Music producers have long been using the best resources to create beats and music with. Hip-hop and EDM music are both styles of music that require catchy and fun beats for their tracks. When it comes to the best keyboard for making beats, there are a couple of different routes to go. It all depends on what the musician or producer is comfortable with and what their background is.
After playing these keyboards for the last few years, I came to the conclusion that my favorite is the Akai Professional MPK249. This is just a great product that has extremely smooth MIDI technology and programming. You can view it on Amazon at the link above.
There are two options that I think are great choices for making beats. One is the workstation keyboard and the other is the MIDI keyboard. Check out my thoughts on both below.
Best Music Production Keyboards – A Quick Glance
A keyboard workstation combines a keyboard with sound modules and a sequencer to create electronic music. A big plus is they have loads of different samples from drums to synthesizers. Workstations allow you to mix right from them if you desire to. Many people refer to workstations as a keyboard beat maker because it’s an all in one package.
These are set with hundreds and sometimes thousands of different patches that you can fully edit to your liking. They are basically big computers with keyboards attached. Workstations come with 61,76 or 88 keys. The high-end workstations have really nice key beds and weighted keys.
If you come from a piano background, I recommend a workstation with 88 weighted keys. Workstations also have sustain pedal inputs more frequently than MIDI controllers do.
When using a keyboard workstation to write a song or make a beat, you simply find the sounds you want and start building the track. These are fairly easy to use and they have a huge learning curve. I am still learning things about a workstation I have had for 10 years. The power of these workstations things is just incredible.
What Companies Make The Best Workstations?
The big three are Roland, Korg, and Yamaha. Some people really like Kurzweil as well, but they aren’t as popular in the workstation world as these three companies. This comes down to preference, but I will say that Roland is currently making the cheapest workstation and it is also high-quality.
MIDI keyboards are the other option for keyboards to make beats or electronic music with. These are ever-popular today and they are good for musicians who might be more producers than just piano players. These come in different sizes being anywhere from 25, 32, 37, 49, 61, 76 or 88 keys. The most popular one being 49 because it’s right in the middle and can be used for studio purposes or live music.
To read more about MIDI keyboards and how to use them with your laptop check out our guide on the best MIDI controller. You will need a laptop or computer to use with your instrument as this is how you will access the sounds and record with it.
A new advancement in MIDI is the invention of the Bluetooth MIDI controller. These are cool because you don’t need to plug them in with anything.
MIDI keyboards don’t actually have sounds on them. You access the sounds through VST’s. There are hundreds of VST’s out there and they are used all over the hip-hop and electronic music industry.
With these types of instruments, you will want drum pads so you can make the beats manually and not have to draw them in on your laptop.
Roland FA 08
- Reimagined music workstation designed to maximize your creative flow
- 88-note Ivory Feel-G Keyboard provides premium weighted-action performance in a lightweight design that's easy to transport
- Over 2000 sounds from the flagship INTEGRA-7 sound module, including SuperNATURAL synth and acoustic tones and drums; add even more tones via internal wave sound expansion slots
- SuperNATURAL synth engine is fully compatible with the expansive collection of free INTEGRA-7 synth tones available from Roland's Axial sound library site
- 16-track sequencer with non-stop loop recording makes it easy to build songs quickly; export your sequencer tracks to an SDHC card as a complete stereo mix, or as multitrack audio or MIDI data for use in your DAW
The Roland Fantom FA series is Roland’s best workstation and also most popular. The keys on this workstation feel like real ivory keys which is really hard to find on a keyboard. The customization is really nice on this product as it has faders that allow you to mix and tweak sounds to your liking.
I recently did an in-depth look the Fantom FA 08 and you can read that full review here.
There is a built-in arpeggiator along with the Roland staple D-beam synthesizer. The D-beam is basically a synthesizer in which you hold your hand over a sensor and it makes crazy noises. I haven’t found a ton of use to them yet, other than they look cool when you’re performing live. This instrument performs well in the studio and for live performance.
Korg Kronos 2
- Nine distinct sound engines
- Innovative Set List mode with many new updates
- Enhanced SGX-2 Grand Piano Engine featuring the new Berlin Grand
- Color Touch View display-now with Touch Drag capability
- KRONOS Expansion Sound Libraries
The Korg Kronos 2 is a very powerful workstation is used by a lot of hip-hop producers currently. It has 9 different sound engines and a nice feature is how easy the screen is to use. For musicians who are touring, you can set different set-lists that contain all of your different sounds.
All of the drum sounds might seem a little thin at first with this workstation, but you can tweak and edit them to your liking. The 88 hammer-action keys are a big plus as they feel just like a real piano. You can sample and install different sounds with this as well.
- The Motion Control Synthesis Engine unifies and controls two iconic Sound Engines: AWM2 (high-quality waveform and synthesis) and FM-X (modern, pure Frequency Modulation synthesis.)
- Motion Sequences are tempo-synchronized, completely customizable control sequences that can be assigned to virtually any synthesizer parameter and provide incredible new ways of creating sound.
