Is A 49 Key Midi Keyboard Enough?

Are you looking to purchase a new midi keyboard? You may be wondering, “Is A 49 Key Midi keyboard Enough?” Let’s take a look at what makes a good midi keyboard for production work, home recording studios, musicians, and beat makers.

Is a 49 Key Midi Keyboard Enough?

A 49 key midi keyboard is enough if you want to make beats, if you want to add different instrument parts Via VST’s to your productions, and if you want a good way to incorporate pads, sliders, and knobs to control your DAW or other midi devices. I recommend an 88 key midi keyboard if you want to learn to play piano or are currently a skilled piano player.

How Many Keys Do You Need On A Midi Keyboard?

The more keys you have on a keyboard the more octave range you will have at your fingertips.

It really depends on how you intend to use the midi keyboard.

If you are a beat maker a 49 key midi keyboard will be enough.

If you want to be able to lay down some string tracks and fills, a 49 key midi keyboard will be enough.

If you want a midi keyboard for your bass tracks, a 49 key midi keyboard will be enough.

There are countless things you can do with a 49 key midi keyboard.

So, if you are trying to figure out if a 49 key midi keyboard is a good purchase option, it is.

Is it the best purchase option? Let’s learn more about midi keyboards and you will have enough information to make that decision for yourself.

What’s The Difference Between A Midi Keyboard And A Midi Controller?

Novation Launchpad Pro MK3 Grid Controller for Ableton Live

Midi Controller:

A midi controller is a device that you can use to create, receive, and send midi information to other midi devices, computers, and effects processors.

A midi controller may not have a keyboard and be more pad oriented for drum style functions, push pad functions, and knobs and sliders that you can assign to perform different midi functions.

Some midi controllers are controlled by your breath like the mouthpiece of an instrument, or in the form of a ring you wear on your hand and different hand motions control different midi functions.

Midi Keyboard:

A midi keyboard is a keyboard without onboard sounds that you can use to send and receive midi information and can operate as a stand-alone keyboard with a USB output and Midi in and outputs.

Midi Keyboards are not a traditional keyboard. Most midi keyboards do not have 1/4″ audio outputs to run to an amplifier.

Most midi keyboard controllers look like a keyboard but do not have built in speakers or onboard sounds.

To get sound from your midi keyboard you need to connect it to a computer and run the midi signal through a virtual instrument inside your Daw software.

A lot of midi keyboards come with a software package from the manufacture to give you a rich selection of different sounds like pianos, pads, orchestral instruments, drums, guitars and so on.

A midi keyboard controller is used for controlling VST’s (Virtual Instruments), other midi keyboards, and other midi devices.

Keep in mind, midi keyboards can also have lots of cool pads, buttons, knobs, and faders to use as midi controllers.

Another great feature of midi keyboards is that some of them like the Arturia Keylab MK II series can be used to control your Daw software.

Video Credit: Sanjay C

Midi Keyboard Sizes

You may be wondering, “what are the different midi keyboard sizes?” Let’s take a look at some of the most common sizes.

25 Keys: The 25 key midi keyboards have 25 keys and has a 2-octave range.

49 Keys: The 49 key midi keyboards have 49 keys and has a 4-octave range.

61 Keys: The 61 key midi keyboards have 61 keys and has a 5-octave range.

88 Keys: The 88 key midi keyboards have 88 keys and has a 7-octave range.

The number of keys on a midi keyboard will affect the length and size of the midi keyboard.

Check to see how much room you have available in your home recording studio to help you determine which size midi keyboard will fit.

It’s also important to think about how many octaves you may need to control and record different VST instruments.

Should I Buy A Midi Controller Or A Keyboard?

One thing you need to be aware of is, a midi keyboard or midi controller will not have built in sounds and built-in speakers so you can play the controller as a stand-alone unit.

Midi Keyboard Controller

If you are looking for a keyboard that you can play as a stand-alone unit, without a computer, you should look into getting a traditional electronic keyboard.

Most all keyboards and synthesizers have built in speakers, 1/4″ and USB outputs, and midi In and Out.

The midi information can be used to control other midi devices and can be used inside your DAW software.

The main difference between a midi controller and a keyboard is that a keyboard will operate as a stand-alone unit. Meaning, there is no need to connect it to a computer to generate your sounds.

