49 VS 61 Keys On A Midi Keyboard

If you are thinking about getting a new midi keyboard you may be wondering, “49 VS 61 Keys On A Midi Keyboard.” Let’s take a look at some of the differences and advantages of both sizes.

49 VS 61 Keys On a Midi Keyboard

First off, what are you going to be doing on your midi keyboard? A 49 Key midi keyboard has 4 octaves, and a 61 key midi keyboard has 5 octaves. The more keys you have, the greater the range of the midi keyboard. If you are wanting a keyboard for your home recording studio a 49 key midi keyboard will be good for fills, bass lines, and melodies to get you started. A 61 key midi keyboard will give you 1 more octave range and allow you to play proper bass lines and melodies with both hands. If you are wanting to learn to play properly, I recommend a 61 key or an 88 key midi keyboard.

Is A 49 Key Midi Keyboard Enough?

Is A 49 key midi keyboard enough? If you are wanting a midi keyboard for your home recording studio a 49 key midi keyboard is enough to get you started.

A 49 key midi keyboard will be great for building bass lines, adding fills and textures, and is great for creating melodies.

A 49 key midi keyboard is a little smaller and can be great if you are limited on space.

Of course, the cost of a 49 key midi keyboard will be a little less than a 61 key midi keyboard in most cases.

Are 49 Keys Enough For Music Production?

Are 49 keys enough for music production? Well, it all depends on the type of music you want to produce, and your skill set with playing the keys.

As I mentioned above, a 49 key midi keyboard is a great place to start, conserves space, and will save you a little cash.

49 Key Midi Keyboard

If you are an experienced keyboard or piano player, you probably prefer to play with both hands and may find that 49 keys are a little cramped.

A 49 key midi keyboard will allow you to do many things as far as music production and many people who are not trained to properly play the keys will find that a 49 key midi keyboard will suite them just fine.

Untrained keyboard players in a recording setting can work out the parts they need for their music productions, can add almost any instrument they need by using virtual instruments, (VST’s), and usually are not concerned with proper technique.

Keep in mind that almost all midi keyboards have an octave shift button available so you can get the higher and lower octaves.

So, yes. 49 keys are enough for music production and is a great way to get started on your music production, and song writing journey.

Is A 61 Key Midi Keyboard Enough?

Is a 61 key midi keyboard enough? Since this article is about 49 VS 61 keys on a midi keyboard, then yes 61 keys are enough.

Compared to a 49 key midi keyboard, a 61 key midi keyboard will give you 1 extra octave.

A 61 key midi keyboard will give you enough room for proper double hand playing technique so you can play melody and bass lines easily at the same time.

61 Key Midi Keyboard

If you are wanting to learn to properly play keyboard, a 61 key midi keyboard will be a good place to start. However, I do think that an 88 key midi keyboard is even better if you are wanting to learn the proper way to play.

If you are concerned about space, a 61 key midi keyboard is not much larger than a 49 key midi keyboard and I like the idea of having extra keys at your command.

A 61 key midi keyboard will not cost you much more than a 49 key midi keyboard.

Are 61 Keys Enough For Music Production?

Are 61 keys enough for music production? Absolutely, Yes.

A 61 key midi keyboard will give you 5 octaves to work with and allows you to build thick, rich chord structures and melody lines.

If you are a technically trained keyboard player, you can easily put both of your hands to work on a 61 key midi keyboard.

Today Virtual Instruments (VST’s) are very popular with music producers.

A 61 key midi keyboard will give you the range you need to take full advantage of most VST’s and key switching.

So yes, 61 keys are enough for music production.

You can build your beats, bass lines, chords, fills, melodies, and take full advantage of VST’s and key switching.

Video Credit: Sean Daniel

Do I Need More Than 61 Keys?

So far, we have talked about 49 key and 61 key midi keyboards. Both are great for home recording studios, writing and recording music, and production work.

You may be wondering; do I need more than 61 keys? I think there are 3 main reasons you may need more than 61 keys.

1. If You Want To Learn To Properly Play Keys: If you are just starting out and want to learn to properly play a keyboard, then I recommend an 88 key midi keyboard.

