MIDI Controller Buying Guide

When it comes to the music making process, MIDI keyboard controllers have become an integral part. A lot of the contemporary producers and musicians are using MIDI controller keyboards.

People these days use so many virtual instruments in the studio and on stage, which has improved the significance of MIDI controllers. Our intention is to help you pick the right controller for your needs. Read on to find out more about this.

What is a keyboard controller?

Well, answer this question we need to check the history starting from the 1980s. Why did they develop a MIDI specification? They developed it to help the live performers.

Single keyboards used to produce sounds of multiple synthesizers and we needed a device to control these sounds. Soon, that concept caught on like wildfire. Today, everyone loves the flexibility offered by a keyboard controller. Sound designers, studio musicians, songwriters with laptops and live performers benefit from MIDI controllers.

How does it work?

We will have to look into the working a bit.

  • Well, first and foremost, let’s see how it works technically. This device has a piano or synth-style keys.
  • It also has sliders, buttons, knobs attached to it.
  • With the help of these components, you will be able to transmit MIDI data to external sound modules, which are also referred to as synthesizers. The data can be sent to a software/hardware sequencer or computer software synthesizers.
  • When it comes to most keyboard controllers, there is no sound-generating capability, however most of the keyboard synthesizer can act to control the parameters and sounds of other devices
  • When it comes to a keyboard controller, portability and versatility are considered to be the strong suites.
  • They are able to give you control over almost all the modern music software and hardware.
  • Another thing is that, they are so compact that it fits your laptop bag.

Faders, buttons, and knobs

As we all know, keyboard controllers have piano-style keys. They may also have buttons on their top panels, sliders and a range of knobs. They are highly capable of transmitting MIDI data. Also, they have the ability to increase the hands-on control you have over your module or software. Let’s take a look at a specific example.

Imagine that you have plugged your controller into your computer. Assume that DAW is also running with favorite soft synth. The sliders, knows and modulation wheel will help you control which is real-time and hands-on.

Thus, you will get the more authentic analogue feel that you have been looking for. As far as some of these controllers are concerned, you can expect to see auto-mapping technology to set up the faders and knobs.

Live performances

Let’s take a look at the keyboard controllers during live performances. As we can see, this has been one of the original concepts of MIDI. Using one keyboard, you will be able to control the other modules. While you are performing on stage, you will be able to connect your controller to your laptop. You will also be able to connect to a rack full of synth modules.

The MIDI can connect to effects processors as well. With simple button pushes, you will be able to accomplish much that includes using presets to split or combine devices. If you are a DJ, you will definitely like the compactness of the controller with 25-keys. You will be able to modulate the filters with the help of the knobs. You can also rely on the loop sequencer.

Key count

As far as the key count is concerned, the available space in your studio is a big factor. Your playing-style should also be a consideration here. Do you like to play two-handed? Do you wish to do range mapping (keyboard spits)? What about the portability?

Do you think that portability should be one of the key factors? Do you travel a lot with these MIDI controllers? When you honestly answer these questions, you will have an idea about the key count you have been looking for.

As far as MIDI controllers are concerned, you have key counts like 25, 49, 61 and 88. As for the length, you can expect them to be anywhere between 20’’ and 50’’. But there are instances when we see models with 76, 73, 37 and 32 keys as well. Your need plays a big part in selecting the key count.

You have got to remember the fact that a large key count would mean a larger keyboard. A large keyboard might have a lot of issues when it comes to spacing. If it doesn’t fit the studio or the stage, it can be an issue. The biggest advantage is that you will be able to play with both hands.