How to Use Your iPad as a Wireless MIDI Controller

How to send MIDI over Wi-Fi from an iPad to Windows or a Mac

Have you ever wanted to use your iPad as a MIDI controller? There are a number of great apps that can turn your iPad into an advanced controller and a great music-maker, but how do you get those signals to your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)? Believe it or not, iOS has supported wireless MIDI connections since version 4.2. Also, any Mac running OS X 10.4 or higher supports MIDI Wi-Fi. And while Windows doesn't support it out-of-the-box, there's a simple way to get it working on the PC as well.

How to Use the iPad as a MIDI Controller on a Mac

The Mac makes it relatively easy to set up a connection with an iPad, but you will need to dig into your MIDI settings and know just where to go to make the connection.

A screenshot of the MIDI network setup screen on the Mac
  • First, launch Audio MIDI Setup. The quickest way to do this is to use the Launch Pad, type in "Audio MIDI setup" and click the app's icon.
  • After it loads, click Window and choose Show MIDI Studio.
  • Double-click the Network box to open up network settings.
  • The first thing you need to do is create a session. Click the plus (+) button under My Sessions.
  • When the session appears, click the checkbox next to it to enable the session.
  • Next, we connect the iPad. The iPad should be listed in the Directory section below the sessions. If it is not, make sure the iPad is both connected to the Wi-Fi network and connected to the same network as the Mac. Click the iPad to highlight it and then click the Connect button.
  • This creates a network connection your DAW can use to communicate with the iPad.

How to Configure MIDI Over Wi-Fi on a Windows-Based PC

Windows can support wireless MIDI through the Bonjour service. This service is installed with iTunes, so before we set up Wi-Fi MIDI on our PC, we must first make sure we have the most recent update of iTunes. If you don't have iTunes, you can install it from the web. Otherwise, simply launch iTunes. If there is a more recent version, you will be prompted to install it.

A screenshot of rtpMIDI
  • The first step to getting wireless MIDI on Windows is to download the rtpMIDI driver. This driver was created by Tobias Erichsen and is free to use, though if you do find it useful, you can donate to its development from within the software.
  • After you download the driver, install it on your PC. Once installed, you can run the program to configure your network.
  • This part of the process is identical to the Mac. First, create a new session by clicking the plus (+) button below My Sessions.
  • Next, click your iPad's name under Directory and click the Connect button.
  • This creates the connection on your Windows-based PC.

A Few Great Apps for Your New MIDI Controller

Now that we have the iPad set up to talk to our PC, we'll need some apps to send MIDI to it. The iPad can be great as a virtual instrument or just to add a few extra controls to your setup.

  • TouchOSC. A great way to add some knobs and controls via your iPad's touch screen. 
  • Knob Lab. An alternative to TouchOSC, Knob Lab is free to download and check out.
  • Geo Synthesizer and GeoShred. Two sides of the same coin, these apps use a fourths-based layout to turn your iPad surface into a virtual instrument. GeoShred comes with a modeled guitar while Geo Synthesizer has more synth-based sounds.
  • Lemur. This app is a multi-touch instrument that allows you to design colorful multi-shape widgets and place them on canvas for your control.