A Midi controller is necessary in order to speed up your music creation process. The more complete the device you chose, the faster you can get the right settings and parameters to make your sound unique.
If you are on the go, consider carrying a mini-key device along with your laptop, audio interface, and headphones.
If you spend most of your time in your home studio, you can choose a large keyboard (61 keys or more) and also if you have experience playing the piano or other keyboards (Rhodes, synths). If you’re focused on producing chords and melodies, a 2 – 5 octave keyboard can do a good job.
A complete Midi controller keyboard must have pitch and modulation wheels, faders, knobs, and pads, that interact directly with the virtual instrument you want to use (drum machine, synths), which enables you to handle the parameters and settings to create the sound you want.
Best Midi Controller Keyboards for Music Production
Arturia KeyLab 61 MKII Keyboard Controller
Why I recommend it: This 61 keys midi controller has the greatest range of functions you can get in the market under the $600 range. Not only you can control the settings and parameters of a virtual synth or drum machine, but also the faders and routing buttons on your DAW with just a simple click. It features a great after-touch sensitivity, 16 pads, 9 faders, 9 rotary encoders, in addition to multiple expression control inputs.
Compared to the competition: This extraordinary model comes with a great bundle (Arturia Analog Lab, the lite version of Ableton, Piano V2 plugin, and the famed Arturia MIDI Control Center). The nearest competitor I can match this model to is Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 and S49, which have an unbeatable advantage of including Komplete 13 Select.
AKAI Professional MPK249 – USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 49 Semi-Weighted Keys
Why I recommend it: AKAI is a very important brand in the music industry, and the MPK249 is one of the most successful products they are ever launched. The semi-weighted keyboard allows you to play it as an acoustic piano, and is also very comfortable to play synth leads. It features 14 pads, 8 Q-link controllers, 8 knobs, and 8 faders, plus the pitch bend and modulation wheels. It’s a very complete midi controller under the $500 range.
Compared to the competition: The AKAI MPK249 comes with a very nice software bundle (MPC Essentials, Hybrid 3, Twist, and Ableton Live Lite). One octave less than the Arturia Keylab 61 MKII, it offers almost the same amount of features. M-Audio Oxigen Pro is its closest competitor.
Arturia Keylab 49 Essential Controller Keyboard
Why I recommend it: In the $200 range we find this excellent model by Arturia. The Essential line offers a very good number of controllers (9 faders, 9 knobs, 8 pads), and the very best feature is that it also provides full control of the main functions in your DAW.
Compared to the competition: Arturia is very famous for its powerful software and this model includes Analog Lab 2 (+5000 synth sounds), Ableton Live Lite, and UVI Grand Piano model D. Its main competitors can be the M-Audio Oxigen Pro Series.
M-Audio Oxygen 61 (MKV) – 61 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
Why I recommend it: This is an amazing model for less than $230 which enables you to control your DAW through the instant mapping feature. Although you get fewer tools to interact with your virtual instruments (8 pads, 8 knobs, and 9 faders), it’s a very complete device if you’re buying a midi controller for the first time or on a tight budget.
Compared to the competition: It’s difficult to find any other 61-key keyboard with the same features and for the same price. You can use it in old operative systems (Windows 7, or OS X 10.11.6), Intel Core Duo chips, and a minimum of 4GB. The software included is Melodics, Skoove, Ableton Live Lite, Akai MPC Beats, and Virtual Instruments.
AKAI Professional MPK Mini Play – USB MIDI Keyboard Controller With a Built-in Speaker, 25 mini Keys, Drum Pads, and 128 Instrument Sounds
Why I recommend it: This model is a very complete device to work on the go. For just $139 – $149 (old version and new version) you get the necessary number of controllers (8 pads, 4 knobs) to start working on any kind of music Midi music project. It weighs only 1.9 lbs and works with 4 AA batteries and USB.
Compared to the competition: It comes with MPC Beats, AIR Music Technology Instrument Bundle, and Melodics Educational Package. This is a very good model, but it’s a fact that its competitors also offer good options for a lower price (Arturia MiniLab MKII, Novation Launchkey Mini MK3).