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If you are looking to introduce your students to the world of music production, a MIDI keyboard is an essential piece of kit. Compact, versatile and inexpensive, midi keyboards allow you to plug in to your computer and control your music production software or digital audio workstation (DAW) with ease.
But, with such a wide variety of choices available, what is the best MIDI keyboard for your school?
In this post, we will guide you through some of our top picks for the very best MIDI keyboards for schools.
Nektar are renowned for their MIDI controllers. And, what better place to start than their entry level offering. The SE49 is an affordable plug and play MIDI keyboard that is excellent for teaching students the basics of music production and DAW control, while still offering all the features users have come to expect from the Nekar Brand.
This affordable offering sports 49, full sized, velocity sensitive keys. If your students want to customise the keyboard to their play style, the SE49 has a choice of velocity curves to modify the response of this controller.
The SE49 from Nektar also includes large pitch bend and modulation keys for finer control over a variety of instruments and sounds.
To round things out this keyboard also comes a foot pedal socket and 4 buttons, Octave up and down and transpose buttons, as well as a MIDI assignable slider. Your students can remap each of these to control different aspects of your DAW using Nektars DAW integration software.
But, what software will you use with it? Nektar has you covered here too! You’ll get a free copy of Bitwig 8 which has over 50 instruments to choose from and a variety of samples and loops to help your students to express themselves.
Overall, this is an affordable and versatile MIDI controller that won’t break the bank if you are kitting out an entire classroom.Buy Here
Stepping things up in the Nektar line we have the GX61. The GX61 keyboard comes with many of the same features as the SE49 such as the Octave up and down and transpose keys, velocity sensitive keys and so on.
However, the GX61 has a few distinguishing features that make this a real powerhouse. Firstly, you have 61 full sized keys instead of 49 giving you an extra octave of control right at your fingertips.
But more importantly, this keyboard comes with extra buttons too. Specifically, we now have 8 buttons (on top of the previous 4 we had) for controlling the DAW. These allow your students to reduce repetitive mouse motions and control things like track navigation and transport right from the controller. In fact, of these 8 buttons, one of them is a shift button, essentially giving you access to an additional 14 buttons of fine control.
With these additional controls the GX61 will allow your students to become more productive and cram more expression and creation into each lesson.Buy Here
If you thought the additional controls of the GX61 were impressive, wait until you see the LX61+.
The Nektar LX61+ steps things up in a big way when it comes to additional controls. These include 8 rotary encoders and 9 MIDI buttons.
On top of this the LX61+ also comes with 8 velocity sensitive pads that can be triggered with a light touch. This makes them great for finger drumming. But the pads functionality doesn’t stop there. Like everything on the LX61+, they are highly customisable and programmable.
Finally, despite its functionality, the LX61+ can be operated as a low powered USB. This means you can run the LX61+ off a laptop or even an iPad (with the Apple camera kit connector) for a streamlined classroom setup.Buy Here
Moving away from Nektar we have another respected MIDI controller brand in M-Audio.
If affordability is your primary criteria, then look no further than the M-Audio Keystation MINI 32 MK3. Despite its long name, this is an extremely compact 32 key offering that is the cheapest on our list (currently just £1 per key at £32).
The Mini 32 MK3 also comes with some additional controls in the form of pitch bend buttons, a mod button, edit and sustain buttons, a volume wheel and fully assignable octave range buttons.
The beauty of the M-Audio is in its simplicity. This is a lightweight and compact offering allowing you to let your DAW do much of the heavy lifting.
M-Audio also kindly bundle some additional software to get your students up and running in the form of a DAW (MPC Beats) and some additional plugins.
What makes this a great option for students is the included Melodics software which helps teach students of all levels how to use MIDI controllers.Buy Here
The Keystation 49 MK3 steps things up considerably and is an improvement on the Keystations Mini 32 in many ways.
Firstly, it has 49 keys instead of 32. Additionally the pitch bend buttons have been swapped out for a wheel which is more intuitive to many students.
Next, instead of the sustain button it includes an input for a sustain pedal (sold separately). Depending on your use case this is either a pro or a con. While it is an additional accessory, and thus an additional expense, it allows the student to key both hands on the keys and provides a more realistic experience for pianists.
Finally, the 49 MK3 also comes with a variety of additional buttons for DAW and track control which will improve the efficiency of your students.Buy Here
To round things out, we have a slightly different entry. The Novation LaunchKey 25 MK3 is a small, sleek and powerful offering from a highly respected brand.
While this controller only has the 25 keys, it has a variety of other tools up its sleeve to ensure it is no less powerful than the others on this list. Some of those tools include the 16 RGB backlit pads, 8 rotary encoders, transport and track controls, 1-key chord mode, arpeggiator and deep integration with Ableton live.
We recommend having a look at the Novation LaunchKey 25 if you are looking for something to bring a bit of variety to your music classroom.Buy Here
The best MIDI keyboard for your school will vary based on several criteria. It’s worth considering your budget, space, software requirements, how much software control you want integrated on the MIDI keyboard and more when making your decision. You might also decide that instead, you would prefer to have non-midi keyboards for your classroom.
Hopefully, the above list will give you a great sample of what is available and from this list you’ll be able to find the best MIDI keyboard for your school.
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