How to choose your first midi keyboard? | Guide

Hey guys, worried about buying your first midi keyboard? I am Maslin, music producer and a keyboardist . When I started to look for a midi keyboard i was really intimidated by everything that was out there starting from brands to keys. In this article I am going to show you how to pick your first midi keyboard.I will also show you my first midi controller keyboard and what im using now, Let’s dive in .

choosing your midi keyboard
Oxygen 49

There are various approaches that you can go about while buying your first midi keyboard,lets talk about approach one:

Checklist for Buying your first midi keyboard:

  • 1.your budget really matters
  • 2.your experience is important
  • 3.your needs should be considered

Your budget really matters:

This is most often not taken seriously ,if you are a beginner you would know the pain behind investing a certain amount of money into a midi keyboard.You quite cannot make the choice because you will intimidated by all these brands and all these eye catching fancy midi keyboard.I Don”t know about you but i was intimidated.

Your money is valuable

The reason why talk about this too much is because your first midi keyboard is gonna be the maker or breaker of your music production jouney

So lets talk about Moneeeeeeeey !!! (oh god that sounds bad already)

The first thing i would want you to look at is your budget of the month ,can you take 100$ out of it to invest in your music production .If you are hobbyist wait until you have the money in cash. Don’t put it on credit cards.You can start a hobby whenever you want.

If you are serious about music production and looking at it as a career then i would advice you to pick a number that is affordable to you.The reason why i had to talk about this is because of the fact that music production will certainly pay you back if you have put time and effort into it ,simply to say you will get a perfect ROI (return of investment).If you are interested Check out my Article on How much Music producers make?

lets classify the budget Ranges:

  • 150$
  • 400$
  • 1000$
budget for midi controller keyboards

Man looking at the zeros behind 1000 is hard but don’t stress over it .Your first midi keyboard has to take you to the professional place where you wanna go to.

I hope that you have choosen one of these numbers given above.lets look at the next factor.

Your experience is important

your experience matters !!

The reason i stressed this is because if you go with budget alone ,i mean you will get a nice sleek midi keyboard .Will it be useful for you? That’s were your experience with piano comes into question .These are some questions i would want to ask to yourself ad be honest about it.

  • How well am i playing piano?
  • Will i invest in learning piano further in future?
  • will i Play in a Band?
  • Will i DJ?

These questions must be answered because this will determine the functionalities that you might be looking for in your keyboard.let me explain a little more,

if you are a Pianist you should get a midi keyboard that has weighted keys,that’s where you will feel right at home.

if you are a Keyboard player who plays using workstations and synths you should get a medium weighted midi keyboard.

Now lets look at the number of keys

25/32 keys:

If you trying to buy a midi keyboard that’s needed for travel and something lightweight then this your option for music production.

49/61 keys:

This is for people who has experience in playing piano/synths .The reason being you will get a variety of functionalities with these 49 key midi keyboards for music production.For example if you are someone who wants to DJ or use your midi controller in a live setting then you can choose a proper midi controller with sliders which can be mapped through your digital audio workstation.

88 Keys:

If you are Hard core piano player ,this is your section .This is where you come in.You can get weighted piano beds in today’s midi controller keyboards.I am a synth player but I have talked about this to SanjayC (plays piano professionally) he loves his 88 keys midi controller.

Your needs should be considered

Now,lets go deep and talk about your digital audio workstation.This is going to be the ultimate factor in choosing your first midi keyboard.Most people will look at the designs,budget,number of keys and functions.what they wont think about before purchasing their first midi controller keyboard is Compatibility.

ABLETON:

Almost all keyboards connect well with Ableton. Personally I have connected m-audio and Native Instruments midi controller keyboards. They are very responsive. The ultimate winner for Ableton is Novation midi controller keyboards. 
The reason is that they are purely made for Ableton. You don’t need to set up anything. Every button,Every knob and every slider works well with Ableton live. 


FL STUDIO:

when it comes to FL studio which was also called as fruity loops long ago, there are some keyboards that don’t work well with it. The ultimate winner for fl studio is Akai midi controller Keyboards
The reason is that they are very easy to map and use with the fl studio than any other midi controllers out there. 

