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Taylord
Blue Jay
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01 Sep 2017, 6:49 pm

For some time now, i've been invested in buying a midi controller for writing music, the problem I came across, is that there are actually different models with varying amount of keys. I'm new to this and don't know what i'm doing at all, and I don't know what key count will suit me. If anybody here can share with me they're midi controllers, it'd be a big help.



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SomeRandomGuy
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02 Sep 2017, 12:16 am

Is there a local Sam Ash, Guitar Center, or someone else who might have keys for you to try?

In my own experience my first MIDI was an Oxygen 49, ie. 4 octave. I thought that was enough when I first started but then again I was composing electronic music rather than trying to play expert piano, keyboard, or practice for live solo performance. In that sense it really depends what you're doing. Even with the 61 key synth I have next to my computer right now there are plenty of times when I still hit the octave switch for one reason or another.


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whatamievendoing
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02 Sep 2017, 4:10 am

It depends on your needs and the space you have available. You can do well enough with even a 25-key MIDI controller, since they usually have buttons for going an octave up or down.


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Taylord
Blue Jay
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02 Sep 2017, 11:05 am

i've been interested in game development and making animations, and i plan on making original music for those



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02 Sep 2017, 11:16 am

whatamievendoing wrote:
It depends on your needs and the space you have available. You can do well enough with even a 25-key MIDI controller, since they usually have buttons for going an octave up or down.


^^^I have an Akai MPK mini MIDI controller, that's just two octaves plus octave up/down buttons. That works for me as it's plugged into a Propellerheads DAW. I use it mainly for drum programming and for keyboards (entered in a stepwise fashion). While this is a slow process, most of my recording is direct recording from guitar, bass and woodwind... so I just add programmed drums and "frilly bits" or pads on keys. It 's all I need.

If, on the other hand, you're a keyboard wizard, you'll need something a bit more versatile. The mini keyboard I have is very limited, but also very cheap... so you could always buy cheap and see how you get on, but I'd get something bigger if you're going to be mainly keys.


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SomeRandomGuy
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02 Sep 2017, 11:36 am

Taylord wrote:
i've been interested in game development and making animations, and i plan on making original music for those


It sounds like you're not far off from where I was - ie. EDM and sound scores for software use the same tools and those tools have similar limits and similar forgiveness in different areas.

I think the biggest hing you need to know is what you absolutely need to be at your most creative. Clearly with most DAWs (desktop audio workstations) you can pencil in notes one by one and set their length without ever touching a keyboard. I just checked my Ableton on that, the full range is 128 keys - so it's a much wider range than you'd get on any MIDI keyboard - 25, 37, 49, 61, 76, or 88. That said - most people really have a tough time translating melodies from their mind, or exploring possible new melodies, without first trying them out on a keyboard. What they do from there with respect to the recording process, ie. either live recording or penciling their notes in, is completely up to them. In my own case I've always done best to come up with the melodies on the keyboard and pencil once I know what I have.

I also have to bring up something else. I've met producers, particularly on popular music forums who seem to be in the in-crowd role, who'd say a synth is a synth is a synth and that if you can't make one synth work then don't blame the synth, or the effects plug, for being substandard or not being what you need - it's just your lack of talent. I don't quite buy that, mainly because it has a lot to do also with what kinds of sounds your aiming to make, how high your aspirations are for engineering your sounds, and also sound engineering, mixing as well for that matter, doesn't necessarily fall under the same area as musical creativity. Technically sound engineering and mixing/mastering are about as far apart from one another as they are from musical creativity.

I also have to laugh when a lot of my favorite EDM producers, ie. the guys with the most evolved moods in their productions, complain about releasing only one out of every ten or twenty songs they write - the process of mastering and finishing is really that caustic and a lot of ideas, based on their signal mixtures, either can't cross the finish line or end up with distorted mixdowns that won't survive current pro audio standards. What a lot of these guys have that keeps them going, which isn't there for me, is that they're also world-class dj's so they're able to gin up inspiration and motivation in their mixing or come up with ideas of what would sit perfectly in a mix between two records they'd want to indirectly connect and they can monitor the mix balances in those two tunes to make something that fits in the middle.

