Buying MIDI Keyboard

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

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You'll need a MIDI keyboard with at least 3 octaves (36 keys). (1 octaves has 12 keys. 5 black keys and 7 white keys.)

If you never had a music keyboard before, here's a introduction.

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is standard for musical instruments to connect. It's analogous to USB. In the 90s, MIDI devices uses a 5-pin plug. Today's MIDI devices use USB interface and are bluetooth.

Many musical instrument support MIDI. it mean, they can be connected to a computer further processing or syncing, or connected to other MIDI instrument.

One type of midi device is called “MIDI keyboard controller”. It usually is a piano keyboard, that itself does not generate any sound, but can be connected to a synth or computer to be played. The computer or synth generates sound.

Desired Features of MIDI Keyboard for Text Input

On Piano Keyboard Mechanism

If you are into mechanical keyboard (for computer use), you are probably familiar with the art and science of key switch mechanism. [see Keyboard Key Switch Mechanisms ] Now, for piano keyboard, the art and science of the key tactile qualities is far deep than for comptuer key switch mechanisms.

In general, there are 2 types:

Weighted keyboard is best for classical piano music. there are not that much variation. The standard is basically accoustic piano, which has extremely elaborate hammer and fulcrum mechanisms to create the key feel. Diginal pianos uses springs and other modern technology to emulate it, to various degrees of success.

For detail, see:

Organ-type of keyboard are light. There are many varieties of design. There is no one standard feel.

Good Candidate Midi Keyboard for Text Input

I am still doing research, but here's some items i find that might fit our purpose.

Yamaha REFACE DX synth

Yamaha REFACE DX synth XsCX8
Yamaha REFACE DX synth Buy at amazon
Yamaha REFACE DX synth 6xdMX
Yamaha REFACE DX synth Buy at amazon
Sonic LAB: Yamaha ReFace DX Synth
Sep 9, 2015

Yamaha REFACE CS Synth

Yamaha REFACE CS Synth HR6yM
Yamaha REFACE CS Synth Buy at amazon
Yamaha Reface CS Review - IS IT STILL WORTH GETTING?
Feb 3, 2019

M-Audio keystation 49 MIDI keyboard

M-Audio keystation 49 SKrxY
M-Audio keystation 49 MIDI keyboard. (3 kg) Buy at amazon

Alesis Vortex Wireless 2 Keytar

Alesis Vortex Keytar SgVpF
Alesis Vortex Wireless 2 Keytar Buy at amazon

Yamaha Sonogenic Keytar

This is no good. More like a toy. No after-touch.

Yamaha Sonogenic Keytar HwZYz
Yamaha Sonogenic Keytar Buy at amazon

If you are serious about using piano keyboard for typing, i only recommend the pro stuff. Get MIDI controller for professional use, or synth keyboard. Don't buy the consumer stuff such as cheap CASIO. Because, the key mechanism of a piano keyboard or digital/synth keyboard is a HUGE DEAL , far bigger deal than computer keyboard mechanism. You want a piano keyboard that you can type for long, can feel it, control the key velocity (expressiveness), etc. Your hand will get tired if you use cheap consumer keyboard of few hundred dollars.

I would actually just recommend you buy a “MIDI Controller” for typing. That is, when you search amazon, just search “MIDI Controller”. MIDI Controller is just a keyboard dedicated as a input device. It is meant to connect to a synthesizer to actually create sound or perform. MIDI Controller is particularly suited for use as typing, because it is actually a dedicated device for it. You pay for the quality key and mechanism only. If you want sound or actually learn music, i recommend that being a separate process.

Here's a bonus photo from a friend into synths. I am still researching what they are.

synths znYhQ
Top row, left to right:
• Elektron Digitakt DDS-8 8-Voice Drum Computer and Sampler Buy at amazon
• Elektron Octatrack 8 track DPS1 Sampler MKII Buy at amazon
• Elektron Digitone 8 voice synth. FM and subtractive synth. Buy at amazon
Bottom row:
• therapsid (custom built synth)
• MEGAfm synth. (uses and abuses the vintage YM2612 FM chip originally found in the Megadrive/Genesis games console.)
• Arturia Keystep Controller and Sequencer (430201) Buy at amazon (1.4 kg) . Photo from Colt.

I decided, that the yamaha reface DX and CS are rather toys. No velocity sensitivity and no after-touch. Serious problems. DX and CS are just good if you want to begin to play with synth.

But for purpose of exploration of text input, i think they are fine. But if i also want a keyboard that i can play as music instrument, velocity and after-touch is necessary. So that means, look into another keyboard. Maybe the Alesis Vortex Wireless 2 Keytar Buy at amazon

Why i want after-touch? It's important when playing sustained sound instrument such as synth, organ, guitar, violin.

Also, notice in computer keyboards, there are pressure sensitive analog keyswiches that became popular. For example Wooting Keyboard, Keystone Keyboard. Supposedly to allow you using keyboard to control driving games etc such as gas pedal or throttle. So, for such, piano keyboard after-touch is more natural and tried-and-true.

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