Do You Need A MIDI Keyboard To Produce Music?

Using a MIDI keyboard to produce music? In this article we will learn more about MIDI controller. Don't skip it!

by Derrick Reeves | Updated: August 13, 2021

A lot of new producers want to start making music but they don't know where to begin. They have a computer and some software, which is great, but they're not sure what else they need. 

MIDI keyboards can be expensive and there's no guarantee that you'll actually use them once you buy them. Do I really need this? Is it worth the money? There are so many questions! 

The short answer is No, you do not need a MIDI Keyboard to produce music, but it will give you a level of control over your music that is difficult to achieve with just a mouse and keyboard. 

You only really need it if you are using any type of synthesizer or virtual instrument, and you can't use any other type of input besides MIDI messages. 

To understand more about this, I made the guide below that will help answer any questions that you may have about what a MIDI controller does for your home studio setup and whether or not you really need one in order to make music on your own terms.  

What Is A MIDI Keyboard Controller? 

A MIDI keyboard controller is a standard keyboard that converts the written input into MIDI messages that can be read by a variety of sound modules. 

MIDI Keyboard controllers are used to trigger samples or synthesizers. These keyboards have the ability to send specific instructions with each note-on message, giving you different options like pitch bend, velocity control, and more.  

If you plan on using any other sounds besides your own then an external controller is definitely needed.  

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 - 25 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller

Why Do You Need One? 

The main reason that you would need a MIDI keyboard controller is to control external sounds in your setup. 

You may not think this is necessary because most of the time, software tends to have all of the features that you really need for music production and playing live on stage.  

They are reliable as they don't rely on any other hardware besides a laptop or desktop. 

However, there are times when you need more control over your sounds than what is offered by a software controller like the DAW (digital audio workstation).  

This includes playing live with virtual instruments and external hardware synths where it's impossible to use any other type of input besides MIDI messages.  

Another reason that people often need a MIDI keyboard controller is to play other instruments.  

If you are playing any type of instrument, it may be necessary for you to have the ability to control your sound with an external device like a synth or another module in order to produce better quality sounds and more variety. 

This also applies if you want physical expression when performing live on stage. 

Why Do You Need One MIDI Controller

How To Choose The Right One For Your Needs  

There are several different types of MIDI keyboards, so in order for your home studio setup to work properly and with ease, it's important that you find the right one! 

There are a few things to consider when picking out the right MIDI keyboard controller. 

The first thing to consider is the type of sound module that you are using and whether or not it can be controlled by MIDI messages. 

Another consideration is how often will you need to use the MIDI keyboard and how much do you want to spend. 

If the MIDI keyboard will only be used for a few hours each week, then buying an expensive one is not necessary but if it's going to be used daily then investing in something more reliable with better features may be worth the extra money. 

The last consideration should always go back to the type of sound module that you are using. 

If the MIDI keyboard controller is being used for a synthesizer or virtual instrument then it's important to make sure that there isn't any latency in performance when switching sounds and tweaking parameters. 

It should also have enough keys so as not to limit your creativity during live performances, especially if you plan on playing more than one instrument. 

How To Choose The Right MIDI For Your Needs  

In order to make a decision on whether or not you really need a MIDI keyboard controller, it's best to ask yourself the following questions:  

  • Is your keyboard limited?  
  • Do you want/need better sound quality?  
  • Do you plan on playing live with other instruments and virtual sounds like synths that cannot be controlled by the computer? 

If you answered yes to any of these questions then an MIDI keyboard controller is a must. 

How Much A MIDI Controller Cost? 

MIDI controllers costing anywhere from $100-$1000 for a full setup. You should take into consideration how much money is saved over time by not purchasing individual instruments and software as well. 

If you are on a budget then it may be better to buy one or two external devices separately instead of buying an entire MIDI controller. 

In the end, it all comes down to what you need and how often that feature will be used. It's important to know your personal preference in order for a MIDI controller or an external device with specific features to work out well for you! 

Worlde Panda MINI Portable 25 Keys USB Keyboard MIDI Controller

Can You Make Music without a MIDI Keyboard? 

It is possible to make music without a MIDI keyboard controller.  

However, it may not be the best idea for a complete home studio setup with any type of modular synth or synthesizer because there are no controllers that can directly work this way on their own. 

You can also program and use soft synths (virtual instruments) if they have specific features like modulation and velocity-sensitive triggering as well as filters with cutoffs and envelopes.  

There will likely be more limitations than you would find with a MIDI keyboard controller though so it depends on what is most important to you in your setup. 

The Pros and Cons Of Using a MIDI Keyboard  

MIDI keyboards are great for people who want to play an external device as well as having control over the sound from a software controller like the DAW.  

It can be helpful when performing live on stage because it will allow artists able to make adjustments in real-time by changing various parameters.  

A MIDI keyboard is also good for when you want to make edits on the fly while recording or performing. It gives you more options of what control to use over your sound and ensures that it sounds great every time.  

AKAI Professional MPK Mini Play – USB MIDI Keyboard Controller

MIDI keyboards vary in pricing and can be costly, depending on the type and number of features that are added to your setup.  

However, if you plan to use an external device frequently then it may also save money in the long run due to software licenses or hardware instruments being purchased separately.  

Additionally, some people might find a MIDI keyboard controller too bulky or uncomfortable to use due to the way it is set up. 

Conclusion 

With all of this information, it should now be clear what a MIDI controller is and it role in producing music.  

To sum up, it's not necessary to buy an MIDI keyboard in order for your home studio setup to work properly.  

However, if the DAW does not offer the features that are needed then a MIDI keyboard is very useful in giving more control over the sound quality of your instrument.  

I hope my answer will help you make an informed decision for your home studio setup. Now the next step is your! 

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