With the tons of options and brands of MIDI keyboards, it is sometimes tough to find the best MIDI keyboard for your recording rig. Every MIDI keyboard is loaded down with features that make every one unique. Along with each and every feature, comes an added expense. So what is the best MIDI keyboard for you? What do you need for your recording rig to give more options? For that matter, what even is a MIDI keyboard? Let's break this down step by step to make sure you can make the best decision for your needs.
What Is A MIDI Keyboard
A MIDI keyboard or also called a MIDI controller looks like a keyboard with a bunch of extra buttons. It connects to your computer and allows the user to create sounds and different instruments virtually. These virtual instruments (VST's) give the user options to add more detail to their recordings, and it doesn't necessarily have to be electronic music.
For example, I like to product celtic music. However, I do not own or know any musician for hire in my town that will come in to record an Irish Bouzouki. I can just add another channel to my mix, throw on the VST (virtual instrument), and start creating.
Features Of A MIDI Keyboard
When you are searching for the best MIDI keyboard for your studio, it is important to know what you are looking for. Here are some of the common features you will find and options you will need to make:
- Keys: the first part of the keyboard your eyes will probably be drawn to is the amount of keys on it. Many keyboards will have different options for sizes. The plus side of more keys as you might have guessed is some virtual instruments will have a wider range of octaves. The con of more keys is of course price, as well as space since it is larger.
- Pitch/Mod Wheel: The pitch wheel will bend the pitch, and the mod wheel will add an effect of choosing.
- Pads: These are used to add a trigger type sound such as drums
- Knobs: The more knobs, the better, right? That's the typical way of thinking. These are assignable functions.
- Slides/Faders: These are sometimes assignable, but most commonly used for EQ'ing in my experience.
- Touch Strips: Also assignable as they can be used for many different functions.
Now that we have discussed the different parts of the MIDI keyboard, let's take a look at the top selling controllers and their features. (The following products contain affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I get paid if you click through and make a purchase).
The Best MIDI Keyboards On The Market
Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII
The Akai MPK mini MKII keyboard is our top pick out of the available keyboards. The price is great, and its compact size makes it fit easily on a recording desk. The MKII has a lot of features packed into it's small size. Along with these awesome features, the keyboard has a lot of reviews online and is extremely popular.
Arturia KeyLab Essential
- Pitch wheel
MIDI I/O: USB
USB powered or does have the ability to use a 9V DC power supply that is sold separately
49 and 61 key options
Input for 1/4" Sustain
Next on our list is the Arturia KeyLab. This may not be as compact as the previously mentioned MKII, but it is jam packed with options. The keyboard is available in either a 49 or 61 key option. While the price is a little higher, this keyboard is an awesome option if it can fit into your rig and budget.
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol
Format: VST, AU, AAX
59, 61, 88 key options
USB powered, optional 15V DC power supply not sold with it
2 1/4" pedal inputs for expression and sustain
This Native Instruments keyboard is on our list because not only is this a cool, slick looking controller with options, but it is made by the company who has one of the top selling virtual instruments plugins. The keyboard is available in a 59, 61, or 88 keys. Yes, this is going to be a bigger controller, but it is a great option if it is in your budget.
The Nektar Impact is jam packed with features in a small keyboard. The price point isn't bad especially for all the features that come with the controller. Personally, I like the LED lights behind the pads.
Yamaha is one of the most recognized brands in any market, and there is a reason why. Their musical instruments are just as respected. The Yamaha MX controller is a great choice and definitely deserves to be on our list.
M Audio Oxygen
This M-Audio controller is one of the better budget items on this list for everything you get. It also comes in 25, 49, and 61 key options. The 61 key is a little pricier, but the controller is jam packed with features like many of the others on our list.
While the Launchkey by Novation may not be as compact as the other options on our list, it is a great choice for a recording rig. I like the LED lights on the pads too. While that shouldn't be the selling point, it certainly looks cool. The price point is right alongside our others making it a competitive contender.
You Have An Awesome MIDI Keyboard, Now What?
After you have made your decision of which MIDI keyboard to purchase, you will need to have something to use it for. You will need to have virtual instruments or some form to use inside of your DAW. Virtual instruments are plugins, but designed for MIDI usage. There are many options of virtual instruments out there. Make sure that the virtual instrument package is compatible with your DAW, just like you need to make sure that your MIDI keyboard is compatible with your DAW as well.
Don't Get Frustrated
The most important piece of advice I can give from personal experience when connecting pieces of equipment to get them to work is to stay patient. It is very easy to get frustrated, but take your time, and Google when necessary. There are plenty of forums out there to help troubleshoot if there are any connectivity issues.