Portable MIDI controllers - 3 Good Options
MIDI controllers are used not only by music producers but also by keyboard players, DJs or bands using samples and effects during live performances. In other words, by anyone using any kind of music software. They come in a variety of shapes, from MIDI keyboards and launchpads that allow you to play almost any imaginable sound you want, to knobs and tactile touchpads to manipulate those sounds. MIDI controllers are basically what gamepads are to video games: a tool to control software with your own hands, rapidly and (most of the time) intuitively.
Since music technology has gone so far and keeps evolving at a fast pace, nowadays we see ourselves surrounded with a surprising amount of possibilities to choose from, many of them unthinkable not long ago. Not only we have lower prices and better quality, but we also have surprisingly small and portable options. This article will focus on those MIDI controllers that excel in portability.
Why portable MIDI controllers? - Because of their possibilities in real life. Yes, a full 88-key MIDI keyboard might be more comfortable to play than these little ones, but with it comes its huge size and weight which might not be appropriate if you want to take it to your rehearsal or gig. Also, with small size comes a small price: you can find all of the MIDI controllers below for less than $100.
The simple MIDI keyboard solution: Korg microKEY
Size: 395 x 131 x 52 mm
Simple and effective, a USB-powered 25-key keyboard ready to launch the sounds of your laptop or even your iPad/iPhone. If wires are not your thing, there's the Air version that can be connected via Bluetooth, and for players looking for a wider range there are also its big brothers, versions of the same microKEY with 37, 49 and 61 keys. All models include controls for pitch bend, modulation, octave and sustain of your sounds. Just keep in mind that more keys mean bigger weight and size!
The keyboard, even smaller: Korg nanoKEY2
Size: 325 x 83 x 16 mm
If the Korg microKEY 25 had few bigger brothers with more keys, the nanoKEY2 is with no doubt its (very) little brother. It also has 25 keys and yes, their quality is inferior than those of the microKEY, but the size and weight of this controller are unmatchable. With just 325 x 83 x 16 mm and 244g weight you'll be wondering how is it possible that such a small and light thing allows you to do so many things once you plug it via USB to your laptop.
The all-in-one: Akai MPK Mini MK II
Size: 317 x 181 x 44mm
A favorite of many, the Akai MPK Mini MK II not only offers 25 keys and a small size, but also knobs for modifying your sounds, pads for launching them or creating drum beats on the go, and even a quirky joystick for modulation and pitch bend (remember the comparison we did between MIDI controllers and gamepads?). The extended controls make the Akai MPK Mini MK II a very flexible option within a small size (and price).
Endless sound possibilities can now go together with freedom of movement. If you are not sure about getting a MIDI controller because you wouldn't know how to use it, keep in mind that many manufacturers give away free audio software that you can use with their MIDI controllers when you buy them. That means that the only prerequisite is to have a laptop (or just an iPad/iPhone in some cases) and you'll be ready to have fun. Enjoy!