7 Best Keyboards for Making Beats – Kick-Start Your Journey In Beat-Making
Today we are going to take a deep dive into the best keyboards for making beats. A beat-maker keyboard is an essential tool and will help you kick-start your journey in beat-making. These MIDI keyboards and workstations allow you to quickly start creating beats in your home studio.
Explode onto the music scene after purchasing one of the seven best keyboards for making beats in 2021. A high-quality keyboard can make a game-changing impact on your art if you wish to work as a professional musician or music producer.
Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) keyboards represent an essential tool for crafting beats. They assist you in channeling your creativity to produce all kinds of music, from simple drum patterns to complex piano tunes.
As a sound technician, I enjoyed the opportunity to work with a fair number of beat keyboards over the years. After personally testing nearly 20 keyboards so far in 2021, including all seven of the units reviewed in this article, I found that the Novation Launchkey 37 MK3 fulfilled my needs the most. However, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to keyboards.
With that said, check out the seven best keyboards for making beats in 2021, according to my individual experience.
At a Glance: Our Pick of the Best Keyboards for Making Beats
- Best Overall: Novation Launchkey 37 MK3
- Best Budget Option: Akai MPK Mini MK3
- Best 61-key MIDI Keyboard: Novation SL MK3 61
- Best 73-key Workstation: Korg Kronos 2 73 Music Workstation
- Best 49-key MIDI Keyboard: Alesis VX49
- Best 88-key Workstation: Roland FA 08
- Best 76-key Workstation: Yamaha Genos
7 Best Keyboards for Making Beats Reviews
All of the beat maker keyboards reviewed below contain between 25 and 88 keys, and each model offers unique benefits.
Novation Launchkey 37 MK3 – Best Overall
- Review: Well-designed, compact keyboard that grants outstanding hardware control and works with Ableton Live, a digital audio workstation for macOS and Windows.
- Type: MIDI keyboard
- Number of keys: 37
- Recommended for: Mobile producers and performers
Novation’s recent updates to their line of MIDI keyboard controllers gave rise to the MK3 generation of beat-making keyboards. Users familiar with the latest Launchpads or the Launchkey Mini will feel right at home with the new updates on the Launchkey 37 MK3.
With a low-profile design and a sleek, matte black look, the Launchkey 37 MK3 takes full advantage of the updates and features of Ableton Live, including a push-style device control and Ableton Live’s Capture MIDI tool.
Artists can use Launchkey 37 MK3’s Chord, Scale, and Arpeggiator modes without a computer.
The Launchkey 37 MK3 represents a solid option for beatmakers, along with the 25, 49, and 61-key Launchkey variants.
The pitch and mod wheels sit above the keyboard, reducing the overall length of the keyboard.
- Excellent Ableton Live Control
- Compatibility with Logic Pro X
- MIDI output and custom modes allow use with external hardware
- Lacks the USP of some of the other MK3 counterparts
Akai MPK Mini MK3 – Best Budget Option
- Review: Backpack-ready controller keyboard. Best budget beat-making keyboard. Portable, small, and powerful.
- Type: MIDI beatmaker keyboard
- Number of keys: 25 mini keys
- Recommended for: Beginners and on-the-go users
The latest controller from Akai, the MPK Mini MK3 replaces one of the best-selling MIDI keyboards of all time: the Akai MPK Mini MK2. At first glance, it looks similar to its predecessor, with eight chunky pads, thumbstick-style pitch bend/modulation, 25 mini keys, and eight rotary controls.
The Akai MPK Mini MK3 features Akai’s new Dynamic Gen 2 design, responsive mini keys, and continuous rotary controller knobs. It also possesses a similar tactile design to those in the MPC series hardware. The core functionality remains the same, but it lacks the RGB function.
It displays excellent velocity response when playing beats and decent pressure performance when playing sustained sounds.
The OLED display provides real-time feedback on MIDI channels, controller data, arpeggiator settings, and more. The MPK Mini MK3 retains the joystick-style pitch bend/modulation from the MK2.
You can set the MIDI channel, CC assignments, knob behavior, and aftertouch using the MPK Mini 3 Program Editor.
The Akai MPK Mini Software Manager allows you to install the Complete Music Production Starter Kit software bundle. This kit includes five MPC sound packs, Air Instruments Hybrid 3, Mini Grand, Velvet, and Akai’s MPC Beats DAW.
The Akai MPK Mini MK3 comes in three colors. Available for under $150, this MIDI controller represents one of the best value-for-money buys.
