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Most hip hop fans and producers know that a keyboard or a sampler is one of the major equipment to have for beat making.
This is why I had to take my time and search around for the best keyboard for hip hop production in the market today.
If you are really serious about becoming a music producer, then you know that you need to get a good sampler or keyboard.
This is simply because the keyboard makes beat making so much easier.
But before you go and get a hip hop keyboard, there are a couple of things you need to consider.
Basically you want to make sure that you get something that satisfies your needs and also works excellently well for you.
In this article, we will be looking at a review of the top 5 keyboards for hip hop, things to consider before you make a purchase and how to get the best from your keyboard when making a beat.
Our Top 5 Best keyboard for hip hop production
- Novation Impulse 25 USB Midi Controller Keyboard
- Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII 25-Key USB MIDI Controller
- M-Audio Keystation USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
- BEHRINGER U-CONTROL MIDI Keyboard
- Korg microKEY2 USB MIDI Controller
What is a midi Keyboard?
According to Wikipedia, a midi keyboard is a piano style interface that is used for sending midi signals over a USB or midi cable to other devices that are connected and operating on the same interface.
What this means is that instead of using a regular keyboard with all the weight and bulk that comes with it, a midi keyboard makes your life so much easier and gives you the same advantages as the regular keyboard.
You can connect it to your DAW which then listens and sends information to other devices connected in the same protocol.
Advantages of using a midi keyboard
It helps the workflow and reduces the stress of using too many devices when producing.
It helps to keep your quantization and velocity from being too unnatural and machine like
It is very easy to connect and setup as against the heavy and big keyboards
It allows you to download and use a lot of samples and VST synths giving you so much options.
Things to consider before making a purchase
1. What is your budget?
This is probably the most important thing to consider before you buy a midi keyboard.
Although most of them are between the 100 to 200 bucks range, you want to make sure that you are spending your money on the right equipment.
Also the higher the higher the key count (which we will talk about next), the higher the price.
2. How many keys does it have?
Also you need to make sure that the keyboard you get has a required set of keys.
The options include 25, 32, 37. 49 (the most popular), 61 and 88 (which is the highest you can get).
Depending on your budget and use, you want to get at least a product with 49 keys. This will definitely make your job easier and also give you you a lot of options when producing.
3. Is it portable?
This is something you need to consider if you are someone that is always travelling and performing live.
This is also where you need to consider the amount of keys that it has.
A 25 keys keyboard controller will definitely weigh less than a 61 or 88 keys.
4. What type of key make do you prefer?
While this is simply a matter of preference, there are some things you need to know about the key make before you make a choice.
Simply put, you want to know if you want a synth action, semi weighted or fully weighted keyboard.
The major difference is the way they sound and they usually do not affect the quality of your sound.
Our Top 5 Keyboard for Hip Hop Production
1. Novation Impulse 25 USB Midi Controller Keyboard
This is probably one of the most commonly used and popular midi keyboards in the market today.
It can be connected by USB making it very easy to setup and start using.
It is ultra responsive and semi weighted keyboard making it very responsive to touch commands
It can serve as a complete DAW and comes with 8 knobs and 1 fader button
It comes with it’s own automap control software that gives you instant access to the plugins and effects bank
It has a multi function drum pad that makes it very easy for you to lay your drums and roll beats in Ableton Live.
It includes free downloads for Ableton Live, Novation’s Bass Station Synth and a loopmasters sample pack.
2. Akai Professional MPK MIDI Controller
The Akai MPK midi keyboard is one that allows you to take control of your production on the go.
It is very lightweight and portable and can easily fit into your bag and carried about.
It has 25 slender and touch responsive keys that makes production stress free and enjoyable.
It has a 4 way thumbstick that helps to regulate the pitch and modulation of your sounds.
It can be connected by USB making it very easy to setup and begin using it
It comes with the options of downloading effects and samples that you can begin using to spice up your productions
It has 8 backlit pads with note repeat and full level that helps give your sounds a full and rich feeling
It has a built in arpeggiator that enables you add some much needed “house style” feeling to your sounds.
