MIDI Keyboard For Garageband – Keyboard Controller

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Even a common everyday gadget like an iPad can instantly become a fully equipped recording studio via GarageBand. All you would need to maximize this application is a decent MIDI controller.

In my opinion, out of the list of MIDI keyboards for Garageband, the one that best fits the criteria is the Novation Launchkey 25. As an easy to automate and easy to learn MIDI instrument, it easily takes the cake as the frontrunner of this round-up. Lots of pads, adjusters, wheels, and keys allow for it to run well. Not to mention because of its sleek design as a Nektar keyboard, it looks good too. The Nektar Impact also packs a punch in combination with GarageBand because of the eased accessibility, and the extensive features. This keyboard is a huge-hitter.

Top MIDI Keyboard For Garageband

ImageMIDI Keyboard For GaragebandNumber of KeysSoftwareType of KeysOther Controllers
Novation Launchkey...
Our Pick

$159.95 at Amazon
25Ableton Live Lite, Bass Station VST, V Station VST, XLN Addictive Keys Instrument, Melodics Lessons (register for licenses)
Synth actionPitchbend, Mod Wheel
Akai Professional...$114.44 at Amazon25Akai Professional VIP3.0 virtual instrument workstation software/plug-inSynth-Action Mini KeysPitchbend/Mod Joystick, Note Repeat, Full Level, and Tap Tempo Button
Nektar Impact GX49 |...$109.99 at Amazon49Bitwig 8-Track DAWSynth, full sized velocity sensitivePitchbend, Modulation wheel (MIDI assignable)

The Novation Launchkey (25 MK2)

The MK2 is Novation’s attempt at a smaller version of the larger 49 and 61 key versions, but this little keyboard definitely holds its own. In simple terms, the Launchkey is accessible. It’s USB bus-powered, making it one of the few portable keyboard options that don’t require hauling around large cables.

Unlike other small keyboards, it has 16 velocity-sensitive pads rather than the standard 8, and to top it all off, they’re colored! What I and most people look for in a ‘good’ keyboard is that it is usable, and includes good software. This keyboard is not only portable and usable — it comes WITH a warrantee from Ableton, one of the most important programs in MIDI composing world.

The included software is just the cherry on top of this amazing keyboard. Not to mention, this keyboard is also easy to plug into the GarageBand software. The USB feature allows for an easy setup with the GarageBand software that allows you to work on music immediately. This is important to those like me who have genius moments, since this portable keyboard can be used anywhere, and the easy connection means that I am able to use my momentary genius and write down all of my ideas on the spot.

Although it is more accessible than its larger counterparts, the Launchkey MK2 still has its downfalls. For example, I am a more dextrous and experienced individual, so I don’t get immediately attracted to keyboards with velocity sensitivity, even though it’s not a huge downfall.

This Launchkey design does seem to be a little less durable than the past Launchkey design, despite its improved features. This product is for the people in between beginners and professionals — the apprentices of MIDI, including producers and musicians. The Novation Launchkey is an averagely crafted keyboard with an above-average sequencer — it’s a pretty good keyboard, especially to those who want to start learning to produce using GarageBand.

Nektar IMPACT LX25+

The Nektar Impact LX25+ is a mix of the 25 key MIDI keyboards and the classic Nektar keyboards style (as in, expansive, durable, well-crafted keyboards). It includes a multitude of knobs and backlit pads, as well as wheels for adjusting.

Down to the keys, this model encapsulates the best of the Nektar model and the best of the MIDI instruments. This keyboard is for everyone and anyone who can get excited over a really good set of keys!

Just like its bae predecessor, the Impact LX has a similar GarageBand compatibility to the Nektar 49-Key. It allows for an easier mapping experience in GarageBand and full command of all of the Impact’s expansive features. Additionally, GarageBand is one of my favorite software fits for this keyboard because GarageBand has keyboard shortcuts that can be used to make music programming much simpler. To me, this little keyboard combined with the GarageBand software is everything a producer needs to start making some awesome music.

My only concern with the Impact LX25 is that it only has 1 fader, compared to its predecessors who have 9 faders. When I think if faders, I link it directly to volume and EQing (equalization). To keep a hi-fi mix you have to make sure that there aren’t any resonance frequencies, which may often cause ringing, overpower, and make the output sound harsh. EQ can boost the non-present frequencies, which is why faders are important to the MIDI keyboards.

