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How Many Keys Should a MIDI Controller Have? (The Truth)

I often get asked how many keys should a midi controller have. In this post, I will answer this questions and more about MIDI controllers in home recording.

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If you’re looking to start recording music at home, you’ll need a MIDI controller. But which one is right for you? And how many keys should it have?

In this post, I’ll answer these questions and more so that you can decide which MIDI controller is right for you. I’ll also provide tips on picking the perfect one for your needs based on your budget and the type of music you want to record. So if you’re into recording or playing music, this post is for you!

Image of a midi controller on top of a table connected in a laptop. Source: vollume, pexels
Image of a midi controller on top of a table connected in a laptop. Source: Vollume, Pexels

How many keys should a MIDI controller have? The 49-key layout is popular among musicians since it’s easy to use two hands simultaneously. Consider not only the genre of music you’re making but also the size of your home and available space. A smaller keyboard, with only 25 or 32 keys, may be more convenient if you’re always on the go. 

What is a midi keyboard?

A MIDI keyboard or controller keyboard is often a piano-style electronic musical keyboard, frequently with additional buttons, wheels, and sliders, that is used to deliver MIDI signals or orders to other musical instruments or computers through a USB or MIDI 5-pin connector.

The most crucial fact to remember about a controller keyboard is that it does not produce any audible effects. So if you get one, you will be disappointed if you think it will work like a regular keyboard or synthesizer. As we said at the beginning, they send MIDI data to other devices to play their sounds.

The number of keys on a controller keyboard may range from 25 to 88. In addition, keyboards may have a completely weighted setting for more advanced hammer action. Finally, there’s a MIDI keyboard for everyone who wants to create their own electronic, hip-hop, or classical masterpiece. MIDI keyboards have keys and other controls for your DAW and devices.

MIDI controller keyboards usually have knobs and sliders that can be set to change a wide range of settings. Many have drum or sample pads that can be played with the fingers and used to trigger samples for playback or recording.

If you shopping around for a new MIDI controller, check out these top-rated controllers. They are some of the best don’t he market, packed with features, and won’t break the bank.

What are the different size options for MIDI keyboards?

MIDI keyboards can have anywhere from 25 to 88 keys, though the most common sizes are 49 to 61.

How many keys should a midi keyboard have?

There isn’t a single, definitive answer. A compact keyboard may be more practical if you’re starting and your studio space is already at a premium. Octave shifters are often seen on MIDI keyboards. These let you easily go up or down an octave, making them very helpful on keyboards with fewer keys. So if you’re short on studio space but want to record with a complete MIDI instrument’s frequency range, an octave control MIDI keyboard could be the way to go.

If you’re interested in developing your piano skills, this will open up a world of possibilities. I’d put aside a little more cash, clear a bit more room, and get a keyboard with at least 61 keys.

If money is no object, consider buying two. For writing those piano sections, you’ll need a full-sized, 88-key weighted keyboard; for everything else, you’ll need a smaller, semi-weighted keyboard.

How to choose the midi keyboard size that is right for me?

Space is obviously a major factor. Getting the biggest keyboard is good if your home recording studio is large. Sadly, though, this is a privilege not enjoyed by everyone.

When starting with your home recording studio, providing space for additional gear, such as hardware synthesizers, keyboards, amps, and other parts, is a good idea. You want to avoid regretting how much desk space you gave up for that MIDI keyboard.

Bringing a big keyboard to a party when there is already a lot of gear may be a mistake. But if it’s staying put in the studio, that’s not a problem. How big a keyboard you can afford will depend on your budget. It’s not shocking that the cost goes up along with the size of the keyboard.

The dimensions of each keyboard are shown here to provide a starting point for comparison shopping. Remember that not all keyboards include equally sized keys since some smaller models may not have true “piano-sized” keys. This is only approximate, but it should serve as a guide.

KeysKeyboard width
25 Keys12.5 inches (31.7cm)
32 Keys17 inches (43.7cm)
49 Keys32 inches (81cm)
61 Keys39.5 inches (100cm)
88 Keys58.5 inches (145cm)
Table for the width of different MIDI keyboards.

You should also choose the number of keys on your MIDI keyboard based on how good you want to be. But if you are or want to become a world-class pianist, It’s recommended that at least 49 keys be present on any piano you use for composition. However, it’s more likely to be 61 or older. With a bigger keyboard, you could assign drums to one end and a synth sound to the other if you consider including it in your live set.

If you see yourself as something other than a musician, you should be able to play the piano or keyboard. And you plan on using the MIDI keyboard mostly for creating elementary melodies and basslines. If so, a keyboard with a scale factor between 25 and 49 could be all you need.