That said I don't even think your efforts to make video game music would be that harrowing. Most of the nasty dilemmas EDM producers get stuck in is with the drums and bass lines. In most video game music you don't have a lot of percussion or sub bass.

I think you might get the idea by this point though - the most important thing you can do is find out what works best for you creatively. If I were you I'd pay some attention to your MIDI keyboard but I'd also say that a 49 key or 61 key should be enough. If your melodies go much wider than two or three octaves it starts sounding off and, by the time you're doing something that works across for octaves that's almost never a single instrument - it's usually a melodic instrument and some kind of bass instrument. Other than that - choose your synthesizers, samplers, sample libraries, and desktop audio workstation software VERY carefully. It might sound cheesy to say this but - you have to like the look of the software, the feel of it, the sounds that it puts out without you needing to jump up and down on them through engineering processes. Creativity relies on surplus motivation and if you get mired down in tons of technical details before you get started you're in a position where those technical details will burn out your creative circuits and you'll be furious with yourself for even having taken up the endeavor.


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SomeRandomGuy
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02 Sep 2017, 11:46 am

To tell a more direct story about where I'm at, that might be helpful:

I spent about ten years trying to become a world class producer. I gimped up to the finish line and by the time I got there I hated the process too much to want to continue (let alone - pro mixes are hardly worth the effort if ten people will ever hear them or care that you wrote a tune).

Even though I spent thousands on different soft-synths and even went out and got myself an Access Virus TI2 toward the end, a lot of that is gathering dust. I found myself in the last few days enamored with the Roland Botique series and I'm getting the JP-08 (actually already in my possession), JX-03, the MIDI keyboard, and the TR-08 when it comes out. The main reason is that at this point I'd rather noodle, learn about the synths I'm working with, and just experiment on my lunch breaks at work where I can pull one out of a desk drawer to twist knobs and examine the full scope of their sound potential. Before I had too many different soft synths, I was trying to find which one would be my favorite and I can honestly say none of them (other than the Thor maybe but that's land-locked to Propellerhead Reason). To that end though I'm not even interested in making music for now and may not be for the forseeable future - this will be more like taking up a hobby in sound creation and hoping that i can find enjoyment without all of the pressure. With that, who knows, I might build up the impetus to produce again eventually and I might have a strong enough sound library to make that work. Even at that I'm too shy to even say that that's a goal, mainly because I'd be re-exerting that same pressure to perform that got me in trouble to begin with.

This is where I think the usual rules of deduction sort of go out the window. Some of the cheapest, amateur-esque tools (in my case Reason) can take you really far, and then the most decked-out pro gear like all the Native Instruments, U-He, Rob Papen, etc.. industry flagship synths or the world-class analog and virtual analog synths can potentially leave you completely cold unless you force yourself to dedicate yourself to no more than two synths. Jumping from one to another is as frustrating a habit as it is expensive.


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1stSauce
Blue Jay
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02 Sep 2017, 12:26 pm

NI Kontrol or the Arturia KeyLab would be my 2 picks. I'm replacing my long-in-the-tooth Behringer UMX61 soon and the aforementioned controller keyboards are on my shortlist.



Taylord
Blue Jay
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03 Sep 2017, 3:27 pm

Also, and I should of said this from the beggining, my price range is 200 at most, but I will pay a little extra if I have to.



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SomeRandomGuy
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03 Sep 2017, 3:34 pm

You can probably cover yourself for half of that if you keep your eyes open.


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Taylord
Blue Jay
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03 Sep 2017, 4:14 pm

Or would a digital piano work better? I'm terribly sorry i'm completely new to this stuff.



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SomeRandomGuy
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03 Sep 2017, 4:23 pm

Why would you want a digital piano if you're making video game music?


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Taylord
Blue Jay
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03 Sep 2017, 5:06 pm

and music for any animations i make! :D



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SomeRandomGuy
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03 Sep 2017, 5:40 pm

Here's what you probably need to think about much more than even your keyboard:

You need a DAW of some type. Whether it's Cakewalk, Reaper, FruityLoops, Reason, Ableton, ProTools, etc.. - you need something for recording and mixing. The MIDI keyboard just manipulates your vst plugin synths.


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Taylord
Blue Jay
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13 Sep 2017, 2:18 pm

I can just find free daw software online right? The midi controller I can't get for free.