LOGIC :

logic Pro is celebrated by Mac users and is being used by a lot of composers and world class musicians as well. 
M-Audio is the best for Logic Pro users. It has proven time and time again how well it integrates with logic. 


Fun fact : M-audio midi keyboard was used for composing the Ultimate Avengers animation movie. 

PRO TOOLS:

Pro Tools has always been called as the beast when in comes to studio mixers and plugins integrations.Native Instruments works well with pro tools.

TIME TO MAKE YOUR CHOICE:

I will list all the 25/49/61/88 key variants that I recommend and will give you guys the specifications and cons on them.

compare each of these different brands and their midi keyboards so That you guys can have a in-depth look into design and their functionalities.

25 KEY VARIANTS:

Akai Professional LPK25:

if you havn’t heard about this from someone or if you havn’t seen this somewhere (no offense) you must be living under a rock.This is the most sold midi keyboard controller in the world.’see if you like the design and lets talk about its specifications.

Akai Professional LPK25
Akai Professional LPK25

Features:

  • comes with 8 pads which can be used for finger drumming or even in some cases used to trigger samples if you are making hip-hop.
  • 25 key variant comes with 8 knobs that are sturdy and can be used for controlling parameters in your DAW.
  • You also get the traditional Transport controls as well
  • The most talked about feature of this keyboard is that its design with the use of joystick instead of a traditional mod wheel.
  • The design is plastic but i have sen it take heavy hits and rough use.
  • Travel friendly midi controller keyboard that doesn’t require any additional drivers.
  • you will get the controller assigning software along with the midi controller.
  • its compatible with both MAC and PC.

Cons:

  • Adjusting velocities might become an issue.{velocity is nothing but how hard you press the keys} you might find it hard to create expressions.
check out its price at zzsounds

 (they allow you to try out gear and if you are not satisfied you can return within 30 days)

SAMSON GRAPHITE M25 

This Keyboard is called as best friend of someone who wants to get at the lowest possible cost.Its design looks sleek but lets look at the specifications.

Features:

  • it has velocity-sensitive semi-weighted keyboard keys which were absent in the previous midi controller that we reviewed.
  • The Drum pads in this midi keyboard are back light(you will see lights around them when you play these pads )
  • You have 8 knobs to controls parameters in your digital audio workstation.
  • it comes with a Pitch Bend, Modulation ribbon strips and master encoder.
  • USB plug-and-play and USB bus powered, suitable for Windows, for Mac OS, for Apple iPad.
  • Ultra-compact design, perfect for live performance and studio applications.

Cons:

  • plastic feels cheap and the durability is a big question in this midi keyboard.

Arturia Minilab MKII 25

Here comes the beast of a keyboard .if you thought that why all these 25 key variants are plastic and doesn’t feel sturdy here is a perfect keyboard for you .its weighted and feels sturdy with its sides having good finishes.Now lets talk about its features.

Features:

  • Easy for travel and fits within your bag pack.
  • Quality velocity sensitive pads with premium keys.
  • you will have 16 rotary encoders which will be more than enough for you to control your knobs and work with your DAW.
  • You have an option to even add your sustain pedals.
  • Octave up and octave down buttons for full range of the keyboard so you can access them whenever you want instead of working with the paino roll in the DAW.
  • This keyboard is USB powered and doesn’t require any drivers.
  • works well with both MAC and PC.

Cons:

  • None found so far you will get what you pay for this one. it’s quite expensive in this 25 key area.
check out its price at zzsounds 

(they allow you to try out gear and if you are not satisfied you can return within 30 days)

Novation Launchkey 25 USB Keyboard

  • Its a velocity-sensitive midi keyboard so you can do create truly expressive performances.
  • This keyboards works will with Ableton and is a beast in working with all the f
  • Launch key 25 is compact and tough enough to throw in your bag, so you can take it anywhere. It will work the moment you plug it into your laptop,To summarize its a proper travel midi controller.
  • Launch key comes with some awesome samples almost around 4 GB.
  • The knobs are so useful in controlling your track strips in your ableton.
  • The pads are really amazing Man!! I have to talk about the lights.they are just blazing cool.

