7 Best Keyboards for Music Production (2023)

I’ve got this strong belief that every home studio should have a keyboard controller – it’s like a must-have tool. Why, you ask? Well, it’s the secret that makes your work in the studio smoother and faster. Even if you’re not a piano pro, having a MIDI keyboard is a game-changer. It just makes your music creation process super efficient and opens up a whole world of creative possibilities.

In this guide, I ranked and reviewed the 7 best keyboards for music production, along with my best pick, so that you can pick the best one in a split second.

Choosing the best keyboard can be difficult as there are so many popular options. Having the right tools is a vital step towards reaching your goals in production.

The perfect MIDI keyboard can vary from person to person and depends on your intentions, music production skills, and budget.

In this article, I’ll also compare the following:

  • The Best Mini Keyboard
  • The Best Budget-friendly Keyboard
  • The Best Piano Keyboard
  • The Best Beginner Keyboard Piano 
  • The Best 49-Key Keyboard For Bedroom Studio
  • The Best 88-Key MIDI For Pros
  • The Best DAW Integration

Let’s get into it!

What are The Best Keyboards for Music Production?

A MIDI keyboard is like a musical keyboard, but it’s super smart. Instead of making its sounds, it talks to your computer or other music gear. When you press a key, it sends messages to tell your computer what note you played and how loud.

Musicians use it to play all sorts of virtual instruments on their computers, like pianos, drums, or even spaceship sounds. It’s like having a music keyboard that lets you create music with your computer. So, even if you’re not a piano pro, a MIDI keyboard can help you make awesome tunes!

Here are my top picks for the best music keyboards this year:

1) Akai MPK Mini Mk3

The Akai MPK Mini Mk3 is the best overall mini keyboard. It’s the top seller on Amazon for keyboards used in making music. If you’re all about quickly jotting down your creative ideas without getting stuck in complicated software, this keyboard is your best friend.

best keyboards for music production- apak mini

Source: Akai pro

Specs:

  • Keys: 25 velocity-sensitive mini-keys
  • Connection: USB, sustain pedal
  • Compatibility: Universally compatible with all major DAWs
  • Controls: 8 velocity-sensitive beat pads, 8 mappable knobs, an arpeggiator, a 4-way thumbstick for pitch and modulation control, and octave control.
  • Software: Comes with Complete Music Production Starter Kit that includes MPC Beats DAW, 6 instruments, and a 1500+ sound library.
Best Keyboards for Music Production

Pros:

  • The Akai MPK Mini Mk3 is a top-rated mini keyboard and the #1 seller on Amazon for music production keyboards.
  • It’s fantastic for quickly capturing creative ideas without getting lost in complicated software.
  • Offers a range of features to control virtual instruments and DAW parameters, including sample mapping, beat recording, and knob assignments.
  • Versatile joystick control for things like expression and dynamics, perfect for creating orchestra arrangements.
  • Compact and portable, easily fits in a backpack and works well on desks or in hotel rooms.
  • USB-powered, so no need to carry extra cables.

Cons:

  • The mini keys might be a bit small, especially if you have larger hands, which can make playing less comfortable. However, this is a common issue with mini keyboards.

2) Nektar SE25

The Nektar SE25 is a budget-friendly MIDI keyboard that offers simplicity and compactness for around $50. While it’s not loaded with features, it provides essential functionality for beginners and those on a tight budget.

Whether you’re diving deep into its controls or just scratching the surface, it seamlessly integrates with most DAWs and delivers far more than its small size might suggest.

