If you are a creator of music and you make a living out of it, it is incredibly beneficial if you have the right set of equipment. MIDI keyboards are essential instruments that you will want to have in your studio.
MIDI keyboards are a crucial part of home music studios as they allow us to create sounds from any musical instrument. With the use of inbuilt recording software, virtual music instruments, and a controller, music producers have a complete music studio with a wide array of musical instruments through the MIDI keyboard. No longer do you have to spend thousands of dollars on buying music instruments. You have the option to go electronic and record with a MIDI keyboard. If you are looking forward to diving into the world of music, the MIDI keyboard is an excellent place to start.
These piano-style devices are smaller than the average piano and consist of various control knobs that allow you to cycle multiple musical instruments, manage your tone and pitch, as well as apply various presets. There are a variety of MIDI keyboards available in the market. As such, it can be somewhat challenging for a beginner when it comes to choosing the best MIDI keyboard that meets their needs.
Here is a list of the best MIDI keyboards for beginners in 2020.
Number and type of keys
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Novation Launchkey Mini MK2
25 synthesizer and velocity-sensitive keys
PC and Ipad via USB port
Akai MPK Mini MK2 MIDI keyboard
25 velocity-sensitive keys
Mac or PC via USB port
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32
32 velocity-sensitive keys
PC and Mac via USB
Arturia Keystep Beginner MIDI keyboard
32 velocity-sensitive and aftertouch keys
PC, Mac, iOS via USB, MIDI In/Out ports, Sync I/O ports, sustain pedal jack, CV/Gate outputs
49 non-weighted and velocity-sensitive keys
Mac and Windows machines
NEKTAR IMPACT LX25 MIDI keyboard
25 synth-action keys with medium tension
iOS, Mac, and PC
32-note velocity-sensitive mid-size keys
Mac and PC
M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKIV
49 full-sized and synth-action keys
Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later (10.5 or later recommended) + Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP
CME XKey Air
25 full-sized and synth-action keys with aftertouch
OSX 10.10 (Up), Windows 7 (Up), iOS
Akai Professional MPK249
49 full-sized, semi-weighted and touch-sensitive keys with aftertouch
Mac, PC, and iOS via Apple Camera Kit
Novation Launchkey Mini MKII MIDI keyboard – the most versatile and easy to use MIDI keyboard
Being one of the most reputable brands in the manufacture of MIDI keyboards, the Novation Launchkey Mini MKII MIDI keyboard is one of the best and most versatile devices available in the market.
- 25 synthesizer keys and velocity-sensitive keyboard
- 16 velocity-sensitive drum pads with LED lights
- 8 assignable knobs, dedicated navigation, and control buttons
- USB-powered portable design
- It weighs 0.2kgs and has dimensions of 393*228*76mm
As the smallest keyboard in the Launchkey line, the Novation Launchkey Mini MKII MIDI keyboard is a compact controller that comes with a fresh new look. This USB-bus powered device allows you to connect it to your PC or iPad for use easily and to draw power, so you do not need to worry about cables and other power supplies.
It also features 25 velocity-sensitive synthesizer keys, 16 drum pads that are also velocity-sensitive, and have LED lights that light up when in correspondence with Ableton Live 9 lite. The keyboard also functions seamlessly with Cubase, Logic Pro, Reason, Pro Tools, and FL Studio. It also works well with any HUI-compatible DAW, once you manually set it up.
- Its synthesized keys provide a comfortable and responsive experience
- Features sheer versatility and functionality
- Easy to carry for people on the go
- Compatible with Ableton Live
- Drum pads are not as sensitive as those of its competitors
Novation Launchkey Mini MKII MIDI keyboard is one of the most popular digital audio workstations (DAW) used in the music industry due to its exceptional functionality, sheer versatility, and ease of use. It is also lightweight, allowing you to carry it anywhere you go comfortably.
Akai MPK Mini MK2 MIDI keyboard – A super portable MIDI keyboard
As one of the best MIDI controllers in the world, the Akai MPK Mini MK2 MIDI keyboard possesses a decent set of features, proven and reliable performance, as well as a wallet-friendly price tag.
- 25 synthesizer-styled keys that are velocity-sensitive
- Eight drum pads and knobs
- Buttons to select octaves and transpose
- A 4-way joystick to control modulation and pitch
- An in-built arpeggiator
Powered by a USB, the Akai MPK Mini MK2 MIDI keyboard is a portable and compact 25-key MIDI controller. This device is merely 12.5″ long and 7.3″ wide, which is smaller than most laptops, allowing it to fit in any standard backpack comfortably. It also weighs about 1.65 pounds, which is the same weight as an iPad Pro.
