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Developed in 2004, Apple’s Garageband quickly rose to the top for beginner DAWs. It has a simple layout, and it is relatively easy to create your songs on. The best MIDI keyboard for Garageband will be an option that is cheaper, portable, & compatible.
In this article, we are going to present the very best Garageband MIDI controllers available.
The good thing about this is that Garageband is a ubiquitous 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 Garageband and other free DAWs in this article, where I break down all of the best options.
MIDI keyboards are one of the most important purchases you can make regarding music production and songwriting with Garageband.
Our Top Picks
|Editor’s Choice||Novation Launchkey MK3 Mini||
|Runner Up||Micro Lab||
|Budget||Nektar LX 61 +||
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 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 that I would recommend to 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 you make a decision.
Best MIDI Keyboards For Garageband
Below are the best MIDI keyboards for Garageband. I hope you find this list helpful!
Arturia Keystep Pro – Best All-Around
This 37 key MIDI keyboard is extremely powerful. The Keystep Pro is a producers dream as it offers performance capabilities that many oher MIDI keyboards currently don't.
The Arturia Keystep Pro is a brand new controller from Arturia that is a little bit steep in price than 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 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 exceptionally well with all major DAWs, including Garageband. With this being said, it’s not made explicitly for Garageband and doesn’t have special functions for it.
The Keystep gets our pick for the best MIDI keyboard for Garageband. I believe that this is the most powerful option for Garageband & it is also affordable.
- 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
Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 – Best Budget MIDI Keyboard For Garage Band
The Novation Mini is specifically built for Ableton. It's small enough to fit in your backpack, yet powerful enough to allow you to create beats on the go.
The Novation Launchkey Mini MK 3 is an incredible mini MIDI keyboard controller that works 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 nice hardware synth that you want to control, you now have an incredibly cheap way to do so with the Mini MK 3.
Until recently, the Akai MPK Mini MK2 was the best option for mini controllers, but now with the Novation Mini MK3, it’s hard not to have it as my top pick.
I currently believe that this is one of the best MIDI keyboards for Garageband. If you use our criteria above for judging, you will notice that it is a great price, easy to use, has excellent functionality, & is highly portable.
- 16 velocity-sensitive pads
- It 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 25 is built for beginners and on the go producers. It weighs around 1LB and fits comfortably in a backpack. There is also a nifty built-in USB cable.
The Arturia Microlab is one of the most miniature 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 excellent features of the Microlab is that it has a built-in USB cable that retracts.
This is convenient if you’re looking to throw it in your backpack while traveling. You also don’t need to remember an additional USB cable either.
This is a pretty stripped-down controller made for producers on the go or beginner producers as far as features.
- Retractable USB cable
- Only weighs 1.8 lbs
- It 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 MK III is a solid pick from M-Audio. This is a great choice if you're on a tight budget and looking for something extremely simple.
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 many features with this controller, but it has all the beginner essentials you need.
You will find a pitch-bend and modulation wheel that both 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 budget-friendly Nektar LX 61 + is a go-to recommendation of mine as it is great for beginners and still gives you a solid number of keys and controls. Nothing mind-blowning here, but it's reliable and a great price.
The Nektar LX 61+ is a great controller that you can use with Garageband. I like this option because it has 61 full-sized keys, eight pads, and 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 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
- Eight pads
- Nine faders
- Eight control pots
- Only weighs 9 lbs
- Key-bed isn’t the greatest.
Keep in mind that tons of different DAWs out there can be used with your MIDI controllers.
I hope you found this article helpful when picking the best MIDI keyboard for Garageband.
I am very old so simplicity of connection is very important to me I tried Arturia too complicated
I really appreciate this article. I’m about to purchase my 1st MIDI Controller, and it will likely be the Novation Launchkey Mini [MK3] based on this article as I currently use GarageBand.