However, MIDI keyboards that feature smaller keys to fit more octaves into a given footprint. Unless you have very tiny hands, I wouldn’t recommend these. The risk of making mistakes and going crazy increases when you rapidly play chords or a series of notes.

If you don’t want the MIDI keyboard to be a permanent part of your home studio or if you want to use it live, you should look into a portable model. For example, choose a smaller keyboard if you are typing a lot. Not only are the bigger keyboards harder to move from one place to another, but 88-key keyboards may be much heavier, weighing an average of 17 pounds (8 kg), while most keyboards have 25 keys and weigh less than 2 kg (1 kg).

Due to the additional functions packed into some of the smaller keyboards, their price might be higher. This might include things like drum pads or color displays. However, a full-sized 88-key keyboard would often cost much more than a compact 25-key one.

Image of a midi controller being played by someone. Source: amin asbaghipour, pexels
Image of a midi controller being played by someone. Source: Amin Asbaghipour, Pexels

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “The BEST Midi Keyboards For Music Production in 2021 | Finding the RIGHT Midi Controller For You” from the Edward Smith YouTube channel.

A video called “The BEST Midi Keyboards For Music Production in 2021 | Finding the RIGHT Midi Controller For You” from the Edward Smith YouTube channel.
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Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about how many keys a MIDI controller should have.

Is 25 key MIDI controller enough?

The 25-key keyboard is ideal for taking on the road with you. This is helpful even if you can’t play the piano or keyboard like a pro. However, MIDI keyboards that feature smaller keys to fit more octaves into a given footprint. Unless you have very tiny hands, I wouldn’t recommend these. The risk of making mistakes and going crazy increases when you rapidly play chords or a series of notes.

Is 32 keys enough for MIDI?

With 32 keys, you can play just over 2.5 octaves. A little more space than a 25-key MIDI keyboard is enough if you’re making beats and not trying to record classical or jazz.

Is 61 keys enough for a MIDI controller?

The 61-key MIDI controller keyboard is the sweet spot between the smaller (49 keys) and the bigger ones (88 keys). Given their compact design, they may be taken anywhere without losing mobility or the ability to play complex and exciting passages with both hands.

Is 61 or 88 keys better?

Five octaves are all a piano with 61 keys can offer, which is only sometimes enough for certain pieces. Musicians may need to transpose and adapt the score to play it on their chosen instrument.

Should I get a 49 or 61-key MIDI controller?

Whether you opt for a piano with 49 or 61 keys depends on your intended use; for example, if you plan to take a piano course or play “proper” piano and keyboard music with chordal bass, you’ll need 61 keys. On the other hand, with a score of 49, you should be fine if you plan on playing mostly monophonic synth bass and lead parts.

Conclusion

It is not easy to choose this one piece of equipment. The best way to pick up a MIDI controller is by asking yourself, What are my goals? Do I plan on performing gigs or just composing songs at home? Do I have limited funds or big ones? Is there any specific music-making style (like live performance) that comes with an additional requirement for a MIDI controller? Such questions can help you narrow your options and pick the perfect tool.

This article covered what a MIDI keyboard is, the different size options for a MIDI keyboard, and how many keys a MIDI keyboard should have. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • MIDI controller keyboard is that it does not produce any audible effects.
  • Keyboards for MIDI instruments can have anywhere from 25 to 88 keys.
  • A compact keyboard may be more practical if you’re studio space is already at a premium.
  • Extra tips:
    • If you’re a DJ, you’ll love the portability of a 25-key controller while tweaking the filters on your laptop’s loop sequencer.
    • The M-Audio 88 Hammer One of the most popular 88-key midi controllers is the m-audio hammer 88.
    • Some keyboards, like the Akai Professional APC key 25, include an Ableton live controller that can be used with Ableton Live.
    • If you have a controller that has both a pitch wheel and a modulation wheel, you can use them to create pitch bend and modulation effects in real-time.
    • Keyboards with regular-sized keys make it simple to perform chords and melodies.
    • USB is used to power many MIDI controllers.
    • The piano-like feel of a keyboard can be enhanced with features like velocity- and aftertouch-sensitive keys and hammer action.

So, do you have all the keys you need to use a MIDI controller? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below (I read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on music production. Thanks for reading, and never stop making music.

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Audio Apartment Author
Written By Andrew Ash
Hey there! My name is Andrew, and I've been making music since I was a kid. I now run this blog all about home studios and music production. If you want to improve your home studio setup, this is the place for you!

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