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

Apps for musicians can turn your iPad into an advanced controller and a great music-maker, but you still have to get those signals to your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). You may be surprised to hear that iOS has supported wireless MIDI connections since version 4.2, and Macs running OS X 10.4 or higher support MIDI Wi-Fi. While Windows doesn't support wireless MIDI out of the box, there's a simple way to get it working on the PC as well.

Information in this article applies to iPads running iOS 4.2 or later, Macs with OS X 10.4 or later, and PCs with Windows 7 through 10.

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 need to dig into your MIDI settings and know just where to go to make the connection.

  1. Launch Audio MIDI Setup on the Mac. The quickest way to do this is to open the Launchpad in the Dock, type "Audio MIDI setup" and click the app's icon when it appears.

  2. After it loads, click Window in the menu bar and choose Show MIDI Studio.

  3. Double-click the Network box to open network settings.

  4. Create a session by clicking the plus (+) button under My Sessions.

  5. When the session appears, click the checkbox next to it to enable the session.

  6. Connect the iPad. It should be listed in the Directory section below the sessions. If it isn't, 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.

    The MIDI network setup screen on the Mac

This creates a network connection your DAW can use to communicate with the iPad.

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

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

  1. Download the rtpMIDI driver. This driver was created by Tobias Erichsen and is free to use.

  2. After you download the driver, install it on your PC. After it is installed, you can run the program to configure your network.

  3. This part of the process is identical to the Mac. First, create a new session by clicking the plus (+) button below My Sessions.

  4. Next, click your iPad's name under Directory and click the Connect button.

    A screenshot of rtpMIDI

This creates the connection on your Windows-based PC.

Try These Apps for Your New MIDI Controller

Now that you have the iPad set up to talk to your PC, you 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. Compatible with iOS 5.1.1 or later.
  • Knob Lab: An alternative to TouchOSC, Knob Lab is free to download and check out. Compatible with iOS 9.0 or later.
  • Geo Synthesizer (9.0 or later) and GeoShred: (9.3 or later): 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 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. Compatible with iOS 8.0 or later.