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Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

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Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby sillytrouts » Tue Jun 30, 2020 8:47 pm

Hi everyone,

After many years out of practical music (I was a classroom music teacher some 15-20 years ago when computer music was quite new and definitely more simple!), I have decided that I want to be composing and recording music again on my computer via a DAW.

I have a sufficiently fast PC with plenty of RAM but a pants soundcard that doesn't have ASIO driver support. I have a Yamaha NPV60 keyboard that links to the PC via USB and the Yamaha USB-MIDI driver, but the latency is shocking.

I have tried using ASIO4all, but it isn't a huge improvement, so I was wondering if anyone could recommend the way forward please, perhaps with a new soundcard - internal or external - or something like a USB audio interface or anything else for that matter! I am rather confused by all the terminology!

I wondered if the M-Audio AIR|Hub might do the job to connect the keyboard with my PC with a lower latency that will make it possible to record? Alternatively, could you recommend any other sort of soundcard/audio interface/box of magic that would suit?

Another option would be to realise that the keyboard isn't great and that a new MIDI keyboard and interface would be better. Again, any recommendations please?

Budget - definitely the bottom end of the budget, maybe up to a couple of hundred pounds all in.

Thanks in advance for any clearing of the confusion you can help me with.

Cheers,

Stuart
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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:22 pm

It depends on how you plan to record. Do you need to record acoustic instruments or voices? Do you want to record midi and playback using virtual instruments in the computer? Do you want to record electric guitars? What approximate genre?

There are a million ways to skin this particular cat so knowing what your aims are will make giving a useful answer much easier.

Welcome to the forum (and enjoy your trip down the rabbit hole). :D
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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby sillytrouts » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:26 pm

Hi Sam,
Thanks for your reply.
I think that most of what I want to do is recording MIDI and playing back using virtual instruments in the computer. Don't want to record electric guitars, but might like to record voice and possibly French horn (random, but it's my instrument!!) via a USB microphone that I acquired somewhere along the line! Genre - rock/pop.
Thanks,
Stu
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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Jun 30, 2020 9:54 pm

:thumbup: My son is a french horn player (2nd Horn in Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, his wife is 4th Horn).

I'm surprised the Yamaha's midi over USB has bad latency*, I'd have expected it to be usable.

I believe Windows* handles audio and midi separately so the USB mic and Yamaha should work together without conflict.

Sorry that I can't be more helpful. I'm sure somebody with better knowledge will be along soon.

* I'm a guitar player with a little midi/keyboard knowledge but negligible playing skills and a Mac user so my Windows knowledge is a little out of date (Win 7, but only just and it was a long time ago).
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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby The Elf » Tue Jun 30, 2020 10:04 pm

MIDI has nothing to do with latency. It is all down to the audio interface and its associated drivers.

I would begin by taking a look at buying an audio interface. One with MIDI ports would be a good idea, but if you can connect your keyboard by USB that will do the job just as well, if not better. There are oodles of options for an interface. I favour the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 as a starter interface, but there are cheaper options that many here will likely suggest.

Without going into detail, a USB microphone isn't a good idea, as it will conflict with the audio interface - it's one or the other. A much better solution will be 'normal' XLR microphone that will plug into your audio interface's mic input; you will get a better (and huge choice of) microphone this way too. USB mic's tend to be podcast friendly, but not really high on audio quality.
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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby ef37a » Wed Jul 01, 2020 7:33 am

https://www.thomann.de/gb/native_instru ... _6_mk2.htm

Near top end of budget but leaves enough for couple of MIDI cables? I am with Elf, best AI for your purpose by a click.

The latency will be very low, even my quite modest desktop can run at 32 samples if I wanted. The mic preamps are very quiet, not masses of gain but no problem for a horn!

You also get two more line inputs so if either kbd has audio outs you can record that. You could also in the future get a small mixer and expand connectivity that way.

As Mr E says, forget the USB mic.

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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby sillytrouts » Wed Jul 01, 2020 8:57 am

Thanks for the info, Mr Elf and Dave,
Things are sort of clearing abit and I like the look of the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 MK2.

A stupid question though about connecting it all together, in particular the keyboard.

So if I am right, the AI connects to PC via USB and then mics and other audio plug into the AI.
What about the keyboard? It only has a USB output for MIDI.
Is there such a thing as a USB to 5-pin MIDI cable to connect it to the MIDI on the AI or would I just be better with a keyboard with 5-pin MIDI sockets?
When I have connected the keyboard direct to the computer using the Yamaha driver, there is one heck of a gap between pressing a key and the note playing in the computer in DAW or notation program, so would assume that this would continue to happen even with the AI as the keyboard would have to be USB connection to the PC unless adaptor available.

I'm all a bit confused, truth be told!
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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby sillytrouts » Wed Jul 01, 2020 9:01 am

Sam Spoons wrote::thumbup: My son is a french horn player (2nd Horn in Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, his wife is 4th Horn).

Proper horn players then! Excellent - I have not played properly for quite a few years, still teach but am in no way up to any decent standard any more!

Sam Spoons wrote:I'm surprised the Yamaha's midi over USB has bad latency*, I'd have expected it to be usable.

I should maybe have another look at it, but it's been unrecordable when I have tried it through a DAW or notation program. Might be my set up though.

Sam Spoons wrote:Sorry that I can't be more helpful. I'm sure somebody with better knowledge will be along soon.