A keyboard will cost you more than a midi controller due to the onboard library of sounds, built in speakers, and onboard software.

Do Midi Keyboards Come With Built In Sounds?

Most midi keyboards will come with a software package of VST instruments (Virtual Instruments), that you can use inside of your computer and DAW software.

Virtual instruments are created via computer software and can be played and controlled via midi keyboards and midi controllers.

Not all midi keyboards or midi controllers will come with a software package of instruments and sounds from the manufacture.

Some musicians and producers like to use VST instruments from third party companies like East West Sounds, Spitfire Audio, Native Instruments Komplete, and UJAM.

Keyboards With Built In Sounds

A traditional keyboard or synthesizer will have built in sounds and are great for musicians and producers alike.

If you need a keyboard with built in speakers or 1/4″ audio outputs to go to your amp or PA system, then a electronic keyboard is the way to go.

Keyboards will have built in instruments like pianos, drums, guitars, pads, heck.. you name it, today’s keyboards have any sound you can imagine.

Korg Kronos 61-key Synthesizer Workstation

You will also find midi in and out on most all keyboards.

The midi in and out can be used to connect your keyboard to other midi devices and the midi information can be sent straight into your computer and DAW software for recording and producing projects.

A keyboard is a great tool to have in your home recording studio setup.

How To Connect My Midi Keyboard To My Computer

There are several ways to connect your midi keyboard to your computer. Let’s take a look at the most common ways to connect your midi keyboard to your computer.

Connect Your Midi Keyboard To Your Computer With A USB Connection

If your midi keyboard has a USB output, you can run a USB cable from the midi keyboard into your computers USB input for a seamless connection.

Currently a USB 3 connection will be the fastest USB connection. This is important to reduce latency.

In most cases a USB 2 connection will be fast enough to reduce latency.

Keep in mind latency can be adjusted inside your DAW software.

Connect Your Midi Keyboard To Your Computer With An Audio Interface

If you are using other instruments besides your keyboard or midi keyboard controller, you may prefer an audio interface with midi inputs and outputs.

Back Of Audio Interface With Midi In And Out

I personally prefer using my audio interface to connect my midi keyboard to my computer.

The reason being is that I also have guitars, bass, vocal microphones, and other instruments that I use in my home recording studio.

An audio interface is great because you have one central location to connect all of your instruments to your computer.

An audio interface makes it super easy to control and set your recording levels, and in most cases will give you far better sound quality than the ADC / DAC converters in your computer.

Relevant: If you want to learn more about audio interfaces, check out my article: The Best Audio Interface For A Home Studio.

Can I Use A Midi Keyboard And An Audio Interface?

Yes, you can use a midi keyboard and an audio interface with midi in and outputs.

Simply come out of your midi keyboard’s midi output and plug into your audio interfaces midi input.

Your audio interface will then connect to your computer via a USB connection, or a similar connection. It will depend on what sort of inputs you have available on your computer.

Can You Plug A Keyboard Into A Focusrite Scarlett?

I see this question a lot and thought I would take a minute to address this.

A Focusrite Scarlett is a popular brand of audio interface that is great quality and works well for home recording studio setups.

Yes, there are several ways you can plug your keyboard into a Focusrite Scarlett audio interface. Let’s take a look.

Plug Your Keyboard Into A Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface Via The 1/4″ Audio Jack

Simply come out of your keyboards 1/4″ audio output jack and run the cable to a 1/4″ input jack on your Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface.

Keep in mind that a standard 1/4″ audio connection is mono. So most generally you will use the left hand 1/4″ output jack on your keyboard.

If you have left and right outputs on your keyboard you can connect both sides into your audio interface if you want stereo playback and recording options.

Plug Your Keyboard Into A Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface Via The Midi In And Outputs.

You can also plug your keyboard into your Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface Via the Midi Inputs and outputs.

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

First make sure your Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface has a Midi Input and A Midi Output.

Simply come out of your keyboards midi output and plug into your Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interfaces Midi Input.

You can also come out of the Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interfaces midi output and loop back to your keyboard or send the midi information on to other midi devices.

Your Focusrite Scarlett Audio Interface will connect to your computer via a USB connection or any other connection you have available on your computer.

An audio interface is a great way to connect all of your keyboards and instruments to your computer.

