Ubuntu Studio, USB Keyboards and MIDI

In my ongoing quest to get the most bang for the buck, I decided to try a little experiment.  Specifically, I wanted to use an old electronic piano as a MIDI controller, and record to my laptop.

I took the first stab at it in Windows.  The program of choice was going to be LMMS, which stands for Linux Multi Media Studio.  Originally a linux-based DAW and loop maker, LMMS has been ported to Windows and Mac OS.  The closest "pro" analogue would be FL Studio.

The keyboard is an old Radio Shack LK-1500 that we got the kids for Christmas many years ago.  It's a decent cheap piano with lighted key tutorials, a drum machine and all that jazz.  Plus a USB port and some MIDI settings.  I was hoping the piano would be plug-and-play to XP, but no such luck.  Still, finding a driver took all of .000345 seconds on Google.

So I loaded up LMMS and off we go. The interface is pretty simple.  Select an instrument patch, and put it in the editor. By clicking on the wrench box, you can select your MIDI input, which in this case showed up as "LK-1500 Keyboard."  Right click on the editor and select "Open Piano Roll."  Make music.

I found that no matter how much I tweaked the buffer settings, there was way too much latency.  The music dragged.  Plus LMMS is best suited for making loops, not multitracking.

On to Ubuntu.  The goal was to record something in Ardour. So once Ubuntu was booted up, I launched LMMS to see if the OS even recognized the piano, which it did, no intervention needed.   Now, Ardour is not a midi editor.  So if I wanted to record something from the piano, I would have to translate it into audio on the fly. 

I decided to try and use QSynth, the GUI front-end for Fluidsynth, a software synthesizer.  After some trial and error, the process looked like this:

  1. Start JACK via QjackCtl.   
  2. Start Ardour and create a new project.  Add an audio track.
  3. Start QSynth.  Load a soundfont. 
  4. In  JACK, under the ALSA tab, connect the piano to FLUID synth(qsynth)
  5. In JACK, under the Audio tab, connect qsynth to Ardour: Audio 1 in. 
  6. Make sure the MIDI channel on your piano matches Qsynth.  (I used 1)
That was basically all I had to do.  Ardour now saw the piano as an audio input, and recording was a snap.  Cost of software: $0

Next, I'm going to work on trying to use more than one soundfont to get a layered sound. 


  1. Cool that you managed to make it work. Hope it does what you need.

  2. I was pretty happy with myself, actually. :)

  3. how did you put the driver in because when ever i do it doesnt work

  4. The driver for the piano? Ubuntu found it all by itself once I started Jack. In Windows, I did a Google search for "LK-1500 driver" I found an exec file that I just ran and it installed. The key is that you need a program that will accept the inputs from the piano.

  5. I am trying to find the same driver, but for mac. Any suggestion?

  6. The Mac should see it. The key is the program you're using. In GB, you need to have a software track, not a real track.


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