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.
I highly recommend checking out the Dave Smith Sequential Prophet X synth review that I wrote here.
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.
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
- 49-note MIDI Controller Keyboard with Aftertouch
- 5 Expression Control Inputs - Black
- 16 RGB Backlit Performance Pads
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.
Roland FA 08 – Workstation
- Current draw: 1,300 mA
- Light, mobile body with 88-note Ivory Feel-G KeyboardOver 2000 sounds from the flagship INTEGRA-7 sound module16-track sequencer with non-stop loop recordingExport sequencer tracks to SDHC card or as multitrack audio or MIDI to your DAWOnboard sampler based on the SP-404SX16 independent FX engines, six COMP+EQ processors, global EQ, chorus, and reverbSix user-assignable Sound Modify knobsD-Beam, Rhythm Pattern, Arpeggiator, and Chord Memory functionsGuitar/Mic and Line input jacksDedicated input
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.
Korg Kronos 2 – Workstation
- 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 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 Kronos 2 is great for metal keyboardists. If you can’t afford this, I would recommend checking out the Korg Krome.
Famous Metal Keyboardists And Their Keyboards
Jordan Rudess – Dream Theater
Jordan Rudess is the keyboardists for the band Dream Theater. While some might not consider them to be metal, his work behind the keyboards is phenomenal.
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!