You should go for MIDI and digital keyboard piano if you plan to the types of piano that most suitable and will be very creatively productive for songwriting.
Songwriting has become more exciting and challenging because of the endless creative possibilities that MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) and digital keyboards are offering. It becomes more convenient because all the tools that you need are readily available. You just have to find the right brand and model by checking on their features and specs.
Keep in mind that the MIDI keyboard does not have an onboard sound card, so it cannot produce music by itself; it is a controller keyboard with knobs, buttons, sliders, and wheels that are used to control or manipulate the virtual instruments on your computer or other musical devices. These devices should have Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), standalone Virtual Studio Technology (VST)/Audio Unit (AU) instrument, a sound module, or an analog or digital hardware instrument with MIDI capability.
You would need the software such as Ableton Live and Maschine 2.x for Mac and PC as well as Logic Pro X only for Mac for the MIDI controller with the plug and play functionality. As soon as you plug it, the program recognizes it, and you can begin playing after loading the virtual instrument.
It is ideal if you start with something basic for your MIDI controller, such as the M-AUDIO 88 Keystation. You can download the Melodics desktop app for free (a limited time offer), which has over 60 lessons that can guide you in playing with MIDI keyboards, drums, and pad controllers. The M-AUDIO has 61 – 88 full-sized semi-weighted keys that are velocity-sensitive and has the essential controls so you can play with the notes. You can plug in an external control pedal such as the SP-2 pedal for authentic piano sustain. It comes with Ableton Live Lite that would enable composing, improvising, remixing, editing, and recording your music creations.
Digital Keyboard Pianos
You can also look into a digital keyboard with a built-in sound card, so you would only need the software if you want to record your songs.
However, digital keyboard piano, I would recommend you to consider the keyboard workstation if budget is not an issue for you. The digital keyboard can be used as a standalone /all-in-one beat-making or songwriting equipment as it has a built-in sound card that can run all the sound modules independently without using DAW on your laptop or computer.
Indeed, it is enough to create unlimited music ideas as a songwriter with these essential features (substantial sound library, loping, sequencer, and recording) provided with a keyboard alone.
List of Best Keyboards (MIDI, Workstation & Piano Keyboards) For Songwriting
Here are the top keyboards for songwriting that you should know about:
Casio WK-7600 76-Key Workstation Keyboard
The WK-7600 has an easy-to-use interface that contains 820 tones that you can modify or shape using envelopes, filters, DSP (Digital Signal Processing) effects, and other tools. There are nine sliders on the front panel that control the harmonic overtone levels of the 50 drawbar organ tones to produce the rich organ sound. With a 17-track sequencer, you can do multi-track recording so you can layer piano, bass, or guitar onto the drum part. It is capable of step and real-time recording. It has 260 preset rhythms and 100 user-created rhythms, and with access to various styles such as jazz, rock, classical, or pop, you can be more creative with the song or music that you are working on.
You can save your song creations as an audio file to Secure Digital High-Capacity (SDHC) cards or convert to Standard MIDI File (SMF) format then store it in an SD card. Casio offers free DATA Manager 6.0 computer software to convert your recording to the WAV file.
Yamaha MX88 88-Key
The Yamaha MX88 is a portable and lightweight synth that measures 6.6 x 52 x 16 inches and weighs 30.6 pounds. It has 88 full-sized, touch-sensitive keys and actually offers the same acoustic piano-feels with its Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) weighted action that is lighter in the high keys and heavier in the low keys.
Songwriters who are used to the traditional acoustic piano but also wanted the perks of a synth would find the perfect solution in the Yamaha MX88, which is part of the MOTIF series. It comes with 1000 voices, 8 elements, 128 notes of polyphony, and 16 track sequences to help you create music for worship service or stage performances. It can also recreate the sound of vintage effects and high-end signal processors with its VCM or Virtual Circuitry Modeling.
It is compatible with the DAW software, software synths for PC and Mac, and iOS applications, and it is USB audio and MIDI compliant making it convenient for songwriting, recording, playing, and listening to what you are making so you can make the necessary changes to get your music right.
Korg Kross 2-88-MB 88-key Synthesizer Workstation
You have all that you will need for songwriting with the Korg Kross 2 synth workstation. It offers a natural weighted hammer action keybed giving you a realistic piano-style hammer that is most heavy at the lower register and goes lighter as it moves toward the higher register; it has 88 keys without aftertouch.
