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What is the best MIDI controller for beginners?

Question from a subscriber:

What is the best MIDI controller for beginners?


Akai Professional MPD32

Besides keyboard controllers, the “other” common type of MIDI device you'll find is the pad controller.

Made popular by the original Akai MPC's from back in the 90's…

These pads have since become standards for making drum beats, and controlling almost any type of percussion-based virtual instruments.

While the early MPC's where intended as full “Music Production Centers“…

The one I'll show you today: the Akai Professional MPD18…is more of a stripped-down “pad-only” version that offers:

16 velocity/pressure backlit sensitive pads
Ableton Lite
iOS compatibility
6 assignable potentiometers (fancy word for "knobs")
Plug-n-play USB connectivity

So for a cheap and simple option to pound-out some beats, I highly recommend the MPD218.


M Audio Oxygen

M Audio Oxygen 25 - Rather than needing separate controllers for both keyboard and percussion…

Many people now use “hybrid” designs, which combine both functions into a single unit.

And many versions, such as the M-Audio Oxygen, even feature DAW control/plugin control as well, with a collection of knobs and sliders.

If you're like most musicians and you hate programming MIDI…the M-Audio Oxygen is also great because it auto-maps to all major DAW's.


Do I need a MIDI controller?

Short answer: No, you don't need a MIDI controller.

You can use your computer keyboard to "play" notes or use your mouse to "draw" notes in a piano roll. So, you can get by without a MIDI controller.

For me, making music is an experience that I enjoy most when I am moving and playing the notes. It's about playing music and not programming music. I'm a professional programmer (web developer). That's my day job. I don't want to do anything that resembles programming when it comes to music.  


What is the difference between a MIDI controller and a keyboard? 

A MIDI Keyboard is an instrument that does not need any other parts to work. When you play the keyboard you trigger sounds contained within the keyboard itself. A MIDI Keyboard controller has no sounds in it. You use the MIDI Keyboard controller to trigger sounds located in another device, like a computer.

My Yamaha DJX is a MIDI Keyboard that has its own sounds and speakers. I turn it on and play it as a standalone unit. My M-Audio Oxygen 25 has no sounds in it and no speakers. I plug it into my computer and trigger sounds in Propellerhead Reason. Because the YamahaDJX is MIDI capable, I can use it to trigger sounds in Propellerhead Reason, like the Oxygen 25. But when I do this, I turn the Yamaha DJX volume all the way down so I don't hear the sounds coming out of the DJX speakers.

Grace and Peace!

Taurus (aka TaurusBeats)

Music Maker | Mentor

Topics: midi controller

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