Midi Keyboard Controllers: An Essential For Music Production

Midi Keyboard controllers For Music Producers

Today, music producers and composers use Midi Keyboard Controllers to control everything in their music production setup. People are using MIDI to do everything from composing, controlling lighting all the way down to mixing music and editing video. The possibilities are endless.

MIDI is essential for modern producers (beginner and pro) and without it, I think it’s safe to say that most wouldn’t create music today.

What Is a Midi Keyboard Controller

A MIDI Keyboard is a controller that sends command signals to other musical instruments using a MIDI five-pin cable or a USB. It’s important to note that MIDI is not sound and MIDI Controllers don’t have their own board boards (generally).

With that being said, you can find workstations and synthesizers that do have sound and can function as a midi controller. Your traditional midi keyboard controller doesn’t have built in sounds and cannot produce sound by itself.

Instead, it sends signals to a receiving device that is capable of interpreting those signals and producing sound. Those devices include but aren’t limited to

  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) with virtual instruments
  • Synthesizers
  • Rack sound module
  • etc

MIDI keyboards come in several sizes. The most common sizes are

  • 25 key
  • 49-key
  • 61-key
  • 88-key

Other sizes (not so common) you may run into are

  • 32 key
  • 37 key
  • 64 key
  • 73 key
  • 76 key

Midi Keyboards can be quite robust with features. Aside from having keys and a mod/pitch wheel, you find some with the following:

  • buttons
  • knobs
  • sliders
  • fader
  • touch strips
  • screens
  • pads
  • jog wheels
  • etc.

A lot of these are set to specific functions such as adjusting mixing faders, cycling through presets and patches, rifling through quantize settings, note divisions or you can map them to control whatever you feel is important. There’s a lot that can be done.

On top of that, MIDI keyboards allow you to use foot controllers, such as sustain and expression pedals to add a little flavor to your playing performance.

Quick Tip: Sustain is a CC command so if you don’t have a sustain pedal you can always route/program a knob, key, or pad to enable this command.

Most MIDI keyboards today have auto-mapping which controls various parameters with a DAW (automatically) allow you to sit and create without needing to map/assign functions from scratch.

Why Midi Keyboard Controllers Are Important

MIDI keyboard controllers make a music producer’s life easier allowing us to compose music and control various aspects of the music production from 1 device (if needed). While standard and mid-sized MIDI keyboard controllers offer more control and composition functionality, they can be difficult to carry around.

This is where 25 key MIDI keyboard controllers come in handy and have a slight edge. Not only are they portable as stated above, but they come packed with features available on more expensive units at a fraction of the cost.
Also, if you have room in your bag, you can carry more than one and still have a lighter load to carry vs a standard-size keyboard controller.

Top 25 Key Midi Keyboard Controllers

As the age-old idiom goes, “Big things come in small packages”. 25 Midi controllers are a go to for musicians, music producers, and hobbyists around the world. They’re portable, compact, and very convenient.

Here are five of the top 25 Key MIDI Keyboard Controllers on the market today.

Akai Mpk Mini III

AKAI MPK MINI MK3 Midi Keyboard Controller

AKAI recreated its formula for 25 Key Midi Controller success with the AKAI MPK Mini MK3 the AKAI MPK Mini MK2’s successor. This MIDI controller has everything you need to make professional music production in the recording studio or on the go. It’s by far one of the most popular midi controllers out right now.

You definitely want to dig into the Akai software to customize the pads to trigger the scale(s) you want or specific keys to make your workflow easier.

Size Matters: Here are the specs for the MPK Mini MK3
1.98 lbs. or 0.898 kg
7.08 x 12.48 x 1.92 inches

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Four-way joystick (mod/pitch control)
  • 8 programmable pads and Rotary knobs
  • 4 Pad Banks
  • Mpc Styled pads
  • Note Repeat
  • Built in arppegio
  • Extremely portable

The super responsive pads make the finger drumming and beat-making experience seamless.

Cons:

  • The four-way joystick
  • Small keys
  • Feel a bit cheap
  • Keys aren’t weighted
  • Software bundle a bit too generic

Pairs perfectly well with any computer, tower, or laptop. The plug-and-play design is a breeze to use.

Amazon Pricing

Alesis V25 Key Controller

Alesis 25 Key Midi Controller

Alesis V25 is a steal of a controller. It’s cheap, very functional, and has four exchangeable buttons and knobs which provide illuminations upon touch.

The octave feature allows you to access the full scale of the midi keyboard for playing melodies and building harmonies.
The semi weighted keys allow more expression while performing. Weight is good if you’re looking for a realistic feel. With that said the weight (key weight) is decent, much better than most midi keyboard controllers out there.

