If you are one of those who want to work with software instruments and DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation), you would surely find MIDI keyboards very handy. But what is a MIDI keyboard? A MIDI keyboard is an electronic musical keyboard that is configured like a piano. It usually comes with extra buttons, sliders, and wheels in order to send MIDI commands and signals over MIDI 5-pin cable or USB to a computer or different musical devices that operate using the same protocol as that of the MIDI protocol.
MIDI is an acronym for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface.” MIDI keyboards, however, act as controller of the different sounds via the use of the software. Using the MIDI keyboard, you can upload to the software the sound of any instrument. You can also upload unlimited sounds onto the MIDI keyboard.
A MIDI keyboard, also known as a controller keyboard, can add personality to your music-making it more unique. It allows you to be as creative as you want to make your music. Using this musical electronic device as a beginner need not be complicated as long as you have some basic knowledge of what it is about. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and it is basically a keyboard that has buttons, pads, sliders/faders, wheels, and piano-style keys that you can use to make changes on the sound and convert it to data. The MIDI information can be sent to a synthesizer, computer, or a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) via the USB or MIDI outs.
Here are some basic information about the MIDI keyboard, including the best manufacturers and models that a beginner should know:
Major Features That Every MIDI Keyboard Must Have
Keybed/Keys: The piano-style keys of a MIDI keyboard can have as few as 25 or as many as 88. It can be weighted, semi-weighted, or synth-action keys. Keep in mind that not all MIDI controllers have a keyboard.
Modulation/Mod Wheel: It is a wheel on the keyboard’s surface with only the upper half protruding, which you can move in order to modulate the sound sample by creating various effects or adding expressions to it. Using the mod wheel can add vibrato to the note or chord that you are playing. Another function would be controlling the pitch bend of the notes. A MIDI keyboard can have a lever, an X/Y joystick, or two wheels in which one is for modulation, and the other is for pitch bending.
Drum Pads: The rubberized, velocity-sensitive pads are programmed to trigger the effect, loop/groove, or drum beats that you want.
Faders/Encoders: These are used to control the equalizer or making parameter changes.
Buttons: These are used to manipulate the various features of your device.
Top MIDI Keyboard Controller Manufacturers
This company was founded by Volker Hinz and Stephan Schmitt in Berlin, Germany. It specializes in developing, manufacturing, and supplying music hardware and software used in music production as well as sound design. They produced the software sampler Kontakt, Reaktor, software effect processor Guitar Rig, and several software synths. Their hardware includes the Kontrol MIDI keyboards, the Maschine system with the drum beats creation software, and the DJ controllers with software support.
Akai Electric Company Ltd was a Japanese manufacturing company of electronics founded in 1946 by Masukichi Akai and son, Saburo Akai. Its products include audiotape recorders, amplifiers, microphones, and audio cassette decks. The company had more than $5 billion annual sales at its peak, but it had gone through troubled times until it went defunct in 2002. Hong Kong’s Grande Holdings had taken over the Akai brand in 1999 and focused on electronic appliances. The United States’ InMusic Brands took over as well. Akai Professional was created. It specializes in electronic musical instruments such as AX series analog synths and S series digital samplers as well as MPC workstations, MIDI sequencers, and digital synths.
The Novation Digital Music Systems Ltd is a British manufacturing company of musical devices. It was formerly Novation Electronic Music Systems founded by Mark Thompson and Ian Jannaway in 1992. The MIDI controllers, virtual analog and analog performance synths, and audio interfaces are manufactured in China. The first product it released was the Novation MM10 keyboard controller that was made compatible with the Yamaha QY10 workstation. It was followed by the Novation Bass Station, Drum Station with Analog Sound Modeling technology, Supernova, and various other devices with added features, new designs, and improved technology.
The Best MIDI Keyboards for Beginners
Finding the right MIDI keyboards requires knowledge of the most popular and most reliable brands on the market today.
