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Making music on the go or just need something portable?
What about a backup for your main controller?
We look at the 7 best portable MIDI keyboards and controllers on the market.
A good MIDI keyboard controller is practically essential for any production task. The right ones will integrate into your DAW and make your workflow much more intuitive, fluid, and musical.
Many modern producers also desire portability, and so a more compact MIDI keyboard for spontaneous jamming can prove to be invaluable. Aside from that, you might just be after something cheap that works as a backup in case your main controller fails.
Today, we’re going to go over the best portable MIDI Keyboards for on-the-go musicians. You’ll find they are all affordable, durable, and easy to use.
What Are The 7 Best Portable MIDI Keyboards For On-The-Go Musicians?
The AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 is our pick for the best portable MIDI keyboard. It’s a third-generation version of the revered MPK and features just about everything you need to produce and integrate with your software of choice. It’s portable, affordable, and easy to use.
Small enough to fit in your backpack, this diminutive, USB bus-powered MIDI controller gives you 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action mini keys, Octave Up/Down buttons, and an ergonomic 4-way thumbstick for pitch-bend and mod duties.
The Akai MPK Mini MK3 is the third iteration of the world’s legendary best-selling mini keyboard controller.
Its small size makes it a perfect travel companion, and its great variety of pads and assignable controls let you take control of every aspect of your production. Simply said, the MPK is one of the best MIDI controllers in the market today.
USB/MIDI keyboard and pad performance controller
25 velocity-sensitive synth-action mini keys
Bright OLED display for immediate parameter feedback
8 backlit, bankable velocity-sensitive MPC-style pads with Note Repeat
Built-in arpeggiator with adjustable resolution, range, and modes
The third-generation MPK Mini uses Akai’s Gen 2 dynamic mini keyboard, and has been redesigned to enhance playability. The MPK has keys that feel great for laying down virtual pianos, EPs, and synths all the way to orchestral instruments. This mini keyboard really packs a punch!
The Akai MPK Mini MK III features eight bankable, velocity-sensitive pads that provide great touch for accurate finger drumming and melodic sample playback.
Additionally, there are knobs for fantastic hands-on control over any assignable parameter in your music software. With the MPK Mini MK III, you can tweak EQ, sweep a filter open on the fly, push up a reverb tail coming out of a guitar solo, all of that with a great degree of precision.
The Akai MPK Mini comes with 1500 downloadable sounds and a powerful software package that includes MPC Beats and six virtual Instruments (Bassline, Tubesynth, Electric, Hybrid 3, Mini Grand, and Velvet) plus 2GB of sound content to get you started in your music production journey.
Additional features for the MPK Mini III include a 4-way joystick for dynamic pitch/modulation control, built-in arpeggiator with adjustable resolution, range, and modes, dedicated Octave Up and Octave Down buttons, onboard arpeggiator, and a Tap Tempo button.
To top it off, the MK III also comes with class-compliant USB-MIDI connectivity for Mac/PC, is USB-powered, and does not require a power adapter. This is a fantastic choice for all its features, portability, and durability.
64-step sequencer with 8 patterns and 8-note polyphony per step
Step recording and live recording sequencer modes
The Arturia KeyStep 37 features a velocity-sensitive keyboard with aftertouch and RGB LED feedback, characteristics typically only found in more expensive keyboards.
Additionally, this keyboard comes with control-voltage (CV) pitch, gate, and modulation connections for integration with modular synth setups.
Arturia also included a 64-step polyphonic sequencer with eight patterns, an 8-mode arpeggiator with new random modes, and a novel Chord mode with 12 voicings.
This Chord mode lets you choose from 12 chord types and a variety of strum effects, then spread the voices out into complex, velocity-sensitive parts that sound and respond great.
On the other hand, Scale mode lets you map out KeyStep’s 3-octave keyboard range with a scale of your choosing. Don’t know music theory? No worries! Any key you play will automatically quantize to the closest note in your selected scale.
The Arturia KeyStep 37 also features 16 MIDI CC parameters across four switchable banks so you can adjust your settings in real-time using four new rotary controllers.
And to top it off, the Arturia KeyStep 37 comes pre-loaded with Ableton Live Lite and the MIDI Control Center app to make MIDI mapping easy. Overall, this is a fantastic portable keyboard that is particularly suited for the gear heads, however there are enough features included to keep everyone happy.
Featuring 25 velocity-sensitive mini keys, three velocity curves, and six assignable buttons that control the essentials you look for in a controller, the SE25 packs in everything you need for hands-on control and DAW integration — and you can fit it in a book bag!
The Nektar SE25 is a great mini keyboard with superior velocity-sensitive mini keys on a very durable and portable instrument.
You can download Nektar’s DAW integration software and use the SE25 to control transport functions as well as track selection, making this mini keyboard a great solution for those looking to take your DAW on the road.
Compact 25-key MIDI keyboard controller with velocity-sensitive mini keys
3 different velocity curves to adjust the keyboard response
Button control for octave and semitone transpose, MIDI channel, layer, and latch
Nektar included three different velocity curves that let you adjust the keyboard response to fit your unique playing style.
