Updated May 30, 2023
Best MIDI Keyboards of 2023 | The Ultimate Guide
Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the best MIDI keyboards, where we will explore and review top-rated options, discuss their features and benefits, and provide valuable insights to help you make an informed decision for your music production needs.
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In today’s digital music production landscape, MIDI keyboards have become indispensable tools for musicians and producers. These versatile controllers offer a hands-on approach to composing, arranging, and performing music in a home studio environment. With a wide variety of MIDI keyboards available, each catering to different needs and budgets, finding the right one can be a daunting task. In this article, we will explore the best MIDI keyboards on the market, considering factors like key size, portability, functionality, and affordability. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional, there’s a keyboard out there that will perfectly suit your creative needs.
Within this buying guide are nine models from today’s top brands, roughly ranging between $100-700 give-or-take as they come in a variety of key counts and very often go on sale.
Arturia Keylab Essential 49
› Build: 5 / 5
› Feel: 4.5 / 5
› Sounds: 5 / 5
› Affordability: 5 / 5
2nd Best Choice
M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49
› Build: 4.5 / 5
› Feel: 4.5 / 5
› Sounds: 3.5 / 5
› Affordability: 5 / 5
3rd Best Choice
Komplete Kontrol S61
› Build: 4.5 / 5
› Feel: 5 / 5
› Sounds: 5 / 5
› Affordability: 3.5 / 5
Let’s explore our top picks for the best MIDI keyboards for your home studio:
Arturia Keylab Essential 49
Colours: Black + White
Available Key Counts: 49, 61, 88
Velocity Pads: 8
The Arturia KeyLab Essential 49 MIDI Keyboard is designed to be your creative companion, providing a streamlined and intuitive music-making experience. With its hybrid synth-piano feel, the 49-key velocity-sensitive keyboard offers a responsive playing surface that captures every nuance of your performance. You can easily shift the keyboard octaves, manipulate pitch bend and modulation using the dedicated wheels, and even add an optional sustain pedal for enhanced expression.
This versatile MIDI keyboard comes packed with a range of intuitive controls. The 8 multi-purpose performance pads with RGB backlighting allow you to punch in dynamic drum rhythms and percussion patterns. The rotary knobs and faders automatically map to adjust panning and levels, making mixing a breeze. Additionally, the DAW Command Center gives you full control over your creative environment, allowing you to play, pause, stop, record, and navigate your project with ease.
The KeyLab Essential integrates perfectly with the included Analog Lab V software, offering over 7000 preset sounds from Arturia’s renowned V Collection. It enhances your creative workflow, providing an immediate and expressive instrument that adapts to your musical style. The keyboard’s intelligent MIDI mapping, flexible internal memory, and compatibility with third-party instruments and software make it a versatile choice for any setup.
With its durable build quality and USB class-compliant design, the KeyLab Essential ensures seamless integration with your computer, iPad, or Android devices. It simplifies the technical aspects of music production, allowing you to focus on your creativity and find your sound effortlessly.
- Hybrid synth-piano feel with velocity-sensitive keys for expressive playing
- Integration with Analog Lab V software and access to over 7000 preset sounds
- Intuitive DAW Command Center for mastering your creative environment
- USB class-compliant design for easy connectivity with various devices
- The KeyLab Essential software integration, while powerful, may require some initial setup and configuration, which can be time-consuming for beginners.
- The included Analog Lab V software, while providing a wide range of presets, offers restricted customization of presets. I will note, however, that out-of-the-box they sound really great.
M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49
Available Key Counts: 25, 32, 49, 61
Velocity Pads: 16
The M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49 MIDI keyboard is a versatile and feature-packed controller designed to enhance your production workflow. With 49 velocity-sensitive, semi-weighted keys featuring aftertouch and assignable zones, it offers an exceptional playing experience for VSTs and soft-synth plugins. Whether you’re a producer on the go or working in the studio, the Oxygen Pro series adapts to your needs.
