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Decent midi controller for dorm room practice #3012022 10/12/19 02:14 AM
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Mighty Motif Max Offline OP
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Hello everyone,

I’ve read through a lot of threads on the topic of controllers here and on several other forums prior to posting “another controller thread”. Long story short I am transferring to another college to further my education (yes, I’m sadly a member of Gen Z/tail end of the Millennials sick) this coming Fall (next August actually), this time over six hours from my music studio and gear. I will be living on campus as opposed to in an apartment or something else. It is required sometimes and the school will be in an area with frequent weather issues. Hence not being too far away is rather important.

Space in dorm rooms is pretty minimal, especially when you have a roommate as will likely be the case here. I will be at this college full time, but I am not majoring in music, so practice room access will be an issue. I don’t want to lose the muscle memory of over 15 years of playing and besides, music is a huge part of me and I sort of “think” in music if you know what I mean. It’s also good stress reduction. I might literally go crazy without some creative outlet. crazy laugh

So, I’m looking at midi controllers. Due to space issues, I think the largest I can fit would be a 61-key model; I need no less than 49 keys however as I am not really an Edm or hip hop person, I’m an actual pianist/keyboardist/organist and that’s the bare minimum I can play much on. I can buy Mainstage for $30 (since I’ll no doubt need a laptop anyways) or use the iPad in a pinch, so I don’t need built-in sounds. I’m needing this to be pretty compact, so I can accept pitch bend and mod wheels up above the keys instead of next to the keybed on the left (my preferred setup for gigging). I also want this to be something that will be useful after college, not just a toy; hopefully to use with hardware gear then.

Lots of stuff can be set in software, but I would like to have the following features in the controller hardware:

- decent keybed (aftertouch would be nice - again with the usefulness later aspect) - needs to have even velocity response as I do play piano aside from synths, organs etc, but as above I don’t need hammer action
- pitch and mod controls (wheels are preferable)
- eight or nine faders (nine is preferable for drawbars)
- some assignable knobs
- sustain and expression pedal inputs
- pads for patch changes and drums
- 5-pin and USB midi both
- (edit) Bus power as well as DC would be preferred


This will be my main keyboard for the next few years so I want to have a lot of options and not to outgrow it. I also hope to get plugged into a church band in the area, and maybe start a club on campus depending on the music situation, so it needs to be gigworthy and built decently. Plastic is fine, just not really flimsy or where everything flexes when pressed and played. My budget is up to $500.

I’ve done a bunch of research and so far the contenders seem to be the Arturia Keylab MKII, the M-Audio Code 61, and the Akai MPK249/61 (eight faders however). Anybody with experience with any of these, please comment.

I will start a different thread about the Code as I have a question about it but that doesn’t really pertain to this thread as much and it would get off topic here.

Suggestions, comments, thoughts?

Thank you,

-Max

Last edited by Mighty Motif Max; 10/12/19 08:01 PM. Reason: Added bus power note

Yamaha: Motif XF8/YS200/CVP-305/CLP-130/YPG-235/PSR-295/PSS-470
Korg: Krome 61
Roland: JV-1000
Casio: CT-370
Kimball Valencia/Broadway/Conn 465 w/144 spkrs/WCOC Reed Organ/Titano Virtuoso Converter
KC Island
Re: Decent midi controller for dorm room practice [Re: Mighty Motif Max] #3012023 10/12/19 02:39 AM
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bfields Offline
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"I will be at this college full time, but I am not majoring in music, so practice room access will be an issue."

Sorry to derail, but definitely check that. I bet there's some way you can get access to pianos.

And as a non-music major there's still probably lots of other ways you can take advantage of the music department--don't pass them up!

Re: Decent midi controller for dorm room practice [Re: Mighty Motif Max] #3012033 10/12/19 05:33 AM
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Docbop Offline
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Like Domi shows the old saying..... Where there's a will there's a way. I like how she has the chart taped to the closet wall. There's a more recent YT of her guess she got access to a piano, but has her laptop in the music stand to sightread her transcription of OP.




