Though I started learning piano since young, I do not know much of a difference between, piano, stage piano, synthesiser, midi controller etc. It was hard to choose the right controller when I first started off writing songs using midi on Garageband (yes, Garageband was very first DAW). At that time, I just google "keyboard" to get my first midi controller. Yes, I did not know the difference at all!
A few weeks ago, my friend was asking help to pick his very fist midi controller. So I started off by explaining the difference between each 'keyboard'. This picture summarises the whole thing:
1. What is a midi controller?
MIDI controller refers to a device that controls parameters of a performance. It could be triggering the light on live performance, or it could be as simple as triggering the midi notes (melody) you like on your DAW.
2. Do you need a midi controller?
This is the most important bit of information. For composer/singer-songwriting who prefers recording 'live' instruments, you do not need a midi controller. All you need is a proper mic and a decent audio interface to laid down all the tracks. As for me, I write and arrange songs via midi because I do not have the budget to hire sessionist to play a particular instruments I want and I am more of a 'midi' person than a 'live' person. Besides, I can visualise my piece easier via midi notes laid out nicely.
Do you want to carry your midi controller around and create music on the go? Or do you want it to be in your home studio?
As for me, I would prefer on the go midi controller, they have smaller keys though with less sensitive velocity, big fat fingers will suffer, perhaps you could switch to pads if so.
4. Your first midi controller vs Genre of music you are creating
When it comes to your first midi controller, low budget is always preferable as you are unsure of what exactly you want!
The genre of music that you are creating is important too in deciding what midi controller you should buy.
I am a Malaysian, so I am using lazada service instead of ebay/amazon. I am picking those cheap and decent midi controller.
i. You are a pianist and prefer to see 'key' rather than pads, genre of music: pop , rock, RnB and the mainstream genres
A simple midi controller with just keys will be sufficient for you. Semi-weighted or hammer-action keys are preferable too since you are used to playing piano. However, velocity sensitive ones are sufficient too if you are on tight budget. As a pianist, you would prefer playing with both hands, so, I would suggest at least a midi controller with 49keys. Some examples could be:
Midi Controller Keyboards Acorn MK49
Alesis Q61 61-Key USB/MIDI Keyboard Controller
ii. You are thinking of doing lots of drum patterns for your midi, genre: EDM, electronics, etc.
Getting those midi controller in the form of pads will be ideal for you!
If you are a DJ and would like to have knobs too, this portable AKAI LPD series are good for you! Look for KORG nano to compare and see which suits you better!
Akai Professional LPD8
iii. You are a experimentalist and do not know much about 'creating' the mainstream genres, or you are just unsure, the ALL IN ONE solution
I would say this is a 'play safe' option in getting your first midi controller.
I have experience with the older AKAI MPK Mini for my first midi controller and it was a pleasant experience in figuring out which type of midi controller serves what I want best! I am a pianist, so I wanted 'keys' to play with, and I would like to explore other genres with heavy drum patterns such as EDM, so I needed pads to play with and also knobs to create the effects in EDM. Hence, the ALL IN ONE solution would be a controller with keys, pads and knobs!
Akai MPK Mini Portable Key & Pad USB MIDI Controller
Hope this helps for those who are figuring out what to get :)
Call me G :)
Hi, my name is Jyi. I am the founder and engineer for JYISMUSIC! I help people produce their favourite songs/covers as well as provide services to companies like Mediacorp! Besides, music, I share things I like, such as food, travel, and some financial/investment tips I read :)
Do you have music projects you wanna discuss with me?