2. Pad Controllers
Such controllers are usually used for programming and playing drum parts and launching samples, but they can also be used with synths and other virtual instruments.
Many producers, who have no piano playing experience, use pads as their tool for music creation.
If you choose this type of controllers, pay attention to the size of the very pads. If you want to learn finger drumming technique, then small pads are unlikely to be the right choice for you. Or if, for example, you have big fingers, you risk to accidentally hit a nearby pad which will ruin your live performance.
Pay attention to the stiffness and responsiveness of the pads. If you've never played such controllers, it will be a good idea to run a test drive before you buy.
Like MIDI keyboards, some pad controllers are also equipped with additional control knobs, faders and buttons. There are also MIDI mixers and DAW controllers manufactured as separate devices. In this article, we'll not go into detail about them because earlier we've already described all their functionality. 3. Mobile and experimental MIDI controllers
More and more performers add unusual instrumental solutions to their live sets. Some use iPads to control synths or DAWs, some use MIDI rings, MIDI guitars or experimental wind instruments.
MIDI guitars are different. It could be an acoustic guitar with MIDI pickups or it could be an electric guitar with additional built-in devices to control the instrument's sound.
Wind MIDI controllers are usually shaped like a saxophone. Such controllers, of course, are popular among musicians experienced with playing wind instruments.
MIDI rings convert the motion of a musician's hand into MIDI signals, thus you can assign specific parameters you want to control to each of the axes of the three-dimensional space. There are ring controllers simultaneously using 2 rings or 2 sides of the controller, which dramatically increases sound expression and modulation capabilities.
We described just a tiny fraction of what already exists in the field of experimental controllers. Electronic music has always been home for unconventional approaches, thus it stably drives regular replenishment of MIDI controllers market.
Let's summarize what you should consider when choosing a MIDI controller that will work for you the best. 1. Portability
Do you plan to use the controller in a studio or want to compose "on the go"? It might be the case that you need several controllers to support your creative process in all situations.
25- and 37-keys keyboards are highly portable. You can easily carry them in a bag, they won't take a lot of space on your table and you'll feel comfortable just keeping them on the lap. If your working space is tight, e.g. your bedroom is your studio, a smaller keyboard with 49 or 61 keys could be a better choice for you. 2. The Feel
If, when you play, you need to receive that important feel of a real piano, you should know you'll never get it from a semi-weighted action keys, not even mentioning portable keyboards with flat keys. As a compromise, you may choose a keyboard with medium-weighted keys, that are also available.
All decent-quality MIDI keyboards and pad controllers are velocity-sensitive. It means, the harder you hit the key or pad, the louder sound you get from your virtual instrument. In other words, such controllers can generate variable parameter called velocity. 3. Compatibility with a DAW
This matter is becoming less and less important, because both controller makers and software developers are interested in the maximum possible compatibility of their products. However, there are controllers specially created to work with particular workstations. That's why, first you need to set your priorities and decide whether you are ready to switch to a different DAW or go for a compromise when choosing a controller.
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We are wishing you to find your own ideal live set!