How to Customize MIDI Controllers?

19 minutes read

Customizing MIDI controllers can be a great way to tailor your equipment to your specific needs and preferences. There are a few different methods for customizing MIDI controllers, depending on the level of customization you are looking to achieve.


One common way to customize MIDI controllers is through software mapping. Most MIDI controllers come with software that allows you to change the functions of the buttons, knobs, and sliders on the controller. This can be useful for assigning specific commands or parameters to different controls, allowing you to create a setup that works best for your workflow.


Another method for customizing MIDI controllers is through hardware modification. This involves physically changing the components of the controller to better suit your needs. This could include adding extra buttons, knobs, or sliders, removing unnecessary controls, or even changing the physical layout of the controller.


You can also customize MIDI controllers by using external software or hardware devices. For example, you could use a MIDI keyboard with customizable key labels, or a MIDI foot controller for hands-free operation. These external devices can add additional functionality to your setup and allow for more creative possibilities.


Overall, customizing MIDI controllers can be a fun and rewarding process that can greatly enhance your music-making experience. Whether you choose to customize your controller through software mapping, hardware modification, or external devices, taking the time to tailor your equipment to your specific needs can lead to a more personalized and efficient setup.

Best MIDI Controllers of June 2024

1
Akai Professional MPK Mini Plus - USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 37 Mini Keys, 8 MPC Pads, Sequencer, MIDI/CV/Gate I/O, Music Production Software

Rating is 5 out of 5

Akai Professional MPK Mini Plus - USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 37 Mini Keys, 8 MPC Pads, Sequencer, MIDI/CV/Gate I/O, Music Production Software

  • Full Creative Control - A dynamic 37-Key MPK Mini keybed for 3 full octaves of melodic and harmonic performance. Easily connect to your DAW or studio equipment with the USB-powered MIDI Controller
  • Advanced Connectivity - Connect to different sound sources with CV/Gate and MIDI I/O. Control modular gear, sound modules, synthesizers, and more to bring new sound sources into your music production
  • Record and Compose Without a Computer - Connect to your production station and use the built-in 64-step sequencer featuring one track for drums and one for melodies or chords, with up to 8 notes each
  • Control Your DAW - Transport section for intuitive hardware control of your DAW. Arm and start recordings, stop playback, rewind or fast-forward for easy navigation of large sessions and projects
2
AKAI Professional MIDImix - USB MIDI Controller Mixer with Assignable Faders & Master Fader, 24 Knobs and 16 Buttons, 1 to 1 Mapping With Ableton Live

Rating is 4.9 out of 5

AKAI Professional MIDImix - USB MIDI Controller Mixer with Assignable Faders & Master Fader, 24 Knobs and 16 Buttons, 1 to 1 Mapping With Ableton Live

  • Mixdown Essentials - 8 individual line faders and 1 master fader for controlling track volume, virtual instrument parameters, effect settings and more
  • Assignable Control - 24 knobs, arranged 3 per channel for controlling EQ, bus sends, virtual instrument parameters, effect settings and more
  • Get Hands-On - 16 buttons arranged in 2 banks provide mute, solo and record arm functionality per channel
3
M-Audio Keystation 88 MK3 – 88 Key Semi Weighted MIDI Keyboard Controller for Complete Command of Virtual Synthesizers and DAW parameters

Rating is 4.8 out of 5

M-Audio Keystation 88 MK3 – 88 Key Semi Weighted MIDI Keyboard Controller for Complete Command of Virtual Synthesizers and DAW parameters

  • Music Production Essential – MIDI keyboard controller with 88 full-size velocity-sensitive semi weighted keys for MIDI control of virtual instruments, software samplers and plug-in synthesisers
  • MIDI Keyboard Must-Haves - Volume fader, transport & directional buttons; pitch & modulation wheels, octave up & down buttons and sustain pedal input for expressive performances
  • Your Music Studio Equipment Centrepiece – Slimline design fits any desk, studio or stage setup perfectly and advanced functionality customizes your controls for your recording software
4
Arturia MiniLab 3 - Universal MIDI Controller for Music Production, with All-in-One Software Package - 25 Keys, 8 Multi-Color Pads - White

Rating is 4.7 out of 5

Arturia MiniLab 3 - Universal MIDI Controller for Music Production, with All-in-One Software Package - 25 Keys, 8 Multi-Color Pads - White

