Best MIDI Keyboard For Learning Piano – Top 6 Picks

If you’re getting into music production and are considering learning to play the piano, you’ve come to the right place!

Being able to quickly play a chord progression and melody is the fastest way to form melodic and harmonic ideas and get them down into your DAW.

Melodies also tend to sound more natural and relatable when played by a human.

Sure you can just draw them in with your piano roll, but more often than not, the process alone can kill your flow AND your idea.

Buying a piano is expensive and not very practical for music production so the best option to go for is a MIDI keyboard.  But before you run off to go buy one, there are a few things to consider in terms of specifications.

Key Action 

This describes the feeling of the keys. Are they light, bouncy and plasticy feeling? Or do they have more resistance and feel less springy like a real piano? 

MIDI Keyboards come in four different action classes. Synth-action, semi-weighted, fully-weighted, and hammer action. 

Synth-action keyboards use springs to return the key back to its original position after it gets pressed. This leads to a very bouncy and light feeling but can be good for playing really quick styles like arpeggios.

Semi-weighted keys use a spring as well as a weight on each key. They have very little resistance when pressed but can feel a bit sluggish as they rise back up.

Fully-weighted keys are similar to semi-weighted but have a bit more resistance and stronger springs so they feel a bit more like a real piano.

Lastly – we have hammer action keyboards. These are built to feel exactly like a real piano. They use a hammer action mechanism as well as weights. This is the best option to go for as it will develop your muscles in the same way a real piano would. They also just feel really nice to play.

Number Of Keys

Typically you will find MIDI keyboards that come with either 25, 49, 61, 76, or 88 keys. This corresponds to the number of octaves, with 12 keys in each octave. 

I found 61 keys to be the perfect size for my little studio but if you have the space and budget for an 88 key MIDI keyboard then this would be the best option as you will be able to play songs using the full range of octaves. I often try to learn songs that go an octave too low for my keyboard which is a bit frustrating.  

For this article I am only going to recommend 61, or 88 key MIDI keyboards as there aren’t many good options in the 76 key range.

Aftertouch

Aftertouch allows for you to apply some extra pressure to a key once it’s pressed down which will send additional MIDI data to trigger additional parameters like vibrato for example. This is really neat for laying down synth solos as you won’t have to reach for the mod wheel or pitch bend to control vibrato. It can also be mapped to control other parameters like volume, for example.


With all that info taken in to consideration – Here are the top 6 best MIDI keyboards for learning piano:
  1. M-Audio Hammer 88
  2. Arturia KeyLab 88
  3. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2
  4. Alesis VI61
  5. Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A61
  6. M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3

Affiliate Disclaimer

Basic Wavez is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.


M-Audio Hammer 88

The Hammer 88 is M-Audio’s premium MIDI controller, built for professional through to beginner players. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that some other modern MIDI keyboards have, like fancy LEDs and drum pads, but where it excels is it’s classic piano like feel due to it’s fully-weighted hammer action keys.

  • Fully-weighted hammer action
  • 88 Keys
  • Pitch bend and mod wheel
  • Volume fader
  • Includes AIR “Mini Grand” and “Eighty Eight Ensamble” Piano software, “Velvet” Electric Piano, and “DB-33” Organ Simulator.
  • Ableton Live Lite
  • 3 month Skoove licence for learning piano online
  • USB or External PSU Powered

If what you’re after is a simple piano like keyboard to learn and play on and don’t want to fork $500+ then this is a great option. It feels really solid and well-built. It also comes with some great software instruments and a 3-month Skoove licence to get you started.  


Arturia KeyLab 88

Arturia are known for their impressive analog synths and plugins like the jaw dropping Matrix Brute. But if you don’t have $2000+ to spend then the KeyLab 88 is a great option. It comes with over 5000 synth and piano sounds from Artutia’s Analog Lab, Pianoteq 5 stage, and UVI Grand Piano model D, all of which are easily accessible directly from the built in LCD panel. It looks great with it’s stylish wooden side panels, light blue drum pads and velocity sensitive LEDs.

  • Fully-weighted hammer action Fatar keybed with aftertouch
  • 88 Keys
  • Pitch bend and mod wheel
  • Drum pads
  • 2 banks of 9 faders
  • 10 assignable buttons
  • Octave transpose buttons
  • Velocity sensitive LEDs
  • Analog Lab Software with nearly 6000 synth and piano sounds, directly controllable from the keyboard with a built in LCD screen.
  • 1/4 ” TRS connections for expression and sustain pedals
  • Ableton Live Lite
  • USB or External PSU Powered

The Arturia Keylab 88 is a bit more on the expensive side, but it’s well worth it. It looks great and feels great. It’s perfect for anyone wanting learn piano and is a huge asset to your studio with all the bundled software and controls.


Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2

The S88 is the most expensive keyboard on this list. But when you dive into the features it’s easy to see why. For starters it comes bundled with a massive 33GB of software, including Komplete 12 Select – 14 instruments and effects, MASSIVE, Monark and The Gentleman. It has a stylish light guide – RGB lights above each key to highlight drum cells, key switches, chords and scales. Two beautiful high res screens  for browsing through libraries, tweaking mixes and more. And a 4 directional push encoder for one handed browsing and project-navigation.

  • Fully-weighted hammer action Fatar keybed with aftertouch
  • 88 Keys
  • Pitch bend and mod wheel
  • Touch strip for expression control
  • Assignable keys and knobs already pre-mapped for easy control of NI software
  • Two high-res colour screens
  • Smart play features LED lit keys to help you stay in key
  • Arpeggiator and chord mode
  • 33GB of Native Instruments software plugins
  • Transport, Mixing and Editing controls for Logic, Ableton, Cubase, Nuendo and GarageBand.
  • 1/4 ” TRS connections for expression and sustain pedals
  • USB or External PSU Powered

In terms of feel and learning to play piano, this keyboard has a neat little feature that makes it stand out. The light guide – RGB lights above each key will highlight all the correct notes in a scale and help you to stay in key. Simply learning to play aside – this is so much more than just a MIDI keyboard. It feels more like a workflow optimizer, allowing you to easily navigate through projects and browse through presets without having to move your hands away from the keyboard. If you can afford it, this keyboard will be a huge asset to your studio.


Alesis VI61

The VI61 was the third keyboard I owned and have never felt the need to replace it. It’s a great budget option for anyone wanting to learn piano and have a few extra features like drums pads and assignable buttons and knobs. The keys are semi-weighted. So while they don’t feel like a real piano, the feedback and resistance is good enough for a beginner to intermediate player.

  • Semi-weighted keys with aftertouch
  • 61 Keys
  • Pitch bend and mod wheel
  • 16 velocity sensitive RGB drum pads
  • 48 assignable buttons and 16 assignable knobs 
  • Two high-res colour screens
  • Visual feedback via LED screen and illuminated buttons
  • USB MIDI and 5-pin MIDI Out
  • Ableton Live Lite and Xpand!2 software
  • 1/4 ” TRS connections for sustain pedal
  • USB or External PSU Powered

The attractive price point, great aesthetics and simple but useful features is what led me to buy this keyboard in the first place. However, with the release of the Komplete Kontrol A61 and all it’s great workflow features I might be swayed.


Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol A61

The NI Komplete Kontrol A61 is like the slimmed down, stripped back version of the S88. It still has attractive features like smart play. You can control your DAW and even browse through presets with the tiny OLED screen and 4 directional push controller. Unfortunately there is no Aftertouch on the A61.

  • Semi-weighted keys 
  • 61 Keys
  • Pitch bend and mod wheel
  • OLED display for navigation
  • Tag based preset browsing directly from keyboard
  • Transport, Mixing and Editing controls for Logic, Ableton, Cubase, Nuendo and GarageBand.
  • Includes Komplete Instruments and Effects, Komplete Kontrol, and MASCHINE ESSENTIALS, and Ableton Live 10 Lite
  • 1/4 ” TRS connection for sustain pedal
  • USB or External PSU Powered

If you are looking for more powerful workflow features like preset browsing and DAW navigation at an amazing price point then this controller is for you.


M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3

The Keystation 61 MK3 is the cheapest MIDI keyboard on this list. It has all the basic functionalities you would require to play and learn piano. As a bonus it comes with a Skoove subscription so you can learn piano online. There aren’t any fancy features like you would get with the Native Instrument controllers but it does allow for basic DAW navigation and browsing.

  • Semi-weighted keys
  • 61 Keys
  • Pitch bend and mod wheel
  • Transport and directional buttons for controlling any recording software/DAW
  • USB MIDI and 5-pin MIDI Out
  • Includes Ableton Live Lite, Pro Tools First M-Audio Edition, AIR Music Tech Mini Grand, Tech Velvet electric piano, and Xpand!2
  • 1/4 ” TRS connection for sustain pedal
  • USB or External PSU Powered

At a really low price point and bundled with some awesome software instruments and subscriptions this is a great pick for anyone wanting to learn piano on a budget.


Conclusion

Choosing the right MIDI keyboard really depends on your requirements. If all you want to do is learn to play then I would definitely opt for either the M-Audio Keystation 61 MK3, or the M-Audio Hammer 88.

If you love having all the bells and whistles and having a beautiful piece of gear in the studio, the Komplete Kontrol S88 Mk2 is the ultimate dream MIDI keyboard. If you prefer to have a more analogue synth style keyboard then I would definitely shoot for the Arturia KeyLab 88.

If you travel a  lot you might want to read up on Mini MIDI keyboard controllers.

New to production and looking to gear up? Check out our other reviews on headphones, monitors, mics, subwoofers and audio interfaces

Leave a comment