You can expect more power with its 120 voices polyphony, 128 programs, 1,075 presets, 27 drum track patterns, step MIDI sequencers, sample trigger pads, and sampling engine. It has many program modes to choose from depending on what you want to do, including play individual sounds or combined sounds (splits and layers) and plays in sequencer mode. You can attach a damper pedal for sustaining notes. There are knobs, buttons, and dials to access the programs and features of the synth. You would have to explore and familiarize yourself with all these so you can play and work with ease.
The Korg Kross 2-88-MB is portable so that you can bring it with you anywhere. It is not heavy at 12.3 kg, but it is long. There is a large compartment for the batteries, USB cable, and power supply cable, so you would not worry about misplacing them. You will find it more convenient to have the keyboard stand and case when you are traveling or using the synth, so make sure that you get them as these accessories are sold separately.
One of the best things about Yamaha MODX8 is having two engines, namely the AWM2 (Advanced Wave Memory 2) and the FM-X (Frequency Modulation). The AWM2 synthesis engine has 8 programmable synths with 18 different types of filter, nine low-frequency oscillations, 3-band equalizer, envelope generators (filter, pitch, and amplitude), and Virtual Circuitry Modeling for dual insert effect. The FM-X synth engine can produce Electronic Dance Music or EDM sounds. The MODX features 192-note polyphony with 128-note of AWM2 polyphony and 64-note of FM-X polyphony.
Another great feature of this Yamaha keyboard is the Seamless Sound Switching (SSS) that lets you switch from one song to another without stopping during live performances and not worry about any cutoff in effects or envelope.
It has 88-note GHS weighted keybed; a Super Knob that is able to control all 128 parameters at the same time from mix functions such as volume and effect to synth parameters such as Operators, filters, and LFOs; motion sequences that are customizable; an envelope follower; and the Audio Beat Sync that synchronizes the Motion Sequencer or MODX arpeggiator to the tempo of the external device like the drum machine or drum kit.
The Yamaha MODX8 weighs 42.4 pounds so you can bring it with you wherever you go, especially with the MODX premium case that would protect your keyboard, and it has pockets for cables and pedals.
Roland A-88MKII 88-Key MIDI Keyboard Controller (A-88MK2)
Roland boasts of the A-88MKII MIDI keyboard controller for its playability, which musicians, producers, and songwriters would greatly appreciate. When you are creating music or playing, you want to be able to do it with ease, even if you are dealing with the extensive features of your MIDI controller. The PHA-4 keybed offers 88 responsive and sensitive ivory-feel weighted keys. There are 8 control knobs and 8 pads that are assignable, keyboard split selection, built‑in arpeggiator, pitch/mod wheel, 3 key zones that are customizable, and other program controls; all of these are on the left side of the keyboard.
The A-88MK2 comes with a control app for Mac and PC that allows you to customize the program controls, knobs, and pads according to your preferences. With the SnapShot function, you can save several configurations for quick recall. It has MIDI connectivity.
The Roland A-88MKII is more suitable for the studio environment as it has a shallow depth design that can easily fit into your compact home studio desk.
The Yamaha MX61 has a MOTIF sound engine with 61 full-sized velocity-sensitive keys, more than 1000 sounds derived from the MOTIF XS series, 16-part multi-timbral and 128-note polyphony, 200 sequencer patterns, 1,106 voices, and 61 drum kits, VCM effects, dedicated split, and layer performance modes, hands-on control over DAWs and VSTs, and bi-directional interface. It has plug-and-play connectivity. It has all the essential features that would enable you to flex your creativity in writing music.
The MX61 is more suitable for the musician, especially for those beginner songwriters that are looking for a more budgeted keyboard station that packed with the essential songwriting and music-making features.
M-Audio Oxygen 61
The M-Audio Oxygen MIDI controller comes with 61 full-sized synth-action velocity-sensitive keys, a set of eight velocity-sensitive pads, and assignable controls, making this keyboard controller one of the best in terms of playability.
It features eight knobs and nine sliders that are all assignable, dedicated transport and select track buttons, and built-in factory presets for popular virtual instruments. You have complete control over creating, mixing, editing, recording, and producing your music. It is compatible with Ableton Live, Logic, Pro Tools, Cubase, and other DAW application software.
The control layout is divided into sections for first-time users to easily navigate the music‑making tools. You can connect to an iOS device with Apple’s Camera Connection Kit and then use your Oxygen keyboard to monitor and control virtual instrument apps as well as the multi-track recording.
As you can see, all the MIDI and digital keyboards that are available today come equipped with the latest technology as well as the best specs and features. It is now only a matter of choosing what you can afford, what you need exactly, and what you can handle.