Best Keyboards for Music Production

Source: charlescleyn

Specs:

  • Compatibility: PC, Mac
  • No of Keys: 25
  • Key size: Mini
  • Key type: Velocity sensitive
  • Controls: 6 function buttons: 2 x assignable PB buttons, one assignable Part 2 button, S button for sustain and modulation
  • Power: via USB
  • Software: Bitwig 8-track DAW

Pros:

  • Affordable price point, making it accessible for beginners and budget-conscious musicians.
  • Basic but versatile controls, including octave adjustment and assignable functions like pitch-bend, modulation, volume, pan, track, and patch selection.
  • The “S” button acts as a Sustain or Modulation option, providing flexibility for different playing styles.
  • Compact design with two octaves (25 piano keys), suitable for starters.
  • USB connectivity for easy computer integration.
Best Keyboards for Music Production

Cons:

  • Lacks support for a sustain pedal, which could limit its use for piano or chord-heavy compositions.
  • Does not include features like pads or a display, offering fewer tools for music creation compared to some other MIDI controllers.
  • Limited in terms of keys and size, which may not provide the best playing experience for advanced musicians.

3) Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2

The Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2 stands out as a personal favorite among keyboards on this list. It strikes a remarkable balance, offering the genuine feel of a real piano coupled with the functionality of a high-end controller, making it truly the best of both worlds.

Best Keyboards for Music Production

Pros:

  • Functions as a MIDI controller whilst also integrating with NI Komplete Instruments and NKS (Native Kontrol Standard) plugins, providing access to an extensive library of bundled sounds and instruments.
  • Offers an abundance of sounds and instruments, surpassing most others on this list, effectively blending the roles of a workstation and a controller.
  • Provides an authentic piano-playing experience with a wide range of dynamics and a substantial key feel.
  • Features LED lights above the keybed, assisting players in visualizing keys and scales, particularly helpful for those less experienced in piano playing.
  • Represents a worthwhile investment that can become the central hub of your workflow
Best Keyboards for Music Production

Cons:

  • There are no significant drawbacks to this keyboard except its size. If you prefer a shorter keyboard, then this one might not be the perfect fit for you.

4)  Yamaha PSR-E373

For beginners, investing a significant amount in a hobby can be hard. If you’re on a budget but want the most value from your keyboard purchase, this category is tailor-made for you. Realism may not be my top priority in this price range.

While hammer-action keys and lifelike samples are important for learning proper piano technique, you shouldn’t set your expectations too high at this budget-friendly level.

Best Keyboards for Music Production

The Nektar SE25, a prior budget option, offers excellent value. Still, if you’re willing to stretch your budget, consider the Yamaha PSR-E373.

I won’t claim this keyboard is flawless. Ultimately, it’s a budget-friendly option with a few corners cut. However, its overall quality more than compensates for these minor compromises.

Specifications:

  • USB MIDI
  • 61 Synth Style Velocity-Sensitive Keys
  • 48-note Polyphony
  • 622 Voices
  • 12 Reverb and 5 Chorus Effects
  • 2 x 4.7″ Speakers, 2.5W Amp per side
  • Optional Sustain Pedal
  • 12V DC Power Supply (Sold Separately) / 6 x AA batteries
  • Weight: 10.1 lbs.
Best Keyboards for Music Production

Pros:

  • Impressive piano and organ emulations provide high-quality sound.
  • Synth-action keys are user-friendly and easy to play, making it suitable for beginners.
  • Offers four Touch Sensitivity settings for customized playing experiences.
  • Versatile voicing and rhythm options allow for a wide range of musical styles.
  • Includes built-in student-friendly lessons and features to aid in learning.
  • USB direct recording feature for convenient audio recording.

Cons:

  • Buttons have a soft and rubbery feel, which may not appeal to all users.
  • Requires multiple button presses to navigate and cycle through settings, thus affecting user experience.
  • Lack of modulation and pitch controls, limiting certain possibilities.
  • Some instrument voicings may sound dated, potentially restricting the variety of sounds available.

5) Arturia Keymap 49

If you’re searching for a durable and practical MIDI keyboard, the Arturia KeyLab 49 makes a fantastic addition to your home studio setup.

