When you think of MIDI controllers, you generally think of keyboards – here are five without keys to revolutionise your studio
As the first MIDI controllers were generally keyboards, we often think only in terms of using a keyboard in DAW setups. However, adding a dedicated controller without keys can be revolutionary to the way you work in a home studio environment.
Here are five great examples…
Novation Launch Control MIDI Controller
Clocking in at under £50, we have the Novation Launch Control MIDI controller, a perfect addition to your home studio or touring set up. This has been designed to work in conjunction with Novation’s hugely successful Launchpad or as a standalone MIDI controller on both Mac and PC. You have 16 fully assignable knobs to get to grips with as well as 8 tri-coloured launch pads to trigger sounds and samples. It can be bus powered from an iPad making it a very cool portable option and Novation have evben looked after you by including Ableton Live Lite, the V-Station polyphonic soft-synth an extensive Loopmasters sample library and Bass Station soft synth as part of the package. Small, lightweight and extremely useful – there’s a reason why the Novation range are so widely used!
Sometimes, you’re on the move when inspiration hits. If that inspiration involves programming some killer beats, then a portable USB MIDI controller is in order.
The Akai LPD8 is just such a thing. Small enough to slide into a laptop case, it features 8 velocity sensitive trigger pads, and 8 assignable rotary controls. Ideal for programming on the go…
For those who have to travel a lot, but like to work on a mix whilst they do, the Korg nanoKontrol Studio Controller is a great choice as it works seamlessly with computers and iOS devices via USB or wirelss, so those late night sessions in your hotel room can be as productive as you need them to be.
It features 8 faders and 8 rotary controls, with four buttons for each fader and full transport controls and assignable jog-wheel. Again, it’s small enough for a laptop bag, and you can buy the NanoKey to complete a set of (laptop) pocket sized MIDI controllers. For those who want to use it in the live arena, you’ll be pleased to know that Korg have installed easy to use track-reset, fast forward, rewind, cycle and scene jump controls for live mixing.
Arturia Beatstep Pro Controller
The Arturia Beatstep Pro Controller is designed for the professional musicians out there who want a wide range of control without having to cart around a massive piece of kit. It has been designed for both the live arena as well as studio recording and includes 2 64-step melodic sequencers that allow for 16 sequences per project and 16 projects in total – so there’s plenty of room to experiment. On top of that you have a built in drum sequencer that you can play in real time via the pads or the step buttons for a classic drum machine reliability with 16 separate tracks of sequencing. The velocity sensitive pads are a joy to play and the addition of looper, randomizer and swing effects will no doubt be a great feature for those who want to add an extra dimension to their live or studio sound.
The Akai MPC Touch Music Controller is an absolute powerhouse of a MIDI controller that offers multi-touch functionality and a truly immersive music making experience for users. You can sequence beats or triggers thanks to 16 touch-sensitive MPC trigger pads and easily edit waveforms, adjust envelopes, with the aid of the 7 inch, full-colour multi-touch display. However it’s the inclusion of the 20,000 samples that musicians will appreciate along with the ability to create sampled loops from any connected instrument. The USB and MIDI connectivity options ensure it will fit with any particular DAW you may have, making it one of the best options out there for creators of EDM music or producers in general as it will fit seamlessly with any set up. A highly portable option for professionals.
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.