Cons:

  • Will seem a little plasticky if you are into hard well made body.
check out its price at zzsounds

(they allow you to try out gear and if you are not satisfied you can return within 30 days)

KOMPLETE KONTROL M32

This is my favorite among all the 25 key keyboards that i have recommended so far.The sleek black beast will literally amaze you .Yes i am acting like a Native instruments Fan boy but just look at it cm-on,its the best thing ever.

  • its a 32 keys keyboard with 8 knobs that are sturdy and works wonders when you are controlling digital audio workstations.
  • With more than 6,700 sounds and 13 GB of content included, that’s all you need to start making music.
  • These guys have built amazing software instruments so you will be stepping into a lot of amazing samples.
  • this keyboard comes with,
  • KOMPLETE KONTROL software
  • MASCHINE ESSENTIALS
    (full MASCHINE software plus 1.6 GB MASCHINE Factory Selection)
  • Ableton Live 10 Lite
  • MONARK
    REAKTOR PRISM
    SCARBEE MARK I
  • Also includes free software:
    KOMPLETE START
    (including TRK-01 BASS, MIKRO PRISM, LAZERBASS, CARBON 2, SPACE DRONE, NEW SCHOOL, PLAY SERIES SELECTION, KINETIC TREATS, WORLD, BAND, SYNTH, VINTAGE, URBAN BEATS, SUPERCHARGER, GUITAR RIG 5 PLAYER, EXPANSIONS SELECTION, KONTAKT 6 PLAYER, REAKTOR 6 PLAYER)
  • $25.00 e-voucher to spend in the NI Online Shop
check out its price at zzsounds

(they allow you to try out gear and if you are not satisfied you can return within 30 days)

49/61 KEY VARIANTS

There are lots of 49/61 key keyboards out there but i will recommend my top two choices based on their quality,design,usability and compatibility.

Arturia KeyLab Essential 61

The reason why i recommend is not just because of the functions it has but also because of the amazing build quality it possess.Its also providing you with Arturia synth collections for free with this midi controller keyboard.

  • it has 61 full size keys with velocity sensitive action .
  • 8 Pads for finger drumming and sample playback.
  • you have about 9 x encoders, 9 x 30mm faders, Pitchbend, Mod Wheel
  • its compatible with both windows and MAC.
  • Software Specifications:
    • Includes Analog Lab software with 6500 synth sounds
    • Includes Ableton Live Lite
    • Includes Piano V
  • Hardware Specifications:
    • 61 key options available, each with high quality keybed with velocity and aftertouch
    • 16 RGB-backlit performance pads
    • Control bank with 9 faders and 9 rotary knobs
    • Control modular equipment with 4 CV/Gate outputs, controlling pitch, gate, 
  • Seamless integration with all Arturia software instruments
  • Presets for multiple DAWs, with magnetic overlays for controls
  • Huge connectivity, including expression, sustain, CV/Gate, MIDI, USB and 3 assignable auxiliary pedal inputs
  • Perfect Analog Lab integration:
    • Select sounds, browse presets, switch parts, smart-assigned controls.
    • Standalone or plug-in operation: VST, VST3, AU, AAX.
    • Over 6500 TAE® powered preset sounds from Arturia’s award-winning V Collection
  • Ableton Live Lite – record, layer, and edit your sounds to create a finished song.
  • Piano V – Twelve different world-class pianos meticulously crafted using our critically acclaimed modeling technology.
  • Compatible WITH ALL major Digital Audio Workstation: Pro Tools, Logic Pro X, FL Studio, Bitwig, Cubase, Ableton Live, Digital Performer, Studio ONE
  • Available IN Black OR White
check out its price at zzsounds

(they allow you to try out gear and if you are not satisfied you can return within 30 days)

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 MK2

I can talk about this keyboard a little more because I own one of these in my studio .I wasn’t able to afford the keyboard but i won it through a remix contest.would i recommend this ? its an absolute yes from me!! (i am not Simon Cowell thou ! lol)

