6 Best Midi Keyboards for Beginners (2022 Comparison)

The variety and complexity of music production equipment can seem very daunting for a beginner, but there is no doubt that finding the best MIDI keyboard is an essential task for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the world of music production.

What is a MIDI Keyboard?

To put it simply, MIDI is basically the language that allows computers, music instruments and other hardware to communicate. By playing a sequence on a MIDI keyboard for example, you are sending information to your DAW on what notes where played, how long the notes lasted, how hard you played the notes and other signals. It does NOT send an audio signal, it is only sending data, which is exactly what makes MIDI so powerful. This data can be manipulated with ease, and allows you to edit the performance independently of the actual sound.

MIDI keyboards can be viewed in two basic categories; small, compact 25-key devices (some as wide as a standard laptop) and wider, 49-key, desk-based options. Many keyboards have additional buttons, faders, wheels and knobs to allow for a more dynamic connection between the keyboard and your DAW (e.g Ableton, FL studio etc.), which can make the task of choosing the best MIDI keyboard for you seem like a intimidating task to a newbie.

Which is the best MIDI keyboard for you?

Luckily there are a variety of powerful, versatile options for every category of MIDI keyboard, and almost all of them can be easily integrated into any major DAW.

To simplify the vast amount of options available, we’ve compiled this list of the 6 best MIDI keyboards for beginners, to highlight the main benefits and downsides of the best devices on the market today.



The Best MIDI Keyboards for Beginners (2022)

best midi keyboard akai 1

1. Akai MPK Mini Mk2

Akai’s “MPK Mini Mk2” ranks among the best and most popular MIDI keyboards on the market, mainly due to it’s small, compact size and low price tag. I have been a fanboy of Akai for many years, and their MPK series remains the best MIDI controllers for beginners on the market. This device is the perfect example of an affordable, entry-level keyboard that is incredibly versatile and high quality.

One of the features of this MIDI keyboard that may be polarising to producers is the smaller sized keys, so for those looking to play complex sequences and patterns may run into trouble.

The soft pads have a high level of sensitivity for such a cheap device, and the knobs can be linked to almost any effect or automation within your DAW such as reverb, delay or filter, to allow for a highly responsive, hands-on approach to track or effect modulation.

MAIN BENEFITS MAIN DOWNSIDES
➭ Portable: Can easily fit in a standard laptop bag➭ Mini keys may be a downside to certain producers
➭ Affordable: One of the cheapest Mini keyboards on the market at around $100➭ Knobs are fairly small to fit within the small layout of the device
➭ Several additional features: 8 soft pads, 8 knobs, 4-way joystick controller➭ Not suitable for live performances, controller is too small with no live editors
➭ Included software: VIP 3.0 and MPC Essentials➭ Been out on the market for a while now (if that’s even a downside!)

Compatibility: PC/Mac | Power: USB | Keys: 25 | Key size: Mini | Additional Controls: 4-Way modulation/ pitch bend joystick controller, 8 soft touch pads with note repeat + 8 assignable rotary encoders | Included software: Hybrid 3, SONiVOX Wobble and Akai Pro MPC Essentials | Dimensions (mm): 317 x 181 x 44 | Weight (kg): 0.75


best midi keyboard novation

2. Novation Launchkey 49 Mk2

The Launchkey Mk2 from Novation is an innovative, high quality MIDI keyboard controller primarily designed for the popular DAW Ableton. For beginners, this keyboard comes with a “Lite” version of the Ableton product, allowing you to test the superb connectivity between this device and Ableton, right down to the colour-coded touch pads. However, for other DAW users, do not let this put you off, the launchkey Mk2 functions extremely well with other programs.

For a 49-key controller with several additional functions (16 colored, back-lit, velocity-sensitive drum pads, 9 faders, a pitch bend/modulation wheel and more), you get a lot of bang for your buck. In our opinion, this is the one of best budget keyboards for travelling and live performances, as it makes playing and mixing live an effortless experience.

Not sure if Ableton is right for you? Click here for our guide on choosing a DAW.

