You can use your computer’s keyboard as a midi controller interface for virtual music programs if you can’t afford or don’t yet have an external midi controller such as an M-Audio Oxygen keyboard controller or an Akai MP pad controller. You’ll be able to control the virtual studio rack and instruments with the laptop keyboard or your desktop PC keyboard. 


First off you will need to select the virtual music production programs you’ll use. Programs such as Pro Tools, Reason, Garageband, Cubase, Fruity Loops, and Logic Pro allow you to create various music with virtual instruments, instrument patches, live recorded audio, and sound effects. These programs are generally known as DAWs (or Digital Audio Workstations) that are often controlled with a music keyboard midi. You can use one or more of these easily with a built in keyboard. You’ll want to double check with the specific release version of the chosen software to ensure it supports using a standard computer keyboard midi. 

An M-Audio External MIDI Controller KeyboardCredit: By Vox Efx from Baltimore, United States (Ozoning - Day 62 Uploaded by shoulder-synth) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Next you’ll need to install your software of choice and follow the setup instructions. When you get to the selection for desired MIDI controller input choose the built in keyboard or computer keyboard. Make sure to save this setting. On some versions of virtual music programs you’ll see an option instead for “use the built in keyboard.”


Once the program is running you’ll need to choose the “show on screen keyboard” option from the View or Window menu option. This will prompt an on screen version of your laptop or desktop keyboard to appear. 


Press various keys on your keyboard to see which keys (such as letters and numbers) trigger various notes and effects. In most cases the on screen version will show which keys change the octaves, tempo, and effect knobs. In some software programs you can assign keys to control virtual knobs and dials.


Ideally if you are spending hundreds of dollars on professional grade virtual DAW music recording and creating software you’ll want to invest in external MIDI controller keyboards, dials, and pads for the best user experience. These external devices recreate the touch and feel of real music keyboard, touch pads, and DJ knobs and dials. These devices often connect to the computer easily via plug and play USB connections and are the best option.


But for just starting out, using your computer’s built in or attached regular keyboard to manipulate and tweak the DAW software is a great option to begin making your own music today.