if you just want to tinker with music on your computer.

Of course, you can't automatically start playing your QWERTY keyboard like a piano. First, you're going to need some software. There are many digital recording programs that allow you to use your PC keyboard as a MIDI controller. Without confusing you with too much information, a MIDI keyboard is just any device that lets you play music by pressing buttons or keys to send digital note data to a receiver (like your computer).

So what are some of the best programs for local MIDI control? GarageBand has a function called “Musical Typing,” which serves this purpose. Apple's Logic Pro and Logic Express both allow you to use your PC keyboard as a MIDI controller, and so does FL Studio. For a free option, you might try Linux Multimedia Studio, although it doesn't come equipped with any good piano presets.

But once you have your software installed, you will need to know how to access the MIDI control feature. Unfortunately, this varies dramatically from program to program. For instance, in Logic (both the Express and Pro version), you must press the “CAPS” button on your keyboard to unlock the MIDI control feature, and you must also select a software instrument by creating an “Instrument” (or INST) track and choosing a software instrument using the “I/O” menu on your “Mixer” window.

In GarageBand, you would click (Window > Musical Typing) on your menu bar. Once again, you'll also need to designate a virtual instrument sound (such as a piano) by creating a new Software track (the “New Track” button appears in the lower left corner of your screen) and selecting an instrument sound in the “Track Info” panel in the left column. If using FL Studio, you can find “FL Keys” under your menu bar.

If using another MIDI program, consult your documentation for instructions on MIDI control. Whatever program you use, you'll need to consider that there are two steps involved: accessing the MIDI control feature, and assigning an instrument sound. You can then begin playing the keys on your computer keyboard to generate sound on your computer.