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10 Best MIDI Keyboards For Music Production (2021)

10 Best MIDI Keyboards For Music Production (2021) Header Image

Are you looking for the best MIDI keyboards for music production in 2021?

In this article, we’ll go through ten of the best and most loved MIDI keyboards that you can find in stores today.

The list is purposefully crafted to give you options for different budgets, low, medium to high – and functionality and portability.

But first, if you’re new to the world of MIDI keyboards, let’s answer the question that's on all new producer's lips...

Is a MIDI keyboard necessary to make great music?

Do You Need A MIDI Keyboard To Make Music?

If you browse Instagram or check out any music producer's studio, chances are you'll see a MIDI keyboard neatly decorated on their desk. But is a MIDI keyboard really necessary?

The quick answer? No. You don’t need a MIDI keyboard to make professional music. Some of the best electronic music in the world is made straight on a laptop – without external hardware.

But while that's true, it's not the full truth...

How To Play Chords In Ableton

All popular DAW’s worth their name, like Ableton Live 11, give you the ability to play notes with your computer or laptop keyboard. That’s right, with the switch of a button, you can use your normal keyboard as a MIDI keyboard with full control of velocity and octaves.

In the case of Ableton Live, you use the buttons A-L for your white keys and W-O for your black or sharp keys.

‘Z’ takes you one octave lower; ‘X’ goes one octave higher.

'C' reduces velocity, and 'V' increases it.

Why You Should Use A MIDI Keyboard

Why You Should Use A MIDI Keyboard

However, while this means you can use your laptop as your MIDI keyboard, it doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Remember, making music is about feel. And most music producers can agree that jamming on your laptop keys isn't the most intuitive way of producing music.

Playing a great MIDI keyboard is completely different – often strikingly similar to playing the piano. Load up your beat and record a few different chords playing on your piano. Everything saves within your DAW, which means you can quickly edit and save what you like.

And with the fantastic selection available, you can do much more, like use scale and chords modes (so you never hit the wrong key), access sounds and instruments in your DAW, use touch pads to drum beats, and much more.

The upside to using a MIDI keyboard is huge for music producers.

So, to summarize – you don’t need a MIDI keyboard to make music, but we highly recommended it for the best feel, creativity, and production efficiency.

Beginner tip: However, if you can’t play any chords on a piano, we suggest you take up a course in music theory to learn the basics. That way, you can quickly start practicing chord progressions and melodies on your new MIDI keyboard.

We recommend the beginner course: Harmony Bundle

It will teach you all the foundational knowledge of music theory with three different courses covering chords, melody, and arrangements – so you can start crafting professional music in no time.

Let’s start with what makes a good MIDI keyboard.

What Makes A Good MIDI Keyboard?

Novation Launchkey MK3 61-key best MIDI keyboard for music production

Not all MIDI keyboards are created alike. While people might argue that it’s “just a few keys, how good can it get?”, the reality is slightly different.

Similar to real grand pianos, there are cheaper and incredibly expensive variants. The main difference is the sound and feel. But with a MIDI keyboard, the sound isn't an issue since you can load up any sound you want in your DAW.

Rather, what makes a good MIDI keyboard is playability, functionality, and portability.

Playability

The great upside to getting a quality MIDI keyboard is playability. Higher-priced keyboards are generally much nicer to play. The response when pressing a key will feel more like that of a piano, making playing it feel less plastic and more high-quality.

For any musician, feel is a great part of the music creation process. If you get the choice, you will rather play an instrument that unmistakably feels like a piano rather than a squeaky, cheap keyboard.

Functionality

MIDI keyboards aren't all about playing piano keys, though. Often, you pay for further functionality, which helps you in the studio as a music producer. But what other functionalities do you need other than playing keys?

The most common functionality seen on MIDI keyboards are touchpads, knobs, and sliders. All three can be fully automated within your DAW, meaning you can set your knobs and sliders to different parameters and change them anytime.

That’s a great upside to feel – when you physically change knobs and sliders to affect your sound rather than drawing in robotic automations in your DAW.

You can use touchpads to tap in your beat – which is an incredibly powerful way to get inspiration.

Another factor is portability – how lightweight and compact your MIDI keyboard is for your traveling needs.

Portability

Some producers never stay in one place for too long. If you’re on the road a lot doing tours and gigs, chances are you will be producing a lot of music in hotel rooms or other producer’s studios.

