The best MIDI keyboard for Garageband

Nowadays, even the most basic gadgets like an iPad can become a fully-fledged recording studio through Garageband. All you need is a decent MIDI keyboard to maximize the experience.

Today, it is easier than ever before to create great music from the comfort of your computer desktop. No longer do you need to book and pay for expensive studio sessions with all the whistles and bells. All you need is music production software, like Garageband.

Garageband is one of the leading pieces of software that aids music producers, musicians, and programmers layer in virtual drums and synth instruments, record, and even alter the mix to make it sound more professional. Although you can use your mouse to control everything in Garageband, you will have more command over the virtual instruments available by using a good quality MIDI keyboard.

Due to the vast options of MIDI keyboards available in the market, here is a list of the best MIDI keyboards for Garageband. We have keenly picked those that are USB bus-powered as well as plug-and-play.

The best MIDI keyboard for Garageband

Name of MIDI keyboard
Number of keys
Type of keys
Check on Amazon
Nektar Impact LX25+
25
Synth-action
Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII
25
Synth-action mini keys
Alesis v49
49
Velocity-sensitive full-sized keys
M Audio Keystation 49 MK3
49
Synth-action
Arturia Minilab MKII 25 Slim-key controller
25
Velocity-sensitive

Nektar Impact LX25+ – A durable, expansive, and well-crafted keyboard

With its compact and versatile build quality, the Nektar Impact LX25+ is one of the easiest to use and automate MIDI keyboards available in the market.

Specs

  • 25 synth-action keys with seven different velocity curves
  • 8 endless rotary knobs with automapping function
  • 8 pads with LED light
  • It has a weight of 4lbs and dimensions of 18.75”*10.5”*2.75”

Back in 2012, when Nektar released the Nektar Panorama MIDI keyboard series, which offered both 49 and 61 keys, the series was named the best MIDI keyboard series available on the market. However, it had one flaw; its high price tag of $500 per piece, which was quite high for even the most active group of music producers.

The brand released the Nektar Impact LX25+ as some sort of answer to the massive consumer feedback about the Nektar Panorama series. Despite being scaled-down and more pocket-friendly, the LX 25+ is still a flexible device with amazing features.

It comes with 25 full-sized synth-action keys with a medium tension. As such, its keys are not too hard or too soft to press, giving you a similar ‘bounce back’ feel like that of a piano. The controller also features eight rotary knobs that are easily auto mapped depending on the instrument you have assigned to the eight knobs

Another fantastic feature of this MIDI keyboard is its eight pads that automatically light up when pressed as well as effectively map to drum instruments. You can easily shift between different pad mappings by pressing the ‘shift’ button and choosing any of the available options.

The Impact LX25+ seamlessly integrates with all major DAWs. I prefer working with this keyboard on Garageband due to its more effortless mapping experience and its full command on all of Impact’s fantastic features. Additionally, Garageband offers various keyboard shortcuts that make music production much simpler for the average music producer.

Pros

  • 25 full-sized and synth-action keys, which is ideal for people who have had previous experience with playing a real piano
  • Seamless integration with major DAAWs, like Garageband
  • Affordable
  • It comes with transport controls that make it easy to record awesome melodies without the need to reach for your mouse
  • Eight velocity-sensitive drum pads with LED light, ideal for tapping out your drum beats

Cons

  • It is quite large and heavy for a 25-key MIDI keyboard

Verdict

If you are looking for a 25-key MIDI controller, the Nektar Impact LX25+ MIDI keyboard is a perfect choice as it is extremely user and wallet-friendly. Many DJs and music producers prefer this MIDI keyboard because of its smooth mapping experience.
 

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Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII – A versatile MIDI keyboard for beginners

Did you know that the Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII is one of the most popular MIDI keyboards in the world? This 25-key velocity-sensitive keyboard has tons of desirable features as well as an aesthetically pleasing exterior.

Specs

  • 25 synth-action and velocity-sensitive synth-action keys
  • 8 velocity and pressure-sensitive MPC-style pads that light up
  • 8 assignable controller knobs
  • USB-MIDI connectivity to PC and Mac
  • Arpeggiator
  • Total weight of 1.65lbs and dimensions of 12.5”*7.53”*1.75”

The Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII MIDI keyboard is quite compact and features an eye-catching design. It consists of eight velocity-sensitive pads made of thick rubber material that lights up when pressed, making it usable in poorly lit environments. The keyboard also comes with other controls, such as tap tempo button, note repeat, pitch bend joystick, and full level control. The controller is USB-powered, allowing easy portability. It is suitable for use by iOS devices with OSX 10.7 or later versions of the operating system and Windows 7 and above.

