Category Archives: MIDI

How To Select a MIDI Controller – Buying Guide

Akai MPK Mini

There are so many MIDI controllers out there today and if you are on the market to buy one, all of the options and choices can be a bit overwhelming. So how do you select one? Do you just pick the one with the most stars on Amazon? Or do you pick the most expensive one?

The truth is neither of those are the wisest way to purchase. What you should first do before buying, or even considering which ones to buy, is ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Will you be using the controller for home studio use, or live use, or both?
  2. what type of playing style do you have?
  3. How much space do you have?
  4. Will you be using the controller for computer use only, or will you be controlling hardware as well?

1.  Home or live use will help determine what types of features you will want on the controller. For example, if you are using a controller live for mostly keyboard playing in a traditional sense as if it were a replacement for your stage piano or synthesizer, then you may want to look for something with at least 61 full sized keys.

Novation Impulse 61

The Novation Impulse 61 is an excellent choice for such a controller. It gives you 61 full sized semi-weighted keys, 9 faders, 8 knobs, 8 pads, as well as pitch and modulation controls. It’s a bit on the pricey side at $369, but you get a whole lot of controls at your fingertips, plus it comes with Ableton Live Lite, which is a great lightweight version of the famous Ableton Live Software.

Midiplus i61

If the Novation is too complicated and you just need something simple for playing piano or synth parts, the MIDIPLUS i61 is a cool and affordable option at only $83! MIDIPLUS is a company from Taiwan that I like quite a bit. I have one of their Classic 49 controllers that I love and it fits my needs. The i61 is a simple 61 key keyboard with full sized keys, volume fader and pitch/mod wheels.

2. What playing style do you have? This is related to question one, but if you are planning on using your controller more for controlling fx, DAW faders, filters, and drums, then one with 61 keys really isn’t going to be what you want. You might not even want one with ANY keys!

Novation Launch Control XL

The Novation Launch Control XL is just such a controller. It is mostly geared towards Ableton, but you could use it to control just about anything you could imagine. It has 24 knobs, 8 faders, and 16 buttons, plus transport controls. This would be perfect for live performance with Ableton in a compact size. Plus it’s only about $150!

Akai MPD218

The Akai MPD218 is another keyless controller that falls into the category of a ‘pad controller’. This type of controller is perfect if you wish to trigger rhythmic samples or for finger-drumming with soundfonts, Ableton or Reason.

 3. How much space do you have? This is one I have to think about all the time. I live in Brooklyn and in a tiny apartment. Things that take up tons of room are really not even options for me. This is also why I don’t really do hardware synths anymore.

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Korg NanoKey2

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Korg NanoKontrol2

Korg’s Nano Series Is in my opinion the best series for those with limited space. They take up virtually no space at all, have great feeling controls, and have a lot of configuration via software that comes bundled with the controllers. They make a lot of different controllers to meet your needs, like keyboards, control surfaces, and pad controllers. All of which are very affordable.

4. Do you need to control hardware? This is an important question. A lot of MIDI controllers out there today do not feature actual MIDI ports on them anymore! This is because the majority of people are using them plugged into computer via USB. However if you want to control a hardware MIDI sampler or synth module, a controller with external power supply and actual MIDI ports!

MidiPlus Classic 49

Midiplus Classic 49

The Midiplus Classic 49 is a great example of an all around workhorse controller. It has 49 full sized keys, 9 faders, 8 knobs, pitch and mod wheels, USB and hardware MIDI Ports and the ability to use external power, plus a sustain pedal input. I have one of these myself and I love it. I use it for home and live use. It has just enough keys and controls to make some interesting programming, but not so much that it’s overwhelming.

Wait! What about Linux???

Well I use Linux as my main system and have used all kinds of MIDI controllers from many different manufactures, and I have yet to plug in one that Linux does’t recognize.

Brands I have personally used in Linux are:

  • M-Audio
  • Akai Professional
  • MIDIPLUS
  • KORG
  • Edirol
  • Generic midi cable from China

Every single one has worked plug and play! But if you are unsure, google it and find your answer!

Anyway, hopefully this was helpful and whatever controller you end up buying, have fun!