The reason I say this is because if you want to learn the keyboard and proper technique, you need to experience what a full-size keyboard is like as you learn to play.

2. You Have The Available Space: If you have room in your home recording studio for an 88 key midi keyboard, then by all means get the 88 key midi keyboard.

49 keys will do most anything you need to do production wise.

61 keys will allow you to play with both hands and do everything you need to do on a production level.

My friends an 88 key midi keyboard will give you full blown keyboard action. What could be better?

3. You May Need To Accommodate Clients Who Want 88 Keys: If you have a home recording studio or a professional studio, you may need to accommodate clients who only want to work on an 88 key midi keyboard.

Experienced players will want the extra keys and octaves because they know how to use them.

How Many Keys Do I Need To Learn To Play Piano?

So how many keys do I need to learn to play piano? My answer is 88 keys.

Yes, you can learn to play on a 61 key midi keyboard. Heck, you can even learn the basics on a 49 key midi keyboard.

I think an important part of learning to properly play a keyboard or piano is learning on a full range 88 key keyboard.

I think you need to experience the reach and the tone to properly appreciate and learn the instrument.

What Are Virtual Instruments?

Virtual instruments are instruments made from computer software that you can use inside your DAW, (Digital Audio Workstation).

Let’s say you already have a midi keyboard, and you would like to be able to compose and produce with a full orchestra.

You can get a virtual instrument software package like Hollywood Orchestra (East West Sounds) or Abbey Road (Spitfire Audio) and have a full orchestra at your fingertips.

If an orchestra is not your cup of tea you can find virtual instruments like Ministry Of Rock, Storm Drums, Gypsy, Ghostwriter, etc.

You name the instrument and genre, and you can probably find it with a quality virtual instrument software package.

If you are interested in virtual instruments check out East West Sounds, Spitfire Audio, UJAM, and Native Instruments.

What Size Keyboard Is Best For Using Virtual Instruments?

You can use any size midi keyboard with virtual instruments.

Virtual instruments are designed to sound like real instruments so the octave range will be an important part of using virtual instruments.

A 49 key midi keyboard will work fine for using virtual instruments but a 61 key midi keyboard may be a little better choice if you want to do orchestration.

Keyboard With Virtual Instruments

The reason I say this is because the higher quality virtual instruments have key switching.

Key switching allows you to incorporate different playing styles of the violin, guitar, french horn, etc.

Let’s say you want to play short staccato notes on the violin for the introduction and then switch to Legato for the chorus.

You can perform this switch in playing styles with the key switching function.

So, you play the notes on the keyboard the same but when the key switch changes so will the playing style. Pretty Cool Hugh!

You can program the key switch inside your DAW software’s piano roll function, or you can do it on the fly by hitting a lower key register on your midi keyboard.

This is why I say a 61 key midi keyboard may be the better choice for using virtual instruments.

What Is The Difference Between A Keyboard And A Midi Keyboard Controller?

You may be wondering, what is the difference between a keyboard and a midi keyboard controller?

Keyboard:

You can think of a keyboard as full functioning traditional keyboard that may have built in speakers and audio outputs like 1/4″ jacks to go to your amp or PA system.

A keyboard will also have midi in and out connections.

A keyboard will come with lots of built-in sounds and has audio outputs, midi in and out connections, and can be used as a stand-alone unit.

Midi Keyboard Controller:

A midi keyboard controller is a set of keys that can be a simple set up with just a modulation control or can be very elaborate with lots of knobs, pads, faders, and controls.

Midi keyboard controllers will have midi in and out connections and is primarily used to create and send midi information to your computer and other midi devices.

A midi keyboard controller might come with a software package of virtual instruments you can load into your computer to use with your DAW software.

Some midi keyboard controllers can also be used to control your DAW software.

What Is A Midi Controller?

A midi controller is a device used to create, send, and receive midi information.

PreSonus Atom SQ Hybrid MIDI Keyboard and Pad Controller

The difference between a midi keyboard controller and a midi controller is a midi controller will not be set up with a keyboard configuration.

