Two weeks ago I was at the Texas Music Educators Association convention, where I met lots of passionate, dedicated music teachers. As is often the case, someone asked me, “What MIDI keyboard should I buy?”
Keyboardists rarely ask this question — most of them have already checked out the latest keyboard hardware just for fun — much like James Bond studies the latest gadgets that Q creates for him. But many others recognize that even with minimal keyboard skills a MIDI keyboard can often help us obtain our goal of “the fastest note entry with the least amount of editing.”
If your sole interest is in entering music into your computer, you can cut costs by purchasing a keyboard that doesn’t have built-in sounds; such keyboards are often referred to as MIDI controllers. If desk space is in short supply, or if you’d like to be able to travel with your new keyboard and a laptop, you’ll want to check out the new breed of ultra-compact controllers.
The Akai LPK25 and the Korg nanoKEY are both about the width of your laptop keyboard and weigh next to nothing. Their velocity-sensitive keys are smaller, but still very playable, and both include octave controls that provide access to the full range of a piano from each two-octave keyboard. They connect to your computer via a USB cable, and they enable Finale users to enter notes in step-time and real-time via Simple Note Entry, Speedy Note Entry, and HyperScribe.
Imagine pulling both your laptop and MIDI keyboard from a shoulder bag, fitting both on one of those dinky coffee shop tables, and entering notes as you enjoy your morning cappuccino. Just a few years ago this technology would have seemed worthy of James Bond. Shaken, not stirred, indeed!
The best thing of all is how inexpensive they are. I’ve seen the Korg nanoKEY advertised for around $50, and the Akai LPK25 for around $70. What’s more, each controller is easy enough to use that you don’t need a pre-mission demonstration by Q. Want to see them in action? Here’s a short video from Akai and a Korg video that covers all three nanoSERIES controllers (and the M1Le software that comes with the nanoKEY).
Sadly, personal jet packs are not yet a reality, so I rely on commercial air travel. They haven’t figured out a way for me to use my cell phone throughout the flight, but today I can complete my notation tasks in comfort — and intrigue my fellow flyers — with plenty of time to scour the in-flight magazine for more secret agent gadgets.