6 Best Keyboards To Make Beats – Beginner to Advanced

6 best keyboards to make beats condensed list:

  1. M-Audio Oxyen 49
  2. Arturia Keylab 88
  3. Alesis V161
  4. Arturia MiniLab MKII 25
  5. Komplete Kontrol S49
  6. Korg Kronos2 88

If there’s one thing in common with all producers, it’s that we all love to finger our MIDI keyboards when making beats.

So you’re already a music producer, or you’re just getting started and you need to know what the best keyboards to make beats are.

When making beats it’s important to have the right equipment, otherwise the experience is gonna make you wanna top yourself.

But don’t worry, hold that rope, because in this article I’m gonna to cover the 6 best midi controllers for beat making.

And, like with all our articles, we like to include something for everyone.

02/14/2024 08:20 am GMT

Whatever your budget, there are great options for you.

Let’s go!

1. M-Audio Oxygen 49

M-Audio Oxygen 49 (MKV)
$179.00

The M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKV is a versatile MIDI keyboard controller designed to provide tactile control over digital music production, featuring assignable knobs, sliders, and pads for seamless interaction with software instruments and effects.

Pros:
  • The Oxygen 49 MKV offers a range of MIDI controls, including keys, knobs, sliders, and pads, providing versatile control over your digital audio workstation (DAW) and virtual instruments.
  • It's likely designed to integrate well with popular DAWs like Ableton Live, Logic Pro, and more. It might come with pre-mapped templates and the ability to customize mappings to streamline your workflow.
  • The various knobs, sliders, and pads can be assigned to control different parameters in your software, such as volume, panning, effects, and more. This can save you time by allowing you to tweak settings directly from the controller.
  • The keyboard might offer velocity-sensitive keys (responding to how hard you press) and aftertouch, adding expressiveness to your performances.
  • M-Audio products are generally known for their build quality, and the Oxygen series usually follows suit. The controller might have a sturdy build that can withstand the rigors of studio and live use.
Cons:
  • Some users might find the key action less satisfying compared to high-end MIDI controllers or traditional synthesizers. Cheaper controllers sometimes compromise on key quality.
  • While it's designed to integrate with popular DAWs, the level of integration might not be as deep or seamless as more specialized controllers.
  • Depending on your needs, the number of pads might be limited. If you require a larger number of pads for triggering samples or loops, this controller might fall short.
  • Ensure the Oxygen 49 MKV is compatible with your preferred software and operating system. Occasionally, MIDI controllers can have compatibility issues with certain setups.
  • Some users might consider the included software bundles, if any, to be lacking or not suited to their needs. It's important to check whether the bundled software aligns with your music production requirements.
OS Compatibility: Windows, Mac
02/14/2024 08:20 am GMT
m audio oxygen 49 midi keyboard make beats 1

The M-Audio Oxygen range are some of the best value for money MIDI keyboards available to the beat maker & producer community.

And, the M-Audio Oxygen 49 is one of those MIDI controllers that you find in almost every beginner/ intermediate setup.

It’s a great value for money keyboard controller that will do 100% of what you need it to do when starting out.

With 49 keys, 8 drum pads, 8 mixing faders, rotary knobs & modulation wheels, you get a lot of bang for your buck.

The velocity sensitive, semi-weighted keys are a delight to play and have an awesome response time.

But that’s not just it.

With any purchase of an Oxygen keyboard, it comes with:

  • 5 Melodics Lessons
  • Free Ableton Live Lite
  • Akai VIP 3.0 Software
  • SONiVOX Twist
  • AIR Music Tech Xpand 2
  • Pro Tools First Download
  • Touch Loops

That’s a ridiculous amount of software bundled together & you get a keyboard to screw around with them!

It’s the perfect package for beginner producers.

2. Arturia Keylab 88 MII

Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII
$999.00

The Arturia KeyLab 88 MkII is a professional-grade MIDI keyboard controller featuring an 88-key hammer action keyboard, comprehensive control options, and integration with virtual instruments, designed to cater to advanced music production needs.