A good example of a midi controller is the PreSonus Atom SQ Hybrid MIDI Keyboard and Pad Controller or a similar device.

Some musicians want to work with midi but prefer to use a midi controller without a keyboard function.

So, they will use a midi controller to create beats, chords, and melodies.

How Do I Connect My Midi Keyboard To My Computer?

There are several ways you can connect your midi keyboard to your computer.

USB Cable: If your midi keyboard has a USB output you can come out of your keyboards USB connection and plug directly into your computer via the USB connection.

A USB connection will transfer all of your Midi data.

Audio Interface: If you have an audio interface with midi in and outputs, you can connect your midi keyboard to your audio interface via the midi input.

The audio interface will connect to your computer via a USB connection or other similar connection.

It just depends on what is available on your computer.

Can I Use A Midi Keyboard And An Audio Interface?

You may be wondering; can I use a midi keyboard and an audio interface?

The answer is yes. You can use your midi keyboard and an audio interface.

If your audio interface has midi in and out, simply connect your midi keyboard to your audio interface via the midi input.

Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 3rd Gen USB Audio Interface Front And Back View

If you have an electronic keyboard, you can also connect your 1/4″ audio outputs to your audio interface.

This way you are running your audio and midi through your audio interface and directly into your computer.

You may have other instruments that are connected to your audio interface like, guitar, bass, vocal mics, etc.

By connecting your keyboard to your audio interface along with your other instruments you now have one central location where you can control your volume and gain settings for recording and playback.

An audio interface will also give you a headphone output jack that will sound much better than the headphone jack coming out of your computer.

Relevant: If you want to learn more about audio interfaces check out my article: Will An Audio Interface Make My Music Sound Better?

How Do I Connect My Midi Keyboard To An Audio Interface?

1. The easiest way to connect your midi keyboard to your audio interface is via the midi connections between your midi keyboard and audio interface.

Simply come out of your midi keyboards midi out and plug into your audio interfaces midi input.


2. If your audio interface doesn’t have midi connections, you can connect your midi keyboard directly to your computer via the USB connection if your midi keyboard has a USB out connection.

Simply come out of your midi keyboards USB connection and plug directly into your computers USB connection.


3. If your midi keyboard has midi out and 1/4″ audio out, you can connect both midi and audio to your audio interface.

Simply come out of your keyboards midi out and plug into the audio interfaces midi in.

Also come out of the midi keyboards 1/4″ audio output and go directly into a 1/4″ audio input on your audio interface.