Re: Decent midi controller for dorm room practice [Re: Mighty Motif Max] #3012037 10/12/19 07:58 AM
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EricBarker Offline
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Heck, I go to college practice rooms of a university I don't even go to, and they even know I don't go there! At night they have a monitor and you can just give them your ID in exchange for a key. During the day, it's unlocked and I can go any time. You're might be more strict, but I would definitely check in with the music department, often you can get to know people and talk them into letting you use the facilities.

Now, about a controller... definitely a good thing to have, even if you have access to a dorm. I had a TEENY TINY dorm room, the size of a large closet, I rearranged it so that I had the maximum space (had to put my bed on the floor to turn it sideways to fit). But I had an 88key Alesis QS8. Great lower-end workstation back in the late 90s, but kind of a beast being an 88. I typically find the physical length difference between 61/72/88 to not be so much of an issue as the depth. You can find yourself some really thin 88key controllers, some really fine ones too, and they'll probably take up less space in your room than most 61key boards. The StudioLogic Studio 88 is extremely compact, with full hammer action. If you're willing to trade the fully-weighted keys for an, even smaller footprint, lighter, and internal sound engine, the Numa Compact 88 looks great too. The Roland FP-10 looks to be in that range too.

Now, if you're dead set on a 61 key, I'm a big Arturia fan myself, and the Keylab61 mk2 looks to be a fantastic controller. I have the Keylab88 (mk1), which I love (built-in laptop rack ftw!), but is probably a little large for your needs.


"All's fair in love, war, and the recording studio."

MacBook Pro running MainStage and various plugins (NI and other)
Arturia Keylab88, Mojo61, Seaboard Rise49, Vortex Keytar (RIP), Trumpet
Re: Decent midi controller for dorm room practice [Re: EricBarker] #3012056 10/12/19 02:20 PM
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drawback Offline
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Originally Posted by EricBarker


Now, if you're dead set on a 61 key, I'm a big Arturia fan myself, and the Keylab61 mk2 looks to be a fantastic controller. I have the Keylab88 (mk1), which I love (built-in laptop rack ftw!), but is probably a little large for your needs.


I have the Keylab MKii 88 but if I were looking for a 61 I wouldn’t hesitate. I was seriously looking at one, but as I already had a 61 non-weighted controller per sé in a Mojo61, I went with the 88 weighted.


Arturia Keylab MKii 88 | Mojo61 A/B | iConnectAudio4+ > iOS / MacOS
VI Ravenscroft | Neo-Soul Studio | Acoustic Samples V-Tines | iSymphonic | Pure Synth Platinum | iFretless Bass
Re: Decent midi controller for dorm room practice [Re: Mighty Motif Max] #3012096 10/12/19 10:07 PM
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Marzzz Offline
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I can’t imagine that you couldn’t stand an 88-key controller up in a closet and slide a decent foldable x-stand under your bed or something like that, to take out and set up whenever you want to practice?

Re: Decent midi controller for dorm room practice [Re: Mighty Motif Max] #3012209 10/13/19 10:54 PM
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David Gillman Offline
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Allow me to point you towards the M-Audio Hammer 88 and Jon Regen's excellent Keyboard review of same. It offers a nice piece of editing/setup software, 2 pianos, does a few zones and has Jon's approval as a pianist himself. That makes it one to consider. If I still had piano-capable hands, I'd make a pilgrimage to Sweetwater so I could FEEL it and make The Big Decision. It seems like a perfect solution from my personal view.

KB review / Hammer 88


World's best synthesizer? It's not even the best synthesizer in The Beatles! ~ SpacehotelMusic

https://soundcloud.com/david-emm-1
Re: Decent midi controller for dorm room practice [Re: Mighty Motif Max] #3012637 10/16/19 06:50 PM
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hatricklov Offline
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I own an Arturia miniLab and it's build quality is awesome. I've heard nothing but good things about the brand.

