Recently, a friend of mine asked me whether he could use a MIDI controller like a keyboard. So, I remarked that he could use both the keyboard and the MIDI controller for music production. Nevertheless, he couldn’t use a MIDI controller as a standalone device, unlike the keyboard, which is a standalone device. You still need to integrate the MIDI controller with a piece of software (DAW), allowing you control over mixing, effects, looping, and sample playback.
Moreover, a MIDI controller doesn’t make a sound. You would still need a sound generator, either a tone generator (synthesizer) or a computer to hear its sound. Besides, you will need speakers to hear its sound.
However, the use of keyboards and MIDI controllers come with their advantages and disadvantages. It will be good to know, at the onset, that their usages are not identical and interchangeable. On the one hand, MIDI controllers are specifically designed for music production. On the other hand, keyboards are more for practicing and learning how to play the piano. Thus, it will help to understand the differences and similarities between these two to enable you to make a wise purchase.
MIDI Controller and Keyboard: Which is Better?
If you’re still confused about which to buy and use between the MIDI and keyboard, it will help if you learn the differences between the two. In this way, you can choose the right device that fits your needs well. Below is a detailed discussion of the MIDI controller and keyboard, highlighting their differences:
A distinct feature of the MIDI controller is that it features a keyboard that sends and receives MIDI information. As its name connotes (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), it transmits musical instruments digital interface data to devices that are MIDI-enabled. This transmission intends to trigger sounds and provide control parameters of any electronic music performance.
These controllers, by themselves, don’t produce musical sounds. Nevertheless, they carry a specific type of interface that you can press, blow, touch, or strike. These actions generate MIDI data that you can transmit to any MIDI-compatible synthesizer or sound module via the MIDI cable. The synthesizer or sound module creates or produces a sound that you can amplify via the loudspeaker.
Advantages of Using a MIDI Controller
The use of a MIDI controller comes with some advantages. One advantage is that you can use it to produce music. Moreover, you can find MIDI controllers of various sizes and designs in the market today, giving you a wide selection at hand. You can also find drum pads, MIDI flutes, MIDI guitars, massive consoles for mixing, recording, and mastering, along with software like Cubase, Pro Tools, and many more.
If you have a home studio, you will find the MIDI controller handy for enhancing your music production and workflow. You can also use it to add expression and value to your music. Moreover, the MIDI controller will be handy when you are live performing. Hence, you will often find DJs and musicians using MIDI controllers for playing music along with music tracks, synthesizers, and live performance software.
However, the use of MIDI controller comes with some disadvantages when compared to keyboards. First, the MIDI controller is almost useless if you don’t have access to your computer. Moreover, many controllers don’t offer the same feel as those of the keyboards.
The keyboard is an instrument that you can use to learn how to play the piano. It mimics the acoustic piano’s sound and allows you to learn the piano’s fingering even if you don’t have an acoustic piano. You can use the keyboard piano for live performances ranging from mini-concerts to huge events and ceremonies.
The keyboard piano is a standalone instrument, meaning you can use it without integration with other devices. The keyboards typically have keys for playing the musical scale. By depressing a key, you produce sounds. Moreover, the feel of the keyboards’ keys are piano-like, so if you are used to playing the piano, you might get attracted to the electronic keyboard.
The keyboard usage is more straightforward than the MIDI controller and you can use the keyboard piano for piano practice. As you become proficient with the piano, you can use the piano keyboard also to perform live. The good thing about the keyboard is that they come with headphone input. Thus, you can practice playing the keyboards silently using your headphones. If you intend to practice or learn the piano, you can opt for the keyboard.
However, the use of keyboards is also fraught with disadvantages. First, if you compare it with the MIDI controller, it does not allow you to access features that a MIDI controller has. This means you won’t have faders, displays, and knobs that come with the MIDI controller.
Which One Should You Use?
Many music producers might have faced the dilemma of whether to buy a MIDI controller or settle for a keyboard. Yet, before you decide which to choose between the two, it will help if you know your needs and the intended use for what you are going to buy. If the majority of your works, for example, involves producing new music most of the time, then you could as well invest in something that will let you achieve that goal.
Of course, if you want to perform live outside your home studio, then the keyboard would be a great option. You can also go for the keyboard if you are looking for portability. Since the keyboard has a built-in sound system, you won’t need another device to make your music get heard by your audience.
On the other hand, MIDI controllers also come with keyboards that let you send and receive MIDI data. Of course, you can also create music using the MIDI controller, but you can’t use the MIDI controller alone. You need to use it with another device like a sequencer or computer. Moreover, MIDI controllers do not come with a built-in sound system. You can use the MIDI controller to enhance the production workflow. You can also use it in live performances.
You can, however, use a keyboard as a MIDI controller. The Yamaha I, for example, can be used as a MIDI controller because it comes with a MIDI output. Thus, if you want something that you can function as a keyboard and MIDI controller, you can use the Yamaha I. This keyboard also comes with a USB connection.
Some keyboards, however, do not have a USB MIDI connection. As such, you will need to have a MIDI interface to get the keyboard connected to a computer. Of course, a MIDI interface is just a small device that lets you connect the keyboard to a USB connection for a quick computer connection. This connection is usually a 5-pin connector. One thing more, some keyboards do not have knobs or drum pads, which are handy when producing music.
If you know the advantages and disadvantages of each of these two options, you can definitely make a wise decision. Remember that your needs will have a bearing on your choice. Keyboards are excellent for practicing your piano skills. It is also perfect for performing live. Moreover, you can practice silently with the keyboard.
Besides, when it comes to keyboards, you got a wide range of choices. Moreover, if you love the piano, the keyboard would be a great and attractive option for you.
On the other hand, MIDI controllers are excellent for music production, and when it comes to music production, it is the better option. With the MIDI controller, you can utilize your production software efficiently to enable you to produce music with expression and art. You can also use the MIDI controller like a keyboard, although you need to consider the controller’s size.