The Best MIDI Keyboard for FL Studio
Through the eras, every culture has had some form of musical influence tied to them. As long as humans have existed, musicians have been among them. The instruments and the tools they use have progressed as technology has advanced. These days, creating a musical piece to digitally share requires only an instrument and simple software that anyone can easily acquire. In this case, that software is FL Studio, and the instrument is a MIDI keyboard.
What is the best MIDI keyboard for FL Studio? With hundreds of MIDI keyboards on the market, it’s difficult to narrow it down to one single MIDI keyboard because the broad selection appeals to musicians of various experience levels and preferences; the way you prefer to create music will determine which one is the best.
FL Studio is a music production software favored by many musicians, especially those who are hip-hop producers, beatmakers, and electronic musicians. Whether you’re brand new to music production, or a seasoned veteran, there’s a MIDI keyboard best suited to your needs. Manufacturers keep every experience level, creation preference, and style in mind when they create their instruments. In this article we’ll be going over several midi keyboards made specifically to compliment the FL Studio workflow, and which features to look for based on whatever your personal preference may be.
How to Pick The Best MIDI Keyboard for FL Studio
The term “MIDI” stands for musical instrument digital interface. In the electronic music industry, it’s a standard for controlling devices that emit music using synthesizers and sound cards. MIDI keyboards produce a variety of sounds and work directly with music production software like FL Studio.
When it comes to picking the best MIDI keyboard, flexibility and functionality are essential. A term that is often paired with the MIDI keyboard is the “MIDI controller.” While the two are separate devices, they’re paired together most of the time in one instrument. This combo produces the term “keyboard controller,” and since we’re looking for the best MIDI keyboard for FL Studio, all the selections on this list will be keyboard controllers.
Though technically possible, navigating between instrument and software is cumbersome and will distract from the creative process; this is why it’s best to replace your traditional mouse and keyboard with a keyboard controller that interacts directly with FL Studio. That way, you can focus entirely on your instrument during the creative process.
Piano Keys, or Trigger Pads?
If you’re the type of musician who likes to use Virtual Music Technology (VTS), then you’ll tend to gravitate towards a realistic keyboard controller whose resemblance is closer to that of a real keyboard. Some artists focus more on rhythm and bass work. For them, the simplicity of pad-triggering is enough to get the job done, and they won’t require as many piano keys.
Some musicians are comfortable right in the middle, where they can get the best of both worlds. In the end, your personal preference and the type of music you’re aiming to make will always determine what the best MIDI controller is for you. Many artists tend to start out with mixed-medium models, only to branch out to more complex models as their knowledge expands.
Working Directly with FL Studio
There are plenty of “DAWs,” or digital audio workstations, on the market. But today, we’re looking specifically at FL Studio. FL Studio has been around since 1997 and is a favored choice for independent music producers. With its user-friendly interface, what used to require entire teams of people now only takes one talented individual with an understanding of the program and a MIDI controller suited to their talent and professional needs. If you’re a musician who uses FL Studio, then you’ll want to choose your MIDI keyboard based on these considerations:
- Plenty of pads: FL Studio is known for its popular “Step Sequencer” feature. To effectively take advantage of this feature, you’ll want a MIDI keyboard that can control over 16+ clips at the same time.
- DAW Controls: As I mentioned above, switching between your MIDI keyboard and the computer is cumbersome and distracts from the creative flow. You’ll need a keyboard that gives your control over the DAW interface, letting you play, pause, transport, etc. right from the keyboard itself.
- Integration and Support: There are plenty of MIDI keyboards that are officially supported by FL Studio, and we’ll be looking at some of those models in this article. These keyboards have preconfigured controls, and all you need to do is plug them in via USB port to immediately begin creating music!
- Portability: Using their DAW on the go is important for many FL Studio users. Size, weight, and shape are essential factors in determining a MIDI keyboard’s portability. Keep in mind that in most cases, the smaller the MIDI keyboard, the less functionality it will contain, so make your decision based on what you need and how you plan on working.
- Multi-Device Support: FL Studio was designed to connect up to 16 MIDI controllers to the same DAW. This is useful for musicians who want access to multiple drum kits at the same time. Just make sure the keyboard you chose can be connected to create an “array.”