Equipped with 8*360 rotary knobs, the keyboard can manipulate sounds directly and assign different effects to the knobs. You will also find that the keyboard has a 4-way pitch dynamic and modulation thumbstick instead of the traditional pitch and mod wheel.

Pros

  • Ultra-compact and easily portable
  • Plug-and-play functionality with all major DAWs
  • It comes loaded with bundled software, like Hybrid 3 and SONIVOX’s Wobble
  • Great value for your money

Cons

  • Mini keys
  • Not durable

Verdict

If you are a music producer who travels continuously, the Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII is a perfect choice. It is incredibly compact and lightweight, as well as USB-powered. Despite its small keys, the device is an excellent investment as it contains several useful features for a very reasonable price.
 

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Alesis V49 – Best value and top-quality MIDI keyboard

Despite its slightly expensive price tag, the Alesis V49 Midi controller is packed with plenty of features, versatile performance, and incredible functionality.

Specs

  • 49 full-sized velocity-sensitive keys
  • 8 LED-backlit pads
  • 4 assignable knobs and buttons
  • Pitch and mod wheels
  • USB bus-powered
  • Total weight of 9.5lbs and dimensions of 37.6”*9.6”*4.5”

With 49 full-sized keys, eight pads, and four rotary knobs and banks, the Alesis V49 MIDI keyboard features impeccable functionality and adjustability. The keyboard allows the more adventurous musician to expand their full melodic range by offering options to play chords, melodies, and bass lines. Its buttons and pads are backlit with blue neon LED light, giving it a beautiful appearance while allowing you to launch finger drum or clips with incredible response.

Alesis V49 effortlessly and seamlessly integrates with your music software. With a single USB connection, the keyboard receives both MIDI and power functionality, enabling you to easily connect to your computer or Mac device and start making music. The controller allows you to easily plug-and-play with Garageband, without necessarily having to install drivers or the latest updates. It also comes with premium software, such as a Professional Software Suite with ProTools, Ableton Live Lite 9, and XpandI2, which is a major plus.

Pros

  • A functional keyboard that feels great and is fun to play
  • It comes loaded with bundled software
  • USB bus-powered, making it easy to carry around
  • USB midi that allows a plug-and-play function

Cons

  • Its drum pad has sensitivity issues

Verdict

The Alesis v49 MIDI keyboard packs a lot of value in its plastic and compact casing. The controller is quite versatile as it comes with 4-octave ranges, four assignable knobs, and pads, as well as pitch and modulation wheels.
 

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M Audio Keystation 49 MK3 – An affordable and durable MIDI keyboard

Whether you are a season professional or a novice in the music production scene, the M Audio Keystation 49 MK3 MIDI keyboard is a simple and powerful MIDI controller designed for playing virtual instruments and sequencing music on your PC or Mac.

Specs

  • 49 touch-sensitive keys
  • Modulation and pitch bend wheel
  • USB bus-powered
  • Fader
  • A total mass of 4.6lbs and has dimensions of 822*189*68 mm
  • ¼” sustain pedal input

The Keystation 49 features 49 full-sized, semi-weighted, and velocity-sensitive keys, giving you the natural feel of a real piano. It also comes with comprehensive controls, which expand your range of expressive capabilities, playable notes, as well as intensify your recording workflow. Its modulation and pitch-bend wheels, fully assignable octave range buttons, transport, and directional knobs and volume slider allow you to operate your music software with the use of a trackpad or mouse.

This MIDI keyboard is also USB bus-powered, class-compliant and supports USB-MIDI connectivity, for more efficiency. More so, the device supports iOS connectivity via an Apple Lightning cable to a USB Camera Adapter, allowing you to use audio apps on your iOS devices to record and compose melodies.