For beat makers, this controller excels with its 16 RGB backlit drum pads, which are MIDI assignable and velocity-sensitive. The Note Repeat function allows you to create rhythmic patterns effortlessly, while the arpeggiator brings life to your melodies by playing held keys in sequence. These tools are indispensable for crafting professional-sounding pop, electronic, hip hop, and dance music.
The Oxygen Pro 49 provides total rule over your production with its 8 assignable knobs, 9 assignable faders, and an easy-to-read OLED screen. It seamlessly integrates with popular DAWs like MPC Beats, Ableton Live, Cubase, Logic, and Studio One, thanks to its Auto-Mapping feature. Smart Chord and Smart Scale modes remove barriers and simplify chord progressions and scale variations.
MPC Beats and Ableton Live Lite offer powerful recording, sequencing, and mixing capabilities. The virtual instrument collection from AIR Music Tech includes Hybrid 3, Velvet, Touch Loops, and Mini Grand, enabling you to find and create a vast array of sounds. Furthermore, Expansion Packs from Akai Professional’s MPC Series provide cutting-edge sound content.
Overall, the M-Audio Oxygen Pro 49 MIDI keyboard offers premium response, hands-on control, seamless DAW integration, and a wide range of software tools. It has all the features to explore new musical possibilities, and take your music to the next level.
- A generous number of assignable knobs and faders provide tactile control over virtual instruments, effect plugins, and DAW functions.
- Smart Chord and Smart Scale modes simplify chord progressions and scale variations.
- Sturdy build quality and ergonomic design.
- The OLED screen could be larger and more informative. (Quite subjective).
- The drum pads could be more sensitive, requiring harder hits for full velocity response. Fine for heavy beat making but can miss some subtleties.
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61
Available Key Counts: 49, 61, 88
Velocity Pads: None
The ideal solution for producers looking to get those most use out of Native Instruments KOMPLETE bundles. With Kontakt’s S49/S61, composers can fine-tune the expressions of their sounds on-the-fly for ultra-realistic performances in a seamless user experience.
With its intuitive interface and hands-on approach, the Komplete Kontrol S61 empowers you to perform expressively, tweak parameters, and navigate through your projects effortlessly.
Users can visualize their music with the two high-resolution color screens. These vibrant displays make it easy to browse, preview sounds, and fine-tune your mixes directly from the hardware. The backlit function buttons adapt to indicate their state, while the precision Light Guide guides your way by highlighting sounds, key zones, switches, scales, and more.
Finding the perfect sound is made easy. Its simple and intuitive tagging system allows you to search across the vast libraries of KOMPLETE and Native Kontrol Standard (NKS) instruments directly from the hardware. You can hear instant previews of each instrument preset as you browse, making the selection process a joy. Imagine effortlessly discovering that ideal hip hop kit or tagging your favorite sounds for instant access in future projects.
The Light Guide keeps you in key, illuminating notes from the selected scale or mode. Activate chord mode to effortlessly create progressions by playing single keys, and engage the arpeggiator for an expressive musical touch.
The keyboard’s two ergonomic, rubberized pitch and mod wheels provide precise control over pitch and modulation, while the ultra-sensitive touch strip offers a responsive alternative to using a dedicated expression pedal. These features give you the freedom to add personal flair to your compositions.
The Komplete Kontrol S61 seamlessly integrates with popular music production software such as Logic Pro X, Ableton Live, Cubase, Nuendo, and GarageBand. Access transport, mixing, and editing controls directly from the keyboard, complete with visual feedback and volume metering on the built-in displays. Additionally, the MIDI in/out connectivity allows for easy incorporation of outboard gear into your setup.
When you unbox the Komplete Kontrol S61, you’ll find that it comes bundled with Ableton Live 10 Lite, enabling you to start producing right away. Furthermore, the integration extends beyond the KOMPLETE universe with NKS compatibility. This means you can intuitively control a wide range of instruments and effects from leading manufacturers, including Heavyocity, Spitfire, and Waves.
