If you produce electronic music, it is by far preferable to use a MIDI keyboard to record music rather than enter it into your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) manually with a mouse. To help you choose the right one, here are our top picks for best MIDI keyboard for beginners.
Quick Glance: The Best MIDI Keyboard Controller for Beginners
For anyone looking to buy an entry-level MIDI keyboard for music production, this model from Akai could be worth considering. It is an extremely affordable option that still manages to pack in all the features you need to get started.
We like how it’s compact and portable. This makes it a practical solution if you need something to carry with you to a studio but also be able to take it back home to work there too.
Some of the useful features we appreciate include the octave up and down buttons and the four programmable memory banks designed for instant recall of mapping.
This keyboard comes with MPC production software as part of the package – but if you prefer to use another DAW, like FL Studio, Garage Band, Logic etc., it’s compatible with all the most popular ones.
On the downside, some people might not like the feel of the key action. This is partly a matter of personal preference, but some might find the keys feel a little unresponsive.
Also, bear in mind that this is not a high-end controller – it is a budget-friendly option, so you shouldn’t expect top-of-the-range quality, and unless you treat it gently, you might only get a few years’ use out of it.
However, despite these minor negatives, this is a keyboard we like a lot. It does everything a beginner will need, and at this price point, you can hardly go wrong. If you are looking for something simple, affordable and reliable, this could be a smart pick.
Affordable price – great entry-level option
Compact and portable – easy to take it wherever you need to go
Octave up and down buttons – to easily change the range of the keyboard
4 programmable memory banks – for instant recall of mapping etc.
Includes MPC software – but works with most other popular DAWs too
Key action uncomfortable – some people might not like the feel
Not a high-quality controller – won’t last forever
If you like the sound of the Akai machine we just looked at above but want something with a little more functionality, this model from the same company could be the perfect alternative.
Although it costs a little more, the price difference is not huge, and this model packs in plenty of useful extras.
We like the eight back-lit pads – and we appreciate their large size that makes them easy to hit while you are playing. It also includes eight assignable knobs, giving you even more flexibility and versatility over the sounds you create.
Another positive is the small and compact design that makes this an ideal keyboard if you value mobility – it’s small enough for you to take it with you wherever you go.
As with the previous model we looked at, this keyboard also comes with a software package to allow you to get started, even if you don’t already have production software on your computer.
Having said that, installation is a real pain and seems to be much more complicated than it needs to be. This is something that might put beginners off a little.
There is also something of a learning curve you’ll need to go through when working out how to use it – but when it’s all installed and you know what you’re doing, it’s a fun controller to use for playing around and creating original music.
All in all, a good option for beginners who want a bit of extra functionality and who don’t mind spending a bit of time learning how to use their new instrument. If that sounds like you, this MIDI keyboard could be a winner.
8 back-lit pads – good size and easy to activate
8 assignable knobs – giving you plenty of extra flexibility
MPC Beats software included – if you don’t have anything else to use
Compact size – convenient and practical
Sustain pedal input – for greater control over how you play
Software and driver installation complicated – awkward for beginners
Learning curve when you start – need to master all the different functions
Here is another MIDI keyboard that’s ideal for beginners. This one boasts 49 full-sized keys, making it feel more like playing on a real piano. The keys also feature velocity sensitivity, which means they pick up how hard you hit each note, just like on the real thing.
We appreciate the four assignable knobs and the four assignable buttons. This setup will give you full control over the music you are playing and the style you want to play.
For those who like to produce more original sounds, the included Xpand!2 software pack will also be of interest. This allows you to choose from over 2,000 studio-grade sounds, so you’ll be able to produce music that truly expresses your artistic personality.
We also like the pitch and modulation wheels that give you even more flexibility over the sounds you play.
However, despite all these advantages, there are a couple of disadvantages to mention, too. The resistance of the keys may be a little stiff for some, and they can make it hard to play softer notes, even after adjusting the sensitivity level.
Also, the sensitivity of the pads is a little off – even with adjustment – and they can sometimes give a double-tap.
However, despite these minor drawbacks, for the price, this is a keyboard most people will be able to learn to work with. If you don’t mind putting up with a couple of small issues, this instrument could be a great way to develop your music production skills.
49 full-size keys – feels more like playing a real piano
Velocity sensitivity – keys react to how hard you press them
4 assignable knobs and 4 buttons – for convenient control over your music
Includes Xpand!2 – with over 2000 different studio-grade sounds to play with
Pitch and modulation wheels – to help unlock new levels of creativity
Sensitivity of pads a little off – can give a double-tap sometimes
Key resistance too high – makes it hard to play softer notes
If you’re interested in the features and functionality of the Alesis model above but prefer something smaller and more compact, this version from the same company could be a smart pick.
