How to Use a MIDI Keyboard With Reason

By Heather Bliss

Reason is a professional level multi-device virtual music-making software. Professional musicians use Reason to lay down beats and back up music for pop, classical and commercial music pieces. Using a keyboard in Reason, you can simply and easily record melodies in MIDI and control MIDI devices within Reason, such as the Redrum virtual drum machine. Connecting a keyboard with MIDI to Reason gives the musician a great deal of flexibility and ease in creating new music.

Plug in your Audio-MIDI interface. A proper audio-MIDI interface device will have a USB or Firewire plug which connects the device to the computer. It should also have MIDI plugs to connect your keyboard to your MIDI interface. An example of an affordable audio-MIDI interface is the TASCAM US-122, which is a common starter interface for new composers. Some Audio-MIDI interface devices are all-in-one, with the keyboard built in, such as the M-Audio Ozone. The Ozone features a small keyboard connected to the computer via USB for use in Reason, Pro Tools and other audio and MIDI applications.

Install your Audio-MIDI interface device. Some hardware will be equipped as plug-and-play, which means that the software used to run the device, known as the driver, is already installed and recognized by the operating system. If the software for your device is not plug-and-play, it should be included on a CD or DVD with your interface. If you cannot find the CD containing your driver, most manufacturers usually keep updated drivers available for download online.

Connect your keyboard to the audio-midi interface device using the MIDI cables. If you have a built-in keyboard in your audio-MIDI interface, this step is already done. The process of connecting your keyboard to your MIDI device can be a little tricky, depending on how connected you want your keyboard to be to the Reason software. There is a setting in Reason which allows you to control the keyboard sounds and timing from within Reason by setting the keyboard to take signals from Reason. Consult your keyboard manual to find out if your keyboard can use external timing.

Locate the plugs on your MIDI device and keyboard. The device should have an "OUT" and "IN" MIDI plug. First, connect one end of one of your MIDI connectors to the plug on the interface labeled "OUT". Connect the other end of that MIDI cable to the plug on the keyboard that says "IN". Connect the second pair to the remaining "OUT" and "IN" plugs. If your interface has a MIDI-through plug, do not use it for this application. A MIDI-through is used when you are connecting additional MIDI-controlled devices to your MIDI device.

Configure your MIDI interface to work with your Reason software. If you are using Reason through Pro Tools, this should be done automatically.To configure your MIDI console, boot Reason and select the Preferences menu under the Edit toolbar group. Choose Audio in the drop down menu, and follow the instructions to install and select your MIDI interface as the primary MIDI interface for Reason. You should see a button which will allow you to test the connection of your MIDI interface to the Reason software.

Get a new Reason song going and add a Mixer. Once you have added a mixer to Reason, connect a MIDI-keyboard controlled device to the virtual mixer. A good device to start with is the NN-XT device, which uses digital samples to make music. Make sure to load a sample sound into the synthesizer device, or it will not play back your keystrokes. In the track window, select the piano icon next to the chosen track, and press the keys to test the sound.

Tip

If you want to avoid the hassle of setting up MIDI connections between an audio-MIDI interface and an external keyboard, get an all-in-one interface that has a musical keyboard connected directly to the computer VIA USB. The disadvantage to this option is that you cannot connect other MIDI devices, such as a drum machine, to your computer, but an all-in-one greatly reduces the time it takes to set up the device.

Warning

Make sure your computer has enough power from the power supply to accept the audio-MIDI interface as a connection, or you may overload your computer and lose power.

About the Author

Heather Bliss has been writing professionally since 1998, specializing in technology, computer repair, gardening, music and politics. Bliss holds an Associate of Arts in journalism from Moorpark College. She also has a Bachelor of Arts from California State University, San Marcos, completed with a focus on music and performing arts technology.