MIDI Keyboard recommendations

rubberfingers hello,
Probably you should try to work with full ranged keyboard?! I’m not a pianist, but I can’t imagine to go back to a smaller keyboard. Especially if you prefer to do real-time recordings… and if the keyboard has more controller buttons which can be assigned as StreamDeck. :slight_smile:

Best regards,
Thurisaz

I use the Roland A-49 at my computer desk, which I find perfectly adequate. It has buttons for octave shifts as well as standard MIDI controls, and a Theremin-style wavy hand interface, which I’ve not used at all.

If you’ll be playing with both hands (and in real time), then you’ll want a full length (i.e. 88 note) keyboard. If you’ll usually be playing with one hand with the other on your computer keyboard, then get something with 49 keys. I’m sometimes doing one thing, sometimes the other (depending on the nature of the task), so have both. If you’re a reasonably capable player, you might want the same.

A two octave keyboard is too short for most purposes and will involve switching octaves too frequently. 49 keys isn’t too long to have on one’s desk and when playing with one hand, octave changes aren’t needed that often. I’d recommend getting something that isn’t too deep from front to back (like a Roland A-49 - it has a socket for a sustain pedal) and not bothering with lots of pads. If your monitor or monitors is/are mounted on an arm rather than on a stand, you’ll have more space to play with. A keyboard like this doesn’t have to stay on your desk: it will weigh very little so just put it on there when you need it. You can then optimize the layout for other activities.

If you’re not too fussy about the feel of the 88 note keyboard, get something like a Studiologic SL88 Studio (which has aftertouch in case it might ever be useful, and four sockets for pedals). I’m in the UK but usually order from Thomann.

I’m mostly working with voices. Is there a good way to input multiple voices simultaneously?

Multi stave caret entry?

I have only a 5 octave KB (61) and it is plenty for the overwhelming majority of things.


Well, I don’t have experience with more than two voices simultaneously during real-time recording (I think you can’t record into more than 2 voices),
but after that you can select the desired notes and set them to preferred voices with the following functions:


Best regards,
Thurisaz

That’s true that you can change voices with those functions, but I find it faster to enter each voice at a time (due to varying rhythms).

Some of my music has 3 voices in one stave, and often 2 per stave.

Leo, I’ll have to read about multi-stave caret entry.

Anyway, I have one hand on the numeric keyboard, the other on the little midi keyboard. Entering notes works without even looking at my hands, so I can concentrate on a printed score or on the screen. I guess I could lay a bunch of papers on the side of an 88 keyboard. Probably a 49 keyboard would be idea for most of my projects, but the 25 is way the heck faster than A, B, C on the computer. Also I should investigate Streamdeck, which I assume is the lighted keypad in the photos. Thanks for the photos, by the way!

It all comes down to what you’ll be doing. I was very surprised to see the small monitors Leo and Romanos [EDIT: and Dan] are using. I need big, high resolution monitors and that determines the arrangement of the rest of my equipment. If possible, I digitize paper sources so I can have them in front of me on screen rather than off to the side or in the way on my desk. I have room for a four octave keyboard in front of me (I take it off the desk when I want optimal comfort for other activities) and my 88 note controller is perpendicular to my desk (I use it with Dorico relatively rarely). The biggest problem is finding room for speakers (near-field monitors in my case).

A 27” 4K monitor generally works for me, but I have a suitable stand to put a 12.9” iPad, portrait, to the side. What do you define as “small” for a monitor?

Another thing to consider is if you want the heavier weighted keys (piano keys) or the lighter synth action keys (typically much cheaper). From initial post it seems to be about the latter, synth keys, and no need for a big heavy piano keyboard.

E.g. the proposed Roland A-88 would be weighted piano keys, while the proposed Roland A-49 would be synth action keys. I have an A-49 myself; it’s cheap and has nice keys (velocity sensitive, almost all are) for this low price class, and it does the job. It also has sustain, expression and midi out connections, and it has a small depth size which saves some space. It’s easy to setup (just plug it in). It has a couple of buttons and knobs, but there are others that have plenty more of that for more control options, like the one Romano suggested above. It’s up to you what you need. (More advanced keyboards can also have keys with after-touch, but if you want something simple for note input, it’s probably not something you need.)

But if you do orchestral stuff you would like to have a proper modulation wheel to control dynamics; the Rolands above have the typical Roland combined pitch/mod-stick that springs back directly. A separate modulation wheel that stays in place, and also has a wider motion range, is much better for this.

And how many octaves or keys do you need, do you intend to do two-handed input playing, or will it be mostly one-handed playing? For two-hands you would likely don’t want below 61 keys, for one-hand it could be whatever size that fits your space and preference (there is normally octave shifting buttons, however a bit annoying if you need to shift often, so if you have space then 49 is a good choice).

Your intended price range will also affect your choice options, of course.

Looks can be deceiving. My main monitor is 28” 4K. Second is 24” 1080p.

I keep re-checking this thread to see if dankreider reposts his setup. I’m still very jealous of his amazing desk! Let’s see another pic!

Ha! Ok, here it is (attached below). The top slides forward to hide or show the keyboard as needed. Since this pic was taken, I’ve added a monitor arm, since the monitor was too high on the upper shelf. I end up pulling the monitor fairly close.

It was a custom build by a guy in CA named Nick. He builds them for all sorts of custom configurations. He’s said it’s fine to share his info. nbatzdorf (at) gmail (dot) com.

Great setup!!!

Dan’s desk is one heck of a lot neater than mine. I have stuff stacked everywhere–guess I’m just a messy person. :confused:

Let the record show that this pic was taken before any actual work commenced. The current state of the desk would make you feel much better.

Dan, we need a new picture!

+1! I want to see what it looks like with some use. Here’s my setup:

Nord keyboard is obviously overkill for MIDI input, but on some gigs I use a pianist that takes the train. I got tired of trying to borrow a keyboard so I just got a decent one with built in sounds last time I upgraded. Previously I had just had an M-Audio 61 key controller which was ok. I do much prefer having 88 keys though. I use an M-Audio Keystation Mini 32-key on the road.

Desk is beat up, and off-centered which drives me nuts, so I’ve definitely been looking for something like Dan’s.

True story, I literally just cleaned up yesterday. :sunglasses:

https://m.imgur.com/J8MIFON