MIDI Keyboards That Work With FL Studio
Should you limit your selection to MIDI keyboards that are officially supported by FL Studio? Honestly, I believe that answer is no. While one musician’s best MIDI keyboard may fall in this category, another musician may be perfectly suited to one that is not officially supported. The only difference between a keyboard supported by FL Studio and one that is not simply boils down to configuration.
Beginners tend to gravitate toward a MIDI keyboard supported by FL Studio because it’s preconfigured to the software and easy to get started. A more advanced musician that has their own established style may prefer a custom configuration that is better suited to their goals.
There are hundreds of keyboards on the market that are not officially supported by FL Studio but still integrate seamlessly with the software. This list contains an assortment of keyboards that range from those officially supported by the software to some that are not.
It’s worth mentioning that these days, even if a MIDI keyboard isn’t officially supported by FL Studio, many manufacturers still program pre-configurations into the instrument that supports your DAW of choice. Most of the time, this includes FL Studio. Every MIDI keyboard we’re about to discuss is either directly supported by FL Studio, or compatible via configuration.
Nektar Panorama P Series
This is a heavy-duty studio MIDI keyboard series with deep integration for FL Studio. For the more advanced user, Nektar Panorama P Series allows full customization over your plug-ins, mixer, and transport controls. A favored feature is the motorized fader section, which is always wired in the currently selected channel on FL Studio’s mixer, giving you total control of your workflow.
Functions like Mute, Solo, and Arm are easily accessible, and the keyboard has an auto-mapper that allows for seamless mapping to the hardware controls for your preferred plug-ins and VIs. There’s something for the musician who prefers to stay in the studio, and for the musician on the go, as the Nektar Panorama P is a series of MIDI keyboards that include the 49-key P4 and 61-key P6.
Akai Professional MPK2 Series
Akai is a favored brand amongst music enthusiasts, and the Akai Professional MPK2 Series is a powerful selection that pairs perfectly with Fl Studio. It’s after-touch-enabled keybeds, and RGB-illuminated MPC-style pads offer precise control over the software. MPC users will recognize features like MPC Note Repeat and Full Swing, which makes the construction of beats and short melodic sequences easy.
This series includes an arpeggiator that has an adjustable resolution, range and patterns that make for a simple exploration of complex melodic sequences. Also included are octave controls, modulation, pitch bend, and parameter control. Performers on the go and studio producers alike will find something that suits their needs, as this series includes models such as the MPK225, MPK249, and MPK261.
Novation Launchkey Series
This is another good selection for musicians who use FL Studio. Whether you pick the Launchkey 25, Launchkey 49, or Launchkey 61, all you need to do is plug it into your computer, and its keys, transport controls, knobs, fader, and velocity-sensitive RGB pads will automatically configure to FL Studio. All you’ll need to do from there is start creating!
This series also includes the Launchkey Mini. This version includes 25 mini keys, dedicated navigation and control buttons, eight knobs, and 16 multicolored performance pads. It’s another perfect selection for users who prefer to make their music on the go.
Arturia KeyLab Series
The final series I’ll mention on this list has a high cost of admission. It includes a 25 Key, a 49 Key, a 61 Key, and an 88 Key version. Boasting a touch of vintage synth class, they include real-wood side panels and aluminum construction.
The Arturia KeyLab Series has it all. Offering total control in your creative process, it comes with 16 RGB pads, nine sliders, nine knobs, nine buttons, five expressions control inputs, transport and DAW controls for FL Studio integration, and so much more. This is a premium option for experienced users, and I would not recommend the MIDI keyboards in this series for beginners.
Akai Professional MPK Mini MKII
This is an excellent MIDI keyboard for those artists who have bursts of inspiration on the go. This mini Akai model is small enough to fit in a backpack. It can be powered via a USB connection or three AA batteries. Don’t let its small size fool you. This is a powerful MIDI controller that offers full manipulation over FL Studio without the use of a mouse or keyboard.
