A MIDI controller is a device used to send information to a computer or other MIDI hardware and is often used to control the functions of the music recording software in a home studio. I will explain what they do and the common types of MIDI controllers available.
When using a computer as the central part of a digital audio workstation (DAW) many musicians prefer to use a MIDI controller or control surface which offers an easier and more comfortable way to interact with the DAW than using a computer keyboard and mouse.
MIDI Keyboard - A MIDI keyboard is one of the most commonly used MIDI controllers used in home studios. Piano players and people who already know how to play an electronic piano will find using a MIDI keyboard to play their composition directly into the recording software much easier than using a computer mouse to place every note into the system one at a time. MIDI keyboards send out all the information about each note played so they can be used to create any instrumental section of a song quickly. Some MIDI keyboards have extra buttons, knobs and sliders that can be allocated to functions on a DAW to allow for extra control of things like volume, start/stop and other functions.
Control Surfaces - There are many different types of control surfaces and most are designed with a specific purpose in mind such as creating drum tracks or mixing and recording audio. Most of them have a series of knobs, pads or sliders that are used to control functions on a computer based software. For example a knob can be assigned to the pan function of a track on your DAW while a slider can be assigned to the volume level of a track on your DAW giving you a familiar and easy way to interact with your recording system.
Most controllers are connected to a computer by a USB cable which is the standard way to connect computer hardware. Some devices such as MIDI keyboards may require an adapter to convert the MIDI connection to a USB connection but the exact way you do this will depend on your computer hardware setup and what controller you are using.
You can find a large variety of MIDI controllers and control surfaces online. Most popular auction sites will have a selection to chose from. Online stores selling DJ equipment and recording equipment will also have a range of controller devices. When deciding on what hardware to purchase think about the way you will be using it and what features of your recording system you want to have easier control over so you can purchase something that will assist you in the ways you most need it to.
- Alesis Q25 25-Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller
- Korg nanoKONTROL2 Slim-Line USB Control Surface (Black)
- Akai Professional MPD26 USB/Midi Pad Controller
- Behringer Cmd Micro Compact 2-Deck DJ MIDI Controller
They can be purchased online using the product links above.