The SE25’s user interface is easy to navigate, featuring six buttons to the left of the keyboard, preassigned to select octave shift, transpose, and sustain.
In case you don’t need access to transpose functions, the SE25 gives you the flexibility to assign the transpose buttons to control pitch bend, MIDI volume, pan, track, or patch change instead. Additionally, the “S” sustain button can be reassigned as a modulation control.
The Nektar SE25 comes with a unique Part Two feature that enables you to play in unorthodox ways. By pressing the “2” button to temporarily shift octaves, you can add an octave or harmony layer while playing, or switch to a different MIDI channel.
When you release the Part Two button, the SE25 reverts back to its original settings, so you can toggle back and forth between two different keyboard configurations in real-time.
On top of that, the “2” button is assignable to Octave, MIDI Channel, Transpose, Layer, and Latch features or a combination thereof.
Second, it is packed with features for such a small controller. Third, it is easy to integrate it with peripheral gear as well as most major DAWs, especially Ableton Live. This is one of the best mini MIDI controllers on the market today.
25 synth-action keys allow for 2-octave range at one time
16 backlit velocity-sensitive pads
Fully controls Ableton Live
8 rotary knobs allow you to customize your tone
Pitch and modulation sliders provide extra tone-shaping tools
This is the third generation Launchkey, where you can lay down and combine multiple scales and modes without worrying about music theory. The Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 features eight onboard Scale Modes.
It is quite easy: you just select your root note and the scale you want, and then play.
Additionally, the Chord Modes change the Launchkey MK3’s keys and pads into an interactive control surface where every note you play is tonally and harmonically associated. The arpeggiator lets you explore new ideas while the Mutate function reshuffles your patterns creatively.
Another great feature of the Launchkey MK3 is Custom Modes. Here, you can simplify communications between controller and software.
Custom Modes let you customize the behavior of your Launchkey, giving you choice over control assignments, MIDI routing, pad color, and more.
It just doesn't get more portable than the 25-key Korg microKEY Air MIDI controller keyboard. Grab your laptop or mobile device, pick up your microKEY Air, and you're all set - you don't even need to remember to pack a USB cable!
This Bluetooth-equipped controller can connect wirelessly to your computer or mobile device, for about 30 hours of low-latency virtual instrument control with just a pair of AA batteries. You can even power it from your iPhone or iPad!
25 Natural Touch mini keys to play across 2 octaves at a time
Hands-on controls include a pitch/mod joystick, octave selection buttons, and a sustain button
Runs for about 30 hours on 2 AA batteries or USB power for wired use
Connect to your computer or mobile device via low-latency Bluetooth LE
The microKEY Air-25 bases most of its appeal on the fact that it supports Bluetooth Smart “Apple Bluetooth Low Energy MIDI”.
It is truly portable, with the added benefit of not needing any cables to function. The microKey can connect to your iPad/iPhone music apps such as KORG Gadget, KORG Module, and GarageBand, as well as any MIDI-capable music production software on your Mac or Windows computer.
There’s no need to install a driver; just use your preferred music software (or install any of the applications provided with microKEY Air), connect it to your computer and you’re all set up.
Additionally, this micro keyboard features 25 Natural Touch mini keys to play across 2 octaves at a time, a velocity-sensing keybed to add expression to your playing, a pitch/mod joystick, octave selection buttons, and a sustain button.
The Alesis V Mini is a simple, intuitive, and portable MIDI controller that lets you take full control of your music software.
With this mini keyboard, you will be able to manipulate your virtual instruments with tactile precision via the keyboard controller’s four assignable knobs. Here you will find both convenience and power, all in one small package.
MIDI controller with 25 velocity-sensitive synth-action mini keys
4 backlit velocity-sensitive drum pads for launching clips and tapping out beats
4 backlit knobs for manipulating virtual instruments
Octave, Pitch, Modulation, and Sustain buttons
Includes AIR Music’s Xpand! 2 virtual instrument software
With the four velocity-sensitive backlit pads you can launch clips or finger drum with ease. Additionally, pitch, modulation, and sustain buttons expand the expressive capabilities of your performance and make the V Mini a great companion for on-the-road production.
This portable mini keyboard is a fantastic entry point into the NI world at an affordable price. The Komplete Kontrol M32 features 8 touch-sensitive control knobs, 2 touch strips for intuitive expression, 4-directional push encoder for one-handed sound browsing and project navigation.
The M32 also comes with the Smart Play feature, which lets you stay in key with over 100 scales and modes, play chord progressions and arpeggios with single keys, or map any scale to white keys only
The included Komplete Kontrol software features pre-mapped control of Komplete instruments and effects, plus hundreds of Native Kontrol Standard (NKS) plug-ins from leading manufacturers.
To top it off, the M32 offers full VST support, deep integration with Maschine software, intuitive control over Logic Pro X, GarageBand, and Ableton Live and is USB 2.0 bus powered. This is one of the best options for beginners as it really features everything you need to get started.