MIDI is an acronym for Musician Instrument Digital Interface. This type of interface is a way for musicians to connect digital musical devices to each other to make or control sounds. For example, keyboardists can control multiple sets of keyboards and sound banks from a single keyboard, which means you have many more sound options at your fingertips.
MIDI keyboard controllers are also great devices for making recordings, controlling digital audio workstations, and creating beats and loops. But you don’t need big, bulky equipment to make music. In fact, there are a number of quality midi controllers that come in small sizes so that you can take your music on the go.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the six best mini MIDI keyboards. We’ll also go over the criteria we used to choose the keyboards, and of course, we’ll give you our recommendation for what we think is the best. Let’s get started!
Quick glance at the top-rated mini MIDI keyboards:
The Korg Nanokey2 takes a novel approach as a mini MIDI controller. Its slim-line keys keep the profile of the keyboard extremely thin, and they have more of a feel of computer-type keys but maintain touch sensitivity. This makes the keyboard very portable and easy to pack. The width of the keys and the spaces in between help minimize the chances of a wrong note, especially for those less accomplished pianists who still desire to make fantastic music. A sustain button makes it possible to record piano-style music, too, so you’ll have plenty of flexibility no matter what kind of musician you are.
This is a controller-only MIDI keyboard and is powered by USB.
The Novation Launch Key integrates easily with your favorite digital audio workstation. It includes plenty of customizable controls, such as pads, wheels, and slides. In addition, it incorporates a sustain port for piano-like playing and a USB MIDI out to control your DAW or other keyboards. You can even program chords so you can play them with just one finger. This sleek design is highly customizable to fit your DAW.
M-Oxygen 25 features 25 full-size velocity-sensitive keys, making it a great MIDI controller for pianists and beat-makers alike. You can add musical nuance to your beats or create intricate phrasing in your piano solos.
In addition, there are plenty of assignable drum pads, pitch wheels, knobs, and faders that you can customize to create effects and sounds and control your digital audio workstation. It even includes software such as Ableton Live and MPC beats with auto-mapping to minimize your work.
The Akai Professional is a great MIDI controller and keyboard for both new and experienced musicians. This little keyboard packs a powerful punch with its internal sounds and speakers as well as USB MIDI. You can make all kinds of music on the go whether you are connect to your digital audio workstation or not. And if you’re new to the music scene, don’t worry, because you’ll get 60 free music lessons to go with your new MIDI controller and keyboard.
The Alesis QMini is a big powerhouse in a small size. It is compatible with just about all major digital audio workstations. It includes free lessons on MIDI for the beginner musician and works with all iOS devices, as well. The sustain button enables you to make piano music, while there are also plenty of other buttons to add effects and control your digital audio workstation. The best part is the price – this is a fully capable MIDI controller at a budget price.
The Donner MIDI keyboard controller is ultra-thin with 25 mini, velocity-sensitive keys to make all of your musical dreams a reality. There is an assignable touch bar, back-lit pads, knobs, and sliders that you can customize and program and recall at the touch of a button. This MIDI controller is incredibly customizable.
There are a number of considerations to think about when you are looking to purchase a mini MIDI keyboard. We chose these keyboards based on a number of criteria, including portability, size, key size, touch sensitivity, and the variety of possible controls. Here are some things to think about when you’re shopping for your mini MIDI controller.
First of all, you’ll need to determine if you want just a MIDI controller or a keyboard that is also a controller. They may look similar, but there are a few differences.
A MIDI keyboard and controller can be used as a stand-alone instrument. If you are making music on the go, you may want to have a stand-alone keyboard that is also MIDI-capable. This way, you don’t need to bring along another keyboard or digital audio workstation to act as a soundbank since MIDI controllers generally don’t have onboard sounds. You can just turn it on and play. A keyboard might have built-in speakers or at least a line out/headphone jack so you can listen to the music you make. It will also have onboard sounds.
If it's MIDI-capable, it will have a MIDI interface, so you can also use it to control your digital audio workstation or other devices. It may also have a series of knobs, faders, and other controls that you can customize.