 

Making a Linux Live MIDI Setup with SEQ24, Qsynth and Jack Rack

How to use a Linux laptop for live music performance with SEQ24 MIDI sequencer, Qsynth for soundfonts, and Jack-Rack for realtime fx manipulation.
Controllers used in this video:

Korg NanoKey2

MidiPlus Classic 49

This setup allows you to trigger loop based midi sequences on the fly, map MIDI controls to fx parameters, as well as play along in realtime all from a midi controller. This is not a fully in depth tutorial, but more of an overview of the full workspace. If you have any specific topics touched upon in the video that you’d like me to go further in depth about, just let me know in the comments section. This tutorial is a bit on the advanced side and assumes a general knowledge of Linux audio and Jack.

8 bit performance on a Korg nanoPAD 2 and nanoKONTROL

This is something I put together a while ago, but still really happy with it. I wanted to make an 8 bit trap song in real-time using Ableton Live and my Korg nanoPAD2 and nanoKONTROL. I first found and created all of the samples I needed and loaded them into Ableton’s drum rack, then I spent some time working out some beats and setting up arpeggiators to create the hi hat roll sounds. Once I had it all together I just had to practice for a few days then I made the video.

Korg’s nano series is a great way to get inexpensive and versatile controllers for Ableton. The fact that they are so small and come in different categories too makes them really great for creating modular setups for your needs.

You can pick up your own nanoPAD2 here

Or if you want a nanoKONTROL, get that one here

Soundfont with Akai MPD and Live Drums

This is a type of track I’ve wanted to do for a while. I’ve had the idea of making a song on the Akai MPD24 and playing drums to it, but was stuck with how to use the MPD with Linux. I finally figured out how to create a soundfont from samples I cut up myself and using fluid synth as a means to play them. Using a soundfont gives me nearly as much control, and in some ways more than Ableton’s drum rack. I don’t have anything against Ableton, it’s great software. I just wanted to produce this whole track within Linux. I mixed it all in Mixbus, but still edited the video in Windows, Vegas Movie Studio. My cameras record in MTS which kdenlive in Linux has some problems with. I worked around this on the last few vids, but forgot this time, so rather than go convert everything again then re-edit in Kdenlive, I thought it would just be quicker and easier to do it in Vegas.

Sorry for the long-winded explanation. thanks for watching and commenting 🙂

Drum setup:
Custom Tama Imperialstar Hairline Blue finish 18×20 kick, 8×12 rack, 14×14 floor, 5×14 snare
Tama Iron Cobra hi hat stand (main hats)
Vintage Olympic hi hat stand (trash hats)
Ludwig flat base straight stands (crashes)
PDP boom stand (ride)
Vintage Nuvader Nickel Silver 15″ Hi Hats
Meinl HCS 8″ Bell
Kasza 17″ Dirty Bell crash cymbal
Vintage NuVader 22″ ride cymbal (Nickel Silver)
Meinl HCS 16″ Trash Crash / Generic 16″ brass crash bottom (trash hats)
Vintage Camber 18″ Crash Cymbal (Brass)
Aquarian Studio X on tom batters
Tama single ply clear tom resonants
Aquarian Studio X Dot on snare batter
Tama thin clear snare resonant
Aquarian Response 2 Coated kick batter
Remo Vintage Emperor w/ Kickport 2 on kick resonant
DW 6000 kick pedal (sucks, I want a new pedal)
Vintage flat base Slingerland snare stand
Vintage MIJ canister throne

Mics on this one I did something new. I used only a kick and overhead, then blended that with the camcorder mic from my Sony HDR-CX240. It made it a very raw and cool sound. There is also some slight decimator (bit crusher) effect on the kick and overhead mics.

Amiga Drummer 2.3, The Full Motion Video Game That Never Existed

Here’s part 5 of my Amiga ProTracker and a Drummer series. I made this one using all samples of objects laying around me at the time in while I was visiting my mom’s in Florida. Samples used were my Casio wristwatch beep, a kalimba (thumb piano) snapping my fingers and tapping on a plastic lid. I then dropped dropped the bounced wav file into Pro Tools 7.4 and added bass, then went into the studio and recorded the drums and this video. The video in this one I was going for a 90s Full Motion Video Game look. I used a green screen and drew the background in GraFX2, then assembled it all in FCP 5.1. To get the pixilated look I rendered using the Cinepak codec with a 256 color palate.

Written, produced and performed by Justin Wierbonski (me)
I play Tama Drums and Paiste Cymbals.