As you have a look in the market, you will be able to explore a number of different types of MIDI keyboard controllers that are designed to improve use of an equipment and thus enables a performer to perform at best of his skills with the use of varied automatic parameters in real-time. These controllers are there to offer you an opportunity to play piano style keyboard much more intuitively and interactively. Not only these controls would improve your working style but would enhance flow and productivity of work. Throughout this guide we will have a better look at what are these controllers for, how and why they are used along with tips for finding the best MIDI keyboard for musicians?
What is MIDI Keyboard Controller and who should own it?
MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) was initiated back in 1980 with the purpose of offering control of sound over various synthesizers with the use of one keyboard for live performers. MIDI Keyboard Controller is actually a device that features piano or synthesizer style keys. It includes a number of buttons, sliders and knobs that enable user to control and transfer sound data to external devices such as sound modules, computer synthesizers, hardware/software sequencers or more. These keyboard controllers offer an impressively natural way of playing instruments on computer system. The charm is that you don’t need to be a piano player yet you can perform with simple patterns of notes.
Most of the controllers usually do not have any system of sound generation inside them but they act as a controller for sounds and related factors on other devices that are installed in DAW of computer. Almost all kinds of musical hardware and software devices can be controlled virtually with the aid of these controllers. Musicians can compose notes, tracks and can even improvise their acoustic recordings. Thus all the live performing musicians, songwriters/composers, sound designers and studio musicians should own MIDI keyboard controller and it will enhance the flavor of their musical life.
Benefits of using MIDI Keyboard Controller:
Some of the main benefits that these MIDI controllers offer include:
- It offers versatility: These MIDI keyboards that we are talking about are virtually versatile in terms of applications and tasks that they support. You can control a range of hardware and software modern music with the use of these controllers. Just by having these keyboards and related interface; you can practice well to give a live performance with complete ease of co-ordination. It enables you to produce varied sound effects and that too without having much of musical knowledge. Thus without making much efforts you will be able to drive best results. Moreover you are able to create sounds with multiple instruments without actually knowing or having those instruments.
- Reliability: Another important benefit of using these controllers is that you can take care of small details with advanced controlling options. For example if you are working on recording a sample, you will be able to alter even those minute details that may not be possible otherwise.
- Compact& Portable: Now always but you can find some MIDI controllers that are really compact size. Their size is such that you can even fit it in your briefcase or laptop bag without much trouble. Because of their size, you can carry most of these controllers along you can work for a creative result anywhere as your mind comes up with something attractive or inspiring.
- Quality of Sound: As you reproduce sound with these controls you don’t need to include other sound systems and amplifiers rather the quality will depend upon quality of your controller. Apart from that it will depend upon the interface software that you will be using to translate file according to control instructions.
- Cost Effective: Some of the best keyboard controllers can be bought within a range of 100 to 200 USD.
Best MIDI Keyboard Controllers:
Here we are presenting some of the top MIDI keyboard controllers that are best in best and are quite popular among musicians for sound production. Each one of these is selected on the basis of exceptional features that they carry and you can choose piano keyboard that suits you best
1. Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII
This Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII is one of the best MIDI keyboard that has gained huge popularity among its target users. The keyboard has been launched with some major improvements to its predecessor and features everything that a promising musician would look for compositing and editing music pieces. Priced well and packed with portability, it is perfect one to carry in your backpack to your studios and elsewhere. This keyboard includes 25 slim velocity sensitive keys. These slim keys make the size of the keyboard pretty small.
In order to save space, manufacturers have offered a four-way thumb stick to give you pitch and modulation control that is usually offered in the form of wheel. An interesting part of the controller is its backlit 8 MPC-style drum pads along with two banks and 8 control knobs. Additional features include on-board adjustable arpeggiator, octave up and down, full level and note repeat buttons.This controller gives you access to some amazing free software including Akai Pro MPC Essentials, SONiVOX Wobble and AIR Music TechHybrid 3 that would support your creativity and ideas. No drivers or external adapters are needed and you can just plug-in and play this controller with USB connection.
- Compact size, highly portable.
- Reasonably priced.
- Easy plug and play connectivity.
- Simple set up.
- Well-built with all features.
- Limited keys and smaller keyboard with no weighted keys. It may be difficult for people who are used to of working on heavier and wider keys.
- Akai software is probably not the best and lacks.
2. M-Audio Keystation 49 II
This has yet again gained most positive reviews from a lot of users and is termed to be one of the best types of controllers with sleek and attractive design.The specific keyboard that we are talking about has 49 full size semi-weighted velocity sensitive keys whereas there are other versions with 61 and 88 keys too that are offered at a different price. Affordable price day and complete USB powered control to all the features makes it super simple to use for digital music composition involving other instruments too. Though it is light weight and keys are not fully weighted but they offer good sensitivity for piano players.