Thanks for your help - appreciate it
:clap: :thumbup:
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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby Logarhythm » Wed Jul 01, 2020 10:15 am

Continue to use your KB's USB connection direct to the computer.
The delay you are hearing isn't due to this (the MIDI part of the various information being sent around the place); it's latency due to the speed - or lack thereof - with which your DAW/virtual instruments are able to share information with your current soundcard. The NI KA6 will improve this significantly for you :thumbup:
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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby sillytrouts » Wed Jul 01, 2020 10:21 am

Logarhythm wrote:Continue to use your KB's USB connection direct to the computer.
The delay you are hearing isn't due to this (the MIDI part of the various information being sent around the place); it's latency due to the speed - or lack thereof - with which your DAW/virtual instruments are able to share information with your current soundcard. The NI KA6 will improve this significantly for you :thumbup:

:headbang: Thanks, but my head still hurts!
Up to now I haven't tried recording any intruments other than my keyboard through the USB and there is a long delay in pressing a key on the piano and it sounding on the computer in the DAW. I kind of get that the delay is due to the soundcard being pants, so, my question now is, how will the NI KA6 help if the keyboard isn't connected through it? Is the NI KA6 also a soundcard that will bypass the rubbish one inside my PC? Or do I need a new soundcard inside my PC?

Sorry to ask simple questions, but I am really confused and a bear of very little brain, I think :lol:
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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby ef37a » Wed Jul 01, 2020 10:24 am

Yes, there are devices that turn USB MIDI to DIN MIDI but you don't need one.

It is the **** 'soundcard' in the computer that causes the latency. In your DAW software you will be able to use the KA6 as 'MIDI Playback' and be triggered by the USB keyboard.

Note, the KA6 will still stand as a MIDI input so should you get any other MIDI device in the future, drum machine say, you will be able to integrate it into the system.
Such Fun!

Just seen your last post. Yes, it is all a bit baffling but you can consider a USB connected device as really 'inside' the PC as far as it is concerned and it will run as just a better (much!) soundcard.

I have maybe an illustration? I have a PC that has a very decent soundcard in it an M Audio 2496 and that gives very acceptable latency when used with a keyboard (son, not I! While ago) The KA6 however BEATS IT! Also, be reassured that you can plug almost anything audio into anything else audio and the same for MIDI. Don't mix them, hard to do anyway and it probably would do no harm. Ad hoc connections may not work or you might get some hum but NO smoke.



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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby sillytrouts » Wed Jul 01, 2020 10:31 am

ef37a wrote:Yes, there are devices that turn USB MIDI to DIN MIDI but you don't need one.

It is the **** 'soundcard' in the computer that causes the latency. In your DAW software you will be able to use the KA6 as 'MIDI Playback' and be triggered by the USB keyboard.

Note, the KA6 will still stand as a MIDI input so should you get any other MIDI device in the future, drum machine say, you will be able to integrate it into the system.
Such Fun!

Dave.

Ah! I think the mist might be clearing - thanks!

Please indulge me a moment while I get this straight once and for all - the KB is USB'd into the PC, MIDI is sent from it to the PC and out as MIDI and the sound comes out of the KA6. I can then also plug in mics to the KA6 and record them in the PC DAW, and put in any other MIDI kit that I might get in the future.

Would I be correct in thinking that, in the very likely event that my wife pulls a face at me wanting to spend near £200 on the KA6, the KA1 or KA2 would do a similar job but with fewer inputs for mics etc and without the possibility of plugging in other MIDI kit?
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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Jul 01, 2020 10:41 am

sillytrouts wrote:So if I am right, the AI connects to PC via USB and then mics and other audio plug into the AI.

Correct.

What about the keyboard? It only has a USB output for MIDI.

Then it connects to the PC via another USB port.

Is there such a thing as a USB to 5-pin MIDI cable to connect it to the MIDI on the AI

There are... USB-MIDI adaptors, but you wouldn't need one.

When I have connected the keyboard direct to the computer using the Yamaha driver, there is one heck of a gap between pressing a key and the note playing in the computer in DAW or notation program

That's probably latency on the audio generation side of things rather than the MIDI control side. A decent audio interface with ASIO drivers should bring the latency down to unnoticeable levels.
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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby ef37a » Wed Jul 01, 2020 10:50 am

"Would I be correct in thinking that, in the very likely event that my wife pulls a face at me wanting to spend near £200 on the KA6, the KA1 or KA2 would do a similar job but with fewer inputs for mics etc and without the possibility of plugging in other MIDI kit?"

Correct and I have every reason to believe that the less well specified NI interfaces share the same solid drivers and low latency but I don't actually have one to try.

I would however invest in a bunch of flowers and a box of chocs! Try to convince her that buying something that is only just adequate in terms of connectivity is really false economy (assuming you have aspirations?) and you would be a much happier bunny with the right kit from the go-get!

Dave.
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Re: Beginner advice on connecting keyboard to PC - what do I need?

Postby sillytrouts » Wed Jul 01, 2020 10:53 am

ef37a wrote:"Would I be correct in thinking that, in the very likely event that my wife pulls a face at me wanting to spend near £200 on the KA6, the KA1 or KA2 would do a similar job but with fewer inputs for mics etc and without the possibility of plugging in other MIDI kit?"

Correct and I have every reason to believe that the less well specified NI interfaces share the same solid drivers and low latency but I don't actually have one to try.

I would however invest in a bunch of flowers and a box of chocs! Try to convince her that buying something that is only just adequate in terms of connectivity is really false economy (assuming you have aspirations?) and you would be a much happier bunny with the right kit from the go-get!

Dave.

Absolutely - futureproofing is so important these days, isn't it?!!!!

Thank you so much for your help - I think the fog has cleared and I cansee what the way forward is now - hurrah!
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