- New, improved keybed
- Continuous rotary controls
- Generous software bundle
- MPC velocity and pressure-sensitive pads with aftertouch
- Thumbstick lacks appeal
- Review: A versatile beatmaker that possesses a superb sequencer and allows control of hardware synths. Lacks speakers.
- Type: Workstation
- Number of keys: 61
- Recommended for: Professionals who work with both hardware and software
The Novation SL MK3 61 represents a flexible option for beatmakers who like to keep up with the latest affordable tech. Its controls lie across the front panel, and new hardware improves its connectivity and features, providing more than enough punch to surpass traditional MIDI controllers within the same price range.
The SL MK3 61 possesses an eight-channel onboard sequencer and both digital and analog outputs. You can easily plug it into a computer to adjust the DAW.
A semi-weighted keyboard equipped with aftertouch and an adjustable velocity curve, the SL MK3 features five LCD screens and mod wheels placed on the left. Its lightweight hardware allows you to move it around with ease.
This beat maker has a matte-black top panel with backlit controls and a customizable keyboard light guide. It lacks a USB power option but includes a power switch and input, which acts as its external power adapter. It possesses three pedal inputs for sustain, footswitch, and expression.
It comes with templates designed to control common hardware devices, including Elektron’s Digitakt and Analog RYTM, Korg Minilogue, Roland TR-8S, and Novation’s Peak and Circuit synths. Its components app also allows you to create and edit templates without difficulty.
The SL MK3 61 features an arpeggiator with an adjustable rate, gate length, and direction. Its versatility allows you to sequence and control analog hardware, plugins, DAW, and MIDI-equipped instruments, making it the best in its category.
- Easy-to-use sequencer
- Flexible analog and digital control
- Easy template management and editing thanks to components system
- Lack of per-channel swing
- Needs additional variation/randomization tools
- Review: A powerful beat-making keyboard that comes with nine different sound engines and an easy-to-use screen feature.
- Type: Workstation with MIDI capabilities
- Number of keys: 73
- Recommended for: Musicians and composers
The Korg Kronos 2 73 workstation features an in-depth parameter control and nine KRONOS sound engines, including organs, strings, synthesizers, electric pianos, and acoustics. Also, this beat maker keyboard’s 8-inch SVGA TouchView display offers touch-drag functionality. It represents one of the best keyboard workstations on the market.
The Korg Kronos 2 73 features a 73-note, RH-3 graded, weighted keybed, velocity, and aftertouch. It works well with the EP-1 or SGX-2 engines and other physically modeled synths, like the AL-1, STR-1, and MOD-7.
It offers 185 different effect types, including EQs, envelopes, compressors, choruses, delays, panners, and more. The latest Korg Kronos 2 73 workstations come with enhanced SGX-2 engines, complete with modeled sympathetic resonance and soft-pedal depressed samples.
The unit’s sequencer features 16 audio tracks and 16 MIDI tracks, along with real-time and step recording, audio editing, WAV file import, drum track, and synchronized recording from a maximum of four sources.
The new quick key splitting and layering feature make superb additions to an already excellent OS. The keyboard’s many signature presets and already famous sounds, coupled with the enhanced Setlist feature, make it the best 73-key MIDI workstation in its class.
- Deviates from the DAW-centric models
- Excellent sound production
- Slightly expensive
- Review: Easy-to-use, 49-note MIDI keyboard offers advanced control of virtual instruments and DAWs.
- Type: MIDI controller keyboard
- Number of keys: 49
- Recommended for: Producers and keyboard players
The semi-weighted Alesis VX49 features a 4.3-inch, full-color, high-resolution screen and supports aftertouch. The Virtual Instrument Player (VIP), also found in the Advance keyboards from Akai, acts as the link between the hardware and the plugins.
The VIP maps the hardware controls with the ones in your plugin automatically and displays the parameters on the screen. It also allows you to create multis of up to eight patches, which you can pan, layer, and mix.
The screen of the Alesis VX49 provides real-time feedback of plugin parameters. It consists of eight performance-ready 360° knobs and four banks of eight pressure and velocity-sensitive drum pads with RGB illumination.
It features a roll mode, arpeggiator, time division, transport, and tap-tempo buttons. It can function either as an independent MIDI controller or as a controller for your DAW and plugins.
It works perfectly with software like Ableton Live Lite, Vacuum Pro, XPand!2, Transfuser, Loom, Eighty Eight Ensemble, and Hybrid 3. Overall, the Alesis VX49 represents a fantastic 49-key keyboard for making beat music.