- Simple and intuitive tagging system for quick and efficient sound searching
- Pre-mapped controls for KOMPLETE and NKS instruments and effects
- Pro performance features such as scale and chord modes, arpeggiator, and easy mode for beginners
- Includes Ableton Live 10 Lite software for immediate production capabilities
- NKS compatibility provides intuitive control over instruments and effects from leading manufacturers
- Price may be relatively high for some users
- Initial setup and configuration can be time-consuming for inexperienced users
- The touch strip may not be as precise or responsive as a dedicated expression pedal for some users
- Limited integration with certain music production software or plugins not yet updated to NKS
AKAI MPK Mini MK3
Colours: Black, Dark Grey, Light Grey, White
Available Key Counts: 25
Velocity Pads: 8
The AKAI MPK Mini MK3 is a popular companion for modern music producers and beat makers. This compact and powerful USB-powered MIDI controller packs a punch with its extensive features and intuitive design.
With 25 velocity-sensitive mini keys, you’ll have precise control over your virtual synthesizers and studio productions. The innovative 4-way thumbstick provides dynamic pitch and modulation control, allowing you to add expressive nuances to your performances. The built-in arpeggiator offers adjustable resolution, range, and modes, giving you creative freedom to experiment with intricate patterns.
Take full command of your production with the 8 backlit velocity-sensitive MPC-style beat pads. Use them to program drums, trigger samples, and control virtual synthesizers and DAW functions. The MPC Note Repeat and Full Level features add further versatility to your rhythm creation.
With 8 360-degree knobs, you can effortlessly tweak and mix your music studio plugins, giving you complete control over your sound. Whether you’re adjusting synth parameters or fine-tuning your mix, these assignable knobs make the process seamless.
The MPK Mini MK3 comes bundled with a complete music production starter kit, including MPC Beats software, 6 virtual instruments, and 2GB of sound content. This comprehensive package equips both beginners and professionals with the essential tools needed to create hit songs.
Setup is a breeze, thanks to the single install of all the included industry-standard software. Spend less time dealing with technicalities and more time unleashing your creativity.
Featuring a reimagined Gen 2 enhanced dynamic keybed, the MPK Mini MK3 delivers an exceptional piano-like performance. From grand pianos to vibrant synth leads, this keybed ensures optimal playability and expression with any virtual instrument.
Elevate your drum tracks with the 8 bankable velocity-sensitive backlit MPC pads, offering a responsive and tactile experience for precise drumming and melodic sample playback.
Embark on your musical journey and let the AKAI Professional MPK Mini 25 MK3 MIDI Keyboard be your trusted companion. It’s time to create your next hit and unlock your full creative potential. With its intuitive design and versatile features, this MIDI keyboard is a game-changer in music production.
- Innovative 4-way thumbstick provides dynamic pitch and modulation control.
- Backlit MPC-style pads with Note Repeat and Full Level allow for intuitive drum programming and sample triggering.
- Complete Music Production Starter Kit included, featuring MPC Beats software and virtual instruments.
- Easy setup with a single install of included software.
- The absence of dedicated transport controls may require additional setup for some workflows.
- The pitch bend and modulation controls may feel less precise compared to larger controllers.
Novation Launchkey 37 MK3
Available Key Counts: 25, 37, 49, 61
Velocity Pads: 16
Though the Novation Launchkey works perfectly with all daws, its Ableton integration is unparalled, perhaps making it the best midi keyboard for Ableton users.
Take advantage of deep integration with Ableton Live, including device macro control, track selection, recording, and clip launching. Capture MIDI ensures you never lose a moment of inspiration. The velocity-sensitive keyboard and 16 pads allow for expressive and dynamic performances, while the three chord modes enable you to quickly lay down chords with just one finger.