Pros

  • Easy to use and portable
  • Compact and durable
  • Keys feel like those of a real piano
  • Affordable
  • Loaded with bundled software, such as Hybrid 3, Loom, Vacuum Pro, XPand 2, and many others

Cons

  • The device only offers basic controls

Verdict

The M Audio Keystation 49 MK3 MIDI keyboard is an ideal option for musicians who enjoy traveling with their instruments and want to take command of their music software during live performance. It is also a subtle choice for music producers who wish to have an intuitive keyboard with a natural feeling keybed to their studio setup
 

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Arturia Minilab MKII 25 Slim-key controller – A premium quality MIDI keyboard for beginners

The Arturia Minilab MKII MIDI keyboard is a stylish and compact controller that is built to last and has a unique design. It is a small and portable studio that fulfills every producer’s dream.

Specs

  • 25 velocity-sensitive slim keyboard
  • Mass weight of 3.3lbs with dimensions of 14”*8.7”*2”
  • 16 rotary encoders
  • Modulation and pitch bend wheel has two capacitative touch sensors
  • 8 top-quality pressure and velocity-sensitive pads with two banks and RGB backlighting
  • Sustain pedal jack input
  • USB-powered and USB MIDI class-compliant
  • It comes with a Kensington security slot
  • 8 user presets
  • Octave up and down

Arturia Minilab MK2 MIDI controller has a wealth of compelling features at an affordable price. It comes with 25 velocity-sensitive keys that work exceptionally well in conjunction with its included UVI Model D Grand Piano. The controller also has a footswitch jack input for adding a sustain pedal.

The Minilab MK2 also features 16 rotary knobs, with two of them clickable, ideal for messing around with synth parameters. Its eight drum pads serve as preset selectors and integrate seamlessly with the Analog Lab software as well as Ableton Live Lite. The pitch bend and modulation wheel are touch-sensitive slide pads, ensuring you do not damage the keyboard as you remove it from your backpack.

Pros

  • Slim, compact, and premium quality build
  • Affordable
  • 2 banks and eight drum pads
  • Two touch-sensitive strips for pitch bland and mod wheel
  • Comes loaded with bundled software

Cons

  • No external power input as well as no MIDI in and out ports

Verdict

If you are looking for a versatile and highly portable MIDI keyboard, the Arturia Minilab MK2 is an ideal choice. It truly stands out from the pack with its 16 rotary knobs, eight velocity-sensitive drum pads with RGB lighting, as well as its solid construction.
 

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If you enjoy making music and the ability to experiment with various sounds, Garageband and a good MIDI keyboard will make the experience worth your while. In my opinion, the Alesis V49 is the best MIDI keyboard for using with Garageband. Its plug-and-play functionality, 49 full-sized keys, and affordable price are the perfect combination to get you started on Garageband.

Reviewing the best MIDI keyboard for Garageband

What do you look out for before putting your money down?

Purpose

Is your sole purpose of purchasing a MIDI keyboard only for use on Garageband, or do you intend to use it for your live performances? Do you continuously travel with your controller, or is it going to be permanently fixed in your home studio? With the availability of tons of MIDI controllers in the market, it is a crucial consideration to know what and how you are going to use it.

Weight and type of the keys

The keys available on your controller play a crucial role in determining how you play and the comfortability level of making music for long hours. Pianists prefer using a MIDI keyboard with weighted or semi-weighted keys as they emulate the real feel of a piano. Musicians who intend to use the controller for their synth sounds or drum loops, one with spring-action keys, is adequate.

Customization

Depending on whether you are a novice or an experienced music producer, the specifications of your controller directly contribute to the type of music made. Beginners do not necessarily want to read their user manual cover to cover to find out how to use their controller. Alternatively, an in-depth recording enthusiast will want to know the type of knobs, faders, pads, buttons, and more that come with their controller and how each function makes their experience more unique.

Conclusion

Garageband is an excellent platform for sketching out your music ideas, as well as writing, recording, and editing them. As such, you need a controller that functions effectively and maximizes your time on the DAW. It is advisable to opt for a controller that has plug-and-play functionality, USB bus-powered, as well as compact enough to carry in your backpack with ease.

Peter Smith

Welcome to MusicGearAdvisor! 4 years ago I rediscovered my passion for making music and began building my own home studio. As I have gone through my journey I realized that I am just as passionate about the equipment as I am about the music. I started MusicGearAdvisor as a way for me to share my learnings with others so you can get started making music that you dream of.

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