Pros:
  • The KeyLab 88 MkII features a fully-weighted hammer action keyboard, which closely emulates the feel of a traditional piano, making it suitable for pianists and keyboardists looking for a realistic playing experience.
  • Arturia products are known for their sturdy build quality, and the KeyLab series generally follows suit. The KeyLab 88 MkII is likely to have a durable construction suitable for both studio and live use.
  • It's designed to integrate seamlessly with Arturia's Analog Lab software, offering an extensive collection of vintage synthesizer and keyboard instrument emulations, allowing for quick and easy access to a wide range of sounds.
  • The KeyLab 88 MkII features a variety of knobs, faders, and pads that can be mapped to control various parameters in your DAW and virtual instruments, enhancing your workflow and creative possibilities.
  • It's likely to offer multiple connectivity options, including MIDI In/Out, USB, and CV/Gate outputs, making it compatible with various devices.
Cons:
  • Due to its 88-key hammer action keyboard and robust build, the KeyLab 88 MkII might be quite large and heavy, which could pose challenges in terms of portability and space.
  • The numerous controls and features might be overwhelming for beginners or those who prefer a more minimalistic setup.
  • The KeyLab 88 MkII might be relatively expensive compared to other MIDI controllers, especially if you're primarily focused on MIDI control and not necessarily in need of an 88-key keyboard.
  • While the integration with Analog Lab is a pro, it could also present a learning curve if you're new to the software or its interface.
  • Depending on your needs, the bundled software might not align perfectly with your music production requirements, so it's important to evaluate the included software's usefulness to you.
02/14/2024 01:51 pm GMT
arturia keylab88 midi keyboard controller

You’ve probably heard of Arturia from their incredible range of VST plugins and analog emulations of classic instruments.

Like, with their software, Arturia’s hardware is the best on the market.

The Keylab 88 MKII is Arturia’s flagship midi keyboard controller and, with it, they’ve pulled out all the stops.

With 88 keys and the beautiful velocity sensitive Fatar TP100LR keybed, the Keylab 88 provides a realistic Piano playing experience, while including aftertouch, which is great for synth & instrument playing.

And…

You know we mentioned about those beautiful analog emulations?

Well, my friend, you get access to over 7000 legendary synth and keyboard sounds with the Arturia Keylab 88.

So, if you want to play a JUNO, just like your favourites do – you can 😉

One of the coolest things about having the Analog Lab VST software included, is that, it acts in a similar way to a hardware synth.

Each knob & fader map up to each classic instrument perfectly, allowing for more creative juices to flow.

(mmm creative juice smoothie)

It’s the perfect midi keyboard for the hands on producer, having 16 backlit drum pads & a whole load of other knobs and faders you can have fun with.

The Arturia Keylab 88 MKII comes with:

  • Ableton Live Lite
  • Analog Lab (7000 legendary synth & keyboard sounds)
  • 4 CV Outputs (to control other synth parameters)
  • 1 CV Input (used for controlling modulation with a pedal to free up left hand for more complex synth lines)
  • Pitch bend & modulation wheels
  • Fully weighted 88 keys
  • 16 drum pads
  • 9 rotary knobs
  • 9 faders

3. Alesis v161

Alesis v161
$130.00

The Alesis V61 MKII MIDI Keyboard Controller is a versatile music production tool featuring full-sized synth-action keys, illuminated velocity-sensitive pads, assignable rotary encoders, and seamless compatibility with PC, Mac, and iOS devices, ideal for controlling DAWs and virtual instruments.

Pros:
  • The V61 MKII offers full control over DAWs and VST software, making it suitable for both production and live performances.
  • Its compatibility with PC, Mac, and iOS devices streamlines integration into existing setups without complicated configurations.
  • The full-sized, velocity-sensitive synth-action keys provide a natural and responsive feel, making it suitable for various playing styles.
  • The LED-backlit velocity-sensitive pads are ideal for sample triggering and drum performances, offering accuracy and expression.
  • The four MIDI-assignable rotary encoders allow fine-tuning of VST parameters and project features, adding precision to your work.
  • Flexibility in Range: Octave and Transpose controls give you access to the full key range, accommodating various musical contexts and preferences.
  • The pitch-bend and modulation wheels enable expressive performances, enhancing the dynamic range of your playing.
Cons:
  • While the V61 MKII offers a versatile range with Octave controls, some advanced players might miss the extended range of larger keyboards.
  • Depending on the build quality, the longevity and durability of the controller might be a concern for heavy use or touring.
  • The numerous controls and features might be overwhelming for beginners or those who prefer a simpler setup.
  • Learning to fully utilize all the features and controls might require time, especially for those new to MIDI controllers.
  • While the controller itself might be compatible, the effectiveness with specific DAWs and VSTs could vary.
  • The sensitivity of the pads might not meet the preferences of all users, particularly if they require highly nuanced triggering.
  • The degree of integration with different DAWs and software might vary, potentially requiring additional setup for optimal performance.
OS Compatibility: Windows, Mac
Plugin versions: VST, AU, DAW
alesis v161 keyboard controller midi