Scale modes eliminate the frustration of hitting wrong notes by transposing keys and pads to notes in the selected scale. The powerful arpeggiator adds diversity to your melodies, allowing you to experiment with rhythm, pattern, and more.
This MIDI keyboard comes in a 37-key variant, perfect for both mobile producers and those with limited space. The full-size MIDI output enables connectivity with any MIDI-compatible device, and the Custom Modes allow you to map the controller’s knobs, faders, and pads to your desired software and hardware features.
Included software, such as Ableton Live Lite, Spitfire Audio LABS Expressive Strings, and XLN Audio Addictive Keys, further enhance your music creation possibilities.
- Seamless integration with Ableton Live.
- Velocity-sensitive keyboard and pads for expressive performances.
- Chord modes simplify chord progression creation.
- Custom Modes for personalized control mappings.
- Full-size MIDI output for connectivity with external devices.
- Some users may prefer additional bundled software options better suited for hip hop and popular genres.
Nektar Impact LX49+
Available Key Counts: 25, 49, 61, 88
Velocity Pads: 8
Designed with the user in mind, this feature-packed controller offers an exceptional level of control that surpasses many premium products on the market.
Featuring a 49-note keyboard is velocity-sensitive, synth action and medium tension, delivering a comfortable playing experience.
Tailor the keyboard response to suit your playing style with it’s multiple velocity curves and fixed velocity levels. Octave and transpose buttons, as well as pitch bend and modulation wheels, are easily accessible for quick shifts and added expression.
The control center of the Impact LX49+ boasts nine faders, nine MIDI buttons, and eight encoders. Nektar DAW Integration sets the Impact LX49+ apart from other MIDI controllers. With optimized interaction and support for popular DAWs like Bitwig, Cubase, Logic Pro, and more, your workflow is streamlined. The intuitive layout, labeled buttons, and controls make it easy to navigate and access essential functions for recording and performing.
Creating grooves and beats is a breeze with the eight velocity-sensitive pads. These pads offer a light touch response, making drumming a joy. Assign any MIDI note number or CC message to the pads, and use the “Pad Learn” feature for easy assignment without complex menus. The illuminated LED pads indicate the currently loaded pad map and the type of MIDI message each pad sends.
Transport controls, mixer control, instrument preset activation, and customizable user settings enhance your music-making experience. The Page button allows for easy switching between default and user settings, while the “Grab” mode enables temporary parameter assignments for effortless control.
In conclusion, the Nektar Impact LX49+ MIDI Keyboard Controller is versatile and intuitive that empowers you to create music with precision and expression. Its user-centric design, extensive functionality, and seamless integration with popular DAWs make it a powerful companion for both beginners and experienced musicians alike.
- Extensive performance control features
- Intuitive and user-friendly design
- Seamless integration with popular DAWs
- Versatile and responsive keyboard
- Illuminated pads with easy assignment
- Limited compatibility with some less popular DAWs
- Limited number of faders and encoders compared to higher-end models
Novation FLkey 37
Available Key Counts: 25, 37
Velocity Pads: 16
Perhaps the unrivaled companion for FL Studio.
With the Novation FLkey 37, you have all the essential controls right at your fingertips. Easily adjust volume and pan with the eight knobs, giving you immediate access to the mixer and channel rack. The step sequencer lets you program beats quickly, while the pads allow for expressive playability directly into the channel rack. Choose your scale with Scale mode, ensuring that you always hit the right note.
The integration with FL Studio is seamless. Transport buttons provide instant access to functions like undo, redo, quantize, and metronome. You can even browse presets in your Image Line plug-ins without reaching for the mouse.
Additionally, FLkey 37 comes bundled with a variety of software. Enjoy a six-month trial of FL Studio Producer Edition, a comprehensive music production environment. Explore the authentic piano sounds of XLN Audio Addictive Keys, the versatile sounds of AAS Session Bundle, the expressive strings of Spitfire Audio LABS, and the unique reverbs and cassette effects of Klevgrand R0Verb and DAW Cassette.