MAIN BENEFITS MAIN DOWNSIDES
➭ Live performances: Links with Ableton for flawless live tracking and mixing➭ Designed around specific DAW, may not be as powerful with another DAW.
➭ Affordable: Very cheap considering the amount of features.➭ Doesn’t seem that durable and some of the materials feel slightly cheap
➭ Several additional features: 16 soft pads, 9 faders, pitch-bend wheel etc➭ To plug into an iPad, a powered USB hub is required
➭ Included software: Ableton Live, Novation Bass Station Vst, Addictive Keys ➭ Lacks aftertouch
➭ DAW Integration: All the features integrate with Ableton extremely well

Compatibility: PC/Mac | Power: USB | Keys: 49 | Key size: Standard | Additional Controls:  16 colored back-lit velocity-sensitive drum pads, 6 transport controls, 9 faders, Pitch-bend/ modulation wheel, 2-octave buttons | Included software: Ableton Live, Novation Bass Station Vst, Addictive Keys Dimensions (cm): 77.5 x 8.9 x 27 | Weight (kg): 3.7


best midi keyboard komplete

3. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A49

Native Instruments’ MIDI keyboards and controller are highly popular devices looking to blur the lines between software and hardware. Complete with a small LCD screen to quickly browse presets and patches, this keyboard is a perfect entry-level device for beginners looking to break down the barriers between the plugins within your DAW and your keyboard.

Our first thought when considering this keyboard for beginners was whether its singularity towards Kontakt plugins would be an issue. In fact the opposite is probably true. Most beginner producers would benefit endlessly from diving headfirst into the world of Kontakt plugins and virtual instruments (the gold standard of soft synthesizers) and this is easily the best MIDI keyboard allows for that.

Don’t know anything about plugins? Click here for our guide to the best plugins for beginners.

MAIN BENEFITS MAIN DOWNSIDES
➭ Integration: Links perfectly with Native Instrument plugins➭ Quite a bulky keyboard: not ideal for travelling.
➭ Affordable: Much cheaper than their flagship S-Series.➭ No touch pads.
➭ Mini LCD screen to scroll through presets.➭ Lacks aftertouch.
➭ Kontakt software: Huge collection of Native Instruments plugins.➭ A lot of features redundant for producers looking to stay within the DAW

Compatibility: PC/Mac | Power: USB | Keys: 49 | Key size: Standard | Additional Controls:  LCD screen, 8 touch-sensitive knobs, Push Encoder, Mod and Pitch Wheels | Included software: Maschine Essentials, Monark, The Gentleman, Reaktor Prism, Scarbee Mark I, and more | Dimensions (cm):  88.9 x 30.5 x 15.2 | Weight (kg): 4


best midi keyboard maudio

4. M-Audio Oxygen 25 Mk4

This sleek, ever-popular MIDI keyboard is another example of a 25-key controller great for those travelling or with limited desk space. However, the main difference between this keyboard and other portable examples such as the Akai MPK Mini Mk2 is the large, comfortable, standard-sized keys, allowing for much more precision when playing.

It also has similar additional features such as 8 highly sensitive drum pads, 8 assignable knobs, but also a pitch and modulation wheel, something the Akai lacks.

The M-Audio Oxygen is an extremely professional and versatile device, and despite this it remains relatively cheap, and is therefore perfect for producers on a budget. For such a cheap keyboard, it doesn’t feel cheap or plastic-y, and like the Novation Launchkey, comes with Ableton Live Lite, although the the device is still configured to fit perfectly with almost any DAW.