That’s where portability comes into play.

Carrying a massive 61-key MIDI keyboard in your backpack isn’t ideal. And setting it up in a hotel room or other space can be difficult if space is limited.

For many producers, their MIDI keyboards must be lightweight, compact, and easy to carry. Many top producers have one for traveling purposes and another that stays stationary in their studio. It’s a great way to get the best from two worlds.

So, all in all, there are a few factors that make a good MIDI keyboard. And that’s why more expensive keywords can be a worthy investment if you're looking for a true feel, great functionality, and the best portability.

Now – onto the list. Which are the best MIDI keyboards that you can buy today?

Let’s begin with our first one, the AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3.

Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3

Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3 best MIDI keyboard for music production

Screenshot from AKAI's website.

If you're looking for a quality MIDI keyboard that's portable and features all the necessary functionality, you could ask for? Then the Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3 is for you.

Create club bangers with the twenty-five velocity-sensitive keys, use the included joystick for pitch and modulation control or tap your beat with the touch-sensitive pads. You also get eight endless knobs to automate and transform your sounds freely.

The Akai Professional MPK Mini MK3 is a solid choice for new, traveling, and expert producers alike.

Features

  • 25 Velocity-sensitive mini keys
  • 4-Way joystick for pitch and modulation control
  • 8 MPC pads with note repeat and full level function
  • 8 Assignable encoders
  • Octave selector for 10 octaves range
  • Integrated arpeggiator
  • OLED display for parameter display
  • Connection for sustain pedal: 6.3 mm jack
  • USB-B port (Class Compliant)
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 318 x 181 x 44 mm
  • Weight: 750 g
  • Includes software package (downloads): MPC Beats, 6 virtual instruments (Bassline, Tubesynth, Electric, Hybrid 3, Mini Grand, Velvet), and 2 GB of sound content

Source: thomann.de

Arturia KeyStep 37

Arturia KeyStep 37 Best MIDI Keyboard for Music Production

Image courtesy of Arturia.

Want to take your creativity to the next level? Then you must check out the Arturia KeyStep 37.

With a 37-note keyboard and a built-in chord mode, you can create instant chord sequences and progressions. And if you don’t know your piano scales, don’t worry. The Arturia KeyStep 37 also comes with a scale mode – so you never play the wrong note.

This MIDI keyboard features great connectivity to your computer, DAW, and other hardware - including modular gear, giving you unlimited possibilities.

Lastly, you also get a creative 64-step, 8-note sequencer with eight pattern slots, including an arpeggiator with eight exciting modes. And don’t forget the four knobs you can assign to whatever you like.

If you love to jam around and record music on the fly, this MIDI keyboard is a fantastic choice.

Features

  • 37 Velocity-sensitive mini keys (Slimkey) with aftertouch
  • 64-Step Sequencer
  • Chord and scale functionality
  • Arpeggiator
  • LED display
  • 4 Freely assignable controllers
  • Transport buttons
  • Touch strips for pitch and modulation
  • RGB LED strip
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 550 x 35 x 147 mm
  • Weight: 1.6 kg
  • Includes USB cable, anti-ground loop adapter, and Ableton Live Lite license (appears in customer account after registration)

Source: thomann.de

M-Audio Keystation 49/61 MK3

Image courtesy of M-Audio.

Want one of the highest quality MIDI keyboards you can get without the fluff? The M-Audio Keystation 49 and 61 MK3 is a great choice for you.

Depending on how many keys you want, the Keystation comes in two – the 49 or 61 key variations. Other than that, the two are virtually the same.

So, what about the keys? Well, they are semi-weighted. That means they feel very close to playing the real deal, which is most musicians prefer.

The keyboard is extremely lightweight, durable, and compact, which suits traveling musicians perfectly – both in hotel rooms and on stage. This MIDI keyboard is also a fantastic choice for the studio as it doesn’t take up too much space.

Other than an incredible set of keys, the Keystation 49 and 61 MK3 come with easy-access buttons on the left side. Change octave, stop, play and record or use the modulation and pitch wheel to perfect your sound.

The M-Audio Keystation 49 and 61 MK3 are a solid choice for any producer – beginners and pros alike.

