Hardware Synthesizer Vs MIDI Controller For Bands

Are you in a band or looking to play in a band and wondering what the best route is to go? Then you are definitely in the right place. Both of these keyboards are used for the studio and for live shows. However, they are a little bit different with the MIDI controller being a more relevant creation.

It is my opinion that the MIDI controller is more useful for bands as a lot of sounds in bands albums are coming from VST’s. In short, I just believe you can do more and access way more sounds a lot easier than you can on hardware synthesizers. Hardware synthesizers are great, don’t get me wrong, I just prefer to have unlimited sounds at my disposal. 

It is important to note what you’re looking to do as well. Are you wanting to tour and play shows or are you looking to find an instrument that you can write with? I personally still would recommend a MIDI controller for either or especially if you already have a reliable laptop to use it with.

The Difference Between Hardware Synths & MIDI Controllers

The difference is simple: MIDI controllers don’t have any internal sounds and they are used specifically to control virtual software. Hardware synths have internal sounds and have all of their controls built-in.


Hardware synths are typically a lot more money than MIDI controllers. For many musicians, this is a reason why they prefer the MIDI keyboard. You can buy VST packs for your controller rather than spending a ton on a hardware synth.

Hardware Synthesizers

Hardware Synth

There are some absolute staples in the music world that are hardware synthesizers. Also, a lot of hardcore musicians will disagree with me here as they absolutely love analog synthesizers. I too, love analog synths, trust me.

However, if you’re touring in a band, it’s not always ideal to be lugging an expensive piece of hardware with you. It’s also not ideal to be playing a lot of different sounds if you’re the only keyboardist.

Usually, certain analog synthesizers are known for different things. Some are strictly monophonic, meaning that can’t play more than one note at once. These synths are typically known for their bass and lead sounds.

I own a Dave Smith Prophet 12 and I think it’s a great synth that I am constantly still learning things on.

Iconic Songs Made On Hardware Synths

I think that most musicians have their favorite go-to hardware synths. Some of the most iconic songs have also been written on them. Take, for example, The Killers used the micro Korg for pretty much every song off of their album Hot Fuss. This album made a lot of keyboardists go out and get this keyboard since it worked so well for The Killers.

It was then used on a lot of albums following Hot Fuss and continued to grow in popularity. There was then the Moog Voyager which was used on a ton of bands recordings and for good reason, it rocks. The only problem is that is incredibly heavy and bulky, making it not a great choice for touring.

One of my personal favorite synthesizers at this moment is the Sequential Prophet X by Dave Smith. I recommend reading the review I wrote about it above.

MIDI Controllers

small keyboard

These keyboards come in literally all sizes. Depending on what you’re looking to do with them, you can decide on how big of a keyboard you want. You can tour with these so much easier as you don’t have to worry about them getting cold on the road and they are generally much lighter. The lighter the better when you’re starting to tour with keyboards.

Almost all studio producers nowadays will have a MIDI keyboard that they use to write on and track things with. VST’s are so easy to download that it allows your controller to have a bunch of different sounds they can access. VST’s are virtual synthesizers that you download to your computer and you access them with your controller.

They make these for basically all kinds of sounds and they also allow you to tweak the sounds directly on your keyboards.

You can read my complete guide on these keyboards here.

With MIDI you can write the part into your DAW and then you can surf through hundreds of different sounds in your VST’s.


You can find great hardware synths and I do recommend finding one that works for your needs. I just think that with all of the great VST’s, you can ultimately do so much more. Do you prefer MIDI keyboards or hardware synths? Let me know in the comment section below!

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