A producer’s guide to MIDI controller keyboards in 2017

A good MIDI controller keyboard is an essential part of every producer’s arsenal, but there are a ton to choose from. We’re going to look at our five favourites and let you know what’s what.

A-producer’s-guide-to-MIDI-keys

Alesis V Series

The Alesis V series keyboards come in a few different shapes sizes, from the super portable Alesis V Mini, all the way up to the V61. They’re an entry level MIDI keyboard, with enough controls, but without getting too complicated. Every keyboard in the series has 8 velocity sensitive backlit pads, 4 assignable knobs, and 4 assignable buttons to control your DAW – apart from the V mini, which only has 4 pads.

All incarnations of the V series come with full size keys too, again apart from the V Mini, which is a lot more compact. The larger options for this keyboard also have mini pitch and modulation wheels.

 

Alesis VI Series

The VI series, also by Alesis, are essentially a more in depth version of the V series. They’ve got 16 assignable pads, 12 knobs, and 36 buttons, so there’s no chance of you being short of DAW control. The VI series also have a small LED screen for visual feedback, and the keys are semi weighted with aftertouch.

Like the V series, there are various size options for this series too, with 25 key, 49 key and 61 key options.

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol

The native instruments Komplete Kontrol are among the most luxurious MIDI keyboards around. They feature pro grade Fatar weighted keys with aftertouch, and full integration with the Native Instruments software. They also feature a large LED screen, as well as light guided keys.

They’re incredibly well built, and play like a dream. They also come bundled with Native Instruments Komplete 11 Select, which contains 25Gb of sounds and instruments and provides a great-value route to upgrade to the full versions of Komplete or Komplete Ultimate. They have pre-mapped controls for all of the bundled software too, making use of the 8 knobs to alter various parameters. There’s also a pitch bend and mod wheel, as well as DAW control.

M-Audio Code range

The M-audio Code is a feature packed, mid level MIDI keyboard, which is available as a 25 key, 49 key or 61 key. Each incarnation comprises 16 velocity sensitive trigger pads, 9 assignable faders, 8 assignable encoders, and 9 assignable buttons, as well as an XY pad, which can control multiple parameters at once.

The M-audio code works with Mackie/ HUI transport control, meaning it integrates with your DAW of choice simply and easily. There’s a small LCD screen for visual feedback, and all of the triggers and buttons are backlit. The code comes bundled with Ableton Live Lite, Hybrid 3.0 and VIP 3.0 software.

Arturia Keylab Essential

The Arturia Keylab Essential is a stylish, all white MIDI keyboard, with either 49 or 61 keys. There’s a pretty comprehensive selection of controls, including 9 encoders, 9 faders, 6 transport switches, 4 command switches and 8 touch and pressure-sensitive pads. There’s also a main clickable encoder for selecting sounds.

The area where the Keylab essential really excels though, is with its bundled software. It comes with 5000 synth sounds, courtesy of Analog lab, a UVI Grand Piano model D and Ableton Live Lite – all of which can be selected and controlled from the keyboard.

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Chris Milnes

Christopher Milnes is a Leeds-based musician and music producer. He’s received various awards and scholarships for his music production work, notably The David Thompson Scholarship, and the O2 Think Bigger award, as well as the conservatoire prize at Leeds College of Music. His work has been broadcast on BBC radio 1, BBC Radio 3, and many other radio and TV stations.

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