Features (61-key version)

  • 61 Velocity-sensitive keys
  • Pitch bend and modulation wheel
  • Octave selection
  • Transport button for DAW control
  • 1 Fader
  • 6.3 mm jack input for optional sustain pedal (not included)
  • MIDI output
  • USB bus-powered
  • Connector for external power supply unit (not included)
  • Plug & Play for Mac and PC
  • Dimensions: 995 x 189 x 68 mm
  • Weight: 4.1 kg
  • Includes Pro Tools First M-Audio Edition, Ableton Live Lite, AIR Mini Grand, AIR Velvet, and AIR Xpand!2

Source: thomann.de

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A25/A49/A61

Native Instruments A Series Best MIDI Keyboards For Music Production

Image courtesy of Native Instruments.

Native Instruments covers pretty much the entire range of top-of-the-line music production software and hardware. And with the Komplete Kontrol, it all comes together in a perfect symbiosis.

First off, the A25 with 25 keys is the cheapest and most portable out of the three. For simplicities sake, that’s the one we’ll review.

The look and feel of the Komplete Kontrol are slick and beautiful with semi-weighted, highly piano-like keys. The many controls are easy to reach and perfectly laid out on the top end of the MIDI keyboard.

And here’s where the cool part comes in. All knobs and controls work directly with your Native Instruments products (you get over 6,700 sounds included) and other VST plugins.

That means you can control Diva, Arturia Pigments, and pretty much any other VST plugin directly from this MIDI keyboard.

Change presets, settings, quantize notes, set your tempo – there's not a lot the Komplete Control A25 cannot do. Beautiful.

And thanks to the four-directional push encoder, you get the power to take complete control over your session – with one hand.

A solid choice for producers of any skill level.

Features

  • Newly developed semi-weighted keyboard with 25 keys
  • OLED display
  • 8 Touch-sensitive dials
  • Pitch and Mod Wheels
  • 4D Push encoders
  • Smart play
  • Machine integration
  • Control of Logic ProX, Ableton Live, Garage Band, Cubase, and Nuendo
  • Power supply via USB
  • 6.3 mm Foot pedal input
  • USB port
  • Dimensions: 488 x 257 x 89 mm
  • Weight: 2.4 kg

Source: thomann.de

Arturia MiniLab 25 MKII

Arturia MiniLab 25 MKII Best MIDI Keyboard for Music Production

Image courtesy of Arturia.

Are you looking for a portable keyboard with excellent integration to Ableton Live? Then you must check out the Arturia MiniLab 25 MKII.

Whether you’re often on the go touring or producing at your friend’s house, you want a compact MIDI controller with a great feel and all the functionality you need.

With 25 velocity-sensitive slim keys, you can craft chords and play with an unbeatable feel. Pitch or affect the modulation of your sounds with accurate touch-sensitive strips.

When you want to get groovy, use the eight touch and velocity-sensitive and RGB backlit pads neatly placed above your keyboard.

And don’t forget the 16, yes – sixteen knobs to modulate anything you want. The first two are clickable.

The Arturia MiniLab 25 MKII is a mini-lab by top producer standards. As a bonus, you also get software like Analog Lab Lite with 500 different sounds, Ableton Live Lite, and UVI Grand Piano.

Top choice for traveling or the producer who wants to save studio space.

Features

  • 25 Velocity-sensitive mini-keys
  • 16 Encoder - 2 of them clickable
  • 2 Banks of 8 velocity and pressure-sensitive pads with RGB lighting (adjustable colors)
  • Touchstrips for pitch bend and modulation
  • Sustain pedal connector
  • USB port
  • Bus Powered
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 355 x 220 x 50 mm
  • Weight: 1.5 kg
  • Includes software "Analog Lab Lite" with 500 sounds in V-Collection 5-quality, "Ableton Live Lite" and "UVI Grand Piano" (software download required from manufacturer's website)

Source: thomann.de

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32

Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol M32 best MIDI keyboard for music production

Image courtesy of Native Instruments.

If you want a keyboard that flawlessly mixes portability with functionality, say hello to Native Instrument’s smallest keyboard yet – the Komplete Kontrol M32.

With its ultra-compact design and 32 smaller but incredibly responsive keys, it’s a beauty to play.

It’s also incredibly easy – if you want to. The Komplete Kontrol M32 comes packed with Smart Play functionality to make your music producer's life easier.

How about a chord mode, so any button plays the exact chord you set? Or a scale mode that turns your keyboard into the scale of your choice, so you can’t play the wrong note?

With an arpeggiator included as well, this is the perfect MIDI keyboard for beginners and pros alike.