Whether you choose the compact 25-key Mini model or the powerful 37-key version, FLkey perfectly complements your studio setup. The 37-key model offers even more features, including User Chord mode, Scale Chord mode, pitch bend, modulation wheels, and extra transport buttons.
- Seamless integration with FL Studio
- Bundled software includes FL Studio Producer Edition and various plugins for expanded creative options.
- Pads can trigger FPC and SliceX for expressive beats and melodies..
- Limited compatibility with other DAWs, primarily optimized for FL Studio.
- Some users may find the learning curve steep for advanced features and functionalities.
- The bundled software trial period may be relatively short, requiring additional purchases for long-term usage.
Available Key Counts: 25, 49, 61
Velocity Pads: 16
The Alesis VI49 MIDI Keyboard is a powerful and versatile MIDI controller designed to enhance your music production experience. With its 49 full-sized, semi-weighted keys and aftertouch, you can effortlessly play melodies, bass lines, and chords, while the Octave Up/Down buttons expand your creative range.
The 16 velocity-sensitive RGB trigger pads provide intuitive beat production and clip launching, adding a dynamic element to your performances.
One of the standout features of the VI49 is its extensive control capabilities. With 12 assignable knobs and 36 assignable buttons, you have precise control over effect plugins and virtual instruments.
Whether you want to open and close filters, adjust volume levels, or tweak parameters, the VI49 puts these functions right at your fingertips. The pitch and modulation wheels further enhance your expressiveness, allowing you to add depth and nuance to your playing.
Seamless integration with your music software is simple with the VI49. A single USB connection provides both power and MIDI functionality, enabling you to quickly connect to your computer and start creating music. Additionally, the 5-pin MIDI Out allows you to control external MIDI modules and synthesizers. The LED screen, illuminated knobs, buttons, and pads provide real-time visual feedback, ensuring an intuitive and efficient workflow.
Included with the VI49 are the MPC Beats, Ableton Live Lite, and Xpand!2 software. MPC Beats offers a comprehensive set of tools for beat production, while Ableton Live Lite provides a seamless audio/MIDI environment for recording and remixing. Xpand!2 is a feature-rich virtual instrument with a wide range of high-quality sounds to fuel your creativity.
- 49 full-sized, semi-weighted keys with aftertouch for a realistic playing experience.
- Bundled with MPC Beats, Ableton Live Lite, and Xpand!2 software for a comprehensive music production package.
- 16 velocity-sensitive RGB trigger pads with responsive feedback for beat production and clip launching.
- Seamless integration with music software.
- The placement of certain controls and buttons may feel cramped for users with larger hands.
- Some users find the keys to be slightly less responsive compared to higher-end MIDI keyboards.
Arturia MiniLab 3
Colours: Black + White
Available Key Counts: 25
Velocity Pads: 8
A powerful and versatile tool packed with incredible vintage sounds that will inspire instantly. With its plug-and-play functionality, intuitive controls, and comprehensive software package, this MIDI keyboard is designed to cater to both beginners and professionals alike.
MiniLab 3 is more than just a keyboard; it’s a complete production solution. With pre-mapped controls for most popular DAWs, you can seamlessly control your projects, browse presets, and connect to MIDI gear with ease. Immerse yourself in a world of exceptional sounds, thanks to the hundreds of synth and keys presets derived from Arturia’s acclaimed Analog Lab V, V Collection, and Pigments libraries.
Its user-friendly design, flexible recording software, and instant access to sound tweaking capabilities ensure a smooth and enjoyable workflow. Say goodbye to mouse-dependent production and embrace a hands-on approach as you create beats, adjust faders, and control instruments effortlessly.