Key Features:

  • it has  Fatar 61semi-weighted with synth-style high velocity-sensitive feature after-touch.
  • it has amazing octave up and down controls
  • comes with 9 knobs and 40 Buttons, Pitch & Mod Wheels
  • the STRIP that you find in the left side end ,its only half visibile in hte pic above,its super helpfull to
  • has great compatibility with cubase logic and ableton,worKs well with MAC and PC.
  • comes with a 88-key hammer-action Fatar keybed with true piano feel for piano guys.
  • just opens up a new space of Intuitive integration with all your virtual instruments and effects
  • Two high-res color screens and Light Guide for at-a-glance visual feedback in live and studio environments.
  • comes with the following free instruments:
  • KOMPLETE KONTROL software
  • MASCHINE ESSENTIALS
    (full MASCHINE software plus 1.6 GB MASCHINE Factory Selection)
  • Ableton Live 10 Lite
  • KOMPLETE 12 SELECT
    (including MASSIVE, MONARK, REAKTOR PRISM, RETRO MACHINES MK2, THE GENTLEMAN, SCARBEE MARK I, VINTAGE ORGANS, DRUMLAB, DISCOVERY SERIES: WEST AFRICA, SCARBEE RICKENBACKER BASS, MOD PACK – PHASIS, REPLIKA, SOLID BUS COMP, REAKTOR 6 PLAYER, KONTAKT 6 PLAYER + ETHEREAL EARTH, 3 Expansions: TRUE SCHOOL, VELVET LOUNGE, DEEP MATTER)
  • Also includes free software:
    KOMPLETE START
    (including TRK-01 BASS, MIKRO PRISM, LAZERBASS, CARBON 2, SPACE DRONE, NEWSCOOL, PLAY SERIES SELECTION, KINETIC TREATS, WORLD, BAND, SYNTH, VINTAGE, URBAN BEATS, SUPERCHARGER, GUITAR RIG 5 PLAYER, EXPANSIONS SELECTION, KONTAKT 6 PLAYER, REAKTOR 6 PLAYER)
  • $25.00 e-voucher to spend in the NI Online Shop
check out its price at zzsounds

(they allow you to try out gear and if you are not satisfied you can return within 30 days)

88 KEY VARIANTS

Arturia KeyLab 88 MKII

This is another solid keyboard that i stand behind and give my word on as it has amazing key bed and functions.

who is this keyboard for?

AN ASPIRING PRODUCER

This if for poeple who want to make their mark on the industry. KeyLab 88 MkII looks incredible, is built to last, and is here for your journey.

A DEMANDING SESSION PLAYER

A BUSY PROFESSIONAL,

YOU NEED A WORLD-CLASS HAMMER ACTION,

YOU USE RECORDING SOFTWARE,

virtual instruments, vintage hardware, and modular synths. You need them all working together. KeyLab 88 MkII will be your translator.

Key Features:

  • it comes with 88 note Fatar TP/100LR keybed
  • it has 16 RGB-backlit performance pads that are absolutely fantastic.
  • it has 9 clickable encoders, 6 transport switches, 10 DAW Command buttons, 1 modulation wheel, 1 pitch bend wheel, Octave/Chord/Transpose encoders, 3 Pad mode buttons, 9 multipurpose faders, 7 Transport buttons, and 3 control buttons
  • compatible with all DAW’s and works well with PC and MAC.
  • Live mode “Concert” panel to prepare your set and sounds
  • the integration of Stage view for peace of mind when playing live
  • you will have 10 integrated effects to color your sounds
  • Search anything and find your desired sound using tags, instruments, sound designers, styles.
  • Find similar presets with machine learning algorithms that sweep away the old techniques of sound design.
  • Amazing support for Arturia and generic MIDI controllers that you own.
  • Discover new presets in the Sound Store using our analog labs and other presets that come with it.
  • “Multi” sounds that can combine 2 instruments or more gives a lot of expression to your mixes.
  • it comes with a Streamlined mapping for all instruments and presets in the digital audio workstation.
check out its price at zzsounds

