Developed in 2004, Apple’s Garageband quickly rose to the top for DAWs that were great for beginners. It has a simple layout and it is relatively easy to develop your songs on. The best MIDI keyboard for Garageband is going to be an option that is cheaper, portable, & compatible.
The good thing about this is that Garageband is a very common free DAW (digital audio workstation) or in other words: a recording studio. What I like is that Garageband offers a lot for being free, compared to other DAWs.
Note: You can read more about the Garageband and other free DAWs in this article here where I breakdown all of the best options.
MIDI keyboards are definitely one of the most important purchases you can make when it comes to music production and songwriting.
If you’re looking to just wet your feet with making beats and producing music, Garageband makes for an easy choice as it comes with MACs and IOS. You can now download it for Windows as well.
My personal opinion is that you should just get a cheaper MIDI keyboard to use with Garageband as you get used to learning music production.
Because of this, I’m excluding some of the more expensive options I would recommend to just keep it simple.
Note: I’ve played every MIDI keyboard that I talk about in any of these articles. I have also spent years touring the country playing keyboards in a moderately well-known band. This article is meant to give you a better understanding and help make a decision.
Best MIDI Keyboards For Garageband
Below are my favorite picks for Garageband. I hope you find this list helpful!
Novation Launchkey Mini MK3
The Novation Launchkey Mini MK 3 is an incredible mini controller that works really well with all major DAWs. The integration is flawless with Garageband and Novation typically makes super user-friendly controllers in general.
You are presented with 16 pads, & 8 knobs. Another big win for Novation with this controller is that you can also control hardware synthesizers with it.
This means that if you have a really nice hardware synth that you want to control, you now have an incredibly cheap way to do so with the Mini MK 3.
Up until recently, the Akai MPK Mini MK2 was the best option for mini controllers, but now with the Novation Mini MK3, it’s hard to not have it as my top pick.
- 16 velocity-sensitive pads
- Comes with impressive free software including Ableton Live Lite
- Fully controls Ableton Live
- 8 rotary knobs
- Pitch & Mod sliders
- Easy to use
- Smaller keys
The Arturia Microlab is one of the smallest and portable MIDI keyboards currently available. With this being said, it doesn’t have a ton of different features to play with.
The Microlab comes in 3 different colors that all look pretty cool in my opinion. One of the nice features with the Microlab is that it actually has a built-in USB cable that retracts.
This is convenient if you’re looking to just throw it in your backpack while traveling. You also don’t need to remember an additional USB cable either.
As far as features, this is a pretty stripped down controller that is made for producers on the go or for beginner producers.
- Retractable USB cable
- Only weighs 1.8 lbs
- Comes with bundled software
- Works great with Garageband
- Easy to use
- Limited features
- No pads
- Small keys
M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3
The M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3 is a keyboard I recently started recommending. You can get it in 49,61 or 88 keys, but the 49 key model is the cheapest.
There aren’t really a ton of features with this controller, but it has all the beginner essentials that you need.
You will find a pitch-bend and modulation wheel that feel pretty decent in structure.
- Great bundled software including Ableton Live Lite & Skoove
- Full-sized velocity-sensitive keys
- iPad & iPhone compatible (Great for Garageband App)
- Easy to use
- Very slim
- Not a lot of features
- Lacks pads
Nektar LX 61 +
The Nektar LX 61+ is a great controller that you can use with Garageband. What I like about this option is that it has 61 full-sized keys, 8 pads, as well as faders and rotary knobs.
This is one of the most affordable 61 key MIDI keyboards currently available on the market.
The Lx 61 + includes the DAW software Bitwig and this is a great software to have when you’re starting out.
What’s nice about this software is that it’s easy to use and it’s been streamlined for beginners.
I’ve been recommending the LX 61 + a lot lately for many other DAWs just because of its simplicity and the fact that it has 61 full-sized keys.
If you’re a fan of ripping solos, you can do so nicely by taking advantage of the number of keys as well as using the modulation wheel and pitch-bend.
One thing that I feel like people complain about with this controller is that the key-bed isn’t great. While I do agree, I feel like that’s more on the buyer. It’s relatively inexpensive for a MIDI controller and it’s not a digital piano.
It doesn’t have weighted keys and its primary goal isn’t to replicate an acoustic piano, it’s to transfer MIDI and allow you to write music.
- 61 Full-sized keys
- Included DAW software (Bitwig)
- Full transport buttons
- 8 pads
- 9 faders
- 8 control pots
- Only weighs 9 lbs
- Key-bed isn’t the greatest
Arturia Keystep Pro – Best All-Around
The Arturia Keystep Pro is a brand new controller from Arturia that is a little bit steep in price compared to the others that I will mention.
With this being said, this is easily one of the most advanced controllers that you can own currently. For a very long time, the original Keystep by Arturia was kind of a best-kept secret that not all producers even knew about.
With the Keystep Pro, it’s no longer really a secret and it is now being recommended to all producers and musicians.
It is equipped with a 4-track polyphonic sequencer, & a dedicated 16-track sequencer.
This controller works extremely well with all major DAWs including Garageband. With this being said, it’s not specifically made for Garageband and doesn’t have special functions for it.
- 4 track sequencer
- 16 track drum sequencer
- Polyrhythmic sequencing
- 7 different arpeggiator modes
- Metronome out
- Aftertouch & velocity-sensitive
- One of the best MIDI keyboards currently available
- A little bit more expensive
Keep in mind that there are tons of different DAWs out there that you can use with your MIDI controllers. I think that the ones featured in this article are the best controllers for Garageband as they all have a nice price tag and there’s a good range of sizes.