If you end up changing your mind and getting an 88-key version, I'd consider a Nektar LX88+. It's semi-weighted and I use it at church.

Just in case and since you mentioned MainStage, be aware that it doesn't run on an iPad and isn't available for PC. Also worth noting is that many plugin producers are warning against updating to the Catalina OS, so something to consider if you go shopping.

The college I went to didn't have any music programs, but there was one in the student center (if you didn't mind the chance you would likely have an audience) and another tucked away in another building used for the choir club.


MainStage; Hammond SK1-73; Roland XP-80, JV-90, JV-1080, JV-1010, AX-1; Korg microSAMPLER;
Boss DR-880; Beat Buddy; Neo Instruments Ventilator; TC Electronic ND-1 Nova Delay
Re: Decent midi controller for dorm room practice [Re: Mighty Motif Max] #3012728 10/17/19 03:18 PM
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Stokely Offline
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I don't own one (yet) but I'm eyeing the Behringer Deepmind 12 for less than 6 bills....my buddy is getting his in Friday so we plan on putting it through its paces. Build quality is good from what I remember, though it does have fans that some have complained about in a quiet spot, though they can be adjusted (I'd use it live so this isn't an issue). It has aftertouch as well, and you'd have a synth if you need one! 49 keys though.

Re: Decent midi controller for dorm room practice [Re: Stokely] #3012810 10/18/19 05:31 AM
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Mighty Motif Max Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Docbop
Like Domi shows the old saying..... Where there's a will there's a way. I like how she has the chart taped to the closet wall. There's a more recent YT of her guess she got access to a piano, but has her laptop in the music stand to sightread her transcription of OP.







Yikes, I'd be afraid of that laptop coming down! Interesting solution but probably not good for the wrists.

Originally Posted by EricBarker
Heck, I go to college practice rooms of a university I don't even go to, and they even know I don't go there! At night they have a monitor and you can just give them your ID in exchange for a key. During the day, it's unlocked and I can go any time. You're might be more strict, but I would definitely check in with the music department, often you can get to know people and talk them into letting you use the facilities.

Now, about a controller... definitely a good thing to have, even if you have access to a dorm. I had a TEENY TINY dorm room, the size of a large closet, I rearranged it so that I had the maximum space (had to put my bed on the floor to turn it sideways to fit). But I had an 88key Alesis QS8. Great lower-end workstation back in the late 90s, but kind of a beast being an 88. I typically find the physical length difference between 61/72/88 to not be so much of an issue as the depth. You can find yourself some really thin 88key controllers, some really fine ones too, and they'll probably take up less space in your room than most 61key boards. The StudioLogic Studio 88 is extremely compact, with full hammer action. If you're willing to trade the fully-weighted keys for an, even smaller footprint, lighter, and internal sound engine, the Numa Compact 88 looks great too. The Roland FP-10 looks to be in that range too.

Now, if you're dead set on a 61 key, I'm a big Arturia fan myself, and the Keylab61 mk2 looks to be a fantastic controller. I have the Keylab88 (mk1), which I love (built-in laptop rack ftw!), but is probably a little large for your needs.


Interesting...my impression is that it's pretty strict at the three schools I'm applying to so far, but I will definitely check with the individual departments. Good to know. Thanks!
That Studiologic looks great, but...pitch and modulation wheels are essential. Not for straight piano but I use a mod wheel especially for layers, filter sweeps, etc. I'd just like to have that as an option. Even the SL Mixface accessory doesn't have wheels, even with all the faders, knobs and buttons that it has. Pads for patch changes would be another piece of gear if I wanted them too. If only there were standalone wheels... deadhorse. The Keylab 88 is a little large for sure. Looks like a nice board though. Thanks.

