The 10 Best Portable MIDI Keyboards
This wiki has been updated 8 times since it was first published in May of 2020. The availability of powerful laptops and music software today has made it eminently possible to create music while on the go, but most find that a physical keyboard controller makes the process much easier. Whether you want something that also has drum pads, or need a device with full-sized piano keys, our list has an option that will you help you express your musical creativity. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
June 26, 2020:
If your utmost concern is portability and you don't need more than basic keyboard, check out models like the Akai Professional LPK2, M Audio Mini 32, and Korg nanoKEY2. These options provide you with both a piano-like layout for entering melodies and a slim form factor that could easily fit in many backpacks or messenger bags. All these options can be powered via a USB connection to a laptop or even some tablets, and this combined with their compact size means that they could even be reasonably used at a cafe or on public transit. However, all of these models make considerable concessions to achieve their size. All of these have lightweight, plastic-feeling builds, very small keys with poorer action than more robust models, and lack advanced controls like pitch bend wheels or programmable encoders.
If you don't mind sacrificing a little bit of portability in exchange for a better build quality and more advanced features, selections like the Arturia Keystep, Novation Launchkey Mini, and Akai Professional MPK Mini MkII might be your best options. Features like a built in arpeggiator and note repeat functionality allow for easy creation of complex melodies or beats, and the Keystep even includes a relatively complex polyphonic sequencer. In addition to these generative abilities the Launchkey Mini and MPK Mini also provide additional controls beyond their keys, such as drum pads and assignable encoders. Many find these rectangular pads to be more intuitive than a keyboard when playing percussive sounds and making beats, and encoders can be mapped to various parameters in a DAW in order to provide more tactile control of sound parameters or effects.
The Alesis V25 and Arturia MiniLab may lack a couple of the internal functions of the aforementioned models, but they are still worth considering because of their solid builds and playable, nice-feeling keyboards. In fact, the V25 is one of a minority of controllers that provide full-sized piano keys but can still be considered relatively portable, so it's a great choice for those who find that scaled-down keys are too cramped and hamper their creativity. The MiniLab's keys are less remarkable, but many still choose this model because of its overall construction quality and the robust software it comes bundled with. The so-called Analog Lab software accurately emulates hundreds of classic keyboard instruments such as analog synthesizers and organs, and the MiniLab is pre-mapped to all of them in order to create a tactile and intuitive experience while playing.
Hexler TouchOSC This app turns a tablet or phone into a highly customizable MIDI controller that can be used with a DAW or even a hardware synthesizer. In addition to a typical keyboard layout, it can also virtually replicate inputs such as drum pads, sliders, knobs, XY pads, and more. It's available for both iOS and Android devices and only costs a few dollars, but extra cables or adapters may be necessary depending on how you're looking to use it. hexler.net
Isla KordBot Though its pad-based keyboard can be used to play single notes like any other controller, what makes the KordBot unique is its focus on quickly generating chord progressions. Holding a note and a modification button instantly sends the chord of your choice over MIDI without any complex fingering required, and binding the resultant chord to one of the 12 memory keys makes it easy to play back your curated progression live. It's a great tool for producers who don't know a lot of advanced music theory, or those who simply want to speed up the songwriting process. islainstruments.com