How to play MIDI Keyboard without Using a DAW?

How to play MIDI keyboard without DAW
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Is it possible to play MIDI keyboard without DAW? And if it is possible to play a MIDI keyboard or controller without using a DAW, then how?

This quick read will discuss several ways to play and get sound out of a MIDI keyboard or controller without using any Digital Audio Workstation, abbreviated as DAW.

This quick read will discuss several ways to play and get sound out of a MIDI keyboard or controller without using any Digital Audio Workstation, abbreviated as DAW.

Also, why are we using a MIDI instrument without a DAW and not recording music directly on our computer? Let’s cover this in next section!

Related: Setting a Home Recording Studio – A step by step Guide!

What is the point of using a keyboard with MIDI capabilities without a DAW?

A few scenarios can be averted when opening a DAW for using a MIDI keyboard. Let’s go over them one by one.

Firstly, skipping the MIDI-DAW setup is a good idea if you want to experiment with your new MIDI instrument. You can operate the software instruments through the keyboard by opening that instrument app on your computer.

Secondly, there is no need to open up the DAW every time you practice the piano to rehearse your favourite scales, melodies and rhythms. Again, this can be done by opening up a piano software directly on your computer without launching the DAW.

You can also connect a MIDI keyboard to another keyboard, digital piano or synth to use their speakers as a sound output source.

Furthermore, opening up a DAW to use or play a MIDI instrument when you don’t want to record or produce music will waste your time and can put you in procrastinating behaviour.

Most artists skip opening their computers and DAWs when they want to jam alone or with a fellow artist to develop new and creative musical ideas.

Also Read: Setup MIDI Keyboard in Logic Pro X – A Definitive Guide!

Playing MIDI Keyboard without DAW or Digital Audio Workstation

Here are some easy and quick ways that you can play your MIDI keyboard without needing any DAW.

1) Opening respective VST instruments

How to play MIDI Keyboard without Using a DAW?

The first way to play a MIDI keyboard without a DAW is to use stand-alone VSTs. Stand-alone means that the software instrument can be opened without needing any DAW.

Most VST instruments are stand-alone; you do not need a DAW to open them. However, you will need to open up the DAW for recording purposes.

play midi keyboard without DAW

Firstly, you need to connect your MIDI keyboard to a PC or Laptop to use the built-in speakers to output the sound. Next, you need to open up the stand-alone VST and set it up with the MIDI keyboard. This step is necessary as it allows you to link the software to the hardware.

2) Connecting MIDI device to Digital piano, keyboard or Synth

Another method to play a MIDI keyboard or controller without any DAW is connecting it to another instrument like a keyboard, digital piano or synth. Doing so will allow you to control other device and their patches using the MIDI keyboard.

Related: Easy steps to connect ANY MIDI keyboard to audio interface!

Furthermore, connecting a MIDI device to another instrument will allow you to use its speakers to output the sound you have selected on the MIDI keyboard controller.

Here is an example!

CAMOLA MIDI Thru 6 Box USB MIDI Interface 1-in 6-out MIDI Thru Box MIDI Splitter
  • 【 1-in 6-out】The MIDI Thru-6 Box provide 1 MIDI in and 6...
  • 【 Standard MIDI Channels】MIDI 5-pin Interface, with...
  • 【 Wide Compatibility 】This midi thru box can communicate...

Last update on 2023-03-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon

You can use a MIDI hub to connect all your keyboards, synths and MIDI controllers. Then, using the MIDI software, you can route the audio as per your requirement. In a massive studio, this allows a producer to gain control over studio gears, instruments and the sounds they all make.

3) Using in-built sounds & patches

AKAI Professional MPK Mini Play MK3 MIDI Keyboard Controller with Built in Speaker and Sounds Plus Dynamic Keybed, MPC Pads and Software Suite
  • Compact yet powerful standalone mini keyboard with built-in…
  • 25-Key Gen 2 MPK Mini dynamic keybed, OLED Display, 8…
  • Over 100 internal drum and instrument sounds including…

Last update on 2023-03-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon

Some MIDI keyboards also come with in-built speakers, sounds and patches. These features allow an artist great control over the MIDI controller. Hence, allowing you to play the midi keyboard without any DAW.

MIDI keyboards like AKAI MPK Mini Play offer you an in-built speaker and sound patches. You can load these sounds using the keyboard buttons and knobs. Since this MIDI keyboard comes with in-built speakers, you can skip connecting it to a PC or Laptop to hear the sound the keyboard is making.

4) Sound module

Miditech Pianobox Pro Sound Moudle
  • Pianobox Pro is general MIDI compatible with 128 GM sample…
  • Product design in black tone with aluminium cabinet
  • 16-times multitimbral/128-voices polyphon

Last update on 2023-03-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon

Now, let us see how you can use a sound module to play the MIDI keyboard without needing any DAW.

Most MIDI keyboards do not have any sound or patches. Instead, it triggers a sound from your computer, be it a standalone VST in a DAW or another hardware synth that you may have connected to the MIDI controller.

Use a five-pin MIDI cable to connect your MIDI controller or keyboard to a sound module. Connect one end of the MIDI cable to the MIDI IN of the sound module and the other end to the MIDI OUT of the MIDI instrument.

Next, connect the sound module to an audio interface using 1/4″ TRS cables. Make sure you connect the sound module using the line-level inputs of an audio interface. The sound you will play using your MIDI instrument will come out through the external speakers connected to the audio interface.


In this article, we saw that it is possible to go DAW-less when you want to control and play a MIDI keyboard or instrument. We saw four ways to do so. They were:

  • Opening Stand-alone VST,
  • Connecting synth, keyboard or digital piano.
  • Using in-built sounds and patches,
  • Connecting a Sound Module.

However, you will need a DAW to record the MIDI information that you are playing on the MIDI instrument.

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