A midi controller for the gigs

Hi everyone,

I’m looking for a small, light keyboard for bringing some of my MI hardware to my rock band gigs. So far, I always have been reluctant to bringing my wonderful MI gear to my rock-bands’ rehearsals because of my crappy miditech 49 keys thing, that is barely transportable and barely programmable (and that sometimes forgets to send midi note OFF commands…). I bought it at a local shop, in a hurry, and I now regret it a lot. It wasn’t even THAT cheap.

Besides, i suppose that we’ll keep on being a ‘true’ rock band and that we’ll keep on focusing on drums, bass guitar and guitar (i’m the guitar player and singer… and producer and sound-engineer and solder-jockey as well). Synths would be here just for adding some flavour :slight_smile:

I can spend up to 100€ into this, i don’t feel like more would be really useful.

My main criteria are :

  • transportable
  • rock-solid
  • stable (i hate it when my miditech crap doesn’t send mini notes OFF… I really don’t want his to happen, especially when playing live during a gig)
  • a standard midi out (i really don’t want to mess with a computer at rehearsals or concerts)
  • mod-wheel and pitch-bend

My non-criteria are :

  • aftertouch, beforetouch, everything-touch related : i’m not a keyboard player
  • i don’t really care if he keys size is no exactly the same as on a piano

Hence, i suppose that a 25-keys controller would be the best choice, as it’s pretty small, but convenient enough to play bass lines, drones, arpeggiated things and average noise.

Looking at thomann’s catalog, the Alesis QX-25 looks like a good deal, but it doesn’t seem to fit into any of their dedicated bags (a muli-effect bag would seemingly fit). The M-Audio Oxygen is more compact and seems to do the job, but it doesn’t embed pads. Are the pads on the QX-25 useful with MI synths or a SP LXR? The ESI KeyControl 25 XT looks quite unequipped although rugged because in an aluminium case, which looks like a good point. Never heard of this brand before. There’s also some Behringer stuff (UMX 250), but i’m always afraid when I see this name. Of course, I have no idea about their respective stability.

Any experience, any thoughts regarding this stuff?

As you are obviously inclined to do some DIY, how about turning the Miditech thing you have into something usable, courtesy of the MIDIbox KB project? More infos here: http://midibox.org/forums/topic/16883-midibox-kb/

The Behringer UMX is far better than the rest of most Behriner stuff and the price is a steal. If this functionality is enough for you, you may give it a chance…Anyway a pad is a trigger, as a key is, so yes: you can use pads with anything capable of doing note on/note off.

I’ve used the behringer UMX/Edirol 25key keyboard, and it feels really solid, and like a good piece of kit - I was put of by the price, so I didn’t buy it (far too small imo), but seems perfect for you…

I use a behringer umx61 - it’s a decent keyboard with 8 pots you can assign to filter cutoff etc. It feels a bit lightweight and flimsy but does the job.
I’ve also got a novation remote25 which has shedloads of assignable buttons - it’s an alltogether much more programmable and versatile piece of kit and much more solidly built - the only thing it can’t do is NRPN commands to a shruthi for the modulation matrix and a few other functions but all the controls you’d expect to find on the front of a hardware synth can be assigned to the remotes buttons.
Both of these can be found on ebay - pay no more than £40 for a behringer or £50 for the novation.

> As you are obviously inclined to do some DIY, how about turning the Miditech thing you have into something usable, courtesy of the MIDIbox KB project?

Well… I don’t believe that i’ll be able to come up with something as rugged as any decent quality controller for less than a new controller. I may try to modify the electronic hardware and the software some day, but still I would not be pleased by the form factor of it.

Apparently, the Behringer controllers seem to be a good option. I’ll try to find their dimensions. They’re no really cheap at Thomann.

You won’t get much usable stuff for 100€. I got a Novation 25SL MK2 some time ago, which is a nice controller with lots of pots and faders and a pretty usable interface. the keyboard is ok, has after touch and all. But it cots more than 300€. If I had to give it a score I would still not give it more than 70/100. Most things I’ve tried didn’t get that much though… especially the sub100€ ones.

I’m pretty sure that i don’t need something with a truckload of knobs, since I’m only going to use hardware synths… I can access most of the useful parameters at hand directly on the synth or through a (DIY) programmer, and I’m already quite busy playing guitar, singing and tap dancing on my pedalboard. As long as my goal is to use my synths with my rock band, i prefer to keep it as light and limited as possible.

Rock Band midi keytars fit your criteria for $25 :slight_smile:

haha :slight_smile:
I’ll probably give it a shot indeed.

I thought a bit more about all of this, and the “does not fit into a standard keyboard bag” criterion is not really important actually, since I’ll have to carry a few synths and effects anyway. Some multi-effect bag should allow me to carry both the keyboard and some synths without much harm.

I personally was happiest when I had all my stuff mounted on a plywood board so it all would stay mostly hooked up and could just set down on a single keyboard stand. Similar to a guitar pedalboard which could then go in a case or what have you.

Also, I have the Alesis Q25 without the knobs and it was really cheap but works fine. I do like that it is simple, but don’t expect to do much of anything with that slide except volume. It is clunky to send other CCs or program changes but it sounds like that doesn’t matter much.

yes, i’m thinking about putting everything (including a custom power supply) on plywood and use it just like a pedalboard. The first step is to bring some stuff to the rehearsal, in order to know better what i will use :slight_smile:
I take a good note on you liking the Q25. The QX25 is my favorite for now. I’ll see if i can try some of them at a local shop some day.

Korg microkontrol is amazing. I’ve been using it for years, it can even do sysex.
You can probably get one really cheap on ebay

FWIW I have heard of some people having velocity issues withe the Q25 where sometimes velocity output is inconsistent so I should admit that I don’t really use velocity. I am more accustomed to old school synths and Casios and such

Same recommendation as by rumpelfilter buy a Novation Remote SL mkII 25.
I have the 25 and the 61 keys version and I will never ever give away any of these keyboards.
Forget about this automap-crap but you can program every knob and pot etc. You’ll be able to see the parameter names and values in the display, you can easily switch between templates with a single press of a button and it’s very stable. You won’t regret it.
Also the keyboard is excellent (better than the ones in the new Novation keyboards).

I will start working on a Shruthi template this week and will share it with anybody who’s interested in.

1 for the old Novation mkII Series. I have the 49 Key Version, USB->MIDI interface has a more or less random timing (aka is total Crap), and programming it onboard is tedious… but MIDI out USB out works fine, it has a nice Keyboard, nice Wheels and you its leightweight yet rugged. I use it whenever i dont want to take one of my precious vintage Synths on the Road - so almost every time im away :wink:

I use Alesis QX25 in the lab since it first came out and I like it: build quality is fine for the price, controls are useful, everything works as expected. It has after touch, however you can disconnect the cable inside as I did because it’s way to sensitive to be really useful (it would be great if Alesis will add a feature to change its curve, just like they have it for velocity).

Keyboard is better than I’d expect for sub $100 unit. Controls and pads are smooth and have nice feel. Pitch wheel is decent and always returns precisely to 0x2000. Mod wheel stays where you left it.