Alesis V25

This Alesis keyboard is well-known, but not for great reasons. I’ve heard about this keyboard because of my friend who got his hands on one. He said that not only did it have sensitivity issues (as in double hit, which results in issues in things like drastic channel pressure and aftertouch) — its program was below-average.

Now, it’s important to give this poor keyboard a chance to redeem itself — which it turns out it already did. Although the program was below average, Alesis released an update of sorts to relieve some of the bad press and included directions on how to relieve the sensitivity issues (more on the actual Alesis site, but I believe it had something to do with changing the velocity curve to 2). Now that we know all of these issues have solutions, let’s look at what IS great about the V25;

Including 8 backlit pads, 25 keys, 4 assignable knobs, and 4 buttons, the V25 allows for easy pitch modulation (pitch modulation wheel) and a wider variety of modifications, including octave adjustments. This is important because octave adjustments in many other keyboards only go 2 octaves and in some cases 3.

Additionally, despite sensitivity issues, the physical keyboard has a durable built and sleek design. It’s more relaxed and calm, which seems to be more attractive to those who work in professional environments. Personally, I like the fact that it only uses blue, black, and white because it makes it seem more productive.

Besides its wide array of buttons and durable, sleek build, one of the things that attract me to the V25 is that it comes with the ProTools software. In the MIDI world, there are 4 software suites that reign supreme; Logic Pro, Ableton, Cubase, and ProTools.

The Alesis V25 is also compatible with GarageBand and is a preferred suite because its keys and knobs work well to connect with the on-screen software, and it expands the variety available to the producer. The fact that the Alesis V25 comes with the ProTools suite is the sole reason why many purchase this keyboard.

I might say that the V25 is for professionals, because of its durability and expansive keyboard options, but, ultimately, it serves as a learning tool for beginners for these same reasons. As a GarageBand MIDI keyboard, the Alesis V25 is a good option because of its extended features and compatibility. Even with all of its issues, it’s important to keep in mind that they all can be fixed or can be changed to accommodate the consumer.

Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII

Now listen — ALTHOUGH this keyboard includes 25 keys, and is portable, in my opinion, this is a keyboard for beginners. I say this because even in its similarities to the other keyboards in this lineup, the Akai Professional has a few fundamental errors that are not as important to beginners as they are to professionals.

For users of GarageBand, this keyboard is top-notch though. As a learning tool, GarageBand software allows new producers and professional producers to maximize the uses of the presets and instruments.

The MPK is portable because of its USB and specializes in the understanding of the digital audio workstation (DAW) through the understanding of plugins and easy to work with knobs. It has an arpeggio addition that travels 3 octaves, which is surprising because most keyboards are more limited in options like the arpeggio.

We can see that this is more for those who want to start working with keyboards and MIDI because of the transfer of musicality and musical work over onto the keyboard and DAWs like GarageBand. The Akai MPK, even with its fundamental structure as a keyboard, might lack the durability that professionals need. It is very plastic-based hardware, creating a flimsier design that demonstrates the lack of durability that professionals need.

Despite its lacking durability, the MPK still has 25 keys, which have stiffer sensitivity aimed at teaching newer crowds how to handle MIDI keys. This is shamelessly a great MIDI keyboard — for beginners. It’s easy to access and simplified the use of GarageBand software only to improve this keyboard’s status.

Nektar Impact GX49 Midi Controller

The Nektar 49-Key is, to put it into words, a godsend. I love the 49-key because it allows for the creation of super intricate works. The 49 keys (not including the adjustors) allow for an expansive range on any individual instrument.

This means more notes can be replicated from samples and digital instruments than on any of the other selections on this list, simplifying the modification process while making more specifies, using only a single instance. Its use entirely depends on what you believe are the benefits of the extensive usage of MIDI and your downloads.

In terms of a GarageBand keyboard, the Nektar allows for eased mapping to most major DAW (GarageBand, Logic Pro, Ableton), where mapping MIDI moves presets straight to your controller, thereby saving time. But because it runs smoothly and has the capabilities of a sound-making machine, the Nektar is definitely one of my favorites on this list.

It allows the performances to be edited sound by sounds, note by note, including changing the articulation and altering or replacing the sounds from sampling or piece. This keyboard is, in my opinion, another piece of very compatible equipment.