Its size makes it convenient to carry around, so if you need something you can slip in your bag, this model fits the bill.
Although it’s small, it still boasts four drum pads and four assignable knobs. The drum pads are velocity-sensitive too, meaning they react to how hard you hit them.
Along with these, it also boasts all the most important controls you would expect from any decent MIDI keyboard, including modulation, octave control, pitch bend and sustain – giving you plenty of flexibility and control over the music you play.
It’s simple to use, too, with plug-and-play capability. However, having said that, it comes with a software package that is a little more complicated to install and use, a process that some people might not enjoy going through.
Also, it has a slightly cheap feel to it – although, for something that sells at this price point, most people will still be happy with it considering everything it is capable of.
In sum, another great option for beginners looking for a simple and affordable MIDI keyboard that will allow them to learn the basics. If that’s what you need, this is an option that should be on your radar.
Compact and portable design – ideal if you don’t want a larger instrument
Velocity-sensitive drum pads – react to how hard you hit them
4 assignable knobs – to give you more control over the sounds you produce
Includes all the most important features – like modulation, octave adjust and more
Plug-and-play – no need to worry about complicated installation processes
Keys feel a little cheap – but acceptable for an inexpensive product like this
Included software complicated to install – but works well when you figure it out
For anyone looking for the most basic and inexpensive MIDI keyboard that will allow them to try their hand at music production, this could be just the thing. It is among the most budget-friendly options available, putting it within the reach of just about anyone.
The small and compact size makes it convenient to transport, and its small footprint means it won’t take up much space in your home studio.
This model packs in only the most essential basic features, making it a great option if you only want to learn the basics. However, it still offers octave adjust and transpose, giving you some simple parameters to experiment with.
There is also a plug where you can attach a sustain pedal, giving you the option of adding another layer to your compositions.
The advantage of this keyboard is in its simplicity, but at the same time, for some, this will be a disadvantage. While it’s great for learning on, as soon as you want to progress to the next level, you will need to upgrade to something that offers more functionality.
This also means that if you are a more advanced musician – or you aspire to become one – this is not an instrument that will allow you to grow and develop.
To summarize, a solid pick for anyone who just wants the basics and nothing more at the lowest possible price – but for anyone who hoping for a bit more, you’d be better off saving up and spending extra on something more advanced.
Super-affordable option – very low price for a MIDI keyboard
Compact and portable – won’t take up much space in your home studio
Includes useful features – like octave adjust and transpose
Extremely simple – a keyboard with no complicated extras
Sustain plug – allows you to attach a sustain pedal
Limited functionality – some people might prefer more options and possibilities
For beginners only – you will want to upgrade as you become more advanced
Here’s another option aimed at those who want just the basics and no more. As a 32-key model, it has a small footprint, making it a great pick for smaller home studios, and it’s also suitable if mobility is important to you.
One feature most people will appreciate is its customizable key response, which allows you to set it up to play the way you prefer.
We also like the way it is stripped down to just the most basic functions, meaning you can use it to play music but there’s nothing in there that’s going to confuse you or make things unnecessarily complicated. This makes it perfect for novice music producers.
The keyboard also comes with a premium software package, meaning you won’t need to spend extra money buying something to run it on.
However, despite the fact that it is advertised as ‘plug-and-play’, this is slightly misleading – you won’t be able to simply connect it to your laptop or phone and start playing music because the setup is a bit more complicated than this.
Also, the keys don’t have the most natural feel, and some people will complain that they aren’t tactile enough.
However, despite these minor issues, if you just need a simple MIDI keyboard without any frills that you aren’t likely to use, this could be an option worth checking out, especially at this kind of price. Another recommended pick.
Small footprint – ideal when space is limited or if you need to carry it with you
Customizable key response – allows you to set it up the way you prefer
Simple design – easy to use with nothing that will confuse you
Includes premium music production software – no need to pay extra
Sustain button – for more control over your sound
Keys don’t feel natural – not a tactile feeling when you press them
Not truly plug-and-play – despite what is advertised
If you’re looking for a compact MIDI keyboard at the lower end of the price range that packs in the maximum number of features for something in its category, this is a model that should interest you.
At the top left of the keyboard, you’ll find pitch and modulation strips, making it easy to adjust these important parameters. You’ll also find 16 velocity-sensitive pads and a further eight rotary dials that give you plenty of control over the music you produce.
Another inclusion we appreciate is the fixed chord mode that allows you to assign chords and then play them with one finger.