The Alesis V161 is the go-to MIDI keyboard for intermediate producers, and for good reason.

I mean, just look at how sleek it looks.

That’s the kinda space age star wars sh*t you love to see in the studio.

And, as you become a better producer, having a bigger range of keys, pads & options to choose from helps massively.

The Alesis v161 is the best keyboard for making beats with a hands on approach.

With 61 semi-weighted keys, the V161 gives you over 5 octaves to play melodies & chord progressions on.

Something I personally hated when having a 25 key controller, was it’s lack of range & having to change the octave manually every time I wanted to play something higher or lower.

With 61 keys, it will be difficult to run into this problem, while still offering value for money.

It also has one of the biggest selections of velocity sensitive backlit drum pads, faders & rotary knobs found at its price range.

The Alesis V161 features:

  • 61 semi-weighted keys
  • 16 backlit drum pads
  • 16 assignable knobs
  • 48 buttons
  • Pitch & mod wheels

And, that’s not all!

For a limited time right now, Alesis are giving away 5 free Melodics lessons with each purchase & access to software like Ableton Live Lite.

At the price, it’s the best midi keyboard to make beats for beginner & intermediate producers on a budget.

4. Arturia MiniLab MKII 25

Arturia Minilab MKII

The Arturia MiniLab MKII is a compact and feature-rich MIDI controller with velocity-sensitive keys, performance pads, and knobs, designed to provide versatile control over virtual instruments and software in music production.

Pros:
  • The MiniLab MKII's compact size and lightweight design make it highly portable, suitable for musicians on the go or those with limited studio space.
  • Despite its small size, it offers a variety of controls, including 25 velocity-sensitive keys, 16 performance pads, and rotary knobs, providing versatile control over virtual instruments and effects.
  • It comes bundled with Arturia's Analog Lab Lite software, offering a wide range of high-quality instrument sounds and seamless integration for quick music production.
  • As a MIDI controller, it's compatible with most major DAWs and virtual instruments, allowing for expressive playing and parameter control.
  • The user interface is designed to be intuitive, making it accessible for beginners while offering enough features to satisfy more experienced users.
Cons:
  • The compact size of the keys might be less suitable for pianists accustomed to a full-sized keyboard, potentially affecting playability and comfort.
  • Due to its compact design, the MiniLab MKII might not be as durable as larger, more robust MIDI controllers.
  • While it offers a good range of controls for its size, advanced users might find the limited number of knobs and pads restricting for more complex setups.
  • While it comes with Analog Lab Lite, some users might prefer a wider variety of included software or the ability to use the controller with their existing software.
  • The sensitivity of the performance pads might not meet the preferences of all users, particularly those requiring highly nuanced triggering.
  • While generally compatible, ensure the MiniLab MKII is fully compatible with your preferred DAW and operating system before purchasing.
OS Compatibility: Windows, Mac
Plugin versions: VST, AU
arturia minlab MK2 midi keyboard controller

You’d probably not have expected to see Arturia show up again buuuuttt, they’re so good I had to include a smaller, cheaper option for people on a budget or people who don’t have the space to store a larger key controller.

The MiniLab is the best midi controller for beat making, if you’re looking to save a bit of money and space.

With only 25 velocity sensitive keys, this little beast includes a lot of functionality & is extremely portable.

It has 8 backlit drum pads, 16 assignable knobs and pitch & modulation touch pads.

The MiniLab has a sleek, intuitive design & on top of that comes with some extremely useful software to be used alongside with it such as, Ableton Live Lite, UVI Grand Piano & Analog Lab Lite.