MAIN BENEFITS MAIN DOWNSIDES
➭ Portable: Can easily fit in a standard laptop bag ➭ Larger and heavier than some 25-key controllers
➭ Affordable: One of the cheapest Mini keyboards on the market ➭ Knobs don’t have a lot of resistance so accuracy is slightly more difficult
➭ Several additional features: 8 soft pads, 8 knobs, 4-way joystick controller , pitch/modulation wheel➭ No simple way to shift the drum pads and reassign them individually
➭ Includes software: Ableton Live Lite and Sonivox Twist
➭ Large, comfortable, full-sized, semi-weighted keys

Compatibility: PC/Mac | Power: USB | Keys: 25 | Key size: Standard | Additional Controls:  8 Velocity trigger pads, 8 Assignable rotating control knobs, LCD display, 1 Assignable fader, Mod and Pitch Wheels | Included software: Ableton Live Lite and Sonivox Twist | Dimensions (cm):  49.2 x 24.3 x 9.4 | Weight (kg): 1.8


best midi keyboard arturia

5. Arturia KeyLab 49 Mk2

For producers looking for an all-encompassing, immersive MIDI controller that will allow them to control their DAW extensively through the keyboard, we can’t think of a better example than the Arturia KeyLab 49 Mk2. For a beginner producer, the various pads, knobs, sliders, wheels and buttons may seem overwhelming at first, but this keyboard is a powerhouse for demanding producers, musicians, performers and composers.

In terms of the construction quality, this is genuinely one of the sexiest keyboards we’ve ever seen. The keyboards body feels robust and durable, and the feel and construction of the keys and additional features is hypnotic.

As expected, it’s an expensive piece of equipment, but with it’s beautiful build quality, the amount of assignable features and the spectacular “Analog Lab” VST, it’s hard not to justify the price tag.

MAIN BENEFITS MAIN DOWNSIDES
➭ Quality: Highly durable, professional quality➭ Expensive
➭ Huge amount of features: 16 touch pads, 9 assignable faders and knobs, ten dedicated DAW Commands switches with magnetic overlays, small LCD screen etc
➭ Integration: Works well with almost any DAW
➭ Included software: Analog Lab w/ 6500 different sounds, Ableton Live Light and Piano V
➭ Excellent hardware integration with Analog Lab
➭ Has aftertouch

Compatibility: PC/Mac | Power: USB | Keys: 49 | Key size: Standard | Additional Controls:  16 RGB backlit, multi-function performance pads, 9 assignable faders and rotary knobs, 10 dedicated DAW Commands switches, 6 universal transport controls, Control center with LCD screen and clickable wheel| Included software: Analog Lab, Ableton Live Light and Piano V. | Dimensions (cm): 79.3 x 29.7 x 5.3| Weight (kg): 7


roli seaboard best midi keyboard

6. ROLI Seaboard RISE 49 Keywave Controller Keyboard

In 2013, London-based startup Roli released a truly unique MIDI “seaboard” that polarised the music production community, with some calling it a revolutionary piece of equipment, while others deeming it simply bizarre. Since then, Roli have finetuned their eccentric design, and with their newest models, the flexible rubber ‘keywaves’ feel much more accessible, inspiring and the learning curve seems a lot less daunting.

The Roli RISE 49 beckons new, innovative playing styles that would prove difficult with a standard key controller, allowing for smooth, wide pitch bends and glides, and real-time manipulation such as wiggling your finger on the touchpad to produce a vibrato effect. The highly sensitive, versatile “keys” are perfect for expressive, fun production sessions with a futuristic feel.

MAIN BENEFITS MAIN DOWNSIDES
➭ Quality: Highly durable, professional quality➭ While cheaper than previous models, still remains fairly expensive
➭ Very unique, innovative, versatile playing style➭ There is a learning curve to adapt to the “seaboard” style
➭ Touchpad dynamics: Can slide your finger up and down for filter FX (and more) and wiggling your finger for vibrato➭ Difficult to see in low light
➭ Included software: Equator, Strobe2, Cypher2 Player
➭ Bluetooth connectivity

Compatibility: PC/Mac | Power: USB | Keys: 49 | Key size: Standard, “Seaboard” style | Additional Controls:  3 touch-sensitive faders, 4-way multi-dimensional fader| Included software: Equator, Strobe2, Cypher2 Player, Tracktion Waveform 8, itwig 8-Track | Dimensions (cm):  88.9 x 10.2 x 33| Weight (kg): 4.54



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