The Akai Mini MK2 has robust, large, and comfortable keys, meaning you can push things around confidently without worrying about breaking them. It has the basic keyboard design and only three touch sensitivity settings. The device is also positively chunky and possesses a definite ‘retro’ feel due to its thick ‘Akai’ font and soft-rounded edges that make it look like it is from the 80s.
Its eight fully programmable pads are velocity-sensitive and have a rubbery feel. Similarly, it comes with eight fully programmable knobs that are Q-link enabled, meaning you can use them to control filters, oscillators, and envelopes in your DAW. This controller also comes bundled with loads of software, including MPC Essentials, Serum, Koktakt, Massive, Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech, and SONiVOX’s Wobble.
- Excellent design and performance
- Portable with small dimensions and little weight
- High pad and overall build quality
- Loads of bundled software, including MPC Essentials and VIP 3.1
- Its keys have limited velocity-sensitivity and have no aftertouch
- Its eight pads limit usability and are not as responsive as Akai’s pad controllers
- Lightweight knobs
If you are looking for an affordable entry-level MIDI keyboard, the Akai Mini MK2 is an ideal option. It offers you a simple drum pad for uncomplicated drum kits as well as an adequate keyboard for entering chords and melodies.
Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 – A lightweight MIDI controller ideal for beginners
As one of the most well-known companies that provide producers with some of the most top-quality music gear and sound banks, Native Instruments did not disappoint when it comes to their MIDI keyboard package, Komplete Kontrol.
- 32 touch-sensitive mini keys
- It weighs 2.2lbs and has dimensions of 6.6*18.7*2-inches
- It has over 10GB of content and 6,100 sounds
Komplete Kontrol is an industry-standard MIDI controller that is a favorite among many producers in the music industry. It is the smallest keyboard manufactured by Native Instruments but definitely packs a massive punch. It consists of 32 synthesizer-styled keys, a display window that helps while navigating through the instruments, effects, and presets, and eight touch-sensitive control knobs.
This eminently mobile USB 2.0 powered keyboard also comes with two touch sliders that replace the pitch wheels and mod. More so, it works well with Ableton Live, GarageBand, Logic Pro X, and many other DAWs.
- Portable due to its great size
- Touch-sensitive knobs and keys
- It comes with loads of bundled software
- It requires regular manual reference when in use
- Full functionality does not work well with all DAWs
The Komplete Kontrol M32 from Native Instruments is one of the most affordable entry-level MIDI controllers, ideal for creating modern electronic music. The keyboard features a fantastic tactic expression on its controls, ensuring it is fun and effective to use.
Arturia Keystep Beginner MIDI keyboard – An incredibly low key MIDI keyboard with a brilliant step sequencer
The Arturia Keystep packs a lot of functionality and well-designed features in a somewhat small package. This simple-looking 32-note MIDI keyboard might look underwhelming, but do not let its appearance fool you.
- 32 velocity-sensitive keys
- Integrated polyphonic step sequencer
- A maximum of eight simultaneous records and 64 actions per step
- Eight-mode arpeggiator
- Chord play mode
- Modulation and pitch touch fader
The Arturia Keystep is one of the most capable MIDI keyboards in this segment. Despite its basic appearance that might make you believe it is nothing more than a music production toy from the 80s, the Keystep has a wide array of features that give you value for your money. It has exceptionally playable aftertouch keys, a superb sequencer, and a fantastic arpeggiator. This MIDI keyboard lacks control options but enables you to make complex sequences and arpeggios without fiddling with your external synth/software.
The Keystep is incredibly portable, with dimensions of 21″ long and 7″ deep. With a total weight of 3lbs, you will not face any inconvenience as you carry it between live gig sessions. Its keyboard has slim aftertouch keys that increase its usability as it allows creators to make more sustain/vibrato operations.
- Smooth and solid feel without being chunky
- In-built aftertouch and arpeggiator
- A polyphonic step sequencer
- It comes with Arturia’s Analog Lab Centre
- The short and narrow key size makes it complex to play new melodies and chords
The Arturia Keystep is perfect for music producers who are looking for a MIDI controller with multiple hardware synths and is highly portable. Its in-built sequencer and arpeggiator, as well as plenty of ports, make it the ideal addition to your home music studio.
Alesis v49 – A practical and functional MIDI controller
The Alesis V49 MIDI keyboard is one of the more feature-packed beginner MIDI keyboards that come with a price tag to match.
- Weighs 6.28 pounds and has dimensions of 37.6*9.6*4.5”
- 49 full-size keys
- Eight programmable pads
- Two jog wheels for pitch and modulation
- Four programmable control knobs
Alesis is a reputable manufacturer of top-quality electronic music. The Alesis MIDI keyboard for beginners features 49 non-weighted and velocity-sensitive keys, perfect for adding ‘life’ to your melody as they are more responsive than the standard keys. It also has a set of drum pads that light up whenever pressed on.