If you’re looking for a small midi keyboard that’s portable and packs all kinds of functionality, then the Arturia MiniLab MKII is a stellar choice.

Arturia MiniLab features:

  1. 25 velocity sensitive mini keys
  2. 16 assignable knobs
  3. 8 backlit drum pads
  4. Pitch & mod control
  5. Ableton Live Lite
  6. Analog Lab Lite
  7. UVI Grand Piano

5. Komplete Kontrol S49

Most Feature Rich
NI Komplete Kontrol S49
$649.00

The most expensive midi keyboard on this list, but is well worth the money. Over $1345 worth of Native Instruments software included!

Pros:
  • Screens!
  • Perfect integration with NI Maschine
  • Pleasant touch
  • Light weight which makes it easily transportable
  • Easily accessible controls / No or few sub-menus
  • Solid pitch bend and modulation
  • Touch strip
Cons:
  • Limited standalone: most features won't work with a direct hardware connection, you need to go through your DAW
  • no pads
Software Included:
  • Komplete 12 Select: 4 flagship synthesisers, over 7000 sounds, 45GB of instruments & effects, 11 sample instruments in Kontakt, 4 effects plugins
OS Compatibility: Windows: 7+ (32/64 bits), MacOS 10.11+
02/14/2024 02:06 pm GMT
native instruments komplete kontrol keyboard controller

Native Instruments make some of the best software on the market, and their controllers are no different.

They’re like the Apple of music software and hardware.

Very expensive, but everything works seamlessly if you buy into the ecosystem.

If you’ve heard of Native Instruments, then you’ve probably heard of Kontakt.

Everyone knows that Kontakt has the biggest d*ck when it comes to sample instruments & it’s used by some of the most prolific producers.

And, the S49 comes shipped with Komplete 12 Select, which includes:

  • 4 flagship synthesisers
  • Over 7000 sounds
  • 45GB of instruments & effects
  • 11 sample instruments in Kontakt
  • 4 effects plugins

That’s over £1345 worth of Native Instruments stuff included with you MIDI keyboard.

And that’s not mentioning the features that the S49 midi keyboard includes.

With the S49 you get 49 semi-weighted, backlit, pro grade, fatar keybed keys with aftertouch, that are an absolute dream to play on.

On top of that you have over 7 assignable knobs, which are predominantly used to control Komplete instruments, but can be mapped as MIDI to anything else.

You also get 2 high-res colour screens that you’re able to browse for sounds on, as well as tweak instruments or make changes to your mix.

One of the coolest things about the S49 is the light guide.

With the backlit keys, the light guide helps you to see which notes you can play within a certain key. This can be mapped to chords, scales, greek modes and a whole other range of options.

If you’re looking for the best midi keyboard for making beats, with a hands on, intuitive approach – then the Komplete S49 is a stellar pick.

It’s a great introduction to the Komplete collection, & is a perfect pickup for intermediate & advanced producers.

If you want to try out some of the Native Instruments sounds, then I highly suggest grabbing their free bundle of plugins.

6. Korg Kronos2 88

Korg Kronos 2 88
$4,199.00

The Korg Kronos 2 is a hardware workstation synthesizer that doesn't run traditional third-party VST, AU, or AAX plugins but offers a comprehensive range of built-in sound engines and libraries for sound creation and manipulation.

