The ABCs of MIDI – Intro to MIDI Controllers, Beat Pads, and Synths

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Image of music therapist Andrew Chapman

MIDI controllers have been utilized for decades to record and perform, but are not commonplace in therapeutic spaces. Through live demonstration, experiential learning, and case examples, this presentation introduces participants to the use of MIDI controllers and Virtual Studio Instruments within therapy.

The presentation presents music therapists with little or beginning knowledge about MIDI with the knowledge and tools to begin experimenting and incorporating its use therapeutically. Beginning with a brief history of the inception of MIDI controllers/synthesizers as a digital musical language, we will continue to follow the development of MIDI controllers into modern forms like beat pads. Additional knowledge vital to using MIDI will be covered, such as 1) Virtual Studio Instruments, 2) editing and manipulating MIDI grids within DAWs, and 3) set-up and operation gear required.

Case examples that highlight the versatility of MIDI technology will include 1) songwriting and recording with an adolescent in foster care, 2) sensory experiences with an older adult with autism, 3) improvisatory relaxation interventions with various VSTs, and more. MIDI controller stations will be provided for individuals to experiment and build skills with various controllers, VSTs, and software.

Learner Objectives

Participants will identify a basic definition of MIDI. (CBMT Domain V. A. 7.)

Participants will identify 1-2 potential therapeutic applications for MIDI technology. (CBMT Domain III. 5. f. 1.)

Participants will expand their ability to integrate current music technology to achieve therapeutic goals by learning at least one new technique using MIDI (e.g. controlling virtual instruments, controlling hardware, controlling software) (CBMT Domain III. A. 5. X.)


ANDREW CHAPMAN, MT-BC is the coordinator of the University of Louisville Music Therapy Clinic. He is drawn to a variety of populations including foster care and older adults. He regularly engages in community songwriting teaching as well as clinical and personal songwriting experiences.

CHRIS MILLETT, MM, MT-BC is an assistant professor at the University of Louisville. He has a variety of clinical, presenting, and publication experience and regularly engages with the TECHNook community to increase tech literacy for music therapists. Outside of clinical work he also hosts the Make More Music podcast.