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If you have a home recording studio, you might wonder if you need a MIDI controller.
While this isn’t always necessary, it can be highly beneficial to you as a musician or producer.
What’s a MIDI controller?
It’s a device that creates and sends data to another device that’s connected to it so that you can do more tasks.
A MIDI controller can do many things to make your sound production process much better and more enjoyable.
These include allowing you to play notes softer or louder, depending on your preferences, as well as using a keyboard to schedule instrument sounds.
Let’s take a look at the best MIDI controllers on the market to see what all the hype is about.
Korg 25-Key Midi Controller (NANOKEY2BK)
This NanoKey MIDI controller is part of Korg’s Nano series and it takes things up a notch from previous models that were released by the company.
You can get a new Korg MIDI Controller from Amazon for just under $55. With all its great features, it’s really the best midi controller to consider if you want to purchase one for your home studio.
The price tag also makes it great if you’re keen on entering the world of MIDI controllers without wanting to spend a lot of money.
Novation Launchkey 49 USB Keyboard Controller for Ableton Live
Before we go ahead and look at the Novation Midi Controller, we need to touch on what Ableton Live software is all about.
So, Ableton Live is a software digital audio workstation and music sequencer that can be used on Windows and Mac.
What makes it different from other software sequencers is that it’s been created for live performances in addition to being used in the studio to record, master, mix, and compose.
This Novation MIDI Controller is said to be the easy-to-use one released by the company and it makes use of Ableton Live – you get Ableton Live Lite included with it!
Let’s take a look at its features in a bit more detail.
This Novation MIDI Controller costs $169.99, which is a reasonable price for all the benefits you get from it.
It even has some frills included, making it great for the more serious musician.
M Audio Oxygen 49 IV
Another MIDI controller that boasts some nice extra features, at its core the M Audio Oxygen 49 IV has all the basics that you want in this type of music tool sorted.
This MIDI Controller costs under $200, so it’s reasonably priced and has what you need. The inclusion of Ableton Live Lite is a nice extra touch that makes it even more appealing.
M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV
One of the best things about this MIDI controller is that your music production will be smoother with it.
Let’s take a look at some of its features and benefits that make this happen.
The M-Audio MIDI Controller costs just under $130. If you consider everything you get, it’s really a bargain.
While it might not have a lot of extra features, it is a solid MIDI controller that can benefit you in your home studio.
The Alesis V25 is a MIDI Controller that is all about catering to your comfort levels so you can find what suits you best. Let’s take a look at all the features it has.
This MIDI controller costs $89.00, so it’s really budget-friendly, plus the software you get with it is a game-changer when it comes to your music production.
It’s definitely a must if you’re building a home recording studio.
MIDI Controllers FAQ
What can you do with a MIDI controller?
A MIDI controller can be very useful to you if you create music, whether on an amateur or professional level.
It’s usually known for its ability to play musical instruments and trigger musical sounds, but a MIDI controller has many other uses.
These include controlling devices that are compatible with MIDI, such as guitar effects devices, digital audio mixers, and even stage lights during a performance.
Now, you might wonder if having a MIDI controller in your home studio is really worth it. The answer to that depends on what you need to do.
If you do all of your own recording and you don’t need to sequence keyboard parts or drum parts, then you might be okay without buying one.
That said, the thing is that many people who make and record music will need to be able to make use of keyboards, and in this case a MIDI controller can be useful.
We’ve mentioned what MIDI controllers can do, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
One of the best things about MIDI controllers is that they enable you to edit your music after it’s been recorded.
So, if you make a mistake when recording yourself playing guitar, for instance, you can use a MIDI controller to change the mistake and even delete it without having to re-record the performance.
Now, here’s where things get even better. If you realize you’d prefer to have used a piano sound instead of a guitar sound, you don’t have to worry because having a MIDI controller means you can reassign the music notes to a completely different instrument, giving you much greater control over what you’re doing.
How does a MIDI controller work?
If you have a MIDI controller, you should also have a keyboard that you can hook it up to, as Music Radar reports.
This might sound strange if you don’t want to use a keyboard in your music production, but it can really make a difference in the music you’ll be able to create.
A MIDI keyboard means that you’ll have a more musical experience because you’ll be able to make use of the MIDI keyboard keys, which are velocity sensitive.
