MIDI Controller vs Keyboard: Choose What’s Best for You!

This article will provide you with a detailed comparison of keyboards and MIDI controllers, along with tips on how to decide what you need.
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Last updatedLast updated: May 24, 2021
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A lot of people wonder whether to go for a midi controller or a standard keyboard when buying their music equipment. It can be difficult knowing the right one to choose, especially if you can’t tell the features, what they are used for, and the differences between the two. In this Midi Controller vs Keyboard article, we will be answering these questions and all you need to know about these tools.

Ultimately, deciding which to go for should only be made after reading all the information below. Having the right answers to all of these questions will help you make an informed decision. So what are you waiting for? Dive in as we guide you through all you need to know about Midi controllers and Keyboards.

What is a MIDI controller?

MIDI Controller vs Keyboard: Choose What's Best for You!The MIDI controller is computer hardware that works jointly with sound software installed on a computer system. It helps in the easy and creative production of music. It does this by transmitting and receiving MIDI information through sound software.

It should be pointed out that the MIDI controller can’t produce any audible sound by itself without an external system. It has no speaker output. This means it needs an external system to translate the information gotten into logical audio sounds.

The external system could be a sequencer, a VS Ti, or a computer. Your MIDI controller should have a USB port that will allow you to connect to any of these external systems easily.

What can you use it for?

The MIDI controller can be used for several things. However, these can be broadly categorized into two, they are:

  1. A Midi controller can be used to play, practice and produce music as a beginner.
  2. It can also be used to make live performances.

The process of playing, practicing, and producing music either as a beginner or an expert is known as automation. On the other hand, automating using a Midi Controller simply means using the software to change the sound parameters within a specific time duration. For instance, you can automate the sounds to change from a very high peak to a medium sound and finally ends on a quiet note, all within three minutes.

You can even time how many minutes or how many seconds each of the notes will sound. To create this automated volume change, for instance, you will need an automation track. The automation track will be controlled by your knobs to deliver your desired sound effect. Most of the time, Midi controllers are used jointly with some audio software, such as Cubase, Ableton, among others.

When using the Midi controller for live performances, Live Performers or even DJ find it very helpful to mix sounds and create beautiful sound filters. It also makes it possible for different sounds can play together.

Pros & Cons

The Pros of A Midi Controller

  • You can use the midi controller to trigger multiple sounds and notes from other external devices.
  • With your midi controller, you can start your music production business. A standard one has drum pads, knobs, and faders, which you can use for music production. In fact, if you buy one of excellent quality, it may come with a Midi keyboard and guitar.
  • It is faster and easier to use than a mouse. Your mouse may look easier and faster than a handheld and manually operated Midi controller. However, with just a trial, you will see the sweetness of the midi controller in how you can mix and hear your sounds as you mix it.
  • You will enjoy the portability of the midi controller. The portability makes it light, and this allows for mobility. It is also very affordable. This means as a beginner, you won’t need to save too much to afford it. It also means it’s safe to travel with as it won’t attract unnecessary attention to itself.

The Cons of A Midi Controller

  • Without a computer, your midi controller is practically useless. This is because, without the computer, you won’t be able to produce or hear any audible sound since it has no speaker or even an audio output.
  • The Midi controllers can’t be used to produce or note melody. It is unable to make any audible sound by itself without an external system. It also has no speaker output and can’t explore different tones of melody.
  • To use a Midi controller, you will need to have some technical knowledge about it. This will help you to know which cables go where. You will also need the technical know-how to know the right buttons, pads, and knobs to press to get your desired sound.

What is a keyboard?

MIDI Controller vs Keyboard: Choose What's Best for You!The keyboard is a musical instrument played by pressing the fingers on the parallel horizontal keys to produce different note sounds. The keys usually consist of longer, larger, shorter band smaller keys. Unlike the Midi Controller, you usually don’t need additional equipment to make the keyboard work. It will produce sound by itself.

If you are using an electric keyboard, they are more sensitive to your finger touch. An electric keyboard will give sound as soon as your fingers touch the keys. And the sound produced from the keyboards varies with how long or short you press the keys.