Alesis V25 also offers a software package that includes:

  • Pro Tools First: Super entry-level path in the Pro Tools world, very limited, but it is free
  • Mini Grand: Underrated piano
  • DB-33: Can’t go wrong with free organs
  • Xpand 2: Fl Studio users have been using this for years
  • Ableton Live Lite: Great DAW especially if live performances are your thing. More than enough to get you off the ground and producing in.

Size Matters:

3.86 lbs
9.6 x 24.6 x 4.53 inches

Pros:

  • Super affordable price.
  • Strong build
  • Full-sized keys
  • Pressure and velocity-sensitive pads
  • Good feeling pads
  • Simple to use

Cons:

  • Does not have a LED screen
  • Pads have a reputation of double triggering (hard to avoid)
  • Velocity sensitivity could be better. The dynamics aren’t the best
  • Pads, while they work well could be more sensitive requiring less pressure

Make sure you use the Alesis Software to configure the pad sensitivity to your liking. This will help a bit with the dynamics issue. For some, it’s a non-issue, but make sure you don’t ignore the software.

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Nektar Impact LX25+ 25-key Keyboard Controller

Nektar Impact 25 Key Midi Controller

The Nektar Impact LX25+ is a budget-friendly premium MIDI controller that comes with eight backlit pads, synth-action keys, mappable transport buttons, controls, dedicated pitch, and patch navigation…the works.

The Impact LX25+ also has native integration support for the following DAWS

  • Bitwig
  • Digital Performer
  • FL Studio 20
  • GarageBand
  • Logic X
  • Reason Studios
  • Reaper
  • and more

Size Matters:

4lbs
18.34 x 10.5 x 2.34 inches

Pros:

  • Strong solid build, very durable
  • Simplistic, retro design
  • Keys feel pretty good
  • Amazing pads, they also feel good
  • Great mapping functionality (for synth and plugin control)
  • Ability to map buttons and knobs to DAW functions (download software here)
  • Pads light up/ change color when triggered

Cons

  • Keys feel a bit stiff when played makes a thudding sound when depressed
  • Keys are not weighted
  • Several users faced issues with integration
  • The USB port is a bit flimsy

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Akai Professional MPK225 25-key Keyboard Controller

Akai Mpk 225 Midi Keyboard Controller

AKAI gives a facelift to its original AKAI MPK 25 Key controller with its MPK225 model. It’s heavy, bulky, not as portable as other controllers, and it’s a bit on the expensive side.

However, it’s still a badass Midi Keyboard packed with good features and functionality. It has 25 full-size keys that are semi-weighted/synth action, Mpc Styled pads (full level), Mpc Note Repeat, a backlit LCD screen with a new control layout, and allows hands-on DAW integration.

One thing I love about this Midi Keyboard Controller is it kind of feels like a Moog Synth. On top of that, it has eight MIDI Production Centre (MPC) pads, and the eight control knobs and four backlit buttons are all assignable.

The MPK225 also offers a downloadable software package including

  • Hybrid 3
  • Ableton Live Lite
  • SONiVOX Twist 2.0

Pros:

  • Mappable Transport Controls
  • Assignable buttons and knobs
  • Knobs are 360
  • Tap Tempo
  • Arpeggio
  • Easy setup and installation process.
  • Decent keys
  • Good build
  • Great DAW mapping abilities, especially with Ableton Live

Cons:

  • Only 8 Pads: The original MPK 25 has 12
  • 8 Rotary Knobs: The original MPK 25 had 12

This would be a perfect upgrade from the MPK Mini, especially if you aren’t happy with its keys and feel.

Amazon Pricing

Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 Slim-key Controller

Arturia MiniLab 25 Key Midi Controller

This is a great option for music producers on the go. It’s tiny and can fit in a backpack (decent sized) or Namba Bag with a Laptop and still have plenty of room for cables and peripheral adapters.
Works great with Arturia Software and Fl Studio 20. The look and feel is good, very easy to set up and use.

The MiniLab Offers

  • 25 Velocity Sensitive Keys (not full size)
  • 8 pads with backlighting (RGB)
  • 16 assignable Rotary Encoders.
  • Bundled Software: Ableton Live and Analog Lab Lite, both are ‘lite version’

Pros:

  • Great build quality.
  • Quality keys, pads, and knobs.
  • Solid build
  • Great value for money.
  • 6000+ Presets and Sounds.
  • The compact dimension of 14 x 9 x 1.5 inches makes it easily portable.

Cons:

Some customers complain of software integration issues with AnalogLab Lite, however not all users experience issues. Could be a user error.

Amazon Pricing

Conclusion When It Comes To Midi Keyboard Controllers

Music technology changes all the time, the one aspect of it that has remained quite consistent is MIDI. MIDI keyboard controllers make producing music easier than ever.

Make sure you conduct good research before choosing a MIDI keyboard controller because not all are the same. Some have more bells and whistles than others, but they are all capable of getting the job. You want to make sure you choose a Midi Keyboard that fits your workflow.

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