A MIDI keyboard or control keyboard is usually a large piano-style digital synthesizer, usually with knobs, wheels, and other controllers, used mainly to transmit MIDI messages or commands over a MIDI or USB 5-pin cable digital devices or recording computers. The term "MIDI keyboard" refers to a class of keyboards, including but not limited to the keyboards found in sequencing software like Pro Tools or Cubase. Keyboards can also control computers by just pressing a specific function key called "kicking keys." In the latter case, the computer doesn't realize that the user wants to control it directly - the action happens automatically through MIDI commands sent by the keyboard controller.
A MIDI keyboard controller is a valuable tool if you produce electronic music and need a lot of automation for your tracks. But what if you only want to use a single keyboard for audio recording or producing? For example, if you're working on a song and a keyboard isn't working, you'll have to switch to another keyboard. However, if you know how to produce audio tracks as a whole and make sure you have the proper midi keyboard effects and plugins loaded. You can get rid of one keyboard and put it on another one, producing a variety of different sounds. This is also useful when working on a recording set, as all the digital pianos will sound different if you change their configurations.
There are different types of MIDI keyboards and controllers available. There are two major styles, the majority of which are the digital piano and the traditional analog midi keyboard controller. Digital pianos tend to have fewer options than the former, with fewer parameters to play with and fewer onboard effects. The main difference is that digital pianos tend to have fewer keys, with the possible exception of octaves. The velocity and other control parameters are limited to the computer memory and may be set via software or special midi commands.
You may also hear the term "an acoustic piano" when you're discussing midi keyboard systems, but these are different from a digital piano. Technically, an acoustic piano is made out of wood or other materials, but most people refer to it as an electronic midi keyboard. These units tend to have more MIDI channels and usually have velocity and other control knobs and regular keys and pedals. If you're starting and don't want something with too many options, this is the best option for you.
Traditional MIDI keyboards and controllers also come in several different models. Some, such as the Casio keyboard series, have been designed primarily to work with popular Casio PDAs. Others, such as the Yamaha keyboard series, were designed to work with Yamaha pianos, and many digital pianos are compatible with computer keyboards. Most modern digital pianos use midi controllers to emulate acoustic piano models.
The function of the controller lies in its ability to capture sound and transmit them over MIDI. Because today's midi keyboards are often designed to be user-friendly, they can even be used with computers and laptops, eliminating the need for additional hardware. There are many software packages available that will allow this mixing and composing software. You may even be surprised to find that some models will run on little-known midi interfaces, although they will require a MIDI interface to function.
One of the best things about a midi keyboard controller is that the midi itself can fully control it. This means that the instrument can respond to keystrokes, mouse clicks, and any other MIDI commands. You can assign midi keys to any sequence of notes, or you can post midi keys to play just one note. The possibilities are endless when it comes to using a midi keyboard. It is often an integral part of a popular song and can turn an ordinary instrument into a masterpiece.