(they allow you to try out gear and if you are not satisfied you can return within 30 days)

komplete kontrol s88 mk2

This is a monster that’s all i got to say about it !!!

let me explain about this a little more when i started using this midi keyboard the first thing that i noticed is that the feel of the keyboard.The keys feel premium than all other keyboards that i have checked.the sensitivity to touch and the after-touch works magic.The hammer action keys will steal your heart straightaway. you are a piano player man you will love this thing.

the screens are majestic,like C’mon who doesn’t love a bright colorful screen.The thing that i liked most is that i don’t have to move my hands to the mouse or keyboard.The shortcuts and features are so amazing.

  • comes with a 88-key hammer-action Fatar keybed with true piano feel for piano guys.
  • just opens up a new space of Intuitive integration with all your virtual instruments and effects
  • Two high-res color screens and Light Guide for at-a-glance visual feedback in live and studio environments.
  • comes with the following free instruments:
  • KOMPLETE KONTROL software
  • MASCHINE ESSENTIALS
    (full MASCHINE software plus 1.6 GB MASCHINE Factory Selection)
  • Ableton Live 10 Lite
  • KOMPLETE 12 SELECT
    (including MASSIVE, MONARK, REAKTOR PRISM, RETRO MACHINES MK2, THE GENTLEMAN, SCARBEE MARK I, VINTAGE ORGANS, DRUMLAB, DISCOVERY SERIES: WEST AFRICA, SCARBEE RICKENBACKER BASS, MOD PACK – PHASIS, REPLIKA, SOLID BUS COMP, REAKTOR 6 PLAYER, KONTAKT 6 PLAYER + ETHEREAL EARTH, 3 Expansions: TRUE SCHOOL, VELVET LOUNGE, DEEP MATTER)
  • Also includes free software:
    KOMPLETE START
    (including TRK-01 BASS, MIKRO PRISM, LAZERBASS, CARBON 2, SPACE DRONE, NEWSCOOL, PLAY SERIES SELECTION, KINETIC TREATS, WORLD, BAND, SYNTH, VINTAGE, URBAN BEATS, SUPERCHARGER, GUITAR RIG 5 PLAYER, EXPANSIONS SELECTION, KONTAKT 6 PLAYER, REAKTOR 6 PLAYER)
  • $25.00 e-voucher to spend in the NI Online Shop
  • I love this thing.
check out its price at zzsounds

(they allow you to try out gear and if you are not satisfied you can return within 30 days)

GEAR I USE:

MY FIRST MIDI KEYBOARD:

The first midi keyboard i Bought was by selling my arranger from Yamaha called psr S550. Here is the picture of the keyboard that i bought.its m-audio oxygen 49.its an amazing keyboard but i wouldn’t recommend it now because you have amazing keyboards in this price range.

My two babies right there

Buying my first midi keyboard taught me a lot about minimalism.I had a 500$ workstation which i wasn’t using at all.I had no money to invest as well.

i Sold it for 150$ and bought a 49 key M-audio midi keyboard .it has been a workhorse for me .it made me to get inspired and write music even when feel like i don’t want to do it.

Being a huge nerd i obsess about gear all the time but over time it just came clear to me that investing in ourselves will yield more value than investing in the gear.if you have skill,you can make anything out of thin air.

there is a saying in my language that is translated like this,

“For a skilled man even grass is a tool”

Conclusion:

It doesn’t matter which midi keyboard you choose.the only thing that matters is your journey of music production.Putting in the hustle and hard-work will give you more satisfaction than having a fancy keyboard.

here are some pointers for picking your midi keyboard,

  • 1,stay true to your budget
  • 2.Dont wander because something looks sleek.
  • 3.Make sure it provides enough value.
  • 4.Make sure your long term goals align with the keyboard if you are purchasing a 88 key keyboard .(its expensive _)

Check my article on How to produce music at home? and how much music producers make? if you are beginner it would give you some insights on these topics.

If you are starting in music production here are my two golden mantras

DONT STRESS YOURSELF ON SOMETHING!!

WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE!!

REST WILL FOLLOW!!