3. M-Audio Keystation Keyboard Controller
The M Audio Midi Controller is truly a master keyboard controller that lets you make beats without any stress.
It is a USB – MIDI connected instrument that lets you play virtual instruments, controls your recording and many more
It has a unique set of transport and directional buttons that lets you easily control your DAW right from the keyboard
It has knobs that lets you control the pitch, the modulation and octave controls for expressive performances.
It is very light and portable for easy movement
It comes bundles with SoniVOX and Ableton Live to get you producing as quickly as possible.
4. BEHRINGER U-CONTROL MIDI Keyboard
This is a velocity sensitive USB Midi keyboard that comes with 61 high quality keys.
It has 100 virtual instruments and lots of VST effects to get your creative juices going.
It is very versatile and can be used for a lot purposes and comes with real time control playability.
It is powered by USB which makes it very easy to connect, setup for recording and playback of your digital files.
It works with major DAWs and on any PC or Mac computer
It comes with its unique Behringer music production software that has an audio/MIDI sequencer that loads on any platform
It comes with access to a 300MB sound library ranging from synths to acoustic instruments to drums.
It has 22 assignable controllers that includes 8 knobs, 10 assignable switches, 2 wheels, 1 pedal port and 1 fader.
5. Korg microKEY2 USB MIDI Controller
While this is the cheapest on the list, make no mistake as it comes with amazing features and knobs to take your production to the next level.
It is a compact and natural touch keyboard that makes it very easy to carry and move about
It can be easily connected using a USB cable to either a Windows or Mac PC
You can also easily connect a pedal which gives you full control functionality
It comes with a wide range of software and samples that easily helps you setup.
It is slim, lightweight and compatible with major DAWs in the industry.
It’s black and white keys have been well balanced and proportioned to help with optimal playing, easy chording and rapid phrase work
How to setup a MIDI Keyboard
This is a step by step guide that shows you how you can setup your MIDI keyboard to your DAW.
- Connect and install your keyboard to your computer. This will usually mean using the USB cable or using the MIDI cable
- Since most midi keyboards are plug and play you do not need to download any drivers to get started
- They you need to setup your MIDI input and output devices in your DAW. Depending on the workstation you are using this will vary. Basically you want to head to setting and make the necessary adjustments.
Here is a Youtube video showing you what to do
Do I need a Midi Keyboard to make beats?
Yes you need a midi keyboard to make beats.
Most MIDI keyboards do not make any sound. They just send MIDI data to your music making software or DAW.
So what happens is that the software generates the sound and then you control it through your MIDI keyboard controller.
So your MIDI keyboard controller is very necessary if you want to make beats.
Can you use a MIDI keyboard as a Piano?
Yes you can use a MIDI keyboard as a Piano… but the one major difference between a MIDI keyboard and a piano is that the MIDI keyboard does not produce any sounds.
So while you can still apply the same theory, it does not have a format for learning to play the piano.
One thing you also need to know is that, if you are using a MIDI keyboard to learn how to play, you want to make sure it has weighted keys.
What size MIDI keyboard should I get?
Most MIDI keyboards come in different sizes.
We have 25 keys, 37 keys, 49 keys and so on. The size of MIDI keyboard you get will depend on your budget and the available space you have.
And it also depends on if you are a beginner just learning how to play the piano or you are advanced and special skills
Here is what I advice you to do… get the biggest size you can afford right now so that you don’t need to bother about upgrading in a year or two.
Can you connect a MIDI keyboard to an IPhone?
Yes you can connect a MIDI keyboard to an Iphone and also use it as a beat maker.
Before you begin, you want to do some research and make sure that the USB Midi controller will work with iOS devices.
One more big advantage of connecting via USB to your iOS device is that you don’t need to plug a power adapter into the keyboard; it will be bus powered, which means it gets its power through the USB cable.
Also here is a YouTube video showing you how to correctly do the connections.
A MIDI keyboard is an absolute must as a hip hop producer and you want to make sure you get a hip hop keyboard that lasts for a long time and makes your production workflow very easy.
All the keyboards reviewed in this article meet the required standards.
If you have any comments or advice leave them in the box below
All images sourced from Amazon.com