Although MIDI keyboards have been on the market since more than a decade, these apparent pianos have played an integral part in engendering a new generation of talented musicians who could not have hoped to achieve half of their success without these “empty” boxes. It is the rise of computers and their connectivity options, that have propelled these small keyboards on the top of music production consumer preferences. The accessibility, price versatility and (sometimes) portability of these toolboxes makes them more than a considerable option. Without describing any further the importance played by MIDI keyboards in the contemporary market, let’s have a look, at the best options amongst the (not so) restricted keyboards.
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REVIEWS: BEST MIDI KEYBOARDS | TOP 5
If you are a beginner or traveler, the Akai MPK Mini MKII will probably suit you best. Following up on the very successful Akai MPK Mini, this model uses the strengths of its predecessor while implementing convincing novelties. In terms of build quality and design, we must say there hasn’t been much of an evolution. The most noticeable change is the implementation of an interesting thumbstick. In addition, you will get 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action keys. Keys are not top-notch quality, nonetheless, it’s the multi-functionality of this device that makes up for the absence of more higher range components. This MIDI keyboard is original in the sense that it also implements true controller functions.
Inspired by the legendary “Akai MPC“, 8 pressure and velocity sensitive pads are present. Lighting up when the device is plugged in, these pads are an asset if you are planning to record drums. Furthermore, 8 assignable potentiometers are included. The intriguing thumbtack allows the user to control dynamic pitch and overseeing modulation inside his software. Besides, rather useful softwares such as Akai Pro MPC Essentials, SONiVOX Wobble, and Hybrid 3 are included. As with the original “Akai MPK Mini”, the user will be able to make good use of a very easily usable arpeggiator. 4 different programmes can be found in this device. Two octaves up and down buttons are also available. Finally, it’s important to mention that the controller comes with a note repeat button, full level button, tap tempo button.
Guide & Recommendations | MIDI Keyboards
1. What are the main elements of a keyboard controller?
The main limitation of MIDI keyboards comes from the fact that they don’t have any internal sound-generating capabilities. Therefore, without computers or hardware synthesizers, they are like empty vessels. Some MIDI keyboards come with a more complete set of functions. Top panels may (or not) include supplementary knobs, sliders or buttons if basis parameters are insufficient. That being said, there are really basic MIDI keyboards (M-Audio Keystation 49) and more complex ones (Nektar Panorama or the Novation Launchkey).
2. Are the number of keys on a MIDI keyboard an important consideration?
- The space in your studio
- How you play the piano (single or two-handed), if you want to do keyboard splits (range mapping)
- Requirement to perform live with your MIDI keyboard.
Our advice would be:
- If you are not a beginner, you should get (at least) a 61-key.
- Conversely, if you’re a beginner or only need a MIDI keyboard for you home studio setup, a 25-key and 49-key should best the option.
- Nevertheless, if you are a piano player (like me) and you enjoy having several octaves, and playing complex harmonies, you should definitely get a 49-key keyboard at least.
3. What is aftertouch? Is it a necessary feature?
Most of the time it is high-end MIDI controllers that feature this function. Not very popular, when discovered, this feature can add a lot of expressiveness to your playing style and compositions. Briefly defined, aftertouch is a beneficial, efficient way to expressivity to your playing. Most of the best MIDI keyboards, which are featured, later on in our article don’t include this feature. Aftertouch, generally, comes in two different options, monophonic* (also called “channel aftertouch”) and polyphonic*:
1. Monophonic aftertouch functions with a “rail” that can be activated by any key, sending an overall average MIDI value for all the keys which are pressed.
2. Polyphonic aftertouch enables you to vary a given parameter independently on each note. This parameter takes into account the amount of pressure which is applied to a key. The reasons behind its absence on a great number of MIDI keyboards are:
a. That it is extremely expensive to be manufactured.
b. It generates an extensive amount of MIDI information.
c. It requires a playing sensibility by the player to take full advantage of its potential.
What are the most important features when buying a MIDI keyboard?
How did electronic keyboards become mainstream?
MIDI and USB connectivity between a computer and a MIDI keyboard.
Flume’s live performance setup