Pros:
  • The Kronos 2 offers exceptional sound quality with a wide range of high-quality samples and synth engines, making it suitable for various genres and musical styles.
  • With its vast sound library, the Kronos 2 covers a wide range of instruments, from realistic pianos and orchestral sounds to cutting-edge synth textures and electronic sounds.
  • The Kronos 2 offers numerous performance features such as real-time controls, touch-screen interface, and assignable knobs and sliders, allowing for expressive and dynamic live performances.
  • Its sampling capabilities enable you to create and manipulate your own sounds, loops, and effects, adding a personalized touch to your music.
  • The Kronos 2 is an all-in-one workstation that combines synthesis, sampling, sequencing, and effects, reducing the need for external hardware in your setup.
  • Korg instruments are generally known for their build quality, and the Kronos 2 is likely to have a robust and professional construction.
Cons:
  • The Kronos 2 is a high-end instrument, and its price might be a significant investment for many musicians.
  • The workstation's extensive features might be overwhelming for beginners or those who prefer a simpler setup.
  • Due to its full-sized keyboard and comprehensive features, the Kronos 2 can be heavy and less portable compared to more lightweight options.
  • Mastering the Kronos 2's extensive features and capabilities could require a significant learning curve, especially for users new to professional workstations.
  • While the Kronos 2 is a standalone workstation, it might have limited integration with certain external gear or controllers, potentially requiring additional setup.
  • As technology evolves, continued software updates and support are important; ensure that Korg provides regular updates and customer support.
  • The touch-screen interface might not be as intuitive for some users compared to physical buttons and knobs.
OS Compatibility: Mac, Windows
korg kronos2 88 midi keyboard

The Korg Kronos2 88 is an absolute beast, and is the only keyboard on this list that you can use to make beats on it’s own.

That’s because the Kronos2 has an intelligent, 16 track MIDI sequencer & audio recorder that acts like music production software.

Inside this production software, you can expect to do most of what you’re able to do in a stripped back version of DAW software like Ableton Live Lite.

You can mix, pan, add effects, sample & arrange inside the sequencer.

It’s an 88 fully weighted key keyboard & synthesiser that includes 9 distinct synthesis engines and a plethora of sounds to choose from.

With over 21GB of preset information, expertly crafted by the Korg sound design team, you’ll never run out of possibilities with this keyboard.

The Kronos2 also includes a touchscreen display, which can be used to browse for sounds, edit inside the sampler & a whole other range of things.

On top of that, Kronos2 also comes with 9 rotary knobs, which can be used to alter EQ settings, volume and pan settings.

The Kronos2 88 features:

  • 88 fully-weighted keys
  • 9 rotary knobs
  • 1000+ expertly crafted sounds
  • 62GB SSD for sound packs
  • Pitch & mod control
  • Built in speaker
  • Built in arpeggiator
  • Jack & MIDI ports

What Is The Best Keyboard For Making Beats?

There are a lot of keyboards on the market, so it can be difficult to choose if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

So I’ve divided this into a couple sections to help you whatever your level.

Beginner

For beginners it’s important to have a functional keyboard that has enough keys, drums pads & control knobs.

25 keys just simply isn’t big enough. That’s only 2 octaves, and as you progress further and further, you’ll definitely want more space.

It’s better to buy a keyboard that will last rather than buying one you wish you hadn’t in a few months.

oxygen 49 midi keyboard

For beginners, I’d recommend the M-Audio Oxygen 49.

  • 49 Keys
  • 8 Drum Pads
  • 8 Control Knobs
  • 8 Mixing Faders
  • Pitch & Modulation control
  • Semi-weighted keys
  • Velocity control

Check price

This way you’ll have everything you’d possibly need for your production sessions.

It’s also important to mention here that you should start learning piano & theory.

Look, I know it’s boring & you want to tear your eyes out.

But…

The better you are at playing an instrument, the better your beats are gonna be & the more unique of a sound you’re going to have.

The best producers in the game right now all know how to play keys & are intermediate to advanced musicians.

I put off learning keys for a very long time & I regret it.

In the last 3 years learning Piano my production value has literally sky rocketed.

Don’t be lazy & set your intentions right from the get go.

Intermediate

For intermediate producers, you’re also going to need a controller that covers all your needs.

By the time you’re intermediate, you’ll probably be playing some chord progressions & melodies on the keyboard.

Having more keys is a must.

For intermediate I’d recommend the Alesis VI61.

alesis v161
  • 61 Keys
  • 16 Control Knobs
  • 16 Drum Pads
  • Pitch Bend & Modulation Wheels
  • Semi-weighted keys
  • Velocity Control

Advanced

When you’re at this stage, you’re gonna want to have a lot more freedom, options and customisability.

Arturia have pulled out all the stops with their Keylab 88.

It’s incredible value for money.

arturia keylab88 midi keyboard controller
  • 88 Fully Weighted Keys
  • 9 Rotary Control Knobs
  • 9 Mixing Faders
  • 16 Drum Pads
  • Built in Display

The best thing about the Arturia Keylab is that it comes with the Analog 4 software, which contains over 6,500 sounds from electric pianos to polarising synth leads.

