Simply put, A MIDI controller is any instrument or software that is used to generate and transmit musical instrument digital interface. They typically don’t create or produce sound on their own. These have been being used for 30 years now. One of the biggest MIDI bands was a band named Rush. They only had three members and they had a ton of sounds going on. They used MIDI controllers for this.
Check out my favorite MIDI Controllers Here.
I have been playing on MIDI controllers now since 2013 and it has been a fun and exciting adventure watching them get better with age. The technology has gotten better and better over the years.
Why Would I Want A MIDI Controller?
MIDI controllers are used in every aspect of music nowadays. From the studio to the live show. These controllers are actually forcing the technology of hardware synthesizers to get better. This is because they allow the musician to access so many different sounds by using a DAW. If you are a producer, then you may want a MIDI controller in order to transpose and create easier.
For live performance, they make it possible for musicians to use the actual sounds from their album. You can actually use the pads that are on the controllers to trigger additional parts that other members in the bands can’t cover. The versatility is second to none in a MIDI controller.
Different Types Of MIDI Controllers
These are easily the most common types of MIDI controllers. They don’t have internal sounds on them. When you hit a note on the keyboard it transmits and sends MIDI to the device it’s plugged into. They come in all sorts of sizes from 25 keys all the way up to 88 keys. Some of these keyboards have faders, pads and octave buttons.
You can check out my full review on the best MIDI keyboards here.
The size of the keyboard all comes down to how you’re going to be using it. If you’re a pianist then you might want the full 88 keys. Keep in mind, the keys typically aren’t weighted, but a handful of them are. The main point of a MIDI keyboard is to allow you to access and play virtual synthesizers. They give you means to do this.
MIDI Drum Controller
MIDI drum controllers basically only have faders and pads. You can use these to trigger and launch samples live or in the studio. The pads allow you to program sounds to the pads and get creative with rhythms and notes. It’s just another way for drummers or even pianists to get creative. As a musician, you want as many different ways to be as creative as you can be.
You will see a lot of bands nowadays using MIDI drum controllers because they can trigger parts easily from them. A band that comes to mind is a band called AJR. They are synth pop band and they use MIDI drum pads live to launch vocal effects and rhythmic vocal parts he doesn’t sing.
These make it easy to streamline ideas and songs as you can program your pads to whatever sound that you wish.
I know, you wouldn’t expect this to be on here, but MIDI keytars are very much a thing. There are only a couple available right now as they are fairly new. However, they do what your basic MIDI controller does, only you wear it like a guitar while you play it.
MIDI Foot Controllers
The first thing that pops into my head with these controllers is Rush. Rush was using MIDI foot controllers back in the 1980s and they still continue to. They can use them to play and sample bass parts while they play keyboard parts.
Guitarists can use these to control their pedal boards or to simply launch parts that they can’t play since they’re playing another part. The MIDI world is designed to make everything easier and possible for musicians. I use one of these in my setup live so I can launch additional parts.
Mini MIDI Controllers
These are basically tiny controllers. They are meant for the on the go music producer or musician. They take such little space and are generally under 2 pounds. Mini MIDI controllers have a lot to offer because of this.
What Do I Need To Use A MIDI Controller?
You will need a laptop or a Macbook. You will use a USB cable to connect your MIDI controller to it unless your controller is wireless. Wireless MIDI controllers are new, but they are going to be the norm in the near future. Once you have a computer, you will want a DAW. DAW’s are referred to as digital audio workstations. I talk more about DAW’s here.