If you want to expand what you’re capable of when working with GarageBand, a MIDI keyboard or controller is a great start. These controllers can help you with the creative process and also give you better control over all angles of your project.
MIDI controllers plug into your Mac or iPad to help you control GarageBand with a keyboard rather than just on the device you are working with. This can boost your abilities within the app and help you become a better musician and producer.
I’m a lifelong musician with years of experience working within home and professional studios. I know the ins and outs of GarageBand and have used many different keyboards and controllers with the app over the years.
This post will spotlight some of the best MIDI keyboards and controllers for GarageBand. I’ll explain some benefits of each option and tell you why you might want to consider using them for your audio projects.
Let’s get after it.
- A MIDI keyboard/controller can help you become a better musician or producer by increasing your capabilities within GarageBand.
- There are many different MIDI controllers out there, and you should choose an option that best meets your needs and preferences in the studio.
- You should consider factors such as size, cost, features, and functions when choosing a MIDI controller to use with GarageBand.
- You don’t absolutely need to use a MIDI keyboard or controller with GarageBand, but they can be pretty affordable and are worth trying out.
Here are a few quick answers to some of the most commonly asked questions relating to the best MIDI keyboard/controller for GarageBand.
Do I need a MIDI controller for GarageBand?
You do not necessarily need a MIDI controller for GarageBand. If you don’t plan on making a lot of music or are just a casual musician or producer, you probably don’t need to spend extra money on a keyboard or controller.
What keyboard do I need for GarageBand?
Many different types of keyboards and controllers can work with GarageBand. The exact model you choose is up to you, and you should pick one that matches your needs and preferences in the studio.
What is the best MIDI controller for beginners?
Any basic MIDI controller can work well for beginners, and the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is one good option. This is a pretty affordable model that gives you a lot to work with without being too overwhelming.
What Makes the Best MIDI Keyboard/Controller for GarageBand?
Here are some essential considerations you should keep in mind when looking for the best MIDI keyboard/controller for GarageBand.
Since most people who use GarageBand are relatively new to audio production, there is no reason to get a MIDI keyboard with too many features or functions. Keep things simple, so you don’t overwhelm yourself with a lot of bells and whistles.
Another critical factor for most people is cost. There is a wide variety of costs between various MIDI controller models, but people who use GarageBand can typically choose a cheaper one rather than a very expensive option.
Size is another thing to think about. You should pick a smaller controller if you want to use GarageBand on the move. If you want to set up a home studio, you can choose a larger option that gives you more keys.
Most MIDI controllers look like keyboards, and you control GarageBand by using the keys. But some other options look more like drum pads, and some have both keys and pads. Choose whichever option suits your needs the best.
The Best MIDI Keyboard/Controllers for GarageBand
|Best Overall||Alesis V49 MKII|
|Best for Beginners||Novation Launchkey Mini MK3|
|Best for iPad||AKAI LPK25|
|Best for Keyboard||M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3|
|Best for Professionals||AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3|
1. Alesis V49 MKII
- Awesome blend of being very a very capable controller without too many features to overwhelm anyone who’s not a professional musician or producer.
- 49 full-size keys are velocity-sensitive for authentic response and play – a great way to increase your musical skills.
- Includes eight pads that can be used with GarageBand or other DAWs.
- Keyboard comes with piano lessons
The Alesis V49 MKII is my pick for the best overall MIDI keyboard/controller for GarageBand. This is a great controller because it has everything you want to control the app without having too many features to get overwhelming.
The keyboard features 49 keys, which is plenty to get you started with all of your creations within GarageBand, and it also has eight pads to allow you to control various software instruments within the app.
You also get assignable knobs, which is a great learning tool for understanding how a DAW works and unlocks the full potential of a MIDI controller. Another awesome feature is over 60 piano lessons included with the keyboard to boost your skills to another level!
This isn’t the smallest option around, so it’s best suited for a home studio. You don’t want to travel with it because it’s a little bulky. And I wish it had more than four knobs, but that’s at least a good start.
My Verdict: A solid all-around MIDI keyboard that offers plenty of features without overdoing it. Easy to play, and the included piano lessons are a nice touch that boosts value.
2. Novation Launchkey Mini MK3
- Good option for beginners because it’s easy to operate and control while also having a very affordable price.
- Small size is nice for use with a portable device like an iPad, and it is also easy to travel with.
- Other features include a built-in arpeggiator that can help you make melodies and improve your musical skills in GarageBand.
- Velocity-sensitive keys for authentic play and feel.
If you are just exploring audio production, the Novation Launchkey Mini MK3 is a great option for beginners. This is another easy-to-use MIDI keyboard and controller that will work seamlessly with GarageBand.