This MIDI keyboard comes with a variety of bundled software, including ProTools and Ableton Live Lite 9. The v49 has an excellent editor that allows you to edit the MIDI messages sent to your PC or Mac. Furthermore, the velocity curves are adjustable, meaning you can set the keys and pads to fit your own style of playing.
- Easy to understand basic control options
- Sleek and functional design
- Responsive keys, pads, and control buttons
- Some users may prefer more control
The Alesis V49 definitely packs a visual punch as well as excellent functionality. Not flamboyant in its visual presentation, it is still attractive with a professional look to it. Its versatility and affordable price tag make it an ideal option for anyone looking for their first MIDI keyboard.
NEKTAR IMPACT LX25 MIDI keyboard – A compact and versatile MIDI controller for beginners with a vintage vibe
Nektar is a brand that does not enjoy much of the spotlight but manufactures some of the most exciting and feature-packed MIDI keyboards available in the industry.
- 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action keys
- Eight backlit trigger pads and endless rotary knobs
- Seamless pad mapping
- Transpose functionality and sheer versatility
- Weighs 4lbs and has dimensions of 18*10.5*2”
The Impact LX25+ comes with synth-action keys with medium tension, meaning that they do not have the same ‘bounce back’ feel of a piano’s keys. It also has seven different velocity curves, meaning you can customize the pressure used to press down the keys.
More so, this MIDI keyboard contains eight seamless rotary knobs as well as other MIDI controllers. You can easily automap the knobs, depending on the instruments you have selected to the eight knobs that you most frequently use. It also features eight pads that light up when pressed on and ease of changing pad mappings by pressing on its ‘shift’ button and opting for one of the four available pads.
Another impressive feature of the LX25+ is its transpose keys that allow you to transpose its keys to shift them up or down. Most MIDI keyboards will enable you to change the octaves in order to alter the pitch of the notes. As such, the Nektar Impact LX25+ is an excellent alternative for any music producer who is not conversant with music theory.
- Easy integration with most DAWs
- It comes with 25 full-sized and semi-weighted keys that do not leave your hand cramped up after playing for a long time
- Responsive keys, drum pads, knobs, and controllers
- Value for your money
- Quite chunky and heavy for a 25-key MIDI keyboard
Nektar Impact LX25+ is an excellent MIDI keyboard for beginners, especially if they are reasonably conversant with sound generators. This MIDI controller also has a steep learning curve and integrates with many DAWs.
Midiplus AKM320 – The cheapest but functional MIDI keyboard for beginners
If you do not want to overstretch your wallet on purchasing a MIDI keyboard, the Midiplus AKM320 is the perfect alternative. It comes with adequate features that integrate wonderfully with every DAW as it does not require any power supply to work.
- Weighs 16 pounds and is 18” long
- Comes with pitch and modulation wheels
- It has octave, pitch, modulation, and transpose buttons
- 32 mini synthesizer style keys that are velocity-sensitive
Despite its cheap price tag, this controller is quite impressive. It comes with all the necessary features to begin your venture into music production. Some of the features include 32 velocity-sensitive keys, transpose, and octave buttons, a volume slider, modulation, and pitch wheels, as well as two inputs, one for an input jack for the sustain pedal and the other for its USB power cable.
Powered by either plug-in directly into your Mac or PC or a USB-powered cable, it only weighs 1.6lbs and is 18″ long. As such, it is easy to carry around and does not require additional space on your DAWs. More so, it contains a plug-and-play function that is quite convenient for music producers who are often on the go.
- Compact and easily portable size, ideal for fitting in your backpack
- Impressive modulation and pitch wheels, which produce more in-depth and vibrant sounds
- Easy to use
- It does not require installation as it is software-free
- Stiff keys
- It is difficult for the volume sider to reach the minimum or maximum level
Midiplus AKM320 is an excellent option for beginners. It may lack additional features, but all the basic ones are included. As such, if you are looking for a portable and compact MIDI keyboard, you should definitely consider this one.
M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKIV – A wallet-friendly and all-round performer
Due to its versatility, compatibility, reasonable price, and efficiency, M-Audio’s Oxygen 49 MKIV is one of the most capable MIDI keyboards available in the market.
- 49 full-sized, synth-action, and velocity-sensitive keys
- Eight velocity-sensitive pads
- USB powered
- Weighs 6.4lbs and has dimensions of 32.04*9.56*3.7”
As one of the biggest names in the world of musical instruments, M –Audio has a remarkable reputation for producing top-tier musical instruments. It was the first company to introduce portable MIDI keyboards, the Oxygen series. However, today’s Oxygen MKIV is a lot different from the original Oxygen series.