Aside from knowing the essential factors to consider when buying a MIDI pad controller, you can also check out the reviews left behind by customers and some reviews given out by experts on some popular products. These reviews will prove invaluable in your search for the best MIDI pad controller. Moreover, To help you in your search for the right MIDI keyboard, we have listed here the most recommended beginner’s MIDI keyboards:
Last update on 2020-10-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
1) Akai Professional MPK249
The MPK249 has a comprehensive interface that provides access to the various features that you will need for music production. It has 49 full-sized semi-weighted velocity-sensitive keys with the aftertouch feature that enables change in tone or sound after a key is struck; 24 assignable faders, switches, and knobs for controlling the virtual instruments, effects, and DAWs; 16 RGB illuminated MPC pads with three pads expanding the number of controllers from 8 each to 24 each and four pads increasing the number of pads to 64; and modulation, pitch bend, and octave controls. This Akai Pro model has a solid integration of hardware and software. It comes equipped with Ableton Live Lite for composing, editing, remixing, and recording as well as MPC Essentials for triggering samples and producing beats. It also has iOS compatibility with Apple iPad Camera Connection kit (not included).
2) Novation Launchpad Pro Professional
You can surely enhance your live performances with the use of the Novation Launchpad Pro. It features hands-on control of tracks and clips using 5 simple modes that include Scale Mode. You can plug it to your laptop that runs an Ableton Live or Logic Pro; then, you can play it as a keyboard.
The good thing about the Novation Launchpad Pro Professional is that its 8 x 8 grid of the RGB pads readily lights up and matches with the Ableton clips’ colors. This makes clip identification possible without necessarily looking at your screen. This also allows you to focus on combining and triggering your ideas and loops.
The Launchpad pro comes with a power switch at the back. It also has 1/8″ “MIDI On” and “MIDI Out” jacks where the 1.8″ MIDI cables go in instances that you would like to utilize other MIDI gears. It also comes with a socket for easily connecting the wall adaptor for enhanced and brighter pad lights.
On the one side of it, there is the Kensington lock and the LED status light. Its base is also fashioned out of orange rubber to avoid slippage while you work on those pads. Moreover, the grid is surrounded by 32 circular buttons, and each of these buttons has a specific function.
There are at least 4 navigation buttons (left, right, up, and down) that you can use to navigate around the View Interface. You can use these buttons, likewise, for other modes of Launchpad Pro’s. The Launchpad Pro also operates in 4 different modes using Ableton Live, namely: Session, Device, Note, and User. Moreover, its default mode is in the Session Mode.
You can surely use this MIDI pad controller for making dynamic beats, playing an instrument, and mixing without necessarily losing focus. You can also control the effects or any instrument in the middle of a performance, allowing you to string together significant effects like filters and reverb.
3) Roli Seaboard Block
The Roli Seaboard Block is a wireless keyboard controller unlike any other with its powerful expressive surface utilizing 5D (Five Dimensions) Touch technology. It is quite easy to use in that with just the strike, glide, slide, press, and lift of your fingers on the “keybed,” you will be able to play with your sounds. Strike the key to sound a note, glide your fingertips from side to side to pitch bend, produce the vibrato effect for string instrument, slide your fingers to add texture or depth, and press to simulate the breath effect on the wind instrument, and lift to change its resonance.
You will have access to a massive library of sounds via the Roli Studio player plug-in that includes Audio Effects Racks, Multi-layered arpeggiator, and Smart Chords. Download the NOISE app on your iOS device for free and start creating tracks on your mobile phone. The seaboard block also works with other programs, including Apple’s Garage Band and Logic Pro, Native Instruments’ Massive and Kontakt, Audio Modeling’s SWAM, and Ableton Live.
4) M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKIV
This MIDI keyboard has 49 full-sized, velocity-sensitive synth action keys, 8 velocity-sensitive pads to produce beats, pitch bend, mod wheels, 9 assignable knobs, and other features that will enable you to play with your notes or add more expression to them. It has a comprehensive software package that makes creating and producing music simple. It is USB powered and has a plug-and-play functionality, so it is easy to set up and start having fun with your music.