This model has an affordable price, which is always nice for beginners, and allows you to control GarageBand easily and effectively. It also isn’t overbuilt so that you won’t run into many issues with complex buttons or controls.
In addition to velocity-sensitive keys, you also get eight control knobs which allow you to adjust various controls within GarageBand and give you a taste of what professional production feels like even though you are just learning.
This isn’t an extremely capable unit packed with features and functions, which can be a downside if you are a more advanced musician or producer. But beginners will appreciate everything it has to offer.
My Verdict: Affordable and easy-to-use option that is great for beginners. It will help you learn and progress within GarageBand to improve your skills and get to the next level of audio production.
3. AKAI LPK25
- Small controller pairs great with an iPad and is easy to use with GarageBand.
- Also affordable, making a good option to take with you on the road if you want to travel and still record.
- Octave up and down buttons give you quick control when creating music or using software instruments in GarageBand.
- 25 velocity-sensitive keys are small but still nice to play with good response.
If you are looking for a good MIDI keyboard/controller to pair with your iPad, you should check out the AKAI LPK25. This compact, affordable unit will easily work with GarageBand on your tablet.
I like everything that AKAI makes, and this small unit is no exception. It’s designed well, and even though it’s simple, you have everything you need to make music, including 25 velocity-sensitive keys that feel great and respond well.
You can also take advantage of the octave up and down buttons to expand the keyboard with a wider range of tones. These buttons are easy to use and access, making it simple to turn this little keyboard into a GarageBand powerhouse.
A smaller option has some limitations, and you don’t get all the bells and whistles you’d expect with larger models. But it makes for a great companion to an iPad because of the smaller size and affordable price.
My Verdict: Good option to use with iPad due to its smaller size and affordable price. Quality design and engineering by AKAI make for reliable performance in GarageBand or any other use.
4. M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3
- Authentic keyboard look and feel that works well for any keyboard players or pianists who use GarageBand.
- 49 full-size keys help make the controller very effective in various recording and musical situations.
- Includes additional features like a fader and pitch wheel to expand your creative possibilities.
- Includes some software you can use outside of GarageBand if you want to.
If you are a keyboard player looking for a MIDI controller that looks and feels like the real thing, you should look at the M-Audio Keystation 49 MK3. This is a fun-to-play and easy-to-use option that is also affordable.
This model comes with 49 full-size, velocity-sensitive keys for very natural and authentic playback and response. It feels like a keyboard and will help you properly play all your key tracks if that’s what you’re after.
The Keystation 49 MK3 comes with useful features such as a volume fader that you can use for more precise control and pitch and mod wheels that give you creative freedom when cutting tracks. It also has included software you can explore outside of GarageBand.
This model doesn’t have any drum pads, which limits what it can do as a controller. You might not run into issues with GarageBand, but as your skills progress, having a controller with pads is a nice tool.
My Verdict: Great option for anyone who wants a controller that feels and looks like a real piano. It’s also an affordable option with all the basic features needed to work in GarageBand.
5. AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3
- Awesome option for working producers and musicians who want a world-class tool.
- Good controller to grow with as you learn the basics in GarageBand and move towards more complex DAWs.
- 4-way thumbstick is an awesome feature that opens up a lot of creative and production control.
- Assignable knobs give you even more control within GarageBand and make for another solid learning tool.
There aren’t many professional musicians or producers who use GarageBand, but if you are aspiring to be a pro, then the AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 is a good MIDI keyboard/controller you should consider.
This solid all-around option gives you all the great design and functionality that AKAI is well-known for. You get 25 velocity-sensitive keys to get your projects started and many more features to build from there.
It’s a great unit to learn how to make beats on, thanks to eight backlit pads that you can sync with the virtual drums in GarageBand. And it also comes packed with over 1000 sounds to give you more creative possibilities.
This might be on the smaller size for some serious musicians, and the 4-way thumbstick is awesome but takes some getting used to it. Other than that, this is a great controller and comes highly recommended.
My Verdict: Another excellent awesome from AKAI that works well for aspiring professional musicians and producers. Packed with features but is still relativity affordable and easy to use.
If you want a MIDI keyboard/controller to use with GarageBand, you won’t find many better options than the models on this list. They all work well with the app and can help you find your creative flow in no time.
Using a MIDI keyboard isn’t essential, but it can open up a lot of doors regarding production and recording. And with so many affordable options, it’s an easy investment that can help you learn all the tricks of the trade.
Do you use a MIDI keyboard/controller with GarageBand? What do you use it for primarily in your audio projects? Let me know in the comments below.