How to connect your digital piano to a computer

Modern digital pianos are incredibly sophisticated pieces of equipment, and for the most part, you might think of them as quite self-contained. After all, at its most basic level of use, you sit across from them, turn them on, and start playing the piano. However, while many instruments contain their own built-in features for learning and making music, a digital piano will really begin to spread its wings in terms of functionality when connected to a computer.

Either a Mac, PC, or even a mobile device like an iPad or Android tablet, connecting your digital piano to a computer or other external device can unlock new features and transform the way you use your instrument in a number of ways. So this guide is here to show you exactly why you’d want to connect your digital piano to your computer, how to do it, and what it lets you do.

Why connect your piano to a computer?

The two main types of information that can be passed back and forth from your piano to your computer are MIDI and audio. Short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, MIDI is a data stream that represents your piano performance converted into numbers. These numbers tell the computer when you played the notes, their pitch value, duration, and how hard you played them. Audio data, on the other hand, is the actual sound of your playing converted to data and passed to your computer in real time.

But why would you want to connect your piano to a computer in real time? first place?

The most obvious example is if you want to use your piano as a MIDI keyboard controller to play virtual instruments within a digital audio workstation (DAW) such as Apple’s GarageBand or Logic Pro, Steinberg’s Cubase, or Ableton Live. This will not only allow you to play software synths and sample libraries installed on your computer directly from your piano keyboard and record your performances, but it will also give you access to a host of online piano lesson services that require you to connect your piano to your computer to assess your progress through the lesson plan.

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(Image credit: Getty/juanma hache)

In the case of instruments like the Roland Go:Piano, Bluetooth is used to stream music from an external device, such as a mobile phone, through the piano’s built-in speakers so you can play along, which is a great way to encourage teens and kids Little ones learn the instrument – the modern equivalent of learning to play by playing songs on the radio.

Some manufacturers offer compatible apps that enhance the feature set of your piano or keyboard. A good example is Roland’s Piano Partner 2 app, which connects via Bluetooth to the company’s FP range of digital pianos for beginners to provide access to some of the hidden internal settings within the piano, inaccessible from the front panel. . This can include access to never-before-heard presets, easy control of effect settings, and much more, transforming your tablet into a large color touch screen for your instrument and making it much easier to use in the process.

So let’s take a look at how to actually connect a digital piano to your computer. There are two main methods that can be used for this: wired, wireless, or wireless.

Wired connection

(Image credit: Getty/Supersmario)

When linking your piano to a computer via a cable, it will most likely be done with a regular USB cable, usually USB-B to USB-A.

What is USB anyway?

Standing for Universal System Bus, USB has been around for many years as the primary method of connection between computers and external devices such as printers, external hard drives and cameras Musicians also use it to connect instruments and other peripherals like audio interfaces and USB microphones to their computers.

There are four common types of USB connectors in use today:

  • USB-A This is the format of USB connector we are all familiar with: the flat, rectangular-shaped plug that, unfortunately, only it fits into your socket one way and is usually always upside down. This connector still appears as standard on many Windows PCs and laptops.
  • USB-B This is the square connector most often found on the other end of the cable from the USB-A. plug and is a standard accessory on most USB printers. This is the form of plug you’ll likely find on the back of your piano and is often labeled ‘USB to Host’.
  • USB-C USB-C ports are a newer connector, typically found on current Apple Mac computers and some PCs.With a small, flat oval profile, a USB-C connector can be inserted into your plug either way, already giving it a huge advantage over its predecessor!
  • Micro USB Some smaller entry-level keyboards, such as the Yamaha PSS-A50, can use a smaller form factor USB connector known as Micro USB. This is popular on smaller devices as it packs the same functionality into a smaller footprint.
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Connecting your digital piano to a computer with a USB cable

We’re assuming your piano will have a USB-B port, as this is by far the most common type of port for the task. The connection is quite simple:

  1. Plug the square end of the USB cable into the USB-B socket on your piano. This square-shaped plug is usually labeled something like ‘USB to Host’.
  2. Plug the other rectangular (USB-A) end of the cable into an available USB port on your computer.

The type of USB connector on your computer may vary depending on its model and age. Most PCs still have traditional USB-A ports, but if you’re using a recent MacBook Pro that’s only equipped with USB-C ports, you’ll need a special USB-B to USB-C cable or adapter to convert the USB plug. -A to USB-C.

Alternatively, if all you need is to record the sound of your digital piano as audio on your computer, you can choose to connect your piano without USB by simply connecting the output jacks from your instrument to an audio interface connected to the computer. If your instrument has dedicated left and right line outputs, you can use a pair of standard 1/4″ jack cables similar to guitar cables for this; if not, you can use the 3.5mm headphone jack and a special cable with a 3.5mm stereo plug on one end and two 6.3mm mono jack plugs on the end that connects to the interface. This will allow you to record the sound of your performance as an audio file into the DAW of your choice.

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Wireless Connection

(Image credit: Roland)

Wireless connectivity between your piano and your computer is most likely achieved via Bluetooth.

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth, most commonly found on mobile phones, is a wireless communication protocol used to share data over what are essentially high-frequency radio waves. Bluetooth-enabled pianos can communicate with computers and tablets to send MIDI data in real time and, increasingly as time passes and technology improves, audio data without the need for cables.

Connecting your digital piano to a computer using Bluetooth:

  1. Enable Bluetooth on your computer or mobile device
  2. Enable Bluetooth pairing mode on your piano – see user guide for details
  3. Select your instrument from the list of available Bluetooth devices on your computer.

Methods for this will vary by brand and the piano model you use. has, but the user guides for most instruments will provide details on exactly how to pair your piano with your computer via Bluetooth. One thing to remember though: Bluetooth audio on pianos is not designed to stream audio from the piano to Bluetooth headphones, as the latency or delay involved in the conversion process will make playing in time nearly impossible.

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