5) Novation Launchkey MK2
This Launckey MK2 MIDI keyboard is designed to work seamlessly with Ableton Live, although it will also work with other DAWs through Novation InControl protocol with all controls assignable. It comes with velocity-sensitive synth keys, 16 multicolored velocity-sensitive pads for drum beats, pitch bend, and mod wheels, and 8 rotary knobs for effects. It is USB bus-powered on PC (Windows 7 or 8) or Mac (OS X 10.9-10.10). Software included aside from Ableton Live Lite: Novation Bass Station, V Station virtual instruments, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, and 4GB Loopmaster samples.
6) Korg Midi Controller (NANOKEY-ST)
Another good thing about the Korg Midi Controller is that you can connect it wirelessly or via USB. You can easily connect it to an iPhone music app like the Apple GarageBand or the KORG Gadget or your Windows/Mac music production software. Freed from the burdensome cables, you can now easily set up your own system.
This nanoPAD2 USB-MIDI controller readily fits in front of a desktop keyboard or laptop computer, providing you with an active control while leaving valuable space for your setup. The nanoKEY Studio also comes with a keyboard, trigger pads, knobs, and a touchpad that allows you to readily convert any inspiration into sound.
It is operated by batteries. It is compact and is very portable. It also provides a mixer section and transport keys. Thus, you can have perfect control of your DJ software or DAW with the use of this MIDI controller.
7) Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 Controller Keyboard
The Komplete Kontrol M32 might be the smallest controller keyboard from Native Instruments, but it has all the essentials for creating music. It has 32 synth-action keys, eight touch-sensitive knobs to control your plug-ins, four-directional push encoders, Play Smarter feature that allows you to play chord arpeggios progressions with single keys, and an OLED display that will show sound parameter changes in real-time. It comes with Ableton Live Lite software, 18 instruments and effects, and 1500 loops and samples. This MIDI keyboard’s compact and lightweight design with easy playability makes it convenient to bring and set up. Once you register your Komplete Kontrol hardware, you will have access to samples, synths, drums, software, and so much more. It is also quite affordable.
8) Alesis Q25 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
The Alesis Q25 is a 25-key MIDI keyboard controller that can provide the ideal surface for performing and composing music. It is compatible with computer-based digital workstations and comes with sequencers, and other impressive features. It comes with 25 velocity-sensitive keys for ensuring dynamic performance. It also features pitch and modulation wheels for adding deep musical expression. It is also ideal for mimicking the nuances wrought by musicians using DAW software.
Alesis is easy to use and is a good entry level when it comes to learning the rudiments of a MIDI keyboard. The keys, however, of this MIDI keyboard seem to be cheap with its plastic feel. However, this MIDI keyboard is reliable and does the job nicely.
9) Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII
The Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII is a highly recommended MIDI Keyboard controller. It is a very compact and very portable input device for creating beats and samples.
It is very portable and can easily fit into your bag or small studio desk. It does come with the free virtual instrument package, and you can connect it to your computer or laptop via the USB connection cable.
It features 25 mini keys, 8 assignable control knobs, eight velocity-sensitive rubber drum pads together with two banks. It also includes in its package the VIP3.0. This software is an award-winning software platform for music that readily provides composers and musicians the best hands-on control solution for virtual effects collection and virtual instrument. It will help you seamlessly integrate your software and hardware experience.
Akai Pro MPK Mini MKII’s nicely designed pads provide a good feel and let you express your creativity, especially, when you are finger-drumming. This one is undoubtedly a very efficient and reliable MIDI controller that would truly help you finish your track even on a single seating.
10) Akai Professional LPK25
This is a 25-key MIDI keyboard controller that works well and is suitable for beginners who are just learning the rudiments of MIDI controller. It surely provides robust performance. It is USB ready and works perfectly with computer-based digital audio workstations. As a plug-and-play controller, you can readily connect it with your MAC or PC. It requires no driver installation and is perfect for Logic, Cubase, Pro Tools, Studio One, Digital Performer, and Reaper. It is also USB-powered, and there is no need for the additional power cable to power it.