The software-hardware integration of MiniLab 3 goes beyond Analog Lab, offering seamless compatibility with popular DAWs such as Ableton, Logic, Bitwig, FL Studio, and Reason. Custom scripts allow for real-time control, custom mappings, and quick navigation within your projects, all from the convenience of MiniLab 3’s intuitive interface.
Crafted with precision, MiniLab 3 features a premium keybed with 25 velocity-sensitive slim keys, allowing for expressive playing. The controller also boasts pads, rotary encoders, sliders, touch sensors, and a mini display with a clickable browsing knob, providing real-time feedback and control over your music production process.
Connectivity is a breeze with USB-C compatibility for easy computer and iPad connection. Additionally, MIDI 5-pin DIN output enables you to connect external instruments and gear, while the control input accommodates pedals for sustain, expression, or footswitch functionality.
- Excellent value for money compared to other MIDI keyboards in its range.
- Responsive and expressive keybed with velocity-sensitive keys.
- Extensive software package included, featuring high-quality presets and instruments.
- Compact and portable design, ideal for on-the-go music production.
- The included software may have a learning curve for beginners unfamiliar with music production software. (Def worth learning).
- Some users have reported minor build quality issues with certain components. (Never in my personal experience but worth mentioning).
Understanding MIDI Keyboards
Before diving into our top picks, let’s briefly understand what MIDI keyboards are and how they function. MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a communication protocol that allows electronic musical instruments and computers to interact. MIDI keyboards serve as the primary controllers in this ecosystem, bridging the gap between your musical ideas and the virtual instruments and software in your digital audio workstation (DAW). By connecting a MIDI keyboard to your computer, you can trigger sounds, play virtual instruments, record performances, and control various parameters, giving you a tactile and expressive playing experience.
Choosing the Right MIDI Keyboard
When selecting a MIDI keyboard, several factors should be taken into consideration. Key size, portability, and budget play a crucial role in determining which keyboard suits your specific needs. MIDI controller keyboards generally fall into three size categories:
- Compact MIDI Keyboards (25 keys): These small, portable keyboards are ideal for musicians on the move and those with limited space in their studio. They are perfect for inputting simple drum beats, basslines, and basic melodies and chords.
- Desk-Based MIDI Keyboards (49+ keys): If you require a broader range and more control options, desk-based MIDI keyboards are the way to go. With their larger key count and additional controls, they offer enhanced playability and versatility for more complex compositions.
- Pro-Level MIDI Keyboards (88 keys): Designed for professional players and those who desire the feel of a traditional piano, pro-level MIDI keyboards feature a full 88-key range. These keyboards provide the most authentic piano-playing experience and are well-suited for advanced compositions and live performances.
Weighted, Semi-Weighted, Synth Action : Keyboard Action Types
This describes the response type of a MIDI keyboard’s keybed. There are mainly three types of keyboard actions:
Weighted: This type of keybed responds like that of a traditional acoustic piano with a noticeable degree of resistance. They require more pressure to the keys, where the amount of pressure is relative to the resulting velocity of that MIDI note. This is called velocity-sensitivity.
Semi-Weighted: The same concept as a weighted keybed but with less resistance. These allow for very expressive performances that translate well when playing virtual instruments. This is a common action type found on a majority of medium-sized MIDI keyboard controllers.
Synth action: These feel much like an organ in that there is no resistance and the keys can be played very quickly. This can be good for fast lead synth melodies and is found on 25-key versions, and some larger versions as well.
You’ll notice that in addition to the piano-style keys, MIDI keyboard controllers include a wealth of knobs, sliders, buttons and pads. These dramatically increase the hands-on real-time control you have over your software by transmitting MIDI data that manipulates chosen software parameters in an analog-like fashion.
Pretty much all current models of MIDI controllers include a technology that allows the user to correspond these controls to specific applications within your chosen software. This means you can control synthesizer and virtual instrument parameters from the unit itself without the need of a computer mouse.
