A very common question: which is the best MIDI keyboard controller? Choosing the right MIDI Keyboard will depend very much on your own circumstances. Below are a number of things to think about, followed by a list of the 10 most popular MIDI controllers if you already know what features you are looking for.
The main things to consider are: size and number of keys; whether you want a keyboard that makes its own sounds or just a controller; the action; other faders, pads etc; platform (PC/Mac/iOS/Android) and more. We look at all these different aspects in more detail below.
Your First MIDI Keyboard
If you are not sure, the cheapest option is to simply buy a controller keyboard. It may seem alien to invest in a keyboard that makes no sound of its own, but it will then enable you to use any music software, and will get you up and running for a very low cost.
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A MIDI controller keyboard acts in a very similar way to the typewriter keyboard you have attached to your PC. It transmits messages when you press the keys: messages like which note you pressed, how hard you pressed it, how long you held it down. This information is then used to drive the music software. You will hear sounds, but these sounds are made by the synthesiser in your sound card, or by other sound modules if you have them installed. Because controller keyboards make no sound of their own, they are relatively inexpensive – and they have the added benefit of being small in size. (Want to know more? Read our article on what is MIDI.)
For most people, space is a real consideration. If you are just starting out, then a 4-octave controller keyboard will be perfectly adequate in the short term, and can easily be placed on a table or stand directly in front of the PC. You can buy inexpensive add-ons like a foot switch to give your controller keyboard a sustain pedal action, just like a piano.
If you know you really want to play or learn the piano without having to turn on your computer then buying a digital piano may be for you instead. Digital pianos still take up relatively little space, and of course can be used without even having to switch your PC on. They generally have high quality piano sounds along with other functionality, and high quality keyboards with excellent response. You can still use the digital piano for your computer music, as they all come equipped with MIDI input and output for this purpose. These are the nearest to owning a real piano – but of course are much cheaper and smaller than the real thing.
Personal keyboards are also popular, and have many inbuilt additional features such as banks of sounds, rhythm and accompaniment options, recording facilities and so on. If you know you want to go down this route, then there is a wealth of fabulous instruments to choose from. The added advantage is, like the digital piano, they can be used without the computer, and they have the added benefit of being transportable if you want to play with other people.
Here is a list of all the different things to consider when trying to choose the best MIDI keyboard for you right now.
Number of keys?
- 49 key controllers are excellent for entering music and basic or intermediate keyboard learning. They don’t require a lot of space and are quite inexpensive. They will certainly take you up to Grade 3 standard without any problem
- Larger keyboards are essential if you plan on learning advanced piano techniques or are used to playing on a full size keyboard
- For composing and sequencing, maybe the number of keys are not so important as the availability of a range of controllers such as knobs and sliders to get more hands-on control of the software control panels
Controller or keyboard or piano?
- A controller doesn’t create any sound on its own – it uses the sounds in your computer or sound module. The advantages of controllers are their price and the fact that you can upgrade your sound card or software in future without having to buy a new keyboard
- A personal keyboard doesn’t require a computer or sound module to create sound. Some will also include speakers. Keyboards are generally more expensive than controllers, but they can be used as an instrument on their own.
- If you really want to play the piano, and have it available without turning on the computer, then a digital piano is also a great option. They all come equipped with MIDI ports to connect up to your PC. The only disadvantage might be the physical set up you can achieve as digital pianos are larger than keyboards, which may make it tricky to site them right next to your computer workstation though if you are planning to use a laptop or ipad then this won’t be such an issue.
Touch sensitive or weighted action?
- Touch sensitive keyboards will play louder or softer according to the velocity of your playing (how hard you play)
- Weighted action keyboards imitate the action of a real piano – these keyboards are usually heavier and more expensive. Choose a weighted action keyboard if you want to be as close to real piano action as possible
- Most MIDI keyboards are velocity sensitive, so you can play different notes louder and quieter. But there are one or two that don’t have this feature so double check. More sophisticated keyboards will allow control over the level of velocity too, with others you won’t be able to change it on the hardware so you may have to adjust settings to your liking in the software.
- Not all keyboards have after-touch, which might be a feature you would want for certain instrument voices in software. Check if this is important to you
- The most expensive will also have some kind of hammer action and this will feel like a real piano, but this comes at a cost.
Full Size or Mini Keys?
Extra control: Faders, Knobs and Pads
MIDI Out Port?
On board Sounds?
The Best MIDI Controller?
Best Selling MIDI Controllers
- Usb MIDI Controller with 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action keys with dedicated octave up and down buttons to increase the keyboard to the full melodic range
- Innovative 4-way thumb stick for dynamic pitch and modulation control, plus a built-in arpeggiator with adjustable resolution, range and modes
- Usb powered, robust and ultra-compact design lets you create anywhere
- 32-note velocity sensitive mid-size key keyboard. Pitch Wheel. Modulation Wheel. Octave Buttons(Up & Down). Transpose Buttons(Up & Down).
- Sustain Switch interface (sustain pedal does not include). USB B type: USB connect to Computer
- ATTACHMENT: USB cable
- Limited Edition 25-Key Ultra-Portable USB MIDI Drum Pad & Keyboard Controller with sleek color change
- Compact keyboard controller easily fits backpack and studio production desk (12.4 inches long, 1.6 lbs)
- Powered by USB connection to computer, with free virtual-instrument download packages
- All-black limited-edition USB MIDI controller with 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action keys with dedicated octave up and down buttons to increase the keyboard to...
- Innovative 4-way thumbstick for dynamic pitch and modulation control, plus a built-in arpeggiator with adjustable resolution, range and modes
- USB powered, robust and ultra-compact design lets you create anywhere
- Portable and Compact - MIDI Controller
- The most responsive keyboard experience in its category
- 500 of the V-Collection 8 presets / 21 Keyboard Instruments and Synthesizers / fully mapped right out of the box
- Standalone Keyboard - Ultra-portable mini keyboard and USB MIDI controller with 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action keys, OLED display, pitch/mod joystick...
- Play Anywhere - Built in speaker, 1/8-inch headphone output and battery powered specification (3 x AA batteries - not included) for performing or honing your...
- Responsive Pads - Two banks of eight backlit MPC-style pads (16 total) with Note Repeat and Full Level functions
- PERFECT FIT: We've specifically designed the case to fit your Akai MPK Mini MKII. OUTER DIMENSIONS: 13.5" L - 9" W - 2.8" H
- 100% SAFE: Dense foam inside to offer a better buffer, Hard quality EVA material is Semi-waterproof, Shockproof and Durable to protect your MKII Controller from...
- HAND STRAP: The case features a strong Handle that allows for easy portability on the go.
- Launchpad integrates with Ableton Live, after a quick and easy setup, giving you the ability to create and perform your own music. If you already have Ableton...
- 64 RGB pads light up to match the color of your clips in Live; see at a glance what's loaded, playing, and recording
- Bright, colorful pads make the unit stand out just from USB power - when you're on stage or creating an exciting Launchpad light show video for YouTube
- Low-profile, multi-function control surface
- New track select and marker advance parameters
- Supports numerous software titles including major DAW programs
- 13 inch, slim line laptop performance keyboard with 25 velocity sensitive mini keyboard keys for playing melodies, bass lines, chords and more
- Dedicated octave up and down buttons to increase the keyboard to the full melodic range plus a sustain button for expressive performances
- On board arpeggiator steps through chords automatically and generates inspiring melodic ideas quickly. 4 programmable memory banks for instant recall of...
Last updated on 2019-11-14 / Affiliate links / Images via Amazon Product Advertising API
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