- Montage features professional, stereo balanced outputs with "Pure Analog Circuit" digital to analog conversion.
- Eight rotary encoders and faders with step ladder LED. Note Capacity: Approx. 130,000 notes
- From high definition reverbs to incredibly detailed Virtual Circuit Modeling (VCM) effects, Montage is loaded
The Yamaha Montage is the newest workstation on the market today. This is so powerful that it will take years to learn all of the features and effects you can use with it. It has a fantastic key-bed and a purely analog circuit. This is extremely rare in a workstation and one of the nicest things about it.
It comes with 2 completely different sound engines for different styles of music. If you liked the Yamaha Motif, this is the next step up in the Yamaha workstation. It has similar sounds and plays similar, but it goes further with the editing and controls you have at your fingertips.
If you’re looking for something cheaper by Yamaha, check out these beginner keyboards by Yamaha.
MIDI Keyboard Options
Akai Professional MPK249
- 49 semi-weighted, velocity-sensitive full-size keys and a premium piano-style keybed for unprecedented response and natural feel
- 16 RGB-illuminated MPC-style pads each with 4 banks for 64 pads - the perfect solution for triggering samples, loops, one-shots, melodics and more
- 24 assignable Q-Link controllers comprising 8 control knobs, 8 faders and 8 backlit buttons engineered for hassle-free mapping and unprecidented DAW, virtual instrument and virtual effect control
- Take command of your peripheral MIDI equiptment courtesy of an onboard USB-MIDI interface with 5-pin MIDI input & output
- MPC mainstay controls included - MPC Note Repeat, arpeggiator, MPC Full Level, 16 Level Tap Tempo and Time Division
This MIDI controller is revered among the MIDI keyboard world because of its versatility and rather a cheap price. It comes with 16 drum pads that can be programmed for live music.
The control screen on this is very easy to navigate and helpful for users who are new to these instruments. Akai is known for giving musicians loads of software so that when you buy an Akai product you can immediately start accessing new sounds.
- MIDI Keyboard with 49 full-sized, square-front, semi-weighted keys with after touch. USB MIDI and 5-pin MIDI Out offer flexible MIDI connectivity
- Manipulate plugins and virtual instruments with hands-on controls. With VI49, you can open and close filters on virtual synthesizers, adjust volume levels in your mix, activate effects, and much more
- 16 velocity-sensitive trigger pads with illuminated RGB feedback for beat production and clip launching. Pitch and modulation wheels deliver expressive, creative control
- 36 assignable buttons and 12 assignable knobs interface with your music software. Seamless visual feedback via LED screen and illuminated buttons and knobs
- Production software included: Ableton Live Lite and Xpand!2 by AIR Music Tech (downloads). USB-powered and plug-and-play support for Mac and PC
The Alesis VX49 is an instrument that isn’t going to give you the headaches that some of the controllers we won’t mention will. If you’re using fruit loops studio or a DAW that isn’t extremely popular, you don’t have to worry about the compatibility with this controller.
It comes with a full-color screen with 8 knobs and 8 drum pads. The best feature on this MIDI controller is it comes with aftertouch for the keys. This is extremely useful and can give the musician amazing textures.
- MK2 version of Novation's 49-note USB keyboard controller for Ableton Live
- 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads, 8 knobs, and dedicated navigation and control buttons
- Software for Mac and PC and sustain pedal 1/4 inch jack socket,7 segment 3 character LED display,pitch bend and modulation wheels,16 full-colour RGB backlit velocity sensitive drum pads
- Fully USB bus-powered and class compliant; works without drivers or power cable
- Software for Mac and PC, Including: Ableton Live Lite, XLN Audio Addictive Keys, 2-year limited warranty on manufacturing defects
The Novation Launchkey has come along with since when it first hit the market. This controller is really good with Ableton as it was practically built for Ableton. It still works well with all of the DAW’s, it is just really user-friendly for Ableton.
The Launchkey has 16 drum pads and a lot of extra software for free.
Things To Consider When Purchasing A Keyboard For Beat Production
Price: Price is going to be important because there is a big jump in pricing from MIDI controllers to workstations. Knowing your budget will allow you to figure out which is best for you.
Experience: Do you have any sort of background in keyboards or playing the piano? If you come from a classical or jazz background and you know how to play, you might want to look at workstations as the key-beds are typically better. MIDI controllers typically have a smaller number of keys and they can have weak key-beds.
Music Production Background: If you have producing experience you may want to go with a controller as there are so many DAW’s that you can access and take advantage of. This is the reason that I personally prefer them. Unlimited sounds is really something that is hard to beat.
If you are an aspiring music producer, I suggest to check out my guide on the best free DAW’s. You can use these to get started.
Number Of Keys: Check to see how many keys are on the keyboards you’re looking at. Some workstations and controllers don’t have a ton of keys, whereas others have the full 88 keys on them.
When it comes to music production keyboards, there are many options. We recommend the keyboard workstation or the MIDI controller because they just give you the most features for your money. These are also the most popular products for this type of music as well. We hope you enjoyed our review, let us know in the comment section below.