It features 25 velocity-sensitive mini-keyboard keys for writing sessions and capturing great music ideas. Furthermore, it is compatible with almost all music creation software. It comes with a built-in arpeggiator for awesome and melodic inspiration. It also provides versatile patterns for use in music production. Moreover, it comes with editing software for PC and MAC. It easily customizes the commands of the keyboard’s MIDI to fit your workflow readily. The Akai LPK 25 is very portable and leaves a little footprint. Additionally, it weighs almost 40 grams and measures 38 cm in length. Thus, it readily fits right under your computer desk.
If you are a beginner, of course, you will surely need more fundamental solutions. You will typically not go for fancy additional functions. Your budget is one of the factors you needed to be taken into consideration in selecting the most suitable MIDI pad controllers. But you don\’t need to worry, for some popular brands have already rolled out basic MIDI controller pads for beginners. These simple yet solid keyboards are affordable and may cost a little more than a hundred dollars.
As a beginner, knowing the features of each brand will give you an idea of what to expect or what you might want on your first MIDI keyboard.
Last update on 2020-10-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Other Top Rated MIDI Keyboards
Buyer's Guide: Factors to Consider When Buying a Entry-level MIDI Keyboard
Being aware of these factors can surely help you find the best MIDI keyboard for beginners who work on their music production project in the home studio.
There are several factors that you need to consider when choosing a MIDI pad controller. These factors include your budget, the extra features you actually need, the accompanying bundles of software, the type of keyboard that is easy for you to use, and the number of keys that you truly need for your MIDI keyboard.
1) Number of Keys
One primary factor that you should consider is its number of keys. You have four primary options when it comes to the number of keys. First, there are those with 25 keys. The 25 keys are basically the minimum keys that a MIDI keyboard can have. With the 25-keys MIDI keyboard, you can still play the piano or make use of the keys for other purposes. The 49-keys MIDI keyboards, on the other hand, is the most popular choice among MIDI keyboard users. It provides awesome convenience when it comes to its size. Plus, it provides perfect number of keys for you to tinker with. It has four octaves which will surely suffice for many users.
The 61-keys MIDI keyboard provides extra octave. Hence, it is more suitable for those who are not contented with the four-octave 49 keys MIDI keyboards. Lastly, you can choose the 88 keys MIDI keyboards. This type of MIDI keyboards provides you with maximum elbow space for playing the piano. If you want to focus on playing the piano, you better opt for this type, although the abovementioned models are your primary options. There are also some models that offer only 32 keys; while there are also some that have 37 keys.
2) Connectivity to Computer and Other Devices
Another factor that is worth considering is the connectivity factor. There are some brands of MIDI keyboards that come with USB port for ease of connection to the computer and other devices. Thus, if you intend to use your computer together with the MIDI keyboard, you should find one that has a ready USB port.
3) DAW Compatibility
You would discover that most MIDI controllers are already DAW-compatible. Yet, it would surely be good to doublecheck your prospective MIDI keyboard’s compatibility with DAW. Moreover, it is good to look for those brands and models that include software so that you can save a bit. Hence, you should ensure that it has all the features and the DAW support that you are well-versed with.
It is essential to figure out the keyboard’s action whenever you are shopping around for a MIDI keyboard. But what is this keyboard’s action? Well, keyboard’s action refers to the response of the keys to the user’s touch. The keys of keyboards vary in response. Some have synth, weighted hammer, and semi-weighted actions. Your choice, therefore, of a MIDI keyboard should suit your playing style.
5) Knobs, Buttons, and Faders
MIDI keyboard controllers usually come with specific faders, knobs, and buttons. These features can factor well in your choice of MIDI keyboard. The reason for this is that the type of faders, knobs, and buttons will surely play well in the realism of your playing experience. Moreover, your choice will have a bearing on the variety of nuances you can incorporate into your music while you play your instrument on the software. With these features, you can readily adjust the filters, alter the volume, or even enhance any parameter that you would like to alter.
Buttons are meant for convenience. With the use of the buttons, you can readily edit MIDI information and menus; you can also transpose or transport functions as well as change octaves. With the buttons at hand, you can do various tasks without necessarily switching to the use of your mouse. You can use the knobs and faders, on the other hand, to assign function. The knobs and faders also afford the MIDI keyboard enough realism.