I will be discussing my 5 year long use of the best USB MIDI Keyboard.
Explanation for beginners: MIDI = Musical Instrument Digital Interface A software language that is needed for your keyboard to communicate with your PC / Mac / Linux system. DAW = Digital Audio Workstation Instead of a big physical studio, you have a software studion in your PC. Like everything this has advantages and disadvantages
My advice to you – from back then for a future perspective.
I started a long time ago with making music. About 12 years ago to be somewhat precise. Very soon I realized
that I needed to express certain melodies and lines with a USB MIDI keyboard and not with a PC keyboard
or via my mouse. Sometimes you need a little more human feeling in your songs or you just wanna jam
and play. You have various velocitiys and as soon as you start to play you might loose track of time. So
watch out for it’s addictive features.
I looked here and there and everywhere.
My main focus was 88 keys, since many pianos have the same amount of keys. No need for unnecessary
knobs that wouldn’t be used anyway. So I stumbled over the M-Audio Keystation 88es. I watched a lot
of YouTube videos in regards to other musicians that used the same keyboard. Every one had great
reviews and words about it. So I gave it a shot after 3 years of saving or so. It’s just plug-and-play.
Simple as that. As soon as you’ve plugged it in you are good to go.
I don’t regret that decision any day. It is still functioning. It endured a lot in the meantime.
The beauty of MIDI at your grasp.
Instead of buying a “real” keyboard with a limited amount of sounds, you can have the full range.
And with full range I mean FULL RANGE!!! Basically you’re limited to the content the internet has to offer
in regards to MIDI Keyboard sounds, programs, VSTs, patches, presets and so on. There are more sounds
out there to try out for free or for a paid program than your life lasts. I mainly tried out the NATIVE INSTRUMENTS
KOMPLETE 8 – 11 ULTIMATE stuff. A little bit here and there with FL Studio plugins. The keyboard was never the problem.
If I wouldn’t have had that keyboard yet, I would probably still be clicking with my mouse or playing stuff into my DAW with
PC keyboard. What you also have to consider is: The later you start to get into MIDI keyboards and the longer you play with
your PC keyboard, the more you’ll mislearn information that you can’t relearn freshly and good. Your muscle memory will be
screwed up. That won’t be a simple routine by then to learn properly. You will have twice as much trouble to learn songs for
piano or childish and cheap keyboards. Even though I’m highly promoting the M-AUDIO Keystation 88es, you can
alternatively choose between many other different types of MIDI keyboards. My first one l²-Control 25. It felt nice to play and
had a lot of knobs. But only 25 keys! You had to pitch up and pitch down with the 2 buttons to get to the next range. Now
imagine recording 10 instruments like this. You will see what kind of pain this is and how this interrupts your workflow. You
have the melody on your lips or on your mind. Just wanna record and quickly as possible jam it down, but then you have to
press around and fumble around to get it right at many more takes. The more songs you make or the more you demonstrate
various keyboards the more you count those seconds. Every second wrongly spend with a slow software or half-broken
keyboard, is a second that strays you further away from getting to your own personal sound. And at the end of the day that is
exactly what you want. Isn’t it? I bought this thing when it cost me around 300,00,-€ plus a bag and a stand, which makes
around 400,00,-€ or so. You can get ’em at the time between 70,00,-€ – 150,00,-€. If this stuff made for me back then sense
then it should make 4 times more sense to you know. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not paid by M-AUDIO or anything. I just want
to write down my personal experience with this piece of hardware that never failed me over the years. I feared it might break
down, since newer hardware tends to break faster because of planned obsolence. I suppose with this model they explicitly
fought against that concept. 2 nice features that are also worthy of mentioning are:
#1 It comes with a free version of AIR – IGNITE. A very basic, yet powerful way to captivate song concepts. I like its minimalistic touch.
#2 Ableton Basic version included as well. Heard great things about Ableton. Not a big fan of it myself, but I follow a big bunch of musicians that used it for live performances.
Not limited to keyboards and pianos.
I’ve played a lot of stuff into my songs. From Indian bongos to electric guitars up to looped-up car-wrecking sounds,
violins, cellos, guitars and basses. I got around a beautiful range because of that keyboard. It’s only limited to your
imagination. There are even videos about there of people that modify things like that. So if you got the knowledge and the
hunger for experimentation, you’ll be good to go.
MIDI keyboards won’t grow old as fast as normal ones.
If you take a simple 88 keys keyboard like me, or a fully fledged with equalizer faders and drum pads and other nice
gimmicks is up to you. But the 88es did it for me. I know I can always purchase a cheap keyboard and drum pad afterwards.
Only the USB slots are a problem. But if you’re into computers, you’ll know: USB slots are always a problem. There a never
enough. You can also program the MIDI functions in the keyboard itself if you want. I never tried that method, but there are
tutorials out there on how to do it. I think it’s quite amazing that you can digitally re-work your instrument into a totally new
thing. The corelation of programing and welding makes it aswell more interesting, as mentioned before.
I also need to mention that they released a MK-II version of the keyboard. I simply won’t buy it yet, since the MK-I version
still works to good.