  • GO WITH YOUR FLOW: MiniLab 3 is an easy keyboard controller that adapts to your needs, your style and your workflow, so you can make music just the way you like it. It lets you control instruments, mute tracks, punch in your 8 pad drums, and adjust your 4 faders with a flow so fluid you’ll forget you had a mouse. Hook it up, discover fresh sounds, enjoy premium velocity-sensitive keys, and get hands-on with your music like never before!
  • ALL THE ESSENTIAL CONTROLS IN A COMPACT CONTROLLER: MiniLab 3 is USB powered with 25 note velocity-sensitive slim keyboard, 2 banks of 8 high quality pads with RGB backlighting, 8 rotary encoders, 4 sliders, Mini display & clickable browsing knob, Built-in Arpeggiator, Hold and Chord modes, 2 touch sensors for pitch bend and modulation wheel, USB-C Port, MIDI Out. Great for beginners, it also fits for pros, and allows you to tweak every aspect of your mix in an instant.
5
Novation Launchkey Mini [MK3] — Portable 25-Key, USB, MIDI Keyboard Controller with DAW Integration, Chord Mode, and Arpeggiator — for Music Production

Rating is 4.6 out of 5

Novation Launchkey Mini [MK3] — Portable 25-Key, USB, MIDI Keyboard Controller with DAW Integration, Chord Mode, and Arpeggiator — for Music Production

  • Get creative easily with arpeggiator - Easy to use but deeply controllable, Launchkey Mini’s creative arpeggiator allows you to change rhythm, beat, pattern, octave, gate and more to add a whole range of diversity to your ideas and melodies.
  • Play chords with one finger - Lay down chords for your track quick with fixed chord mode. Play a chord with one finger by assigning a fixed shape to the keys and it’ll transpose as you move up and down the keyboard.
  • Finest-tech at your fingertips - The Launchkey Mini might be small in size but it’s packed with features. The 25-key device has 16 velocity-sensitive RGB, eight rotary controls, pitch and mod touch strips, and sustain input. Our finest mini keymech to date is also included.
  • DAW Integration - In addition to Apple Logic and Ableton Live, Launchkey Mini also has excellent integrations with Reason, as well as any HUI compatible DAW, such as Cubase, Pro Tools, and more.
6
AKAI Professional APC Mini MK2 - USB MIDI Pad Controller for Clip Launching with Ableton Live Lite, 64 RGB Pads, Drum and Note Mode and MIDI Mixer

Rating is 4.5 out of 5

AKAI Professional APC Mini MK2 - USB MIDI Pad Controller for Clip Launching with Ableton Live Lite, 64 RGB Pads, Drum and Note Mode and MIDI Mixer

  • Complete Control – Ableton Live Clip Launching MIDI Controller, perfect for creative looping, mixing, home studio and live performing. Connect to Ableton Live and control all your studio equipment
  • Bright 8x8 RGB Pad Matrix - 64 RGB pads for launching clips in Ableton Live providing visual color feedback. Trigger everything from Loops, Vocals, and melodic samples for instant creativity
  • 9 Assignable Faders - With 8 assignable faders + 1 master fader instantly map to Ableton Live's mixer for hands-on mix control of volume, pan, or devices. Use Device mode to control Ableton macros
  • Drum and Note Modes -The Drum sample mode features seamless integration with Ableton Drum Rack. With the inbuilt "Smart Scale View", Note mode enables you to visually play melodies effortlessly
7
AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 - 25 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller With 8 Backlit Drum Pads, 8 Knobs and Music Production Software Included, Grey

Rating is 4.4 out of 5

AKAI Professional MPK Mini MK3 - 25 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller With 8 Backlit Drum Pads, 8 Knobs and Music Production Software Included, Grey

  • Music Production and Beat Maker Essential – USB powered MIDI controller with 25 mini MIDI keyboard velocity-sensitive keys for studio production, virtual synthesizer control and beat production
  • Total Control of your Production - Innovative 4-way thumbstick for dynamic pitch and modulation control, plus a built-in arpeggiator with adjustable resolution, range and modes
  • Complete Command of your Virtual Instruments and FX - 8 360-degree knobs assign to all your music studio plugins for mixing, tweaking synth controls and more
8
AKAI Professional MPD218 - USB MIDI Controller with 16 MPC Drum Pads, 6 Assignable Knobs, Note Repeat & Full Level Buttons and Production Software

Rating is 4.3 out of 5

AKAI Professional MPD218 - USB MIDI Controller with 16 MPC Drum Pads, 6 Assignable Knobs, Note Repeat & Full Level Buttons and Production Software

  • Beat Production, Anywhere - Ultra-portable, feature-packed and USB powered pad controller with 16 thick fat MPC pads for triggering drums, melodic samples, effects and more
  • Expandable Banks - Easily accessible dedicated controls for three pad banks provides a total of 48 assignable pads
  • Feature Packed - MPC note repeat and full level controls for immersive expressive performances
  • Comprehensive Software Suite Included - