MIDI keyboard is a piano-style electronic musical keyboard, essential for playing software synths in the studio or on the stage. It comes with many features like buttons, wheels, and sliders that send commands over a USB to other musical devices that are connected with the same MIDI protocol.
In other words, it is a communication protocol.
It sends the command to a receiving device, like a computer running digital audio workstation (DAW) or a digital piano, that is capable of creating sound.
This process gives an awesome control over the music.
Read more: Top 15+ Best Cheap Midi Keyboard Controllers
Besides, if you have a VST plugin with the MIDI keyboard, you can turn its commands into any instrument you want. These plugins are capable of emulating instruments and effects that allow you to generate sound like it was created by a synthesizer (piano or saxophone) for a fraction of a price. You can create entire music from scratch without touching the actual instrument at all.
If you are also interested in the MIDI keyboard and want to start making some music, we recommend a 25 key MIDI keyboard.
It is best for new musicians on a budget.
However, with so many choices available, for a beginner, it is tough to determine which is the best 25 key MIDI keyboard. If you are in this baffling situation also, below are the 6 things you need to consider to figure out which one would fit you the best.
DAW Integration Is Essential
A MIDI keyboard with DAW integration means you have a virtual studio right at your fingertips.
This integration is mostly used for recording, editing, and producing audio files. You have to configure the DAW with the keyboard by installing the driver and the required software first.
This digital audio workstation (DAW) comes in a variety of configurations.
As a beginner, there is no need to invest in a highly complex standalone unit. Since DAW can be integrated from a single software program on a laptop also.
With a 25 key MIDI keyboard, you generally install it on your computer; it then lets you export your project into an audio track.
In case the free software program isn’t available with the keyboard, you can evaluate and pick the best DAW for your needs. For example, Bitwig Studio is one of the best DAW programs, launched in 2014. It is inspired by Ableton (DAW integration software). but the thing that makes Bitwig special is it has pioneered its own creative workflows and composition approaches.
If you are just starting out with a MIDI keyboard, you can trust it. Its features give you plenty of room to grow.
Personally, for DAW integration, we recommend Novation Launchkey 25-Key Keyboard Controller. It is specifically designed for DAW integration software ‘Ableton Live’. But its feature lets you use and control other major software too.
With Ableton Live, you can combine your clips in any order, extend your sound library, convert your audio clips into different modes, and experiment with limitless combinations. All in all, with this DAW integration software, you can perform at a higher level.
You Need Pitch & Modulation Controls
MIDI keyboards come with the central pitch and modulation controls.
Both of these features are highly important when it comes to creating music.
The pitch controller is used to raise and lower the pitch of the sound. It is also often described as ‘Pitch Shifter’ or ‘Pitch Bender’. A typical DJ plays with this feature a lot as it allows him to change the playback speed and increase or decrease the note of the music.
Pitch control is one of the key components for beatmatching as well.
It is a disc jockey technique in which two house records hit at the same time. Without pitch control, it is tough to match their tempo. It gives the tones a good structure and makes them flow together.
On the other hand, the Modulation control feature basically changes a piece of music from one key to another. However, it doesn’t mean this change is accompanied by a change in the key signature. That’s why DJs often use this feature to make their music pieces more interesting.
Some beginners think the modulation control creates its own sound.
This isn’t true at all. It actually controls the parameter and affects the sound through it. It gives you utter control over the pitch, volume, pan, and effect control so that you can add movement, depth, and character to your music.
If you are serious about pitch and modulation control and want to take your skills to the next level through them, we recommend Alesis VI25 25-Key MIDI Keyboard.
It is in a compact size but an advanced keyboard controller that presents pitch and modulation wheels that deliver expressive and creative control over the music.
How Is The Playability & Feel
Never overlook the playability & feel of a MIDI keyboard.
It shouldn’t play & feel like a toy. Especially, these days, there are new standards when it comes to playability and feelings. They are all about getting the most from your sound and adding expressions to your performances.
- Sound Quality…Although the MIDI keyboard doesn’t have its own sound, the sound it is generating through DAW integration software should have a high concentration of higher harmonics. If the keyboard doesn’t have it, it means the sound isn’t clear, clean, and brilliant. Similarly, in case you are into mellow tones, their sound shouldn’t be described as dull, flat, or weak. Instead, they should be sweet, dark, and rich.
- Construction Quality…The best 25 key MIDI keyboard always stands up to the rigors of the road and intense jam sessions. It often has premium price tags also, since it feels more polished and sturdier compared to the other models. Everything, from the body to the feel of the keys, is solid and fulfills many different roles for different musicians.
- Key Action…The key action plays a vital role too when it comes to the playability and feel of the keyboard. It is all about how the keys feel when you press on them. To have the best feel and playability, opt for semi-weighted keys always. Each press gives you resistance and provides a real piano-like feel. In contrast, synth-action keys are lighter and don’t feel great.
A MIDI keyboard with these factors always responds well to your playing dynamics.