The Oxygen 49 MKIV has a rock-solid chassis that is exceptionally robust and has good quality knobs, buttons, and switches. It also comes with 49 full-sized and velocity-sensitive keys, as well as eight trigger pads that are also velocity-sensitive. Its aux controls contain eight assignable knobs and nine fully assignable faders, which include mod and pitch wheels.
This MIDI keyboard is also compatible with numerous DAWs due to its set of fully functional transport buttons. Together with its impressive software suite, which includes Eleven Lite and Ableton Live Lite, the Oxygen 49 MKIV is definitely a consistent and reliable performer.
- It comes with loads of bundled software
- Compact and ultra-portable
- Plug-and-play functionality
- Super easy on the wallet
- Simple and effective design
- Keys offer a decent tactile response
- Some people do not prefer the synth action of the keys
The M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKIV is a big hit in the intermediate and beginner market. It comes with some beautiful pads and a keyboard that features sheer functionality and versatility.
This MIDI keyboard is not a worthy investment for beginners
ROLI Seaboard Block – A different breed of MIDI keyboard
Unlike the regular MIDI keyboards available in the market, ROLI Seaboard Block comes with a pressure-sensitive continuous surface that responds to the most subtle gestures. Despite its unique playing experience with 24″ key waves, this MIDI keyboard requires one to get used to it. The key waves shape the notes as you play, allowing the musical characters to adjust as you move your fingers. Beginners will definitely have a hard time producing their music hits by using this multitouch controller.
MIDI keyboards are an excellent addition to any home music studio. They transfer midi signals to any connected devices, allowing you to create various sounds and melodies. There are tons of MIDI keyboards to choose from available in the market. You must select one that meets your needs as well as your expertise.
Reviewing the best MIDI keyboards
What do you look out for before putting down your money?
Number and type of keys
Different MIDI keyboards come with a different number of keys, depending on the brand and its target market. The number of keys in a Midi keyboard range from small-sized MIDI controllers (25-key) to full-sized ones (49-key, 61-key, and 88-keys). A 49-key MIDI keyboard is more suitable for beginners as it has enough keys for them to play with both hands.
If you are always on the go, it is advisable to purchase the smaller-sized MIDI keyboards as they can fit comfortably inside a standard backpack. The size of the keys also matters when it comes to playing the instrument. Short and narrow keys are likely to leave your hand feeling cramped up when playing the instrument for long durations.
There are three main types of keys in a MIDI keyboard, including:
- Synth-action keys – those that offer little resistance and will spring back to their original position almost immediately
- Weighted hammer keys – keys that feel like those in a traditional piano
- Semi-weighted keys – a combination of weighted and synth-action keys, meaning that they are less resistant than weighted keys but still possess tactile feedback
Generally, MIDI keyboards come with basic modulation and pitch controls, shift buttons to manage the octaves, and various knobs, like those used to control the volume, which aid in making good music. The type of controls in a MIDI keyboard depends on the type of music you want to make and the type of equipment at your disposal.
The controls in your MIDI keyboard help in setting up the parameters in your DAW, allowing music producers to have a more ‘hands-on’ approach in their craft. Make sure that you check whether your preferred MIDI keyboard requires you to assign the controls in your DAW manually, or it comes loaded with dedicated software that automatically maps itself.
Some MIDI keyboards are battery-powered, while others come with external power sources. Other keyboards draw their power from other electronic devices by using USB cables, while others may need a power cable to charge.
If you enjoy moving about with your MIDI controller, it is best to invest in one that is USB or battery-powered. If you intend to set your MIDI keyboard in your home studio, you can probably get away with purchasing one that is powered by cables since you will not be worried about the keyboard dying mid-session.
One of the primary considerations when making any purchase is the budget. Beginner MIDI keyboards are surprisingly pocket-friendly, with prices ranging from $100 – $200. The more keys and features a controller has, the more its price tag increases. As a general rule of the thumb, stick to the higher end of your budget when buying MIDI controllers and do not spend on any additional extras that are not necessary.
Inputs and outputs
Most MIDI keyboard controllers use USB ports to transfer their MIDI data, while a few of them utilize 5-pin MIDI DIN outputs that allow external hardware, including synthesizers, to connect to your computer directly. With this type of output, you will require an additional special cable to use it.
In terms of input, some MIDI keyboards have expression or sustain pedals that provide an additional layer to your music. The pedal input allows you to connect external devices to your controller. For instance, sustain pedals achieve a unique and versatile piano-style playing experience, while expression pedals modify and control music settings of your choice.
MIDI keyboards add to the versatility and unique nature of your music. No longer do we need to spend money on studio time while there are MIDI controllers available at our disposal that aids us in the creation of unique melodies and sounds.
If you are new to the music world and you are looking to purchase a MIDI keyboard controller, it is best to stick to those with essential features and take time to learn about your device. Do your research and find the MIDI keyboard that is most suitable for you.