My small complaint with this piece of equipment is that the extensive array or keys created a lack of knobs on the keyboard. For a MIDI, knobs are important because they control volume directly, as well as the things like pitch bend change (even though a pitch bend change wheel exists on this particular keyboard, more expansive keyboards risk losing physical versions of this wheel/knob) and melodies, while controlling things like mikes and mixers using the DAW. By eliminating these knobs, no matter how extensive the sound becomes, the process of creation becomes more complex.

This keyboard is mostly for professionals because of the vast knowledge required in order to be able to manage such an expansive and intricate keyboard. I’m not sure if this is as good a learning instrument as it is a tool for perfecting the craft.

Other MIDI Keyboards We Recommend

Korg TRTK49

Though primarily built as a midi controller, this keyboard carries with it the TRITON engine which means that you can use this as one of your main keys in a live situation. The keys are semi-weighted which is good especially if you are going to use it as your controller in GarageBand because it gives you the feel of playing over a real piano (a four-octave piano to be precise).

There are also 16 assignable velocity pads, which you can use as a primary trigger for drum loops or even arpeggios. Located on the left side of the controller are eight assignable rotary knobs and sliders. There are an available 3.5 mm headphones out, USB port, a MIDI in and out, and two pedal connections. At the center of the keyboard are a ribbon selector and Mini Kaoss Pad 2-style touchpad. Truly a top-notch MIDI controller with all the bonus features.

M-Audio Keystation 61ES

The Keystation 61ES from M-Audio is offering all the advantages of a full-sized piano in a portable, 61-keyed MIDI controller. It has a pitch bend, modulation wheel, and an assignable slider.

The best part of this keyboard is its simplicity – all you gotta do is plug and play, which is great for applications like GarageBand because all the needed parameters can be adjusted in the program itself without taking into consideration all the knobs and buttons from the controller. It is powered via USB or an AC adapter which you would have to purchase separately. A very simple controller that is sure to pull the job.

IK Multimedia iRig Keys Pro

The Irig Keys Pro is geared for the traveling musician. With its compact size of 37 keys (which are full-sized by the way), one can easily sit down in a corner, bring out his iPad and fire away with GarageBand instantly. The keys are touch-sensitive, so it is very easy to incorporate your dynamics while playing.

It also has an option for sustain and expression pedal and is equipped with a pitch bend and modulation control. The only downside is you have to register with their website to download the user manual. With all these features, one can say that the iRig Keys Pro is your key to maximizing the use of GarageBand.

Line 6 Mobile Keys 25-Key Midi Controller

The Mobile Keys from Line 6 is a musician’s solution for wanting a portable recording studio in your Ipad with the analog feel. The 25 full-sized keys are excellent for on the go music creation.

With its weight of 4.5 lbs. you can easily bring this controller with you anywhere you go. It already comes with a USB cable for a direct connection to your iPad, so just plug in and play away with GarageBand.

Another advantage of this controller is its simplicity; volume knob, pan, pitch bend, and modulation – no bells or whistle. Plus with the name itself, Line 6 is known to be the creator of exemplary modeling guitar and amplifiers. I would say that you can’t go wrong in getting the Mobile Keys for your musical genius on the go.

Midiplus AKM320

The AKM320 from Midiplus is your basic solution for on the go music production. The construction of the controller is quite solid.

The keys are spring action and smaller than the standard-sized keys, which is good for musicians who are not exactly piano players.

The controls are pitch bend, modulation, volume, transposition, and octave. A real good basic controller for the price.

Things to consider when choosing a good MIDI keyboard?


Are you planning on using your controller for the sole purpose of recording your songs in GarageBand, or are you planning on taking it with you on live performances? Are you planning on taking your controller with you while you travel, or will it be a standard fixture in your studio or bedroom for intensive music production? There are a lot of available midi keyboards in the market today, most of which have the option of being you live tone generators. You should at least have the idea on what level you are willing to go with your instrument.

Key weight

This may sound very basic, but the keys on the controller can define how well you would be able to use it for making music. For pianists, weighted or semi-weighted keys are a must so as to emulate the feel of a real piano key. For musicians who would just use the MIDI keyboard as a trigger for drum loops or synth sounds, a spring-action key will do.


This would be in direct reference whether the user is a beginner or an in-depth recording enthusiast. A lot of plugs and play MIDI controllers are available for beginners who would not want to go through the hassle of reading the user manual cover to cover just to record a simple song. An enthusiast, on the other hand, would want to set all the parameters available on the controller to their specifications.