Keyboard Controllers - School Me!

BRISTOL86BRISTOL86 Frets: 1434
edited November 2017 in Studio & Recording
Following on from my ‘electronic music’ thread I think I’ve kind of led myself to believe that what I actually want for my basic needs is a keyboard controller. 

At a basic level what im looking for is something to get started on exploring virtual instruments - for the most part, using it to add piano/keys and drums - and potentially other virtual instruments - to guitar recordings I make. 

Am I right in thinking that if I want to tap out my own drum tracks then one with a few ‘pads’ would be the way forwards? 

For example:

https://www.andertons.co.uk/m-audio-oxygen-49-%284th-generation%29-49-key-midi-controller-black-keyboard-oxygen49iv

I notice you can get standalone pad units, ie

https://www.andertons.co.uk/akai-mpd218-controller-pad-mpd218

But for the basics of just tapping out a fairly simple drum beat then I’m guessing a keyboard controller with pads would make sense rather than have two devices to do the job where one could be used instead. 

This is really an area that I’m not well schooled in (and the more I read, the further down the rabbit hole I get and the more confusion that ensues!) so would appreciate any helpful pointers!!
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Comments

  • wave100wave100 Frets: 124
    Pads aren't a requirement for programming drums - the instruments normally map over a regular keyboard so that C1 is usually the kick drum, D1 snare etc. You might, however, find pads easier from an ergonomic viewpoint - I would advise trying something in a shop to see what you prefer.
    Another thing to consider is the feel of the keyboard, most have a "synth" action which feels quite different to a piano action - this is usually only a problem for proper piano playing types, but if you have any desire to get into proper piano playing at any point in the future might be something to consider.
    An other thing to think about is knobs and faders which generate MIDI control signals and can be used to give hands on control of soft synths - could be useful.
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  • BRISTOL86BRISTOL86 Frets: 1434
    Thanks Wave, very helpful. 

    I prefer the idea of being able to tap drums on pads to using keys for that but I think you’re right - I should try it out somewhere. 

    I’m not fussed about piano type action - I’m happy with non weighted keys etc.  
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  • FuengiFuengi Frets: 585
    I'm looking at these too, Novation look to sell some decent stuff at a lower price point (£100 - £150).

    Might sneak one on my Xmas list! 
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  • spark240spark240 Frets: 916
    Novation Impulse 49 ?


    Mac Mini i7, 2.3Ghz.
    Presonus Studio One Pro.
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  • I use Logic on a Macbook Pro. I'm not a pianist, but I can find the notes I want and edit the MIDI file later. I owned a very simple Alesis 25 MIDI keyboard for a long time until it broke. It only had the 25 full size keys, a volume rotary and a pitch bend rotary. It was great for playing virtual instruments and drums (using the keyboard). After it broke, I changed up to an M-Audio Code 49. That had drum pads, x-y pads, tape transport controls and 8 faders/ plus rotary knobs - all of which would control Logic over USB MIDI. 

    In real use, I do use the drum pads because it's easier than hitting the keys when creating a drum track. I never use the x-y pads. I tried using the faders, but I don't ride the faders like I thought I would. I don't use the transport controls - preferring to use the mouse on the Macbook or my iPad and Logic Remote. Actually, programming drums using Logic Remote is quite easy, too - but I have the pads now.

    If I was buying again, I'd buy a 25 note keyboard (smaller footprint) with drum pads and that's it. But that's just me and my limitations. Other people might use all the features, all the time. I thought I would, but I don't. I do have a preference for full size keys rather than the smaller ones you can often find on a MIDI keyboard. 

    Hope this helps... 
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  • BRISTOL86BRISTOL86 Frets: 1434
    Thanks all, helpful stuff as always :) 
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  • SnapSnap Frets: 2266
    I have a 25, a 49, a 61 and an 88! Wow, I've jsut realised that!!

    IMO, it depends on a few things:

    Can you actually play keys? If yes, then 25 key will be frustratingly small.
    How much desk space do you have?
    What VSTs are you using?

    I have a NOvation Laumchkey Mini which is a 25 key controller with pads and knobs on it. Its small, light and brill for quick ideas and bass lines, leads, and simple pad work. The keys are a little small, and I have average to large hands (take a large in gloves).

    The 88 key (M Audio Keystation) gets wheeled out for more complex stuff where I want a full range of octaves immediately at hand. Also, its good for NI plugins like Damage where there is benefit to having more keys at your fingertips.

    My 49 key is bust (Alesis Q49), but was OK, if a little flimsy.

    I've recently bought a Novation Impulse 61 which IMO is perfect - plenty of keys, tons of controls. Its big though, takes up a lot of desk space. Plays well.

    If I had to get one size, I'd possibly go for 49. Good mix of physical size and versatility. If size isn't a factor, 61. 88 is a bit too big really/
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  • BRISTOL86BRISTOL86 Frets: 1434
    Thanks all.

    I decided to start basic and cheap with an AKAI MPK Mini - only 25 keys but will give me a solid intro to using virtual instruments and allow me to explore my preferences with pads and keys. 

    I suspect the 25 keys will frustrate me at times but as I’m tight on space it’s a good starting point - if i find myself playing keys a lot in a more traditional way then I may get something with 49 down the line. 

    When I sit and and think about what I’ll actually use it for I think it’ll cover most bases and should be a simple introduction into the world....
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  • duotoneduotone Frets: 256
    edited June 27
    @BRISTOL86 ;

    How are you getting on with the AKAI MPK Mini?

    I’m finding myself in a similar boat myself atm, am not sure whether to get a 25 or 49 keys option?  Also, not completely sure what make/model to go for too!
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  • BRISTOL86BRISTOL86 Frets: 1434
    duotone said:
    @BRISTOL86 ;

    How are you getting on with the AKAI MPK Mini?

    I’m finding myself in a similar boat myself atm, am not sure whether to get a 25 or 49 keys option?  Also, not completely sure what make/model to go for too!
    Barely used it mate due to work commitments hampering my free time in recent months but when I have it seems a nifty little thing! Ideally I’d have something larger but space is at a premium! 
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  • duotoneduotone Frets: 256
    Cheers for the reply mate!

    My heart says 49 keys but my head says 25 keys will be enough, as I’m not a piano player after all.

    TheBigDipper said:

    If I was buying again, I'd buy a 25 note keyboard (smaller footprint) with drum pads and that's it. But that's just me and my limitations. Other people might use all the features, all the time. I thought I would, but I don't. I do have a preference for full size keys rather than the smaller ones you can often find on a MIDI keyboard. 

    Hope this helps... 
    Good food for thought post, from @TheBigDipper ;
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 18257
    I’d go as big as you can go.
    Banking is a pain in the ass.
    I am the juice of four limes.
    Trading Feedback
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  • duotoneduotone Frets: 256
    edited July 1
    octatonic said:
    I’d go as big as you can go.
    Banking is a pain in the ass.
    Cheers @octatonic
    For your valued input, I’ve decided to go for the M-Audio Oxygen 49 
    https://www.andertons.co.uk/m-audio-oxygen-49-%28mk-iv%29-49-key-midi-controller

    Its always good to get advice from someone who has already walked down this well trodden path years before. I appreciate it!

    EDIT; It arrived on Saturday and have got it all set up...the bundled ‘free’ trial software is ok, at least it gets you up and running with a large choice of sounds....although many are unusable imo.

    Will be looking to get hold of some Piano & Rhodes vst’s soon!
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