Good beginner MIDI controller?
October 17, 2012 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Good beginner keyboard/MIDI controller for Ableton newbie making music in spare time? (primarily EDM, but other genres as well)

I decided to pick up Ableton Live as a hobby, and my computer keyboard has been treating me well up til now, but I'm thinking it might be time to upgrade to a dedicated MIDI controller. Was wondering what you guys might think would be good for a hobbyist like myself?

No defined budget, no space constraints, just looking for what you guys might consider to be a good general starter controller. If you've got suggestions for both a great compact, and a great full-size, that would be incredibly helpful. I looked at the Akai Pro MPK mini which seemed nice, and the M-Audio ones seemed okay too, but I'm not really sure what to look for. There are so many well-rated models in every size/price category it really is overwhelming.

As far as genre, I've been primarily just toying around with remixing, and EDM music, but I also experiment with guitars and etc, so anything "multipurpose" would be great. Thanks!

Looked at previous topics, but they tended to be specific (,
posted by petah to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've got an Akai LPK25, and it gets far more use than my full-size keyboards.

If you are making EDM, something like a Launchpad or APC40 will probably be at least as useful as a keyboard. If you actually play the keyboard, then a full size keyboard-synthesizer will probably be a better value. I paid $500 for my Korg Z1, which is about what you would pay for a high-end 61-key controller. And the Z1 has a lot of very interesting synth engines built in.

The older (pre-Motif) Yamaha 76 keyboards are also often great values (EX5, SY99, etc.) and have excellent keybeds.

Forget the reviews. All that matters is how the keyboard feels to you. Craigslist is your friend. Don't ignore all the great used gear out there.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:53 PM on October 17, 2012

Not the Alesis QX keyboards because they are a pain in the ass to configure and the display constantly flashes by design.
Their simpler cheaper Q models are OK, but if you want a complicated key controller with lots of knobs and pads go for another brand.

The Novation Launchpad is fun. I use it without their automap software as it's irritating. Ableton works well with it directly.
posted by w0mbat at 5:15 PM on October 17, 2012

I really like the Akai MPK series for the combination of MPC-style pads, decent synth-style keys, and various assignable knobs and whatnot. Edit: it also has things you don't normally see in a midi controller such as an arpeggiator and a lot of flexibility with the pads.
posted by destructive cactus at 5:58 PM on October 17, 2012

I have a Novation Impulse 61 -- you can get the 49 if you want something smaller. It's better for beginners because it integrates automagically with Live (and other DAWs, but works fantastic with Live). They run ~$300.
posted by spiderskull at 11:59 PM on October 17, 2012

Maybe the 25-key Novation Impulse controller/keyboard? Just enough to force you to learn MIDI learn/settings, but not completely over-the-top.
posted by kuanes at 4:20 AM on October 18, 2012

I recently got an Akai MPK mini, I think it's great for the keys and portability, but I do not like the pads at all and it has no pitch bend which drives me nuts. Of the other smallish keyboard controllers, I'd probably suggest an M-audio Axiom 25 or an MPK 25. My one issue the MPK 25 is the pads cannot be mapped to CC messages and can only send notes (this only becomes a problem if you want to map momentary effects in Ableton, maybe this has changed). Can't go wrong with either of these, in my experience, Axiom works a little better with Ableton, while the Akai MPK25 keys feel better and it generally feels more solid.

Aaand, while it doesnt have keys, the Akai APC 40 really teaches you to use all of Ableton and it lets you work without even touching your keyboard (Launchpad or APC20 is nice too, smaller, but they dont have the bank of sends and the sweet automapped bank of LED knobs).

Whatever you choose, search the Ableton forums for the controller and see how people use it and/or issues they have.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 7:41 AM on October 18, 2012

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