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Best Midi Keyboard for Garageband

Plug and play setup

Don’t get scared or slowed down by technology anymore.

Midi is the language used when creating music on computers and even old analog hardware, luckily for you, this is not something that you have to learn or even really need to understand to make music (yet).

The midi controllers that we will be reviewing will all be Midi over USB, which mean that all you have to do is plug and play, then you will be controlling the selected sounds in Garageband via the keyboard.

Not only are these midi controllers plug and play compatible with Garageband, they are also USB bus powered, meaning that you do not have to bother finding an electrical outlet to power up the midi keyboard, again, just plug and play.

How many keys should I get?

It’s really a personal choice when it comes to keyboard size, we have kept it pretty simple in this review and stayed with in the range of 25 and 49 key, midi keyboards.

25 Key controllers  were chosen due to their affordable price and compact size, great for traveling or small working environments.

The 49 key controllers were included as they are the most common size for bedroom studios and allow you to play a range of octaves at your fingertips.

Compatibility

There are lots of Digital Audio Workstations on the market and chances are that you will sooner or later want to try out some new software for creating and editing your electronic music ideas.

All of the midi keyboard controllers that are mentioned in this review can be used with all the main DAW’s, some are even shipped with the lite version of Ableton Live, so that you can test out the functions and unique workflow of Ableton Live, Ableton is also Mac friendly DAW.

Extras

Bpm Skills have chosen a range of midi controllers that all come equipped with more than just a row or midi keyboard keys.

Why did we do this?

We know that soon enough you are going to want to get more creative with the interactivity and workflow that you can produce when using a controller, instead of a traditional laptop keyboard and mouse to create electronic music.

All of the chosen midi keyboard controller we have included at least include of the below feature, that we allow to get more creative and manipulate to sounds and software via the controller’s functions.

Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII | 25-Key Portable USB MIDI Keyboard With 16 Backlit Performance-Ready Pads, 8-Assignable Q-Link Knobs & A 4-Way Thumbstick
Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 Slim-Key Controller
Akai Professional MPK249 | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller with LCD Screen (16 Pads / 8 Knobs / 8 Faders), VIP Software Download Included
M-Audio Keys (Keystation 49)
Alesis V49 | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller (8 Pads / 4 Knobs / 4 Buttons)
Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII | 25-Key Portable USB MIDI Keyboard With 16 Backlit Performance-Ready Pads, 8-Assignable Q-Link Knobs & A 4-Way Thumbstick
Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 Slim-Key Controller
Akai Professional MPK249 | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller with LCD Screen (16 Pads / 8 Knobs / 8 Faders), VIP Software Download Included
M-Audio Keys (Keystation 49)
Alesis V49 | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller (8 Pads / 4 Knobs / 4 Buttons)
-
$99.00
$99.00
$398.90
$73.39
from $67.36
Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII | 25-Key Portable USB MIDI Keyboard With 16 Backlit Performance-Ready Pads, 8-Assignable Q-Link Knobs & A 4-Way Thumbstick
Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII | 25-Key Portable USB MIDI Keyboard With 16 Backlit Performance-Ready Pads, 8-Assignable Q-Link Knobs & A 4-Way Thumbstick
$99.00
Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 Slim-Key Controller
Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 Slim-Key Controller
$99.00
Akai Professional MPK249 | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller with LCD Screen (16 Pads / 8 Knobs / 8 Faders), VIP Software Download Included
Akai Professional MPK249 | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller with LCD Screen (16 Pads / 8 Knobs / 8 Faders), VIP Software Download Included
$398.90
M-Audio Keys (Keystation 49)
M-Audio Keys (Keystation 49)
-
$73.39
Alesis V49 | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller (8 Pads / 4 Knobs / 4 Buttons)
Alesis V49 | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller (8 Pads / 4 Knobs / 4 Buttons)
from $67.36

1. Akai Mpk Mini Mk2

Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII | 25-Key Portable USB MIDI Keyboard With 16 Backlit Performance-Ready Pads, 8-Assignable Q-Link Knobs & A 4-Way Thumbstick

Akai has been in the business of manufacturing high-quality music production equipment for over 30 years.

The Akai Mpk Mini Mk2 is a 25 key midi keyboard controller that is packed with a whole range of usable features such as the 8 X touch sensitive pads, made famous by hip hop producers and heavily used by finger drummers for creating drum patterns with your fingertips.

8 X 360 degree rotary knobs for assigning effect and manipulating sounds directly from the controller.

Akai have removed the traditional mod and pitch wheel and replaced them with a 4 way dynamic pitch and modulation thumb stick.

Pros
  • Great value for money
  • Portable
  • Packed with features for beginners and advanced users
  • Comes shipped with free synthesizer software
Cons
  • Only 25 keys
  • Compact unit, some users may prefer more keys and fewer pads
  • Plastic construction

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2. Arturia Minilab Mk2

Arturia MiniLab MkII 25 Slim-Key Controller

The Minilab is a small studio and portable producers dream, the team at Arturia has included 16 heavy duty, thick rubber, rotary encoders for all you midi tweaking pleasures.

