Your MIDI Keyboard Buying Guide

By Kailash Pate January 20, 2023

If you're looking to buy a MIDI keyboard, you've come to the right place. In this article, we'll cover everything you need in order to make an informed decision when buying your own gear. Whether it's for recording purposes or live performance, making sure that you have the right tool for the job can make all the difference between a great project and one that sounds awful.

What Is a MIDI Keyboard?

A MIDI keyboard is a device that allows you to send MIDI signal to another device, such as your laptop and other hardware.

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. It's used by many musical instruments and software programs to communicate with each other, allowing them to be played either together or separately.

How is a midi keyboard different from a midi controller?

The main difference between a MIDI keyboard and a MIDI controller lies in the keys. While both types of instruments can be used to control virtual or external sounds through MIDI data, they do so in different ways. A keyboard typically has a full range of playable notes and can be played as if you were playing an acoustic piano or another type of instrument with strings. A controller, on the other hand, is often smaller and more portable but does not have playable keys. Instead of using actual notes for sound generation and manipulation purposes—as you would on an acoustic piano—midi controllers use pads, knobs and faders to manipulate sound parameters directly from your computer's software interface.

Connection - MIDI keyboards to your DAW

When it comes to MIDI keyboards, there are two main ways you can connect them to your computer: USB and Firewire. USB is the most common way of connecting a keyboard because it's universal and offers high-speed data transfers, but if you have a Macbook Pro or other Apple laptop that doesn't have an available USB port, you may need to get a Firewire adapter for your computer.

MIDI keyboards also offer different types of connectors on their back side so you can link up with other gear such as sound modules or drum machines. These connections usually come in 1/4" TS (tip/sleeve), RCA phono or MIDI optical formats. The latter is becoming more popular with electronic musicians because it doesn't introduce any noise into the signal path like analog connections do; however, they're more expensive than their analog counterparts so keep this in mind if budget is an issue for you when purchasing a keyboard controller!

Midi Keyboard Aftertouch

Aftertouch is a feature that allows you to create separate MIDI messages when pressing down on the keys after they're already pressed. This differs from velocity, which only registers how hard you press down on the key before it's released.

Aftertouch can be used for a variety of things, depending on your DAW and its capabilities. Here are just some examples:

Adding expression to otherwise static sounds (like vocals or pads) by adding vibrato effects when you press down after releasing the key

Recording different samples for each keypress (such as for synth basses)

Knobs, faders, pads, and buttons

You can use knobs, faders, pads, and buttons to control any parameters in your DAW. For example, if you want to change the volume of a virtual instrument or effect plugin while you’re recording audio into your DAW, simply grab the knob on your MIDI keyboard and twist it up or down.

You can also use these controls to control other functions within your DAW like automation or presets for virtual instruments and effects plugins. There are endless possibilities for what you can do with these controls!

I/O (inputs/outputs)

An I/O (input/output) port is a physical connection on your keyboard that allows you to send signals from your MIDI controller to other devices, and vice versa. A typical MIDI keyboard will have two I/O ports: one for inputting data and one for outputting data.

If you’re planning on connecting a synthesizer or sampler to your keyboard, make sure the device has an I/O port before buying it. If it doesn’t, you can always connect it with an audio cable or USB cable instead (although this won’t be as reliable).

What to look for while buying a midi keyboard?

The following features are something to look for while buying a Midi Keyboard.

Aftertouch: The aftertouch feature is the ability of your keyboard to give you dynamic control over sounds or effects by applying pressure on the keys. You need this feature if you want your keyboard to react to how hard you press on it. The higher the number of aftertouch pads, the more expressive and responsive your instrument will be.

Knobs, faders and pads: A good midi controller should have knobs, faders and pads included in its design which allow users different ways to manipulate their sounds live without using other external instruments like drum machines or sequencers. These physical controls also offer more flexibility than using software alone since they can be used for performance purposes as well as recording sessions.

I/O: Make sure that there’s enough I/O ports available so that multiple devices can connect simultaneously such as computers (USB), microphones (XLR), speakers (RCA), etc... This way, everyone in an ensemble can play at once but still hear each other clearly without having any issues with latency between devices running at different speeds due to incompatible specifications between them all together!

Best Midi Keyboards to buy in 2023

Akai MPK MINI MK3 Compact Midi Keyboard

Nektar SE25 25-Key Mini MIDI Keyboard

Vault Ikon MK2 49 Key Midi Keyboard

Novation Launchkey MK3 MIDI Keyboard Controller

Arturia Keylab Essential Universal Midi Keyboard


We hope that this post has helped you understand the basics of MIDI keyboards, as well as some of their potential uses. It's important to remember that there are a variety of different types and models available, so it can be difficult to choose which one is best for your needs. If you're still unsure about what kind of midi controller would work best for your music making needs, feel free to reach out! We'd love to hear from you!

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