The controller itself will have built into it a variety of features that allow it to function as a standalone workstation. Common features are:
- Aftertouch: Also known as pressure sensitivity, is a feature found on certain MIDI keyboards that allows for additional expressive control over the sound being played. Aftertouch is the ability to detect the amount of pressure or force applied to a key after it has been pressed down.
- Assignable Knobs: These are rotary knobs that can be assigned to control various parameters of MIDI-enabled software or hardware. Users can assign them to modulate parameters like filter cutoff, resonance, envelope settings, or effects parameters in real-time.
- Arpeggiator: Takes the chords played on the keyboard and transforms them into a repeating pattern of individual notes, creating rhythmic and melodic sequences.
- Modulation Controls: Refers to physical knobs, wheels, or sliders that allow users to manipulate various parameters of sound in real-time. These controls are designed to add expressiveness and versatility to MIDI performances and provide hands-on control over modulation effects.
- Modulation Wheel: A wheel that can be moved side to side, typically located on the left side of the keyboard. It is used to introduce modulation effects such as vibrato or tremolo, which add subtle or dramatic variations in pitch or volume to the sound.
- Pitch Bend Wheel: A wheel that is usually located next to the modulation wheel. It enables players to bend the pitch of a note up or down, simulating the effect of bending a string on a guitar or adding expressive pitch variations to synthesizer sounds.
- Sampler: With a sampler on a MIDI keyboard, users can assign different samples to different keys or pads on the keyboard. When a key or pad is triggered, the corresponding sample is played back, allowing musicians to create melodies, play chords, or trigger rhythmic patterns using the sampled sounds.
- Sliders: Sliders on a MIDI keyboard are typically used to control mixer levels or act as faders for volume control. They provide tactile control over the mixing and balancing of MIDI tracks or software instruments.
- Performance Pads: a set of assignable, velocity-sensitive pads or buttons that can trigger samples or loops or send messages to various parameters in your virtual instruments, software synthesizers, or effects plugins.
All current MIDI keyboard controllers have a USB port that can be connected to your Mac or PC to send and receive the data. Modern devices are ‘class compliant’, meaning they do not require special drivers to work and they will continue to work with updated versions of your software.
In most cases, the USB cable supplies power to the keyboard from the computer which alleviates the need for an external power supply. However, using an external power supply will help reduce the amount of CPU usage from the computer, allowing it to direct it’s resources to other tasks.
Some models may feature an older-style 5-prong MIDI port which can be used to connect a variety of MIDI hardware such as synths and drum machines. If you’re looking for this kind of connection and are wondering why you’re not seeing it on newer midi keyboards, USB2 or USB-C connections sufficiently carry MIDI data as effectively as these older connectors.
What is MIDI?
MIDI lurks beneath every piece of modern music production software. It started as a keyboard-aid but had developed so far as to help establish the digital revolution that has transformed the entire recording landscape.
“MIDI” is an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It is a protocol that allows musical instruments and digital devices to communicate; triggering electronic and virtual instruments using data inputted to a MIDI controller.
In one sense, it is like electricity that sends information somewhere as to prompt a characterized response. Responses happen in real time, allowing the performance of an infinite number of sounds with a profoundly human quality.
In addition to initiating sounds, a MIDI controller integrates flawlessly with your DAW of choice with the ability to control it’s parameters. This can optimize ones workflow in the creative process as all of this communication can be customized to ones preferences.
1. What is the difference between a MIDI keyboard and a regular keyboard?
A regular keyboard is a musical instrument that produces sound directly, either acoustically or through built-in speakers. On the other hand, a MIDI keyboard is a controller that doesn’t produce sound on its own. It sends MIDI data to a computer or sound module, triggering virtual instruments or software synthesizers to generate sounds.
2. Can I use a MIDI keyboard with any DAW (Digital Audio Workstation)?
Yes, MIDI keyboards are designed to work with any DAW that supports MIDI input. Most popular DAWs, such as Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FL Studio, and Cubase, have native MIDI support and can easily be integrated with MIDI keyboards. Though all modern MIDI keyboards are compatible with all major DAWs, some are tailored to integrate more specifically with certain ones.
