Midi Controller Keyboard: Beginners guide and reviews. A controller keyboard is an important part of most studio setups. Here’s a Useful Guide on Midi Controller Keyboards.
Table of Contents
Introduction to Midi Controller Keyboards
Learn how they work and reviews of the more popular models/brands.
A midi keyboard controller is a device with piano, organ, or synth-style keys, and usually a selection of knobs, buttons, and sliders.
The different between this and the other type of digital keyboard instruments is that most keyboard controllers themselves have no internal sound-generating capability. They cannot generate sounds on their own.
Their primary job is to transmit MIDI data to external sound modules (synthesizers), computer software synthesizers, or a hardware or software sequencer, which in turn will produce the sounds.
You can read here to know more about controllers.
But if you already have a keyboard instrument, you need not buy a midi controller as almost any keyboard synthesizer/workstation can act to control the sounds and parameters of other devices.
However, many prefer to go in for these because of the several faders and knobs which make it much easier to control and edit things during recording music.
Most MIDI controllers have a full control surface and some may also thrown in some freebie software such as Automap control software that makes it fast and simple to assign knobs, faders and buttons to your music software.
In terms of keys, you usually have choices of 25, 49 and 61 key keyboards. You also have choices of weighted and semi-weighted keys with after-touch.
Most are USB powered so they don’t need to be powered separately.
You have provisions to connect expression and sustain pedal inputs
MIDI in and out ports are provided for connecting external MIDI instruments
Video showing the various features of a midi controller keyboard:
Another video that provides more useful tips when buying a MIDI Keyboard Controller.
Though you may have got an idea of why you need these equipment in your setup, here are some more consideration.
Most controllers are just plug-and-play but some may require you to download drivers, depending on what DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) you use. Some DAWs require you to select the controller within the DAW (check the user manuals for that).
Some of you may be thinking what’s the best way to deal with latency, but most of the times its because of poorly-written drivers. So even if you use an external card and if it has latency problems, you should try updating the drivers.
You also have the option of going in for a controller keyboard that comes with a built-in audio interface; the advantage is that you have one less equipment to deal with in your setup and saves you desk-space. A Firewire or Thunderbolt device is preferable if you are opting for an external card.
If you are not sure what recording software to use yet, you may try some free ones (such as Reaper) or use the trial version of popular DAWs to get a hang of it. You can even Google for “vst synth” or “vst organs” to find several freeware plugins, that you may try out.
Find Great Deals on MIDI Controller Keyboards here…
What is a Midi Controller: Various Types & Uses
What is a Midi Controller: Learn all about MIDI and the various types of controllers.
What is MIDI
MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface.
There are lots of misconceptions about what a midi controller is or does. However, a midi controller is anything whose primary or secondary function is to send midi performance data to another hardware or software.
Here are various equipment that can act as midi controllers:
The most common connection is between a MIDI instrument such as a keyboard controller (or the ones shown above), and a host machine (such as your computer) that runs the software to process MIDI into sound. When you press a note on the MIDI keyboard, the chip inside turns this data into a message that is communicated to the host computer. The computer then processes this MIDI message into sound via a MIDI sequencer (which usually is a software).
A single port of MIDI has 16 channels, and each of those channels can be used for sending useful performance related values.
Here’s a useful video that explains the concept of MIDI in detail:
What is a MIDI Controller Keyboard?
A MIDI controller keyboard is an inexpensive way to experience the joy of MIDI. You really don’t have to buy an expensive keyboard with built-in sound engine, if your sole purpose if to use the keyboard to enter notes in your computer’s sequencer software.
A MIDI keyboard (comes with several knobs, buttons, sliders) makes it easy to punch notes in your sequencing software. Just press a note and it will play on your computer; hit record, and you will start recording.
Transferring MIDI Data
Nowadays, for most situations a USB cable is used to transfer MIDI data, but originally and even now in certain cases people still use a 5 pin Din connector.
The various controls, wheels, knobs and sliders available on most midi devices are used to send the midi messages.
Things like how hard you press the keys and how long you press the keys also result in various midi messages being passed, as those actions produce different sounds.
Controller Keyboards are Special
MIDI controller keyboards are special because they have really changed the way musicians approach music. It gives live performers & studio musicians a lot of flexibility to play and/or record virtually any synthesized musical instrument.
It also allows them to have a portable recording setup which can be carried around in their shoulder bag.
The sliders, knobs and buttons on the keyboard can be assigned to the various functions available in a recording software, which makes it much easier to apply effects or make changes to the sounds or to your recording. For instance, you can turn the knob to add more treble or bass to the sound. You get keyboard controllers with velocity sensitive or weighted keys as well, which suits piano and/or organ players.
Polyphony & MIDI
Do you own an old digital piano or keyboard, with midi capabilities but with lesser polyphony, and are wondering if that keyboard will be suitable for music production?
There are earlier versions of the Yamaha Clavinova digital piano that come with only 16 polyphony. So assuming if you connect it to another sound module or a software synth/sequencer, will it impact the sound coming from it?
Not at all! The polyphony is for the sound engine of the Clavinova, and it doesn’t impact the MIDI messages that the Clavinova piano will send out. Your digital piano will send the complete set of MIDI messages.
So in that regard, your production setup should work fine.
What is a Good MIDI Controller?
So what is a good midi controller to use that will help you to produce all kinds of music?
Here are reviews of some of the best keyboard controllers available for musicians.
You may also want to read this article that explains what you need to setup your home studio to produce music. As you can see, you definitely need more than one piece of equipment.
What you need to understand is MIDI is a standard, and any MIDI controller will work with any other equipment that says it can takes MIDI input.
Most musicians find it easy to use a keyboard midi controller as feeding in the notes, to the DAW, is quite easy.
Choose one that has lots of controls, knobs, sliders, so that you can use them to control the various sound parameters, rather than having to use the mouse and do it on the software of your computer.
The real advantages of a keyboard controller are versatility and portability. They give you control over virtually the entire range of modern music hardware and software while sometimes even being compact enough to fit in your laptop computer bag.