Best Keyboards for Music Production
ess49

Specifications:

  • Software: Analog Lab V with 2000 synth sounds, Ableton Live Lite, and UVI Grand Piano model D
  • Keyboard: 49-key velocity-sensitive keyboard with hybrid synth-piano feel
  • Controllers:
    • 1 clickable encoder
    • 9 encoders
    • 9 30mm faders
    • 6 transport switches
    • 4 command switches
    • 1 modulation wheel
    • 1 pitch bend wheel
    • 8 touch and pressure-sensitive pads
  • Analog Lab Integration: Perfect integration with Analog Lab, allowing for sound selection, preset browsing, part switching, and smart-assigned controls.
  • Operation: Standalone or plug-in operation supporting VST, VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
  • Preset Sounds: Over 7000 TAE-powered preset sounds from Arturia’s award-winning V Collection.

Pros:

  • Similar to the MiniLab MK3, it boasts high-quality keys, robust pads, and touch-sensitive knobs.
  • As it has a 49-key set, there’s a lot of room for creative exploration.
  • It includes Analog Lab V with a vast library of over 6,000 synthesizers, usable as standalone software or a third-party VST for DAWs like Logic Pro.
  • Priced around $210, it offers value for money.

Cons:

  • There are no notable drawbacks to this MIDI keyboard. However, that being said, it might not be the best one for pros.

6) Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88

For professional musicians, producers, and composers seeking hands-on control over instruments, the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 is something you should consider.

Best Keyboards for Music Production

Pros:

  • It comes with a fully weighted hammer-action mechanism, offering a highly realistic and responsive playing experience with keys that are sensitive and expressive.
  • Advanced arpeggiator and chord mode features enable the creation of intricate and dynamic musical patterns effortlessly.
  • Equipped with an array of knobs and buttons for versatile parameter control over virtual instruments.
  • Offers exceptional value considering its premium features.
Best Keyboards for Music Production

Cons:

  • Lacks touch-sensitive pads, potentially affecting those accustomed to such controls.
  • Comes with a relatively high price tag, typically around $1,100.
  • Individual workflow preferences may influence the choice of this MIDI keyboard, as its size may not suit every setup.

7) M-Audio Oxygen Pro 61

The M-Audio Oxygen Pro 61 may appear to offer a familiar set of functions seen in many keyboards on the market. However, it stands out for two compelling reasons that earn it a place on this list of the best keyboards for music production.

Specs:

  • Keys – 61 velocity-sensitive, semi-weighted keys with aftertouch
  • Connection – USB, 5-pin MIDI Output, sustain pedal
  • Compatability – Universally compatible with all major DAWs
  • Controls – 16 velocity-sensitive pads, 8 assignable knobs, 9 assignable faders, DAW transport control, pitch and modulation wheels, arpeggiator, chord and scale mode, octave control
  • Software – Pro Tools First M-Audio Edition, Ableton Live Lite, AIR Music’s Hybrid 3.0, Velvet, Mini Grand, Vacuum Classic, Boom and DB-33 Tonewheel Organ
Best Keyboards for Music Production

Pros:

  • The keyboard features Auto-Mapping, a remarkable functionality that allows users to select their preferred DAW from a menu. Once chosen, the keyboard automatically maps all control functions to their corresponding controls in the DAW.
  • The keybed on this keyboard is exceptional, delivering outstanding playability for its price range. In fact, it surpasses keyboards with higher price tags, giving a superior playing experience.

Cons:

  • While the Auto-Mapping feature is a significant advantage, some users may experience a learning curve in fully harnessing its capabilities.
  • The keyboard’s design and build quality, while functional, may not match the premium aesthetics of higher-end options.

Wrap Up

A crucial element in the music production process is selecting the right keyboard for your needs.

For those who prioritize portability due to their diverse production environments, a mini keyboard is the ideal choice. Our top recommendation is the Akai MPK Mini MK3.

However, if your focus is on playability and comprehensive control to enhance your production, a piano keyboard becomes your ultimate tool. In this regard, we recommend the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2.

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