Laying your ideas out and creating tracks is simpler than ever with the help of DAW’s and thousands of plugins but without a digital instrument you can only get so far.
We’ve got you covered with the best MIDI keyboards for playing, recording and controlling your software that don’t break the bank.
Arturia have built a feature packed controller with the MiniLab MkII that gives musicians and producers extensive control over their software and costs less than £100.
The MiniLab, as with all of the controllers listed here, has been built with portability in mind. It fits 25 slim-line keys, 16 knobs, 8 pads and touch controls into a package small enough to fit into your rucksack and doesn’t require a whole studio to fit in and work with. It comes with Ableton Live Lite with which it works seamlessly.
Kelly from the RouteNote team got hands on with the MiniLab MkII and delved into it’s power for a review. You can check it out here.
Alesis offer an incredibly affordable solution to basic music production with their Vmini controller. This bite sized keyboard offers 25 velocity-sensitive keys to play virtual instruments and control samples with.
The Vmini packs essential controls into a tiny package making it easy to take anywhere and lay out ideas from. There are four assignable knobs for volume control or effect manipulation and 4 velocity-sensitive pads give control over clip launching or finger-banging out a beat.
It’s not as feature-laden as some of the others but for the price you get a quality keyboard that is more than enough to lay the groundwork out for your ideas and small enough to take anywhere you go.
This is my personal favourite and the controller/keyboard I have used when I want to simply plug in, play, record, and expand. The APC Key’s giant clip-launching grid makes it the perfect Ableton companion and lets you create on the fly and easily manipulate and launch clips and tracks, all without touching your computer.
The APC Key adds 8 customisable control knobs for adjusting each tracks volumes or effect parameters all of which are easily switched between using the expansive functions on the controller. The 25 key keyboard ensures that you have all you need to play and write your music whilst it’s function-packed pads give you extensive control over your DAW and instruments.
It works as soon as you plug it in and comes with Ableton Lite Live so you can craft your masterpieces with ease and without hassle.
The Keystation offers 7 more keys than the others making it the perfect option for the travelling player who wants a better range for laying down melody. The highlight of M-Audio’s offering is it’s 32 velocity-sensitive synth-action keys offering dynamic range in a portable package.
It’s controls beyond keys are limited but offer pitch-bending, modulation, and sustain whilst octave controls let you increase your range even further. The keyboard uniquely supports iOS connectivity with the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit so you can link it up to your iPad or iPhone to play and compose with iOS audio apps.
Akai’s MPK Mini MkII offers a more performance based solution to it’s DAW-control built sibling, the APC. It features a 4-way joystick for pitch and modulation manipulation as you play and an on-board arpeggiator makes the creation of intricate melodic lines simple.
The MPK features a sustain pedal input allowing for truly expressive playing that is still in a package small enough to take wherever you go. 8 backlit velocity-sensitive MPC style pads and 8 assignable Q-Link knobs mean you still have power over your software.