Midi Keyboard Suddenly Stops Working: 7 Common Issues (Solved)

MIDI Keyboards (or “controllers”) are a must-have for any producer or recording musician.

Although MIDI keyboards are super helpful in recording and writing music, they can often play up and stop working, which is frustrating to say the least, especially when you’re on the brink of your next hit.

In this article, we’ll tackle some of the issues you might be facing with your MIDI keyboard, and give you some troubleshooting tips and tricks to get you back on track.

MIDI keyboard with controllers and keys

Your Midi-Keyboard needs to be Rebooted

First things first, and yes, we’ve all been there, but…Have you turned your MIDI keyboard off and on again?

Many a problem has been solved by a simple reboot, and your MIDI hardware might be no different.

Giving your device a chance to turn off and on again can often solve your issue, as it gives the controller a chance to reconnect to your computer, and as well all know, a fresh start is always a good thing!

It’s also important that you restart your computer. In the same vein, a refresh and reboot often solve issues that may be caused by a malfunction in your  computers software.

Your Cables might be Damaged

Constant use will always put a strain on your cables, and wear and tear can cause problems for your equipment.

So always make sure to check that all your cables are securely connected and that the USB or MIDI cables are not damaged.

A damaged cable will often have tears or fraying just before the USB or MIDI connection.

These can be caused by the constant twists and bends that cables have to endure, which often results in the wires inside the cable breaking or tearing and causing a faulty connection.

Also make sure to check the connectors of your cables, where dirt or grime might be stopping the connections from doing what they do best, connecting!

When this happens, you can use alcohol swabs or a non-abrasive cloth with alcohol to get into the cracks and clean out any gunk that might be in the way.

If your MIDI keyboard is still not being detected by your computer, it’s a good idea to try a different USB cable. Try to use a shorter, high-quality ferrite bead cable, which will be hardy and the most reliable.

A cable that is faulty or not performing to its maximum capacity has the ability to knock out your USB connection for all the other USB devices that are currently connected to your machine. For this reason, it’s important that you use high-quality products to cut out any problems that might arise in the future.

Your Computer is Not Detecting your MIDI Device

Once you’ve made sure your MIDI device is powered on, and that there are no breakages or damage on your cables, the next step is to figure out if your computer is able to pick up your device.

Device Manager on Windows and System Information on Mac are useful tools for investigating your device connections, as well as other essential information on your computer. 

These utilities can be used to make sure that your external devices, such as MIDI keyboards, are connected and are communicating with your system.

Here’s how to navigate system utilities on both Windows and Mac:

On Windows:

  • First, right-click the Windows icon and select ‘Device Manager’
  • Next, click ‘Sound, video and game controllers’ and search for your device.
  • Finally, right-click your device and select ‘Properties’
  • From here you can uninstall the device or view driver details.
  • If the device shows up as ‘unknown’ or with a yellow exclamation mark, uninstall and reinstall the MIDI device drivers.

On Mac:

  • Navigate to the ‘Apple’ icon on the top left of your screen.
  • Next, hold the option key while clicking ‘System Information’
  • Under “Hardware”, select the type of port your MIDI device is plugged into (this could be USB, Thunderbolt, Firewire, etc.).
  • Locate your MIDI device.

Make sure to also try a different USB port. It’s always a good idea to eliminate the possibility of other hardware causing the fault in your connection. Switching the USB port might help in solving the issue.

It’s also important to note that external USB hubs (especially passive) may be causing an issue in your MIDI connection. Certain MIDI controllers draw a lot of power from your USB port as they don’t have dedicated power supplies.

This means that it may be drawing more power than your hub is able to provide, which may result in a loss of connectivity.

Your MIDI Keyboard’s Drivers are Outdated

Drivers are the software that makes sure your hardware and software are communicating to the best of their ability.

Not all MIDI controllers need to have drivers installed to work.

It’s worth checking on the manufacturer’s website whether your specific model of MIDI keyboard needs drivers to work and whether those drivers are installed and up to date.

Make sure to turn on automatic updates so that your MIDI controller is always ready to go!

