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When I first starting getting into music production and songwriting, I started listening to various types of music. One of my good friends at the time was obsessed with Dimmu Borgir and Children Of Bodom and he would always send me songs and tell me to learn them.
Several years later, I went back to figure out what the best keyboards for metal bands are.
In this guide, I will be mentioning different keyboards and equipment. To get a better understanding, you can view these guides I created:
My opinion is that the best keyboard for metal bands is going to be a MIDI controller. Now, some people might not like this as it requires a computer and the time to set it up. For those people, I am going to recommend a couple of other options.
I believe there are a lot of different options for metal keyboardists, so I want to kind of display what other bands are using as a way to show you. With this being said, you’re going to notice a lot of workstations and MIDI controllers. Metal bands love to use orchestral strings along with choirs, bells, and pads.
Note: If you go the MIDI controller route, you can program distortion and other effects that you might like for some screaming leads. I personally believe the sounds you can get from VSTS are perfect for metal music as there are some amazing options.
To go the MIDI controller route, you simply need a MIDI controller, a DAW, VSTS, and a USB cable.
Quick Picks For Metal Musicians
|Editor’s Pick||Arturia Keylab MK II 49||
|Alternative||Roland FA 08||
|Great Workstation||Korg Kronos 2||
What To Look For With Keyboards For Metal Bands
Sounds: There is nothing wrong with spending a small amount on keyboards, however, as you get really cheap in price, you tend to sacrifice sounds. If you’re on a budget, I recommend going the MIDI controller route. You can get a keyboard for a couple of hundred dollars and it will sound extremely expensive.
# Of Sounds: Having a good sound library on your keyboard is always a benefit. Especially when making and playing metal music. You want to be able to easily switch between patches live for different parts of songs.
Keybed: Depending on your preference, you might want to have weighted keys or you might not care. If you want weighted keys, you will need an 88 key keyboard.
Weight: If you plan on taking your keyboard to practice or to gigs frequently, finding something that’s not 80 pounds would be beneficial. I started off touring with a 75 pound Roland keyboard and it was not fun. I would recommend 20-50 pounds for a keyboard.
Best Keyboards For Metal Musicians
Arturia Keylab MKII 49
The Arturia Keylab MKii 49 is the most durable controller available. From solid key-action, to impressive controls, the Keylab gives producers more than what they need.
This is a 49 key MIDI controller, however, they also make it in 61 and 88 keys now. The 88 key Keylab MKII comes with weighted keys as well.
You can view my full review on the Arturia Keylab MKII 49 here.
This MIDI controller is one of my current favorite controllers and it is reasonably priced. It comes with some great free software and it lets you get your feet wet.
You can access literally any type of sound by using a MIDI controller and this is one of the best options.
Personally, I believe in the next few years almost every musician will be using MIDI controllers over everything else. VST libraries are outstanding now and they are all over modern music.
Korg Kronos 2 – Workstation
The Korg Nautilus is a successful streamlined version of the iconic Kronos. This workstation is affordable, yet still capable of doing many things we've all loved with the Kronos. On top of this, the sounds vary from the Kronos.
The Korg Nautilus is an extremely popular and expensive workstation that is used by some of the most renowned keyboardists in the world. I’ve had the pleasure of playing on these a few times now and it’s overwhelming how much you can do with them.
The sound department is great and you can also record directly into this keyboard. The one thing that a lot of people won’t like about this keyboard is the price.
The Nautilus is great for metal keyboardists. If you can’t afford this, I would recommend checking out the Korg Krome.
Roland FA 08 – Workstation
I recently did a full review of the Roland FA 08 and I think it’s fantastic. I’ve owned this now for 2 years and it has aged extremely well.
This is another workstation that I think metal musicians will really dig. You get a ton of sounds and the key-bed is fantastic. I have been in love with Roland key-beds since the day I first played the Fantom G8.
The strings on the Roland FA 08 are beautiful and you can layer multiple different patches at once.
One thing to also note is that the weight is very reasonable coming in under 40 pounds.
Personally, I love the Roland FA 08. I know a lot of people will argue that it’s not on the same level as the Montage 8 and the Kronos 2, however, it’s also thousands of dollars cheaper.
My argument has always been that I don’t know that the other keyboards are worth that much more, especially since I often run my FA 08 as a MIDI controller now.
Famous Metal Keyboardists And Their Keyboards
Jordan Rudess – Dream Theater
Jordan Rudess is the keyboardist for the band Dream Theater. While some might not consider them to be metal, his work behind the keyboards is phenomenal.
- Korg Kronos
- Roland FA 08
- Roland AX-Edge
Jordan is usually known for using a Kronos workstation as his main keyboard. He has an awesome setup that you can check out on youtube.
Jens Johansson – Stratovarius
Jens Johansson is often underrated in my opinion. This guy can absolutely shred. As far as keyboards go, he uses a lot of different synths that include:
- Yamaha DX7
- Korg Polysix
- Oberheim Matrix 12
I hope you found this article helpful. There will be a lot more options added in this article as well. I wanted to give a quick break down of the different types of keyboards that metal players are using.
What kind of keyboard set up are you running? Let me know below!
I liked this article a lot. Made my ”keyboard-lust” more severe! (Ha ha ha😅)
I’m wondering, is there any remarcable differense between roland FA-06 and FA-08??
Please send me email and help me to but a good(and not very expensive) keyboard.
Yours truly: ” keyboard fan”
The main difference is that the FA-08 has 88 weighted keys and the FA-06 has 61 semi-weighted keys.
As far as sounds and capabilities, they are the same!
SO glad I came across this website! I am just starting out as a keyboardist in a touring operatic metal band and am really interested in how to get a basic live set-up. I currently use a Yamaha PSR S-670 plugged straight into the PA but want to get more sounds and so am looking to move towards just using it as a midi controller. I read another of your articles about DAWs and VSTs and am just starting to get my head around things! Could you maybe do an article on a beginners guide to live performances showing how you use a midi controller together with (e.g.) a laptop / ipad plus some recommended VSTs for metal performances? Many thanks! Mick
Actually, Jens Johansson uses the Roland JV series sound modules for most of his keyboard sounds. You are correct, he did use the DX7 for many many years, but basically just as a controller for his other stuff, at least ever since he started using Rolands. The PolySix he did use, but only until he finished porting his lead sound on to his JV-1080. So, if you want to play Stratovarius, Roland gear will get you closer.