There are two kinds of musicians. Some are fanatical about the sound of a certain instrument – guitar, violin, drums. Others, on the other hand, like to play with different sounds and create new ones. The basic instrument for the musicians in the second group is the MIDI keyboard, and even guitarists with drummers often use different midi controllers to create arrangements. Such a device will help any novice musician to develop musical abilities, and why – we’ll figure it out further.
Midi controllers take on a wide variety of incarnations – from the usual black and white keyboards to devices made of square rubberized buttons-pads. There are also controllers in the form of a guitar neck, and even touch keyboards on which you can make pitch and vibrato. However, all of them are united by their main function – control of musical devices or software on a computer, smartphone or tablet. This could be:
A synthesizer, both in plug-in format and a real hardware device. Many synthesizers do not have keys and are controlled by external controllers.
Sampler with loaded sounds of piano, violin, drums, etc.
Elements of the DAW or VST plug-in interface – enable recording or playback, mute a specific track, turn up the volume or go to the desired part of the song.
The MIDI standard was developed back in the 80s, and therefore has an old-school five-pin connector, similar to the audio jack of Soviet audio equipment. Not only the note is transmitted via the midi protocol, but also data on the strength of its pressing (velocity), pitch, modulation, vibrato and other parameters. Roughly speaking, a midi keyboard creates an accurate numerical description of the pressed note and transmits it to a PC or musical device. And then a synthesizer or sampler applies sound to this note. The keyboard itself does not contain sounds – this is not a synthesizer, but a controller (although there are exceptions, for example, Akai mpk mini play still has built-in sounds).
Modern keyboards can be connected to a PC via USB, so they do not need an audio card with MIDI connectors. In fact, most budget keyboards don’t even have MIDI output. But almost all of them have an input for an expression pedal, which will allow you to adjust the set parameters (sustain, pitch, etc.) with your foot.
In general, a beginner musician needs a midi keyboard because it:
Will help you learn to compose and record music
One of the main features of midi keyboards is the ability to record lessons, rehearsals, and drafts on a PC , tablet or even a smartphone . This not only greatly increases the effectiveness of any music practice, but also opens the door to creating your own material. Composing music is much more exciting than playing exercises and scales, and is often a guarantee that good endeavors will not be abandoned in a couple of months.
Not all midi keyboards are suitable for setting hands and playing classical pieces, they differ greatly from each other in key mechanics. There are inexpensive keyboards with unweighted synth-type keys that feel only vaguely like playing a real piano. The keys are very easy to press, making fast passages easier to play, but also depriving many of the expression needed to play the classics. Therefore, often such instruments are usually only 2-3 octaves. But they are compact and lightweight, it is convenient to work with them, having laid out several keyboards for different instruments on the table, and one more can be put on your lap. Professional musicians often use inexpensive midi keyboards to create demo tracks and arrangements.
Keyboard MIDI Arturia Microlab 7 450 *
There are also keyboards with semi-weighted or weighted keys, which with closed eyes can be confused with a piano – the feeling of playing is so similar. These are usually large multi-octave instruments. They are very massive due to the design of the keyboard, so you won’t be able to move around the room and put it wherever you want. Nevertheless, they are still more compact than traditional and even electronic pianos – compared to the latter, midi keyboards have just as much features at a more modest price. It is convenient to learn on them, put your hands on and play classics.
Keyboard MIDI M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3 16 799 *
Gives you access to a billion sounds and instruments
Perhaps the main advantage of a midi keyboard over a traditional piano and even a less traditional synthesizer is the ability to play any sounds. Their keys can be transformed into a violin, flute, guitar, French horn, drums, or any of thousands of VST synthesizers at the click of a mouse. You can find dozens of free sample and synthesizer libraries on the Internet, for example, here’s a noteworthy list. All this allows you to study the structure and sound of orchestral and folk instruments, to which a beginner musician would hardly have access, and even apply them to his tracks.
Keyboard MIDI Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A25 16,999 *
The midi keyboard opens up the ability to work with sound. This is an important part of the modern musician’s creativity: every famous band or solo artist has its own style and sound, behind which are hundreds of hours of experimentation and research. A unique sound is an important part of an artist’s self-expression, because if a track is recognized from the first notes due to its sound, then the listener will remember it.
More features, functions
Midi controllers come in more than just black and white keys. Sometimes these are pads – large square buttons that are sensitive to pressure, it is convenient to program beats and drum parts on such buttons, to work with non-tonal samples.
Keyboard MIDI IK Multimedia iRig Pads 8 750 *
Often, controllers are tailored for specific VST instruments. For example, Native Instruments Maschine even comes with matching software, including full versions of the Massive, Monark, and Reaktor Prism synthesizers, as well as the Komplete Start sample set. The controller helps you manage your software faster and more efficiently, gives you instant access to the functions you need and allows you to be more productive with your music.
Keyboard MIDI Native Instruments Maschine Mikro Mk3 24 999 *
There are also controllers for more efficient work in DAW, for example, these . They are often used by sound engineers at the stage of mixing, for example, to quickly jump to the desired parts of a song, control the faders with your hands, not a mouse, and write automation in real time, rather than draw it in an awkward interface.
Keyboard MIDI Native Instruments Traktor Kontrol F1 17 499 *
Will allow you to speak
For performing musicians, a combination of “midi keyboard plus laptop / tablet” has replaced bulky synthesizers. Midi controllers are lightweight, compact, provide great opportunities, they can be connected several pieces and laid out on one table, with their help you can control the playback, run samples and whole parties.
Of course, the ranks of huge synthesizers are still popular with musicians of specific genres, where you need to show the virtuosity of playing the instrument. However, for modern rock music and electronics, virtuosity of performance is less and less important, and more attention is paid to the uniqueness of sound and comfort of the performance, where midi keyboards again outperform synthesizers.
Keyboard MIDI Arturia MiniLab mkII 13 099 *
Will help you understand the creation of modern music
The creation of modern music has gone far from filling the staff by candlelight. The modern musician is in many ways an engineer who uses a variety of software and hardware devices to get the sound he wants. Most of the musical genres have moved away from real instruments in favor of electronic and virtual instruments.
Keyboard MIDI AKAI PRO MPD218 11 799 *
The home studios of electronic musicians sometimes resemble the control panel of a spaceship – there are so many of all kinds of equipment there. Each device and program needs to be mastered and studied, and many begin this path with midi keyboards. They will help you get a basic understanding of how DAWs, samplers and synthesizers work, and will help you understand the basics of creating modern music and basic concepts.
Of course, a MIDI keyboard is not required to record parts – many DAWs have a feature that allows you to type in parts using a regular typed keyboard. However, the feel of playing the typed keys is not equal to the impact of playing a real musical instrument, even if it has the most primitive synthesizer mechanics. And just practicing, jamming and experimenting with a midi keyboard is much more pleasant and interesting, not to mention its additional capabilities. This is largely why midi controllers have become an essential attribute of any musician and home producer today.