- Excellent basic control options
- Stylish, functional design
- Easy to use
- Could use an increase in its control features
- Review: Lightweight, portable, 88-note weighted keyboard. Weighs 36 lbs and relies heavily on the jog wheel and cursors for editing tasks.
- Type: Music workstation
- Number of keys: 88
- Recommended for: Touring and in-studio musicians with limited space
The FA 08 belongs to the new FA series from Roland. It features an 88-note, weighted keybed and weighs a measly 36 lbs, which means you can easily port it around. It combines a tough, textured, plastic body with a shiny, black perspex control surface.
It offers quality onboard dials for parameter tweaking, and its buttons provide a solid feel. However, its lack of a touchscreen means it relies heavily on the cursors and jog wheel. The shift button provides a shortcut to access key editing parameters without forcing you to browse through hundreds of pages.
The new sound-modifying dials and 6X4 parameter matrix help speed things up considerably. The dials function smoothly on higher resolutions and allow seamless parameter changes.
The keyboard also features an adjustable velocity curve to help you maintain a specific tempo when playing fast riffs or parts in an organ, clav, or synth lead.
With its powerful Supernatural synth engine and an added Supernatural/PCM drum section, the Roland FA 08 represents a superb keyboard model. Equipped with power, portability, and Integra 7 sounds, it’s one of the best 88-key beat-making keyboards available.
- Doubles up as a USB Audio/MIDI interface with sequencer and sampler
- Reasonable cost
- Uses SD cards for sound storage
- Sound expansions from the Roland website ensure longevity
- Disallows the use of sounds sampled as partials/oscillators in tones
- Review: An excellent keyboard for music composers. Features a large touchscreen and focuses on musical productions.
- Type: Arranger keyboard workstation
- Number of keys: 76
- Recommended for: Professionals in the music industry
The Yamaha Genos features 76 keys with a seven-level pressure sensitivity. It consists of a polyphony of 256 notes, including 128 predefined voices and 128 expansion voices. It also comes with 54 Harmony Vocal Effects.
The Yamaha Genos boasts 1,652 voices, 58 drum/SFX kits, and 1.8 GB of storage available for voice expansions. It supports both WAV and MP3 audio player and recorder formats.
It features a 9-inch touch screen and19 controllers. It also uses AMW Sound Generator sampling with AEM technology, possesses three medal inputs (sustain, art, and volume), and supports Wifi over a standard network card.
The Yamaha Genos produces excellent sound quality with clean and clear notes. However, this model does not support integrated speakers, which means you will need to rely on the amplifier.
- Wide range of voices
- Large touchscreen
- Connectivity features
- Polyphonic sound
- Large size
Buying Guide – Choosing the Best Keyboards for Making Beats
Are you still unsure about which keyboard to buy? Learn some of our purchasing tips to help you buy the perfect beat maker keyboard.
Features to Look for When Buying Keyboards for Beat-making
Every beat-making keyboard features different sounds suitable for specialized purposes. The following six points help you understand the primary features you should consider before making a purchase.
- MIDI capabilities – Modern keyboards often come with MIDI controllers. These MIDI controllers integrate with various software and hardware, allowing you to use the MIDI feature when you would otherwise need an external sound module or a Virtual Studio Technology (VST).
- Workstation synthesizer – A workstation synthesizer combines the keyboard with the sequencer and sound modules to create electronic music on its own. Do not confuse it with a MIDI keyboard, which produces music via computer interfaces.
- Number of keys – The number of keys and their weights both vary. When purchasing a keyboard, consider the space available. That way, you end up choosing a keyboard that fits into your recording studio.
- Software or sound module – Digital pianos and workstations come with built-in engines or sound modules, increasing their prices. Modern studios use audio plugins and VSTs to lower the cost of beatmaker keyboards. Consider VSTs like Omnisphere or Keyscape for solid sound quality.
- Drum Pads – Some keyboards provide drum pads as an additional feature as well. Drum pads allow you to create beats on the fly. Drum pads usually come paired with a MIDI keyboard or controller.
- Knobs – Keyboard knobs behave like faders. You can turn the knob clockwise to increase a parameter’s value and counterclockwise to decrease it. Knobs help tweak EQ in mixdowns and provide a tactile feel when tweaking a synth plugin.
The various beat-making keyboards on the market offer exclusive functions and features. You will have to select some features to the exclusion of others.
In my opinion, the Novation Launchkey 37 MK3 represents the best keyboard for making beats in 2021. Compact and well-designed, it produces high-quality sounds, especially for beats.