Like with all MIDI keyboards from Native Instruments, you also get extensive connectivity and the ability to select and play instruments, effects, loops, and samples – directly from your keyboard.

This MIDI keyboard is definitely one of the best you can buy today.

Features

  • 32 Velocity-sensitive synth-action mini keys
  • 2 Touch strips for pitch and modulation
  • 8 Touch-sensitive control knobs
  • OLED Display
  • 4D-Push-encoder
  • Smart play
  • Machine integration
  • Functionality in the following hosts: Ableton Live, Logic ProX, Garage Band, Cubase, and Nuendo
  • NKS (Native Kontrol Standard) compatible
  • USB powered
  • Pedal input: 6.3 mm jack
  • USB port
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 475 x 167 x 50 mm
  • Weight: 1.45 kg
  • Includes KOMPLETE instruments and FX: Monark, Scarbee Mark I, Reaktor Prism, Komplete Kontrol software, Machine Essentials, Komplete Start, Ableton Live 10 Lite

Source: thomann.de

M-Audio Oxygen 25 MK IV

M-Audio Oxygen 25 MK4 best MIDI keyboard for music production

Image courtesy of M-Audio.

If you’re looking for a ultra-functional, sturdy, and slick MIDI keyboard, you can’t go wrong with the M-Audio Oxygen 25 MK4.

Placing somewhere in the middle of ultra-compact and a normal-sized keyboard, the Oxygen 25 MK4 has all you need.

With 25 full-size velocity-sensitive keys, you can play chords and quick melodies with amazing feel and tight precision.

The eight velocity-sensitive pads located in the right corner of your keyboard are perfect for jamming out grooves or launching clips from Ableton Live.

You also get eight tactile knobs to control your sound – or modulate in any way you want.

Furthermore, the M-Audio Oxygen 25 MK4 also has a fully assignable fader, giving you perfect control over your mix.

This keyboard feels great, looks good, and performs as you can expect from a top MIDI keyboard.

We highly recommend it.

Features

  • 8 Velocity trigger pads
  • 8 Assignable rotating control knobs
  • 1 Assignable fader
  • Transport buttons, for example, for DAW control
  • LCD display
  • USB Bus powered
  • USB-Midi
  • Input for sustain pedal
  • Including: USB cable, Quickstart guide, Ableton Live Lite (software), and Sonivox Twist (software)
  • Dimensions (W x D x H): 492 x 243 x 94 mm
  • Weight: 1.8 kg

Source: thomann.de

Novation Launchkey MK3

Novation Launchkey MK3 best MIDI keyboard for music production

Image courtesy of Novation.

Music producers and Ableton Live users – this is one for you. The Novation Launchkey MK3 is powerfully crafted with your favorite DAW in mind. But don’t worry, it also works beautifully with other DAW’s.

This MIDI keyboard comes in four different sizes, making it easy to find your perfect format. Choose between 25-, 37-, 49-, and the grand 61-key version.

The two more compact Launchkeys are perfect for producers on the road or with tight studio space, while the 49- and 61-key setups are great if you want more keys.

The larger keyboards also feature faders and fader buttons for extra control.

Get inspired and play like a pro – even if you’re a beginner. The inspirational features of Launchkey Mk3 include Scale and Chord modes, including Strum mode and a powerful arpeggiator – so you never have to play the wrong note again.

With knobs, faders, and pads to control almost everything in Ableton Live, it also has full integration with Logic and Reason – including out-of-the-box functionality with other DAW's, like Studio One, Cubase, and Pro Tools via HUI.

This is a top favorite and great keyboard that will take your creativity to a whole new level. Highly, highly recommended.

Features

  • 37 Velocity-sensitive keys
  • 16 RGB illuminated velocity-sensitive pads
  • Scale and chord mode
  • Arpeggiator
  • Capture MIDI function
  • MIDI mappings
  • Device lock
  • Pitch bend and modulation wheel
  • 2 x 16 Character display
  • 8 Controllers
  • Keys for octave up / down, arp / scale / fixed chord, play / stop / record / loop, track navigation, stop / solo / mute, capture MIDI / quantization / click / undo, scene start as well as device selection and device lock functions
  • Sustain pedal input: 6.3 mm jack
  • USB-B
  • MIDI output
  • USB powered
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 555 x 77 x 258 mm
  • Weight: 2.18 kg
  • Includes Ableton Live Lite, Serato Sample LE, AAS Session Bundle, XLN Addictive Keys (1 of 4 virtual keyboards can be selected), Klevgrand R0Verb- and DAW Cassette, Spitfire Audio LABS-Expressive Strings

Source: thomann.de

Nektar SE25

Nektar SE25 Best MIDI Keyboard For Music Production

Image courtesy of Nektar.