Besides its great build quality and aesthetically pleasing design, the Arturia Minilab is another midi controller that is on the smaller side of the scale but packs a punch when it comes to features, functions, and value for money.

The Minilab is a small studio and portable producers dream, the team at Arturia has included 16 heavy duty, thick rubber, rotary encoders for all you midi tweaking pleasures. Plus, the mod wheel and pitch bend are now touched sensitive slide pads, so fewer possibilities of damaging your controller when sliding it in and out of your backpack

Pros
  • High quality and low price
  • Slim and compact built
  • 8 drum pads, 2 banks
  • 2 touch-sensitive strips for the mod wheel and pitch control
Cons
  • Only 25 keys
  • No Midi in and out ports
  • No external power input

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3. Akai Mpk 249

Akai Professional MPK249 | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller with LCD Screen (16 Pads / 8 Knobs / 8 Faders), VIP Software Download Included

If you’re looking for a midi keyboard controller to add to your Garageband home studio and you’re not after a portable option, then the big brother of the previously reviewed Akai Mpk Mini Mk2 could be the solution for you.

The Akai Mpk 249 boasts a whole lot of options that you can grow into once you start to get more advanced in making electronic music.

Chances are once you get more serious about producing you will want more control over your sounds and workflow, that’s why we suggest the more advanced controllers like the Mpk249 from the start, the Akai Mpk249 has 49 keys, plus plenty of knobs, faders, and pads for you to create music on.

With a general bare bones midi keyboard controller all you get is a set of keys and maybe a mod and pitch wheel, if you start on a slightly more advanced controller then you will not need to upgrade in the near future.

That being said, I had my Akai Mpk49 (the older model) for 7 years and slowly learned how to assign knobs and faders, plus play out drum patterns on the pads and never had to upgrade my midi keyboard controller.

Pros
  • 49, Semi weighted, full-size keys
  • 16 RGB backlit pads
  • 8 X Controller Knobs, 8 X Faders, 8 X Switches
  • Plug and play with all major software including Garageband
Cons
  • Price, this is not a budget controller
  • Additional midi mapping can take some time to learn

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4.  M Audio Keystation 49 II

M-Audio Keys (Keystation 49)

If you’re looking for a 49 key midi controller on a budget or you just want to try creating music on a midi keyboard controller before you make a big financial commitment then check out the M Audio Keystation 49 II.

This is a fairly basic keyboard controller, that comes equipped with all of the standard features to get you started producing music and playing your favourite sounds and instruments from Garageband.

The Keystation 49 II comes with a bundle of sounds, including the lite version of Ableton Live, so you can check out the functions and workflow of this amazing DAW.

Simply, plug and play with the USB midi and USB power functions, no drivers are required to be installed and this controller is compatible with both mac and pc.

Pros
  • Cheap price, great value
  • Great for beginners on a budget
  • 49 full-size playable keys
  • Software bundle including Ableton Lite
Cons
  • No assignable faders, Knobs, and pads
  • Spring action keys
  • Keys lack sensitivity and responsiveness when playing advanced chords

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5. Alesis V49

Alesis V49 | 49-Key USB MIDI Keyboard & Drum Pad Controller (8 Pads / 4 Knobs / 4 Buttons)

Slightly more expensive than the M Audio Keystation 49 II, but packed with features, functionality and a great design that will look awesome in your studio is Alesis V49 midi keyboard controller.

The V49 comes with adjustable sensitivity, full-size keys, 8 pads, 4 rotary knobs and 4 banks to access sounds and instruments from inside your DAW.

This is a great midi keyboard at a budget price that will allow you to plug and play with Garageband, without the need to install drivers and mess around with updates.

The pads, rotary knobs, and banks will allow you to grow into this keyboard’s functions and capabilities as you learn how to create music inside the software and advance your skills in music production.

Even advanced music producers can use the Alesis V49 in their studio to create amazing tracks and push the software to its limits, so don’t be fooled by the price tag this is a midi keyboard controller that you can keep for a long time while you travel on your musical journey.

Pros
  • 49 full-size keys
  • 8 X pads, 4 X rotary knobs, 4 X Sound banks
  • USB Powered
  • USB midi (plug and play)
Cons
  • Lacks some of the features and functions of the more expensive
  • 49 keyboard models
  • No rotary encodersNo LCD display

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Conclusion

So what is the best midi keyboard controller of Garageband?

The team at Bpm Skills have thought long and hard about what would be the best midi controller for Mac flagship DAW, Garageband.

And with the considerations of price, functions, quality, design, and playability we have come to a conclusion.

Our winner and suggested midi keyboard controller for Garageband users is the Alesis V49.

Why the Alesis V49?, well the V49 ticks all the boxes for us.

It has plug and play technology, that means you down have to sweat over installing drivers and dealing with tech issues when it comes to setting up the midi controller.

The feature, the Alesis V49 has more than enough features to get you started producing on Garageband, without the need to upgrade your controller, once you improve your skills and understanding of the software.

49 Full-size keys, this is the most common sized midi keyboard controller for home music studios, allowing you to learn and play a wide range of chords and melodies.

The price, this is a great value midi controller, with a solid build and plenty of feature that won’t break the bank.

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