Your MIDI Cable Connections are not Compatible

A lot of producers use MIDI cables instead of a USB connection, especially for older synthesizers and MIDI controllers. USB compatibility is fairly modern technology musically speaking, so a lot of vintage gear might not have it.

MIDI cables are an alternative method for connecting your MIDI controller to your computer. Because no USB port is required for this type of connection to transmit MIDI data, the MIDI keyboard will need its own dedicated power supply.

Once you’re sure your MIDI keyboard is powered and ready to go, check your MIDI IN, OUT, and THRU connections.

  • First and foremost, make sure each MIDI cable is connected to the correct corresponding port.
  • MIDI keyboards will connect from their MIDI OUT port to the MIDI IN port of the other device.
  • MIDI THRU ports generally connect to INPUT ports, where they pass on all the MIDI information received from their own device’s INPUT port.

Your DAW or Software Settings are Not Configured Correctly

Once we’ve figured out whether our computer and our MIDI controller are communicating, we can move on to our DAW or music software.

Back to point one, it’s always a good idea to restart your software before going through a bunch of unnecessary steps. Close and re-open your music program (Ableton, Logic, etc.).

Once your software is back up and running, we’ll need to make sure that your MIDI controller is selected as the input device correctly.

Each DAW has its own layout for channel strips and where your virtual instruments live. When you’ve selected your virtual instrument, make sure the MIDI keyboard is selected as the instrument track or MIDI channel’s input.

If your MIDI controller is connected and communicating, but not triggering the required features or instruments, it might have been assigned to the incorrect channel.

Make sure to play some keys or pads of your MIDI controller to check if any signal is being communicated to your DAW.

Make sure to also check your MIDI controller’s user manual for any more information that might help when it comes to changing its MIDI channels or resetting it completely. Your manual might also have model-specific troubleshooting tips, which could help you get to the bottom of the problem.

There’s also a possibility that other programs running on your computer may be interfering with the operation of your MIDI keyboard. It’s a good idea to try closing any unnecessary programs and see if the issue gets resolved.

Technology, especially computers, can be finicky, so testing every possible problem is always a good idea.

Windows Might Be Turning Off Your USB Devices

If you’re using Windows, there’s a possibility your USB ports are being switched off to save power. Although saving power is always a good thing, It can be annoying if you’re using a MIDI keyboard that needs to stay powered.

Unfortunately, power management can often cause issues with devices that are USB-connected. Sometimes Windows won’t be able to properly power up a MIDI controller that it’s previously shut down, which will inevitably prevent your MIDI keyboard from working.

Follow these steps to prevent Windows from incorrectly managing power to your USB ports and MIDI devices:

  • Firstly, press ‘Start’ on the bottom left of the screen.
  • Next, click ‘Search’ and type in ‘Device Manager’
  • Then, expand ‘Universal Serial Bus Controllers’
  • Find ‘USB Root Hub device’
  • Navigate to the ‘Power Management’ tab.
  • Finally, toggle off  the ‘Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power’ box by unchecking.
  • Then click ‘OK’

Please note that this step will need to be repeated on each USB root hub that you want to be permanently powered. Idle your device and wait a few minutes to make sure that the problem has been resolved.

Final Thoughts

Although they look like normal keyboards, MIDI keyboards normally don’t make a sound on their own but rather send MIDI data to a computer to control your virtual instruments.

These virtual instruments can range from your favorite synths to hard-hitting drum machines, and can all be recorded into your computer with a MIDI keyboard and the MIDI information it sends.

MIDI keyboards are incredibly handy tools for music production and have the ability to greatly enhance workflow and even creativity in your writing.

This makes it all the more frustrating when your keyboard or controller is acting up, preventing you from writing or producing that next hit record.

It’s important to remain calm and stay methodical when troubleshooting problems with your MIDI controllers. USB connectivity and even software and hardware communication are often highly fickle, which means it could be a simple fix when it seems unlikely.

If none of the above solutions work, your MIDI keyboard may just be malfunctioning and will need to be repaired or replaced.

Make sure not to miss any of these steps though,trying out all possible troubleshooting tips before seeking professional help.

It really could be a simple solution that gets you back on track, and ready to take over the music world!


MIDI Controllers freezing or losing connection