When shopping for a new keyboard, keep these things in mind: keys, effects, and budget. It's recommended that your keyboard have at least 49 keys (they typically are in layouts of 25, 49, 61, 76, and 88 keys).
As for effects, you'll want to figure out if you want a MIDI controller, keyboard, or synthesizer. A major difference to note is that a MIDI controller doesn't use internal sound—it uses virtual software from a laptop.
So, think of using a MIDI to create sounds from various instruments. As for synths, they just need a speaker for sound since they have built-in sound and controls.
If you're willing to stretch your budget to about $1,500-$2,000, you can get a 2-in-1 MIDI and synth. See which keyboard is the best pick for your music production needs.
Quick Summary of the Best Keyboards for Music Production
- Arturia Keylab Essential 49 49-Key Keyboard Controller (Best All Around Music Production Keyboard)
- Akai Professional Mpk Mini MK3 - 25 Key USB Midi Keyboard Controller (Best Music Production Keyboard for Beginners)
- Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2 Smart Keyboard Controller (Best Music Production Keyboard for Professionals)
- Nord Piano 5 88-Key Stage Piano (Best Music Production Keyboard for Live Performances)
- Korg microKORG XL+ Synthesizer with Vocoder
- Roland JUNO-DS88 88-key Synthesizer
- Roland GO:KEYS 61-key Music Creation Keyboard
- Roland RD-2000 88-key Stage Piano
Best Keyboards for Music Production
1. Best All Around Music Production Keyboard – Arturia Keylab Essential 49 49-Key Keyboard Controller
Jacknife Lee, producer/mixer for The Cars, The Killers, Bloc Party, Taylor Swift, and many more of our favorite artists, has raved about Arturia synths.
Many other artists have also included Arturia controllers in their music production toolbox as well, so, to no surprise, the Arturia 49-key controller makes the top of our list.
The virtual instrument provides over 6,500 sounds. It weighs right under 7 pounds, so it'll be easy to transport.
Hands-on controls feature 10 encoders, 9 sliders, a 6-button transport section, and 4 command switches.
There are MIDI and USB connections, with MCU and HUI control compatibility too. This station is built around Arturia's Analog Lab and V-collection instruments.
Lucky for you, it's bundled with Ableton Live Lite DAW software and UVI Grand Piano Model D virtual instrument.
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2. Best Music Production Keyboard for Beginners – Akai Professional Mpk Mini MK3 - 25 Key USB Midi Keyboard Controller
AKAI's 25-key MIDI controller is a great pick for beginners. There are only 25 keys, but it's still a quality pick for total control of your production.
With 1500+ sounds, this starter kit has everything you need, including MPC Beats, 6 virtual instruments, and 2GB of sound content.
This USB-powered MIDI controller has 25 keys for studio production, virtual synthesizer control, and beat production.
The 8 360-degree knobs allow for easy mixing and tweaking. Overall, it's the perfect $100 MIDI controller. There's no need to splurge as a beginner.
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3. Best Music Production Keyboard for Professionals – Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S88 MK2 Smart Keyboard Controller
Native Instruments has the perfect keyboard controller for pros. This pick has 2 high-resolution color screens to navigate through Native Insutrments' preset system.
Play chords or scales, and control your DAW from the transport system. The controller allows you to play chord progressions and arpeggios with single keys or map any scale to just white keys. You're going to have fun with this one.
This 88-key controller includes Komplete Select—a premium collection of instruments and effects including Massive, Monark, Drumlab, The Gentleman, Vintage Organs, and a whole lot more. Finding sounds and previewing them has never been easier, thanks to tag-based preset browsing.
4. Best Music Production Keyboard for Live Performances – Nord Piano 5 88-Key Stage Piano
Nords's 88-key piano was made for demanding shows and recording sessions. Two powerful piano engines, dual independent sample synths, and doubled memory make this 88-key stage piano a fan favorite.
A customer gave it a 5-star rating and wrote, "The sounds are top-notch, and the user interface is unmatched and super easy to program on the fly. After a quick look at the user manual for about 5 minutes, anyone who has used a digital stage piano before will feel right at home. I'm still shocked by the realism of the sound and how good the keybed feels. Couldn't be happier!"
Some presets include grand, upright, electric pianos, digital, layer, clavinet, and harpsichord. Effects to play with: Reverb, delay, pan, tremolo, vibrato, wah-wah, ring modulator, phaser, flanger, 3-band EQ, compressor, tube overdrive, and envelope. You'll get years and years of professional use from this keyboard.
Korg says this is the beefed-up version of the microKORG XL synth. 128 sounds, updated knobs, and a powerful Radias sound engine make this a powerful keyboard.
Browse by genre and instrument type to make sound fast. It's very easy to navigate. It only has 37 keys, but it still provides everything you need and more.
This synth has 17 effects. You can stack 2 sounds, create splits, and even add an external audio signal. Users love Editor Librarian (which is included) for easy sound editing. It also includes a Gooseneck microphone for vocoded vocals.
Some favorites that have used vocoded vocals are Phil Collins, Daft Punk, and many of our favorite rappers. And if you're trying to emulate the sound of some of your favorite indie rock acts of the early 2000s, this is it.
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The Roland JUNE-DS88 synth is a popular synth for good reason. Many musicians take this synth on tour to make use of its improved pianos, phrase pads, and. new vocal effects. Roland knows the importance of not taking an idea for granted. The 8-track sequencer's controls and non-stop operation ensure that your creative flow isn't interrupted.
Download over 1,000 free sounds and get creative with acoustic piano, percussion, and loops via USB. Supplement your performances with samples and music files. This lightweight synth only weighs 35 pounds, making it a great option for travel or touring. It can be used with a battery or AC operation. There is a mic input and dedicated reverb, vocoder, and auto-pitch effects for sweet vocals.
Consider Roland's GO: Keys 61-key keyboard if you're a beginner or just want to get back to the basics at an affordable price. It's lightweight and a great pick for travel or for someone who might not need something for professional gigs quite yet.
Roland's 61-key keyboard is another favorite of ours for beginners. The innovative loop mix function helps you create songs, and the intuitive touch controls allow you to manipulate looped sounds.
Get familiar with the 500+ instrument sounds. Record sessions and performances with the included recorder to track progress.
Pair the keyboard with your phone or tablet for streaming. Jamming along to your favorite songs will get the creative juices flowing.
Roland's RD-2000 88-key piano is another top-notch option for the stage or studio. The piano has over 1,100 sounds for various styles of music, electric pianos, and vintage effects.
Many users note that this is a great keyboard for church, so if you're playing live music on Sundays, consider this stage piano.
There are 8 knobs with LED status indicators and faders for real-time control over sounds and effects. With organs, synths, brass, orchestral strings, and more sounds, you'll have plenty to play with. Configure the 4 pedal inputs to damper pedals, expression pedals, and more.
How Much Should You Spend on a Keyboard?
Be aware that keyboard prices will vary. However, keep in mind that a terrific investment may cost more than your budget. If you plan on using one for live gigs, buy exactly what you'll need. Spend that extra $500 on something that will serve you.
So that may mean spending well over $1,000 on a stage keyboard. However, if you're a beginner, you may want to stick to under $500. There are plenty of great options in the $100-$600 price range. Our picks range from $100 to well over $3,000.
Do You Need to Buy Software?
Apple users know and love GarageBand. It's free and easy to use. However, it's not your only option. There is plenty of free keyboard software to use. Feel free to check out Perfect Piano, CakeWalk, and MIDIEditor.
When you're ready to make the investment, you can download compatible software.