This means that you can play certain notes softer or louder, thus enriching your overall sound quality.
Right, now that we’ve mentioned that, let’s look at how MIDI controllers actually work. A MIDI controller looks like a MIDI synthesizer but it doesn’t release sound on its own.
It has to generate data that’s been translated by a computer. You can find MIDI controllers that are basically keyboards.
These have faders and knobs so that you can change the sound of instruments to your liking.
To get your MIDI controller set up, you’ll need sequencing software that basically copies tools and functions of a recording studio on your home computer, as How Stuff Works explains.
Once you have sequencing software, you can connect your MIDI controller to your computer in a really easy way: simply use a five-pin MIDI DIN connector.
This is attached to the joystick port of your computer’s sound card. Another way to get connected is to use a MIDI USB.
Some people want to connect more than one MIDI device to their computer, and this requires something a bit more complex.
You’ll need a multi-port MIDI interface in order to achieve that.
Can MIDI keyboards play without a computer?
Earlier we touched on the fact that a MIDI controller on its own won’t produce any sound.
So, although you can use a MIDI keyboard without connecting it to your computer, that doesn’t mean it can just work on its own.
It will need to be connected to some other device.
What are your options?
If you’re not using your computer, you can connect your MIDI keyboard to a tone generator, otherwise known as a synthesizer.
This is done with the use of a MIDI Sound Module that has a USB port so that you can easily hook up your keyboard.
There’s also a MIDI Input that can be used instead of a USB port.
Finally, you’ll be able to use the audio output so that you can link up your speakers (or headphones, if that’s what you prefer), as Make That Beat explains.
Can I use a MIDI controller as a keyboard?
Maybe you’re not concerned with connecting your MIDI controller to a keyboard – maybe you want to use it as a keyboard.
Is this possible?
Again, the issue comes down to the fact that a MIDI controller can’t be used on its own simply because it doesn’t produce a sound.
It doesn’t have its own sound system. It’s basically just a controller, so it has to be hooked up to an external source that produces sound.
However, you can use a MIDI keyboard as a piano, and it’s worth mentioning here that a MIDI keyboard is not the same thing as a MIDI controller.
Basically, a MIDI keyboard can be similar to an electric keyboard, or it can be a synthesizer. The latter is more expensive.
It will have faders and knobs, and they’ll have to make use of external speakers.
People sometimes mistake a MIDI controller for a MIDI keyboard but a controller won’t make its own sound because you use it as just one device in music production.
On the other hand, a keyboard MIDI plugs into your PC and can be used to produce music.
Therefore, the biggest difference between a MIDI controller and MIDI keyboard is that a MIDI controller can’t be used on its own, but a MIDI keyboard can.
You can even learn to play the piano on a MIDI keyboard, even though it might not be ideal because you’re not getting the authentic experience of playing.
If this sounds appealing to you, then a MIDI keyboard can be a valuable asset in your home recording studio.
And, in case you’re wondering, how a MIDI keyboard works is that you press its keys and it sends a MIDI signal to the device that it’s plugged into.
Do all MIDI controllers have speakers?
A MIDI controller doesn’t have speakers. By its design, a MIDI controller can’t produce any sounds so it won’t have in-built speakers.
You’ll have to use it with another device, such as a computer, so that you can create and listen to sounds.
That’s why although you can use a MIDI controller without your computer, this will limit you in terms of what you can do.
If you want something that’s more of an “all in one” product with which you can produce sounds, then a digital piano or best producing keyboards are probably a better idea.
This is because they will have sounds built in as well as speakers.
As can be seen in this article, there are many good reasons why you should buy a MIDI controller if you record music, whether on an amateur or professional level.
As can be seen in this buying guide, many MIDI controllers come with some standard features, such as having keys and pads, but it’s how they’re presented that makes all the difference.
For example, if you want to change the sensitivity of the pads on a MIDI controller, then a controller such as the Alesis V25 will be a good choice.
On the other hand, if you like the idea of having lots of software included with your MIDI controller, a product such as the M-Audio Oxygen 25 IV probably sounds very appealing.
Before you go ahead and buy a MIDI controller, it’s worth reading our buying guide and looking for those specific features that will enhance your music production.
Ultimately, that’s what a MIDI controller is supposed to do.
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