Yet despite these features and many more, this keyboard is extremely lightweight and compact. It’s easy to slip into a backpack and take wherever you go, making it perfect for musicians on the move.
However, the flip side of this is that it seems a little flimsy, and with the size of the keys, you may think it feels more like a toy than a real instrument – although this is just the impression it gives since it is still a powerful tool.
Also, one minor design flaw is that often, you need to use two hands to switch between modes or use functions – which means you can’t do it while playing. This could be a deal-breaker for some.
Overall, a great package for the price. This keyboard is specifically designed for Ableton Live, so if you’re an Ableton user and are looking for something that works well with your preferred DAW, this compact but impressive model could be ideal.
Pitch and modulation strips – makes it easy to adjust these parameters
Designed for Ableton Live – works well with this powerful DAW
Lots of features – despite its size and price
Includes 16 pads and 8 knobs – for more control over your music
Compact 25 mini-key controller – perfect for musicians on the go
Often need to use two hands to navigate – so can’t play at the same time
This is a MIDI keyboard that’s aimed at musicians who prefer full-sized keys and who are not too bothered about having lots of extra functions they are unlikely to use. It’s a well-built keyboard that’s made to do the basics without all the bells and whistles.
No matter which DAW you prefer to work with, this keyboard is almost certain to be compatible. This is great for beginners since you might not have found the perfect DAW for you and may still be in the experimental stage.
We like the way the keyboard offers adjustable velocity curves, allowing you to choose the level of sensitivity you prefer, and another plus is the Nektar DAW integration that allows you to control the functions without needing to touch your mouse.
Something some people might not like is the heavily weighted keys. They’re fine for playing slower, methodical music – but if you need to move your fingers quickly, the resistance might be too strong.
Also, the features offered on this keyboard are limited – this may be an advantage to those who prefer to keep things simple, but if you want more options, there are probably better keyboards to consider.
In short, this is a reliable model for those who need a keyboard with full-sized keys but with no fancy extras – but if you want more functionality, you might prefer to look elsewhere.
49 full-size keys – for more of an authentic feel
Adjustable velocity curves – to set it up the best way for your style
Compatible with all major DAWs – can use with whichever software you prefer
Nektar DAW integration – lets you control functions without using a mouse
Solid build quality – excellent for something at this price point
Heavily weighted keys – makes it harder to play with faster keystrokes
Limited features – but great if you want to keep it simple
This MIDI controller from well-known brand Arturia has been designed with the novice in mind, making it an ideal pick for those taking their first steps into the world of music production.
It boasts plenty of functions for you to play around with as you learn. There are 16 assignable encoders to allow you to control your DAW from the keyboard, and the two banks of eight pads give you plenty of scope for creativity.
That said, the pads may be a little stiff for some – you have to hit them quite hard to make them work. Also, it can be a little complicated to get it running with some software packages, although it is compatible with most.
This is a keyboard that will appeal to anyone who wants to have a go at music production and who needs a keyboard to help. If that sounds like you, this could be an option to consider.
Designed for beginners – an ideal option for those just starting out
Compact and portable – small footprint also suitable for small home studios
16 assignable encoders – to control your DAW more easily from the keyboard
2 banks of 8 pads – giving you plenty of scope for creativity
2 capacitive touch sensors – for controlling pitch bend and modulation
Stiff drum pads – some people might not like how hard you need to hit them
Can be some issues with software – depending on which DAW you use
If you want an instrument that allows you to play out loud but that can also be used as a MIDI keyboard, this one could be a great option.
The touch-sensitive keys replicate the feel of a true piano, and since it is full size, you can play any kind of music on it. It’s great for learning on, too, since it boasts a teaching mode.
Despite its size, it’s also relatively portable, and thanks to its respectable battery life, you can play it anywhere you go.
On the downside, when used as a MIDI keyboard, the velocity data is not recorded, which could be an issue for some. Also, the volume adjust makes a loud beep, something we find irritating and unnecessary.
A solid pick if you are looking for a regular keyboard that can also be used as a MIDI controller. If that’s what you need, this one could be a smart choice.
Touch-sensitive keys – react to how hard you press them
Good battery life – can give you 12 hours on a single charge
Teaching mode – great to learn to play on
Versatile – can be played as a regular keyboard or using MIDI
Full-size – allows you to play any kind of music
Velocity data not sent via MIDI – doesn’t record how hard you press the key
As you can see, there are plenty of great options on the market to suit a range of styles and budgets. If you are looking for a MIDI keyboard for beginners but are having trouble choosing, any of the models in our review would be a great place to start your search.