Why Do You Need Midi On An Audio Interface?

Having a midi input and output on your audio interface gives you the option to connect your midi gear to your audio interface.

If you are using other instruments like guitars, bass, drums, and vocal mics and running the instruments into your audio interface, I think it makes good sense to run your keyboards and midi controllers through your audio interface as well.

Your audio interface has built in converters that convert your analog signal to a digital signal for your computer to work with.

When the signal comes out of your computer it gets converted back to an analog signal and played back through your studio monitors or headphones.

I think for consistency in recording quality, you should send your keyboard or midi keyboard through the same converters as your other instruments.

In most cases the quality of the ADC / DAC converters is better in your audio interface than the ADC / DAC converters built into your computer.

Relevant: If you want to learn more about audio interfaces check out my article: Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 USB Audio Interface Gen 3.

What Others Are Saying

Direct QuoteSource
“For a bassline, for example, you are very rarely going to find yourself covering more than two octaves. So for that, even the 25 key keyboard would suffice. Likewise, if you are wanting to make lead lines mimicking woodwind or brass, for example. Most of these instruments only cover 2 octaves and so yet again a small keyboard will be all you may need.”
“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).”
“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.”
“The simple answer, since you’re actually asking the question, would be to get the 49 key controller. It takes up less space than the 61 key one, and gives you more options than a 25 key. If you intend to get into “proper” keyboard playing, the 61 key version is probably more future proof.”
“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.”
“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.”
“MIDI keyboards are available in many different shapes and sizes, from the smallest 25-key mini keyboard to humongous 88-key models. But the most common varieties by far are 25- and 49-key models.”
“The most common type of MIDI controllers are keyboards, and these are available in sizes that range from 25-key, 2-octave models, to full-sized 88-key instruments.”
“49 key keyboards are usually the most popular among producers since they offer a good
compromise between portability and performance.”

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I do believe a 49 key midi keyboard is enough. It’s enough to get you started and honestly it will be a powerful tool in your home recording studio setup.

If you want to learn to play piano or are already an accomplished piano player then, you will probably want an 88 key midi keyboard.

There are so many things you can do with a 49 key midi keyboard. This is a good choice if you just want a smaller keyboard or midi keyboard controller.

If you enjoy writing, recording, and producing music, take some time and look around my website. I have a lot of great articles that you will find interesting and will be helpful to you.

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

6 thoughts on “Is A 49 Key Midi Keyboard Enough?”

  1. What is the difference between a keyboard and a piano? Does it do the same job? I want to learn how to play the piano but I feel like it is too expensive to get one now. Should I rather start with a keyboard? If so then I will go ahead and get myself a 49 key midi keyboard 

    • A keyboard is an electronic instrument that can play many different sounds.  A piano is an acoustic instrument.  Both are played by means of the keys.  

      If you want to learn to play the piano.  I suggest getting an 88 key inexpensive keyboard to get started with.

      I will have some articles coming out soon on 88 key keyboards. 

  2. Hey thanks for this article!

    I always wanted to get a keyboard however wasn’t too sure on which size to buy, but after going through this I’m guessing the 49 midi keyboard would be enough. I’m not going to be doing anything too technical and I’m needing something not too large so I am considering purchasing this keyboard. 

    I can always connect this keyboard type to the computer to mix my guitar and drums too!

    • Hi Sariyah, A 49 key midi keyboard is a great place to start, and you will be able to do most all production work needed for a home recording studio.

      If you are wanting to learn to play keys a 61 or 88 key midi keyboard might be better for you. 

      If you are interested in a 61 key midi keyboard you might like my article:  49 vs 61 keys on a midi keyboard.

      This article will go into more detail and look at some of the differences between 49 and 61 key midi keyboards.

  3. Personally, I would rather go for an 88 key full keyboard if I was spending the money on a keyboard. I know that with all the technological advances you can now get a lot out of a 49 key midi keyboard with all the fancy effects, but who knows, in the future you may want to go up or down a few more octaves, or you may want to learn to play the piano, so that is my opinion.

    • 49 keys is a good place to get started with a keyboard and like you said you can do a lot with 49 keys.  I agree with you, if you want to learn to properly play the keyboard, an 88 key keyboard will be your best choice. 


Leave a Comment