The midi keyboards come in different sizes and shapes. There is a small midi keyboard, which has 25 keys, excluding bells and whistles, and there is also a professional midi keyboard with 81 keys, knobs, pads, and slides. Everything you need to produce melodious music.

What can you use it for?

  1. Learn How To Play: The Keyboard is a versatile and fantastic tool. If you want to practice as a beginner, you can use the keyboard to learn how to play a real piano like a pro. The keyboard can also be used with a headphone; this is ideal if you want to focus or concentrate on the sound played without any interfering sound.
  2. Live Performances: You can also use the keyboard as an expert for live performances. With the Nord stage 3 compact 73 key digital piano, for instance, you can enjoy the new filter effect as well as an enhanced delay effect.
  3. Use as a Controller: The Keyboard can also double as a controller. It has a USB port that you can easily connect to your computer for your music production.

Pros & Cons

Pros of a Midi Keyboard

  • Your keyboard can be a source of inspiration to you. Seeing a live and physical keyboard can inspire you to practice and hone your keyboard skills. It can also increase your desire to produce your own music, especially if you have a professional keyboard with all the 81 keys and drum pads, and other features.
  • With a mini-physical keyboard like the Akai Professional MPK mini, you can always give life to your ideas promptly and effortlessly. You can play the song you hear in your head and listen to the sound with your ears. You don’t have to wait until you input all your notes and press play before hearing your sounds. It makes music production easy and fast.
  • A Midi keyboard is portable. It helps you to roll on the keys and make some melodious sounds just because you love music. With the Akai Professional MPK mini keyboard, you can travel with your keyboard.
  • Besides, there is absolutely no need for external equipment to produce music with a keyboard. It comes with in-built sounds and even speakers.

Cons of a Midi Keyboard

  • Great keyboards are not cheap. If you buy an inexpensive keyboard, it will limit you in a lot of ways. As beautiful as a midi keyboard is, you can only get all the full benefits if you buy a professional midi keyboard. Of course, this is not cheap at all. So, to get the full benefits of your midi keyboard, you will have to budget for quality and probably expensive keyboard.
  • Besides, without a quality keyboard, your keyboard may not come with the necessary drum pads, knobs that are necessary for sound production. This means you may not be able to produce any music. In fact, with the limitation of the keys, you may be unable to express yourself fully.
  • Midi keyboards may be portable, but when compared with midi controllers, midi keyboards are not as mobile as you think. This means you can’t always travel with it.

What to choose?

At this point, if you are still undecided on which one to go for or which will better suit your needs, then the following can help with your consideration.

What is your main interest? In deciding your main interest, you have to decide what you want to do and answer the following questions:

  • Are you just a beginner, and would you love to learn how to play the piano?
  • Do you want to go into music production?
  • Are you an expert already, but would you love to include a DJ work?
  • How often will you be using your equipment?
  • How much is your budget?

A sincere answer to these questions will guide you to know the variables to buy right now or the ones to buy later. To make a well-informed decision, you may need to check out a midi controller and a midi keyboard. You can then choose whichever one that fits your suits your purpose and style.

Can you use a MIDI controller like a keyboard and vice versa?

MIDI Controller vs Keyboard: Choose What's Best for You!Midi controller can be used as a keyboard provided it comes with pads. You would also still need an external system to listen to and enjoy the sounds produced by your midi controller.

Your midi keyboard can also be used as a midi controller as most mid-range or full professional keyboards comes with all the accessories, such as slides, drum pads, and knobs that would make the keyboard easily pass for a controller.

Final thoughts

Whether you are just a beginner or a professional music producer, you would need either the midi controller or the midi keyboard. However, as a beginner, it is advised that you get the midi keyboard. This will help you practice more and hone your skills. It could also inspire you to produce more music. What’s more, with a keyboard, you have the chance to make mistakes and correct yourself again and again.

However, if you would love to go into live performances or mix music as a DJ, your best bet is the midi controller. It allows you to integrate and produce different sounds and synchronize them into one beautiful sound with your midi controller. Also, you can easily travel with your controller.

When you compare the MIDI controller vs keyboard, you will discover they are both essential and sound instruments. Your decision on which to go for is dependent on your needs, what you want to use it for, and of course, your budget.

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