What Others Are Saying

Direct QuoteSource
“The 49/61 choice largely depends on your intended use – if you are going play ‘proper’ piano and keyboard music, with chordal bass, or study a piano course, you need 61 keys. If your going to be playing mainly monophonic synth bass parts and lead, or emulating string or horn sections, or pad parts, then 49 is fine.”https://www.quora.com/What-do-you-prefer-49-keys-midi-keyboard-or-61-keys-midi-keyboard-for-your-home-studio
“As a piano player I always found one octave missing when playing 49-keys keyboards. Being able to use the octave up/down buttons doesn’t really help in those situations because you’re already using both of your hands. If you plan an actually playing anything with two hands go for the 61 keys version.”https://www.reddit.com/r/WeAreTheMusicMakers/comments/96xf1l/should_i_go_with_49_or_61_key_midi_controller/
“How do you intend to use your keyboard controller? The answer to that will help you decide.
For example, for the longest time, I had a 25-key controller with encoders and pads to do sound design and manipulate soft synths in Live. With one hand on the keys and the other one twisting encoders, a two-octave keyboard was fine.
Then I added a 61-key controller, something very basic with just keys and mod/pitch wheels, when I wanted to actually play a keyboard. The five-octave range gave me plenty of room to put both hands on the keys and play things like virtual pianos, organs, and such.”
https://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?t=227812
“I recommend that if you want to use it for piano that you invest in a MIDI keyboard with no less than 61 keys. But if you are using it for leads and bass 49 keys should be fine.”https://musicianshq.com/how-many-keys-should-i-get-on-a-midi-keyboard/
“A 49 key (four octave) keyboard is fine – IF – you are sure you only want to play single-note bass lines or single-note melodies or very simple three note chords. If you ever want to be able to easily play a nice big chord with a low bass note using your left hand and a chord using your right hand at the same time, you’ll want at least five octaves (61 keys).”https://gearspace.com/board/low-end-theory/166361-midi-keyboard-user-49-keys-enough.html
“I would go for the larger one. I had a 49 key and replaced it, even sacrificed the space of a Mackie MCU to have more keys. And I am not a player (plus I have a “full” piano keyboard available for my DAILY practise). In my opinion, if you REALLY know what you are doing then 49 is okay, or if space/portability has prioritiy. Of course you can use it like that. But the additional keys just give you so much easier access to explore things and try out which tones/timbres (and in which octave) go together well.”https://gearspace.com/board/electronic-music-instruments-and-electronic-music-production/920738-49-61-keys.html
“Well, you lose the range, but you said that you do not work with a large spread so that might not be an issue. You also lose the ability to have a very high note played against a very low one.
Four octaves is a reasonable range for a person who is not primarily a keyboard player. I’m not a great keyboardist either, and am perfectly satisfied with 61 keys, whereas our digit-inclined brethren would most likely be aghast at the prospect of losing nearly two octaves of play space.”
https://www.harmonycentral.com/forums/topic/145418-61-keys-vs-49-keys/
“Mainly to have my drums mapped on one octave of the keyboard but also to be able to do more and maybe get inspired to put more keyboard stuff into my tracks.
I’m also considering getting some more plug-ins, like some NI stuff to further motivate me to be more creative.”
https://forum.fractalaudio.com/threads/midi-keyboard-49-or-61-keys.119353/
“For basic piano-stuff 49keys will work, but good piano boards are 88keys and weighted. I use a 49key board for midi/synth/sample-stuff and have a 88key ePiano for piano.”https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=179710

Conclusion

Today we learned about 49 and 61 key midi keyboards.

We talked about the strengths of each midi keyboard from a production standpoint, from a player standpoint, and some of the best ways to connect your midi keyboard to your computer or audio interface.

Should I Go With A 49 Or 61 Key Midi Controller? The answer to that question is totally up to you.

A 49 key midi keyboard is a great place to get started and is enough to do instrument fills, bass lines, melody composition and will work just fine with VST Instruments.

A 61 key midi keyboard may be the better choice if you want to use both hands to play the keyboard and may work a little better with VST instruments and key switching.

If you enjoy writing, recording, and producing music, take a little time and have a look around my website.

There are a lot of great articles about setting up your own home recording studio, great instruments, tips and tricks.

Be sure and check it out.

If you have questions or comments, be sure and leave them below. I’m always happy to help out when I can.

5 thoughts on “49 VS 61 Keys On A Midi Keyboard”

  1. Interesting post. I’ve always wanted to know what goes into making a home studio. I always see pictures of the huge set ups and wonder how all of it works. What are your opinions on the “new” mobile studios that keep popping up. Can you really make studio quality music off of a smart device? 

    Reply
    • Hi Darius, Have a look at some of the articles on my website if you want to learn more about setting up a home studio and how everything works together.

      I think mobile devices like smart phones and i-pads are moving into the recording arena and it’s exciting to see all of the new technology coming out.  I do feel that the newer mobile devices are somewhat limited in what they can accomplish, and the quality is not quite up to par just yet with some of the new devices.

      If you want to learn more you may be interested in my article: Are Studio Monitors Necessary?  Be sure and check it out and let me know what you think.

      Reply
  2. Your article is well written and very informative. I will bookmark this article so I can come back to your website.  I’m not sure if I want to go with 49 or 61 keys on a keyboard at this point but, this has helped me out a lot. I think I’m leaning towards 61 keys.  Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Hey thanks for this information, it definitely made my decision making a lot more easier and well thought.

    At first I thought it’s easy the 49 key one is definitely the option due to being short on space however after going through the pros and cons I’ve come to the conclusion that the 61 key is most likely the winning one here! I’d love to experience all the different sounds and tone!

    Reply

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