Electronic music is one of the most listened to music genre nowadays and more and more people want to create this type of music. If you are a music creator, especially electronic, or even aspire to be one, a MIDI keyboard is a must-have piece of gear for your studio.
But buying equipment, especially as a beginner is quite the challenge, because let’s face it, you don’t know where to start and a MIDI keyboard is quite different than a normal piano. There are so many MIDI keyboards and controllers on the market that anyone looking for the “perfect” one would become utterly confused.
With this article we aim to review in detail the best beginner MIDI keyboards in the market to buy in 2021.
1. Akai MPK Mini MkII
This small, portable keyboard it’s incredibly easy to use and compatible among many different DAWs, which makes it extraordinarily suitable for beginners. The only thing you have to do to play it, is to plug it into your computer. It’s got 25 keys which are velocity-sensitive and synthesizer styled, meaning they are not weighted but respond to how hard you play them.
Besides the keys you get to make the most of 8 drum pads – which are velocity-sensitive as well- and 8 knobs that are all assignable to the drum pads in order for you to start customizing them to your preferences. Not enough? You will also get a joystick that controls pitch and modulation, a built-in arpeggiator, buttons to select and alter octaves, and 4 memory banks that allow users to store software.
2. Novation Launchkey Mini MkII
This keyboard was mainly created to be used with Ableton Live. Yes! It definitely works with other DAWs too but some of the features are disabled unless you apply some workarounds.
That being said, the Novation Launchkey Mini MKII is still one of the best keyboards for beginners out there. While having a very solid build quality, it’s also very portable, you can easily carry it in your backpack.
As for the specs, there are 25 synthesizer keys and 16 drum pads, both the keys and the pads being velocity-sensitive. The pads have LED light and they light up according to Ableton Live’s performance mode. You will also get 8 assignable knobs and dedicated buttons for navigation and control.
3. Alesis VI49 USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller
This well-constructed keyboard is a great competitor for other high-end keyboards on the market taking into consideration how well it performs for the price you pay for it. As a beginner, you are bound to love this keyboard as it smoothly integrates with almost every music software and any computer that has a USB port. You just need to start creating!
Alesis VI49 has 49 full-sized, square-front, semi-weighted keys with aftertouch and Octave Up and Down buttons that will help you expand your melodic range and play chords, melodies, and bass lines.
Paired with the keys in order to enhance your music and take control of any music software, you have 36 assignable buttons,12 assignable knobs, 2 modulation wheels and 16 pads for finger drumming. What’s left to do? Start making music. Express the capabilities of your performance and have fun!
4. Midiplus AKM320
For those that love a more of a minimalistic approach, the clean, straightforward AKM320 by Midiplus is a perfect choice. This is a great starter keyboard as it is simple to use and set up while having all the essential features to get you playing.
Although minimalistic it features 32 mini synthesizer style keys which are velocity-sensitive, pitch and modulation wheels, octave up and down buttons, a volume slider and transpose buttons. If you look carefully you will also find an input for a sustain pedal and another one for connecting it to your computer via USB.
The very simple layout, the fit, finish and overall quality that are first class and the convenient price makes this keyboard hard not to choose.
5. Nektar Impact GX49
The Impact GX49 is a great beginner’s keyboard. It offers an easy to use interface and generic MIDI control that works with music software. Although compact it offers powerful features that sometimes are not to be found on more comprehensive controllers.
Featuring a full-sized velocity-sensitive 49 note keyboard and 4 velocity curves you can instantly adjust the keyboard to your playing style. The 8 buttons and the rather big potentiometer will let you operate your DAW without using the mouse. If that does not help a lot, you can change the functionality and can assign two MIDI messages for each button.
On top of all that you will benefit from octave up and down buttons with LED colors and transpose buttons – also reconfigurable. What’s more? The Nektar DAW integration software turns this keyboard into a fully-configured remote control for 11 popular DAWs.
It is best to first decide what you will be using your keyboard for, this way you will understand how many features do you really need on it and if you will use them to their full capacity.
For example, if you want to get into composing, things like faders, drum pads and knobs won’t be that important. But, on the contrary, if you want to mix or play live, you will want a keyboard with plenty of knobs and buttons.
Be clear in our goal, dig deep in all the features of the keyboard you choose and learn how to use everything it has to offer. All is left for you is to perform and have a great time doing it!