3. What is the advantage of having a larger key count on a MIDI keyboard?
A larger key count on a MIDI keyboard allows for a wider playing range and more expressive possibilities. It gives you access to more octaves, making it easier to play complex melodies, chords, and basslines. Additionally, keyboards with larger key counts often have more assignable controls, giving you greater flexibility in manipulating sound parameters.
4. Do I need to know how to play the piano to use a MIDI keyboard?
No, you don’t need to know how to play the piano to use a MIDI keyboard. While having piano skills can enhance your playing experience, MIDI keyboards are designed to be used by musicians and producers of all skill levels. They can be easily configured to suit your playing style, whether you prefer playing with one hand, using chord modes, or triggering pre-made chords, loops and patterns.
5. Can I use a MIDI keyboard for live performances?
Yes, MIDI keyboards are commonly used for live performances. They can be connected to a laptop or a hardware sound module, allowing you to trigger sounds and play virtual instruments in real-time. MIDI keyboards with additional control features, such as faders, knobs, and pads, can provide even more versatility and options for live performances.
6. Can I connect a MIDI keyboard to a tablet or smartphone?
Yes, many MIDI keyboards have USB or wireless connectivity options that allow them to be connected to tablets or smartphones. This enables you to use music production apps and software on these devices, making MIDI keyboards a portable and convenient solution for music creation on the go.
7. Are weighted keys important in a MIDI keyboard?
Weighted keys simulate the feel of an acoustic piano and provide a more realistic playing experience. While not essential for everyone, weighted keys can be beneficial for pianists or those who want a more authentic piano-playing experience. Many MIDI keyboards offer various key types, including weighted, semi-weighted, and synth-action keys, allowing you to choose based on your personal preference.
8. Can I use a MIDI keyboard to control other MIDI devices?
Yes, MIDI keyboards can be used to control other MIDI devices, such as synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers. Through MIDI connections, you can transmit MIDI data from the keyboard to other devices, allowing you to trigger sounds, control parameters, and create intricate musical setups.
9. Can I use a MIDI keyboard without a computer?
Some MIDI keyboards offer standalone capabilities, allowing you to use them without a computer. These keyboards often have built-in sounds or the ability to load external sound libraries, giving you the option to play and create music independently, even in the absence of a computer or software.
10. Are there any specific MIDI keyboards for beginners?
While many MIDI keyboards cater to beginners, it ultimately depends on personal preferences and requirements. Compact MIDI keyboards with fewer keys and simplified controls are often suitable for beginners due to their simplicity and ease of use. Additionally, MIDI keyboards that come bundled with beginner-friendly software and tutorials can provide a great starting point for those new to music production.
When it comes to purchasing a MIDI keyboard controller, there are several key factors to consider. First and foremost, understanding your own needs and preferences is crucial. Evaluate your music production goals, the level of control you require, and the specific features that will enhance your workflow.
Size and portability are important considerations, especially if you plan to travel or have limited studio space. Compact keyboards like the Arturia Keylab Essential 49 and AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 offer convenience and mobility.
The quality of the keybed and sensitivity of the keys are vital for a satisfying playing experience. Look for velocity-sensitive keys and, if possible, aftertouch functionality for added expressiveness.
Integration with your preferred software and compatibility with different operating systems are essential. Ensure that the MIDI controller works seamlessly with your DAW and plugins, allowing you to fully harness its potential.
Additional features such as drum pads, knobs, faders, and transport controls can greatly enhance your production capabilities, enabling hands-on control over various parameters and facilitating a more intuitive workflow.
Lastly, consider the bundled software and sound libraries included with the MIDI keyboard. High-quality virtual instruments and production tools can significantly enrich your creative possibilities.