If small, compact, and portable is your jam, the Nektar SE25 is your dream MIDI keyboard.

This keyboard is simplicity at its finest. With the excellent build quality and a fantastic look and feel, it plays beautifully.

With 25 velocity-sensitive mini-keys and three velocity presets (default, soft, and hard), craft chords with ease and make them your own.

Functionality-wise, this keyboard is sparse for the sake of portability. But don’t let that scare you. Sometimes, all you need to fuel your creativity is a great setup of keys.

On the left-hand side, you have play, record, and assignable buttons for things like pitch bend, transpose, volume, pan, and track. You can also quickly change the octave, which is a must-have in a 25-key MIDI keyboard.

All-in-all, for the money, the Nektar SE25 is worth every penny.

Features

  • With 25 velocity-sensitive mini keys
  • 3 Velocity presets: Default, soft, hard
  • 6 Function button
  • Assignable PB1 & PB2 buttons for pitch bend, transpose, volume, pan & track
  • Assignable Part Two button for Octave, MIDI channel, Transpose, Layer & Latch
  • S Button for Sustain & Modulation
  • Micro USB Port
  • Compatible with any MIDI-enabled software on OS X, Windows & iOS
  • Class Compliant for real Plug and Play
  • Power supply via USB
  • Nektar DAW integration: Windows Vista, 7, 8, 10, MAC OS X 10.7 or higher
  • Nektar DAW Integration for Bitwig, Cubase, Garageband, Logic, Nuendo, Digital Performer, Mixcraft, Reason, Reaper, Sonar, and Studio One
  • Dimensions: 335 x 100 x 21 mm
  • Weight: 0.4 kg
  • Includes Bitwig 8-Track Software (Download) and Micro USB Cable

Source: thomann.de

Arturia MicroLab

Arturia MicroLab best MIDI keyboard for music production

Fantastic value and build quality – with all the functionality you need. The Arturia MicroLab makes it easy to produce music anywhere you are.

The keyboard design is robust and sturdy – yet light and slick. This MIDI keyboard is a great addition to any studio with 25 velocity-sensitive keys and two touch-sensitive sensors for accurate pitch bend and modulation.

Whether you’re a traveling producer, are tight on studio space, or want a MIDI keyboard with essential functionality, the MicroLab will tick all your needs.

With no need for external drivers, the Arturia MicroLab is plug-and-play – ready to take control of any devices you put it in.

The keyboard also has a super-low energy consumption, allowing you to use it with Android devices or Apple iPads.

If you’re looking for a lightweight but incredibly solid keyboard, look no further than the Arturia MicroLab.

Features

  • 25 Keys
  • Velocity-sensitive
  • 2 Touch-sensitive sensors for pitch and modulation
  • USB / MIDI class-compliant (no driver required)
  • USB bus-powered
  • Low power consumption (can be used with Android devices or Apple iPads, connection cable/adapter not included)
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 414 x 37 x 130 mm
  • Weight: 770 g
  • Colour: Black
  • Includes USB cable, Analog Lab Lite with over 500 presets from the V Collection, UVI Grand Piano Model D, and Bitwig 8-Track DAW

Source: thomann.de

Summary

That completes the list of the best MIDI keyboards you can buy in 2021 – designed for music producers.

Before deciding to buy your MIDI keyboard, remember the three points, we talked about in the second chapter – playability, functionality, and portability.

Depending on your needs, now and in the future, your choices might look different.

And if you feel like you want both a large MIDI keyboard packed with functionality, but also a travel-friendly and compact keyboard – get both. The smaller MIDI keyboards are usually a lot cheaper than their larger counterparts.

We hope this list has made your decision a lot easier and hope you get great use out of your keyboard.

Remember, learning music theory makes playing a MIDI keyboard (and creating music) so much easier – and more fun!

Now, go get creative!

Thanks for reading and see you in the next article.

Pelle Sundin
About the author
Pelle Sundin is a Swedish music producer and writer, active with his chillout project PLMTRZ. He also produces psytrance. When he's not producing, he surfs, skates, and chugs coffee.


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