Want to find the best value midi keyboard for Garageband? Don’t worry, I have you covered.
I know what it’s like to be starting out at production and not knowing if I want to fully invest in expensive equipment.
Luckily, I now know you absolutely don’t need an expensive midi keyboard (or even one at all) to get started.
Most styles of music won’t require 61 keys – you will be able to get by just fine with 25 or 32 keys just fine.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s just straight into my top 5 picks.
Picking The Best Keyboards For Garageband
I’m assuming because you’re still using free production software that you don’t want to spend $200 on a midi controller. That’s why my top pick is:
1. Midiplus 32-Key Midi Controller
- 32 mini-keys velocity sensitive keyboard
- Pitch, modulation, octave, transpose function
When I bought my first MIDI controller I wanted one with all the bells and whistles. I thought I would be laying down beats using the drum pads and adjusting the levels using the knobs.
Little did I realize no one really uses these. With the exception of hip-hop producers – they may use the drum pads.
That’s why you don’t really need to pay the extra money for any of these things. You just need the basics – keys and a transpose shifting function.
Which is exactly what the Midiplus keyboard has. The 32 keys will be a little larger on your desk but it will allow you to play 1 more octave compared to the 25 keys.
If you have some background in keys you’ll likely want at minimum 32 keys – if not, 25 is more than enough.
This keyboard has everything you need and is the cheapest on the market. Highly recommended.
2. Akai Professional LPK25
- 13-Inch, Slim-Line Laptop Performance Keyboard With 25 Velocity-Sensitive Mini-Keyboard Keys For Playing Melodies, Bass Lines, Chords And More
- Dedicated Octave Up And Down Buttons To Increase The Keyboard To The Full Melodic Range Plus A Sustain Button For Expressive Performances
Next up, the Akai. Spend 5 minutes researching midi keyboards and you’ll likely run into an Akai.
You’ll also likely run into people trying to push the Professional MPK on you. While I do like this keyboard, it’s way to expensive for someone using Garageband.
Instead, get something basic until you’re ready to upgrade your software and other equipment. You’ll then know what functions you actually use while producing so you can spend your money wisely.
The LPK25 has all the basic functionality of Midiplus just with 7 less keys. If you are going to be travelling around, or don’t have a lot of room on your desk, get this keyboard!
Trust me, this is all you need to get up and running with Garageband. Especially if you are producing electronic music. If you are producing more complex instrumental music you may want to opt for more keys.
Best for people who are going to be producing music while travelling.
3. M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 MK3
- Pro Music Production Wherever You Go – USB MIDI keyboard controller with slimline footprint and 32 mini piano style velocity-sensitive keys for a natural feel
- Customisable Response – Mini keys with selectable velocity curves match any playing style inc’l traditional piano, synthesizer, key-based beat making; pitch bend / modulation buttons add expression
Another highly portable and easy to use midi keyboard.
Again, because it has 32 keys it will be a preferred choice for anyone with a background in music.
The main difference with this keyboard is the keys are velocity sensitive – where the sound of the note is determined by how hard you press the keys.
While this sounds like a cool idea, it’s only really beneficial if you are a talent keyboard player.
If you are just producing electronic or hip-hop you’re not going to want velocity-sensitive keys. In fact, you’ll probably want to turn this feature off. It just makes your producing less clean.
Additionally, it comes with a basic version of ProTools. So this might be a great option if you’re considering switching to ProTools sometime in the future.
Best for people who are considering upgrading to ProTools in the future.
4. Alesis V25
- MIDI Keyboard with 49 full-sized, velocity sensitive square-front keys, perfect for playing Virtual Instruments
- 8 velocity- and pressure-sensitive backlit pads for beat production and clip launching
I know I said that I don’t use any of the drum pads or knobs (and neither does anyone I know) that doesn’t mean you won’t.
Especially if you’re producing hip-hop music or have a background in drums or precussion.
If this is you, you will likely get some benefit to having a set of drum pads on your keyboard.
This is exactly what the V25 from Alesis provides – a reasonably priced midi keyboard with most of the bells and whistles.
You can pick the number of keys depending on your use case.
Additionally, Alesis is a very solid brand. All of their products are quality and have a reputation of being built to last.
It also comes with a lite version of Ableton Live – the go-to choice of software for most electronic producers.
Best for someone who wants drum pads and will be producing electronic or hip-hop music.
5. Novation Launchkey 49 USB Keyboard Controller
- MK2 version of Novation's 49-note USB keyboard controller for Ableton Live
- 16 velocity-sensitive RGB pads, 8 knobs, and dedicated navigation and control buttons
Finally, for those who want everything in their controller – the Launchkey from Novation.
If you really want a tight set-up where you control everything using analog knobs then this is a great value option.
You get 8 knobs and 16-velocity sensitive pads. This is enough to control the basic levels on all of your tracks (as long as you set up your bussing correctly) as well as piece together a serious percussion kit.
It’s designed to work seamlessly with Ableton, but will work just fine with Garageband.
It also contains a copy of Addictive Keys. I own a copy of this software and can tell you that it has some pretty decent piano samples.
I know a few professional producers who have used Addictive Keys in their tracks.
Tips For Finding The Right MIDI Keyboard For GarageBand
If you haven’t played around with a MIDI keyboard, or even really know what MIDI is, it can’t be difficult to find out exactly what you need.
Will this MIDI keyboard connect to Garageband? Do I need to install any special drivers? Do I need to download any sounds?
These are all questions I had when I first bought my midi controller.
Compatibility With Garageband
Some keyboards (the Novation above) are designed to interface directly with a certain piece of software (Ableton in this case.)
But that doesn’t mean it won’t work with Garageband. Basically, you don’t really have to worry too much about the keyboard you buy not working with Garageband.
As long as the keyboard outputs MIDI (which it does) and it comes with a MIDI-to-USB cable (which it will) then you will be fine.
All of the keyboard above won’t require you to install and addtional drivers – you will be able to plug it in a go.
That being said, if you want to use the knobs and pads it’s going to require additional set-up. But it’s completely do-able.
How Many Keys Do I Need
This one is a simple question to answer: do you know how to play the keyboard?
If yes, then you need at least 32 keys. If no, 32 or less.
If you don’t know how to play the keyboard well you are probably just going to use the keyboard to construct simple 1 handed chords and play lead and melody lines (again with 1 hand.)
You can active transpose the octave up and down with the push of a button so you won’t be limited on the range of the keyboard.
Plus, the smaller the keyboard the less room it takes up on your desk and the easier it is to carry around.
Velocity Sensitive Or Not?
Again, same question above, do you know how to play the keyboard?
If you do, you may want to look for features such as a sustain pedal input and velocity sensitive keys.
Keep in mind that the keyboards above do not have weighted keys, so they will feel different compared to what you are used too.
If you don’t know how to play keyboard then you don’t need to care about the velocity senstivity. In fact, you’re going to want to turn it off.
You can control the velocity of each MIDI note digitally in the program which leads to much cleaner production.
Interested in seeing more reviews of MIDI controllers? Check out my other article here.