5 Must-have Creative MIDI Controllers to Add to your Wishlist
We all have seen a plethora of great MIDI keyboards, launchpads, and other controllers, but do we know the ones worth getting? What makes one stand-out against the hundreds out there? We are here to list out some of the most creative and practical production and performance MIDI controllers.
The new MIDI controller company Roli started to make their products to challenge the industry of MIDI controllers since they started. The keys themselves are not traditional keys, these keys are all rounded in order to help increase functionality to play in a creative way. Rise is a controller that allows the users to make music in a very intuitive way by playing like an acoustic instrument. Things like vibrato, pitch sliding and intensity/volume controls are integrated within the keys themselves. The keyboard also has controls on the left side of the keyboard to control how much of these special playability features to include when you play. They are also assignable to whatever parameters you wish. The keyboard comes with presets to play that include real instruments and synths.
Maschine Studio, made by Native Instruments is their flagship production tool. Everything done in a DAW can be done here. Slicing, sampling, programming, producing, arranging, mixing, and more. You name it Maschine can do it. Although this is a production tool it’s still considered a MIDI device because automation, note input, and scene building are its main features. Aside from it’s features, it comes with a nice bundle of instruments from Native Instruments and it works seamlessly with all of their software and other hardware. More so, It works within any DAW and is able to be played live to control a session like a DJ tool and (more or less) perform.
One of the more reasonable and typical choices is the Launchkey from Novation. The keyboard like many others you may see is pretty typical. The keyboard has choices between 25-61 keys with prices ranging only from $150-$250 which is generous when looking at the features of the keyboard. The keys are semi-weighted synth action keys which allow for a quicker response and also allows for expression in velocity. The velocity accuracy is also very attractive when looking for a MIDI Keyboard because you won’t always be playing too softly, loudly, or inconsistently. It’s truly a keyboard that “just works”. The bells and whistles include 16 pads, and 8 knobs, 8 faders, octave buttons, pitch and modulation wheels, LED display, MIDI channel buttons, and DAW transport buttons really sweeten the deal when thinking about maximizing workflow and creativity.
4. Roli Blocks
The second Roli controller is just as creative and pricey as the first but don’t let that scare you away. Blocks is a production tool that has the possibility to work with your DAW to produce a song. The MIDI controller works over bluetooth with an app to play for fun on the go, in a studio to produce music, or even to perform. The customizable LED control pad allows you to pick what sounds or samples will be loaded to which pad. It allows you to play entire chords or arp by pressing one square. There is also the option of loading an instrument in a certain key by only lighting up the LEDs that pertain to your scale. Any drum sample can be assigned to a pad that you pick. Similar to Roli’s other products, the user can swipe and drag their fingers to change pitch as an instrument plays for vibrato or pitch sliding. Lastly, the pads can also be used to control FX like volume and frequency.
5. Akai MPK261
Last and certainly not least the MPK261 by Akai. This very similar to the Novation keyboard we mentioned earlier. 16 pads, 8 knobs, 8 faders, 8 switches, and extra transport buttons make this already a very attractive controller. The additional light-up display and the buttons around it makes it even better. These buttons help to better function ableton and standalone along with more every other DAW. The additional buttons to the left of the pad help with better manipulation of rhythm, time, and arpeggiation to increase creativity and performance possibilities. This MIDI controller is large step in the direction of full customizability and creative control.
Kalebh has been producing music for side and solo projects since childhood. He graduated from Full Sail University with a Bachelors in Music Production.