It includes 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action mini keys, buttons to bring the octave up or down, eight backlit velocity-sensitive MPC-style pads, and a four-way thumbstick for mod duties and pitch-bend. Like the above Akai Series, this Mini version includes the MPC Note Repeat and Full Level features, and eight assignable Q-Link knobs. To top it all off, this MIDI keyboard comes in three colors.
M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 MK3
This is a basic MIDI keyboard, perfect for beginning musicians who would prefer to keep it simple. Compact and low profile, it comes with 32 keys that are all MIDI-assignable. Though the keys are smaller than that of an average keyboard, they are velocity-sensitive. With two and a half adjustable octaves within its range, the M-Audio Keystation Mini 32 MK3 can produce more than 32 notes.
It includes modulation and pitch bend buttons, with a dedicated volume wheel, and genuine piano sustains function. Due to its simple nature, though, the transport controls aren’t as extensive as they are in the other MIDI keyboards I’ve mentioned, but you can still play, stop, and record without a computer mouse and keyboard.
Alesis V49 USB MIDI Keyboard
Whether your goal is to produce or play music, it’s a powerful MIDI controller with all the functions you need in a reliable keyboard and drum pad. It has 49 velocity-sensitive keys, and its octave up and down buttons let you expand the keyboard to reach a full melodic range to play different melodies, chords, and bass lines.
Its illuminated knobs and buttons were designed with visual and seamless feedback, so it’s easy to operate and will keep your creative process flowing smoothly. With an easy USB plugin, this MIDI keyboard is compatible with Mac and PC. While it doesn’t have 88 keys and only eight drum pads, it’s still a good selection for musicians who play and perform music.
Worlde 25 Key USB Portable Tuna
Here is another small option for musicians on the go to consider. It’s a powerful piece of hardware with a convenient layout that is easy to navigate, and it’s packed with an assortment of various operative methods. This little MIDI keyboard squeezes in 8 sliders, eight dials, eight pads, and two touchpad sliders for pitch bend and modulation control.
With velocity responsive keys, all of the notes are octave adjustable. There are even additional parameters included that can be assigned to individual keys, giving the user flexible control over FL Studio. This model even supports hot-plugging, meaning you can plug the MIDI keyboard in and out without cutting off the power supply.
Akai APC Key 25
This is another mini 25 key MIDI keyboard, but it packs a serious punch. This one will appeal to musicians on the go who like making beats because the Akai APC Key 25 packs 40 tricolor RGB pads on a 5 X 8 board. It works with FL Studio’s Step Sequencer, making it a powerful tool to control complex beats. At 12.3” long, and 7.6” wide, the APC 25 is about as big as a 13” Macbook.
It’s worth noting that this MIDI keyboard does not have full transport controls like many of the options on this list, though you can still play, pause, and record without a computer mouse or keyboard. Because there are 40 pads packed into such a small space, it can take some getting used to when it comes to hitting the desired pad. But with practice, you’ll be seamlessly creating music in FL Studio with this versatile MIDI keyboard in no time.
M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKIV
Here is another M-Audio model that is larger than the last one. This is a good MIDI keyboard that is officially supported by FL Studio. All you need to do is plug it in, and everything automatically maps to the program. It includes 49 full-sized synth-action keys, 8 EQ sliders, and one master slider, eight customizable knobs, and eight velocity-sensitive pads, all of which are backlit.
This MIDI keyboard has a lot of good control options, and its modest price makes it the perfect candidate for beginners who desire the feel of a full-sized keyboard. That being said, certain reviewers have reported that the keys tend to get loose and stuck after repeated use. Despite this, the M-Audio Oxygen 49 MKIV is still highly recommended among MIDI keyboards for its ease of compatibility with FL Studio.
FL Studio is a powerful production platform that caters to a wide variety of musicians. When it comes to picking the best MIDI keyboard for musicians who create with FL Studio, flexibility and functionality are key factors to consider. The thing is, though, every musician is different and prefers their own unique workflow.
Whether you’re someone who prefers a large number of drum pads for elaborate beat creation, someone who needs 88 keys for full melodic range, or someone who desires the best of both worlds, there’s a MIDI keyboard for you. This article only scratches the surface of what’s currently available on the market, but I hope I’ve been able to narrow your search down enough to have you creating your own music in no time.