The layout is pretty simple with no knobs, drum pads and sliders. It gives musicians to add expression to their performance with the aid of 1/4-inch sustain-pedal input. Other features include octave range buttons, modulation wheels, pitch control and transport control. Playing, performing and recording functions can be controlled with direction controls of software. The M-Audio USB powered keyboard includes SONiVOX Eighty-Eight Ensemble and Ableton Live Lite.
- Best MIDI Keyboard for pianists who are looking for simple controls and avoid confusing sliders and knobs.
- Best price.
- Convenience of carrying with light weight.
- 49 full-size, velocity-sensitive keys.
- 1/4″ sustain-pedal input that genuine pianists would appreciate.
- Keys are not fully weighted.
3. Novation Launchkey 49 USB Keyboard Controller
Belonging to a name Novation that has been offering some of the best performing controllers to market. The Launchkey MIDI keyboards give impressive compatibility with Albeton Live that gives you ease of producing music quickly. But you can comfortably use it with other popular DAWs too. No divers needed, just install the software and you will be good to begin with music production. This 49 Note version includes 16 velocity sensitive RGB drum pads, 8 knobs along with navigation and control buttons.
Compatible with MAC and PC through software, this USB powered controller gives you complete hands on controls. It includes Novation Bass Station and V Station virtual instruments along with more than 1 GB Loopmasters samples. This particular model has other versions with 25 and 61 key notes too. But this one is surely worth the reasonable price tag for playability and simple controls.
- Reasonable price for the features offered.
- Albeton Live and VST plug-ins are an added advantage.
- 49 Velocity sensitive keys give you real feel.
- 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads.
- Simple to use and USB powered.
- Keys are limited.
- Controls are not extraordinary but keeping in mind the budget it is offered with it would be a good deal.
How to find the best MIDI Keyboard Controller?
Well the trick in finding one of the best MIDI controller lies in your preferences and needs so you can consider varied factors and choose one that suits you well.
Size of Keyboard/Number of Keys: The first and foremost practical consideration when you are looking for a controller should depend upon the space that you have in your studio for this device. Make sure you be careful about it and don’t end up buying something that might not fit in. You will find different options including compact ones with 25, 32, 37 or 49 keys. Whereas you can opt for some 61, 73 and 88 keys controllers that are quite popular as they offer experience similar to a real piano.
Type of Keys: Many different types of keys are equipped with different controllers. It may have velocity sensitivity, after-touch, un-weighted, semi-weighted or full-weighted keys. The one you choose completely depends upon your preference. Selection of the type of keys would affect touch, feel and response of keys from your hands. Most of the high-end expensive controllers would have all of these features combined to give you an impressive playability and feel action with close simulation to a real piano. It would though be difficult to find a combination of portability and fully weighted keys action and thus most of the musicians would do well with semi-weighted keys controllers in order to gain benefit of feel as well as portability feature.
Quality of Keyboard: Quality of keys and other controls can be easily checked by trying your hands over it. As you test a device, you will be able to realize if the feel of the keyboard is good quality or is it flimsy and cheap. When you try keyboard, keys should be consistent as you press them and they should not bottom out with a minor touch.
MIDI Performance Pads: Again this factor would depend upon personal preference. Some of the music composers would prefer triggering drum samples on keys whereas some would prefer performance drum pads. Many of the controllers are offered with 8, 12 or 16 pads including 3 to 4 banks. These performance pads work well for tracking down beats and loops for a music composition
Quality Drivers: No musician would like to have a MIDI controller that may hinder and disrupt his timings or software. Thus it is important to consider a controller with a high quality and stable driver so that you can enjoy complete stability with software, connections and other related factors.
Additional Features: Some other features that some musicians would prefer include faders, knobs, pitch and modulation wheels, arpeggiators and various other controls bundled with the keyboard controller.
Brand/Manufacturer: A reliable brand known for making quality equipment is less likely to produce something cheap so when you are looking to buy a good quality control, you may prefer brands like Akai, M-Audio, Novation, Korg, Alesis and others.
How to set up a MIDI Keyboard Controller?
Setting up a MIDI keyboard controller is pretty simple. Just follow these simple tips and you will be all set to use your controller in live.
- Install the driver software that is included with your controller. You will find instructions of installing the driver software in manual of your controller.
- Connect the USB cable (square side) in your keyboard controller and connect other side to your computer system.
- You may need a power source in case if your controller doesn’t have the option of auto power on by connecting it to your computer through USB.
- Then Launch the software and set your Live Preferences. Click the MIDI tab.
- You will be able to witness one or more I/O entries if the controller has been set up properly in MIDI ports.
- Turn the switch of MIDI controller on and you will now be good to play varied instruments live over your controller.
Musicians whether serious producers or those who are just following their interest as a hobby of working with music, all of them look for best MIDI controllers within their budget and with required features. As these controllers work as fundamental devices for composition of music in a music studio with the use of other interfaces, the main idea is to bring in the best one for your musical forum so that you can ease up and enjoy the process of making music.