It gives great playability and feels professional and brilliant for most applications.
Applications Extend The Capabilities
Does the MIDI keyboard you are planning to opt for support MIDI apps?
The MIDI apps extend the capabilities of your board. They are available in two types – Apps Controlled by MIDI & MIDI Controller Apps.
Both of them make your life easier as a keyboard player and musician. The apps controlled by MIDI are primarily used for receiving MIDI data, whereas the MIDI controller apps let you control other software like DAW (Desktop Audio Workstation).
Professional musicians use a few popular apps to polish their music, such as:
- Wireless Mixer…This app lets you control your keyboard wirelessly. It doesn’t mean you aren’t dependent on the DAW or your computer software; you still need them. It basically emulates a real mixer console and control channel mute, record, and solo buttons. These features reduce cord clutter that often annoys in the music studios.
- Conductr…If you are a big fan of Ableton Live, you can’t live without Conductor. This app is based on a 2×2 grid that runs four different modules simultaneously. The main purpose behind its launch was to control Ableton Live on your iPad in a live situation. It is fully interactive, easy-to-navigate, and 100% mobile-oriented too.
- MIDI Melody…MIDI Melody & Digital Piano is a different kind of app that lets you visualize notes falling as you hit different keystrokes on your 25 key MIDI keyboard. For beginners, this is a great way to learn how to play a MIDI keyboard. It brings all the functionality to their android and easily works with their MDI files.
- Liine Lemur…Some musicians call it a DAW controller app, which is true in a way, however, at its core it is a professional-grade MIDI controller. It extends the capability of your compact 25-key controller on a massive scale. For instance, it lets you build the ultimate custom interface and allow you to script your own tools with the help of its CANVAS object. Therefore, you can work with limitless creativity, particularly in step sequencing.
- MIDI Commander…There is no app like MIDI commander in the market. It gives you the opportunity to customize buttons according to your needs. For that reason, it is one of the most popular apps among professional-level musicians. They customize the buttons according to their needs and control and change the different aspects of their music comfortably.
So, if your keyboard doesn’t come with extra control, but allows you to play with apps, it is still a great keyboard. You can use all these apps and create your own custom controllers to overcome the limitation and create music in any way you desire.
It Should Connect Multiple Devices
We are talking about the MIDI THRU feature.
It is hard to find this feature in a 25-key MIDI keyboard. If it is available in your desired keyboard, buy it straight away.
The MIDI Thru port connects multiple devices at the same time. In most cases, you may never use this port, but knowing how to use it and its benefits can open up a million creative doors for you. In your home studio, you can do ‘Daisy Chaining’ too by connecting all your music-related gear together with one central sequencer.
Mostly, in music production houses, this port is used for a thicker timbre.
It combines the sound through a layering effect.
For example, with the help of MIDI Thru port, 2-3 different MIDI instruments play the same beat or note at the same time.
If your 25 key MIDI keyboard plays only 16 channels, but you have a drum kit sound on another keyboard on channel 10, with the help of MIDI Thru, you can connect both keyboards and play all the sounds together.
You don’t need to disable the sound of the first instrument to hear the sound of second. You can work on both of them simultaneously to make your life easier.
Sadly, it is almost impossible to find this feature in a 25-key model, but fortunately, you can get a ‘MIDI Thru Unit’ or ‘MIDI Thru Splitter’.
This device gives you multiple thru ports as it acts as a master; every instrument in your home can be plugged and synced. There is no need to operate them separately.
Performance Pads Create Beats
Many of today’s keyboards are coming with performance pads.
These pads facilitate in playing drums and trigger loops. For that reason, they are often defined as drum pads also. Musicians often use them for the creation of beats and individual sounds.
The best example we have is the Alesis V25 MIDI Keyboard.
It has 8 MPC-style drum pads with four assignable knobs and buttons. People who are more into practicing drum beats quietly at home can work with it. They are a modern alternative to an acoustic drum kit.
When you hit these rubber on the keyboard, they send the signals to the sound module which translates them into the actual sound. You can adjust their volume, activate the effects, and tweak their parameters to make them more captivating.
In a 25-key keyboard, space is an issue.
So, having 4-8 performance pads on its surface is still a great deal and gives you more control over your music and elevates your workflow big time.
Bear in mind that these performance pads have their own learning curve. They have their own combination of different motions and techniques. You can’t expect to learn this finger drumming immediately even if you are a professional table-drummer.
If you are in the middle of amusement and perplexity, consider these things in order to purchase the best 25 key MIDI keyboard.
They will help you to own a lasting and premium model. It is cogent not to skip any of the above tips as they contribute to a wider extent, especially when it comes to building your skills.
Besides, the whole thing depends very much on your circumstances and specific needs. If you are looking for pitch and modulation control exclusively, get Alesis VI25 25-Key MIDI Keyboard, instead of Alesis V25 MIDI Keyboard which is more famous for its performance pads.