As you can guess, the controller works perfectly with the software & really makes it feel like you’re using a hardware synth.

It also comes with an incredible range of connectivity options, including control voltage inputs & outputs.

This means you can use a pedal to control any parameter (like the cutoff), freeing up your hands to play more complex synth lines.

  • 4 Control Voltage outputs
  • 1 Control Voltage input
  • 3 Pedal jacks

Piano Player

Being a Piano player myself, it’s essential to me to have a MIDI keyboard that interacts with my DAW & has a similar feel to play.

Luckily for you, if you already have a digital piano, most are MIDI compatible and will work with your DAW.

For piano players I’d recommend getting a stage keyboard with more functionality – Korg KRONOS2 88.

It’s going to have pretty much everything you need.

It has a built in bank of sounds, ability to sequence & write songs, tonnes of control knobs & faders for playing around with & is a fully weighted key controller.

korg kronos 2 music workstation 88 midi keyboard
  • 88 Keys
  • 10 Mix Faders
  • 9 EQ & Panning Control Knobs
  • Pitch & Modulation Wheels
  • Included Sustain Pedal
  • 16 Track MIDI Sequencer
  • Built in Sampler
  • 8″ TouchView display
  • Huge Bank of Sounds
  • & More

Do I Need A Keyboard To Make Beats?

This is a question that I know I asked myself when starting my production journey all that time ago.

(6 years to be exact)!

And I know it’s probably something on your mind.

If you’re new to production, keyboards can be a big investment, alongside all the other recording gear you have to get.

And while you don’t need a keyboard to make beats, it helps a sh*t load with ideas & getting into the creative state of flow.

Almost all professional producers own a number of MIDI keyboards, VSTs & hardware synths to help them not only generate tonnes of ideas, but to push them further towards that euphoric feeling of creating something that sounds incredible.

You can use the MIDI piano roll to draw notes in & drum patterns etc, but everyone knows that it’s f*cking boring.

Music is fun & having more hardware to twist knobs, play keys & in general just mess around with will help you more than you know.

If you’re fine with being stuck inside your computer making beats, then all props to you.

But nothing comes close to the feeling of playing something in & vibing with it.

Can You Make Beats With A Keyboard?

This is another question I remember having to find the answer to when I became interested in making my own fire ass beats.

What do I need to transfer the heat from my head to a place where it can be stored?

Can I just use a keyboard?

There are some keyboards that offer this functionality, like the Kronos2 listed above, but for the most part – no.

You’ll need a lot of other things to record, edit & craft your masterpiece.

So slow down Davinci.

To make beats properly, you’ll need a:

  • Digital audio workstation – Ableton Live, FL Studio, Logic Pro X. These are programs you can use to record your ideas in, save them & edit them. They come with tonnes of instruments included & are great tools.
  • Studio headphones or monitors – Producing out of your laptop speakers or earbuds aren’t gonna cut it. Laptop speakers are tinny & hurt your ears & earbuds are designed for listening. You’ll need to grab some headphones that have a flat frequency range, so you can hear what you’re doing with full clarity. Having a set of studio monitors also helps & will give you a clearer idea of what you’re doing.
  • Audio interface – This will take over from your computer’s audio card. It will run your audio more smoothly & won’t cause annoying problems like lag.
  • High spec computer – You’ll need a computer capable of running the tasks you need it to. If you need more information check our music production computer requirements guide.

Final Thoughts

To recap, the 6 best keyboard to make beats are:

  1. M-Audio Oxyen 49
  2. Arturia Keylab 88
  3. Alesis V161
  4. Arturia MiniLab MKII 25
  5. Komplete Kontrol S49
  6. Korg Kronos2 88

When making beats or learning how to produce music, it’s important to have the right equipment, otherwise the experience is gonna make you wanna top yourself.

Having a MIDI keyboard to help you create awesome beats is a massive bonus, helps boost creativity and makes the whole process a lot more fun.

I’ve made sure to include options for all skill levels and budgets, and I’ve only included the best.

With this list, you’ll easily find a keyboard you can use to make beats.

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