Originally Posted by drawback
Originally Posted by EricBarker


Now, if you're dead set on a 61 key, I'm a big Arturia fan myself, and the Keylab61 mk2 looks to be a fantastic controller. I have the Keylab88 (mk1), which I love (built-in laptop rack ftw!), but is probably a little large for your needs.


I have the Keylab MKii 88 but if I were looking for a 61 I wouldn’t hesitate. I was seriously looking at one, but as I already had a 61 non-weighted controller per sé in a Mojo61, I went with the 88 weighted.


Ok, good to know. Thanks! Will definitely keep that one on the list (it's at the top right now).

Originally Posted by Marzzz
I can’t imagine that you couldn’t stand an 88-key controller up in a closet and slide a decent foldable x-stand under your bed or something like that, to take out and set up whenever you want to practice?


I'll have to take measurements once I go back. Great idea though...could be really nice. Thanks!

Originally Posted by David Gillman
Allow me to point you towards the M-Audio Hammer 88 and Jon Regen's excellent Keyboard review of same. It offers a nice piece of editing/setup software, 2 pianos, does a few zones and has Jon's approval as a pianist himself. That makes it one to consider. If I still had piano-capable hands, I'd make a pilgrimage to Sweetwater so I could FEEL it and make The Big Decision. It seems like a perfect solution from my personal view.

KB review / Hammer 88


Totally forgot about that one...no aftertouch but that's not essential. Does have the wheels, expression input, not terribly heavy. I would definitely have to try one out as the one thing I'm kind of picky about is weighted keybeds. I can play anything pretty much, but enjoying it is different. :-)

Originally Posted by hatricklov
I own an Arturia miniLab and it's build quality is awesome. I've heard nothing but good things about the brand.

If you end up changing your mind and getting an 88-key version, I'd consider a Nektar LX88+. It's semi-weighted and I use it at church.

Just in case and since you mentioned MainStage, be aware that it doesn't run on an iPad and isn't available for PC. Also worth noting is that many plugin producers are warning against updating to the Catalina OS, so something to consider if you go shopping.

The college I went to didn't have any music programs, but there was one in the student center (if you didn't mind the chance you would likely have an audience) and another tucked away in another building used for the choir club.


Yep, I'm aware of Mainstage's compatibility/lack of such. I am not a big Windows fan (although Apple has slowly been making me dislike them more and more), so if I went for a laptop it would probably be a Macbook Pro (I hate the dongles now though...maybe a used refurbished one; off topic anyway). Thanks for the reminder on the OS. I wonder when they'll be shipping with Catalina. Probably not immediately.

How are the keys on the LX88+ compared to the LX49+? had an opportunity to play live on a friend's connected to Mainstage. In my opinion it was unusable due to the shallowness and touch sensitivity (although he might have just had the sensitivity set strangely - no dynamics at all). I elected to use the older low-end Casio digital piano they had instead if that gives you a hint.

Some of the colleges I've noticed have buildings with a piano in the basement somewhere - listed on their site. Nice but people might not enjoy my practicing of certain styles anyways.

Originally Posted by Stokely
I don't own one (yet) but I'm eyeing the Behringer Deepmind 12 for less than 6 bills....my buddy is getting his in Friday so we plan on putting it through its paces. Build quality is good from what I remember, though it does have fans that some have complained about in a quiet spot, though they can be adjusted (I'd use it live so this isn't an issue). It has aftertouch as well, and you'd have a synth if you need one! 49 keys though.


Didn't even think about that...cool idea. That said it's not really what I'm looking for...might as well have a dedicated controller eventually anyways...interesting idea though. Thank you.


I think the M-Audio is out. WAY too many issues I'm finding online now.


Yamaha: Motif XF8/YS200/CVP-305/CLP-130/YPG-235/PSR-295/PSS-470
Korg: Krome 61
Roland: JV-1000
Casio: CT-370
Kimball Valencia/Broadway/Conn 465 w/144 spkrs/WCOC Reed Organ/Titano Virtuoso Converter

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