On the other hand, a MIDI controller that is not a stand-alone keyboard won’t make any sounds unless it is hooked up to some kind of a sound bank, such as your digital audio workstation (which is on your computer, laptop, or tablet) or another MIDI-capable keyboard.
A MIDI controller will have piano-style keys, and it may also have a series of drum pads, faders, knobs, and wheels that you can customize to control sounds and effects.
As long as the keyboard or controller has the right outputs and inputs, you’ll be able to use it with MIDI to control other keyboards or sound banks.
MIDI keyboards and controllers come in a variety of sizes, from 27 keys to a full 88 keys. In this case, we’re looking at mini MIDI controllers, so all these keyboards will have 32 or fewer keys.
Fewer keys mean smaller keyboards, so this will keep the size of the instrument smaller and lighter and make it much more portable. However, some of these keyboards are also available in larger sizes, so if you feel that 27 to 32 keys are not enough for you, you might want to explore the next size up.
If you’re looking for an acoustic piano feel, you’ll want fully-weighted, touch-sensitive keys. But these types of keyboards are larger, heavier, and much less portable.
Most of the keyboards in this article are velocity-sensitive synth-action keys. These keys are much lighter and also less expensive to make, keeping your costs down.
Synth-action keys work by a small spring inside of the key. When the key is pressed down and released, the spring returns the key to its normal resting position. As a result, the keys are usually easier to push down than weighted keys. They also have anywhere from 1 to 3 sensors in the keys to get the most real-feel data from your fingers to the controller.
These keys are typically velocity-sensitive, which means the faster you press down the key, the louder it will sound. Since this is a natural process that also happens with typical acoustic piano keys, you might not notice the difference in your playing.
When you’re looking at mini controllers, you are most likely going to have mini-sized keys. This is to save size and weight on the keyboard, making them more portable. If you are a seasoned pianist, you might find this is uncomfortable because you’re used to bigger keys. However, mini keys are valuable for their portability.
Most MIDI keyboards come with extra controllers in addition to your piano key controls. For example, if you’ll be using a lot of drums or creating beats with your mini MIDI keyboard, you’ll want to consider a keyboard that has some drum pads on it. Likewise, if you’ll be using effects, you may want some customizable controls such as pitch wheels, knobs, and sliders that you can use to control instruments and effects.
In order to be a MIDI controller, you will need some kind of MIDI port. Larger MIDI keyboards often have full-size 5-pin MIDI in/out ports. However, smaller devices save space by using USB ports. In this case, you might need to find the right kind of adapter for your MIDI needs. For example, if you are going to be controlling a digital audio workstation, a USB port should work perfectly. ON the other hand, if you are going to be controlling other keyboards, you might need to make sure you purchase a controller that has a 5-pin MIDI interface, or you may need to use an adapter.
If you are going to be making piano music with your MIDI controller, you‘ll want to make sure it also has a sustain pedal port or at least a foot switch or expression port. You probably won’t have all three piano pedals, but you should at least have one. Sometimes, these can be customized to control effects or start and stop pre-recorded music.
Everyone’s budget is different, and you’ll need to take a look at yours so you can make sure to get the features you want without having to pay for things you don’t actually need. Luckily, small MIDI controllers aren‘t very expensive compared to full-size workstations.
The best mini MIDI controller really depends on what you’re looking for to fill your musical needs. However, there is a clear winner for us.
We like the M-Audio Oxygen 25 the best of all.
This MIDI controller really does it all! First, it has full-size, velocity-sensitive keys so you can get the most nuance out of your playing. Most MIDI controllers don’t really feel like a piano at all, but this one has a great synth-action feel. Second, you also have plenty of velocity-sensitive drum pads so you can drop some fresh beats, launch clips, or trigger sounds and effects. There are also knobs and faders you can assign to your digital audio workstation or to control MIDI effects.
The Oxygen controller is USB powered and highly portable and includes Ableton LIVE and other MIDI software to get you started on your musical journey.
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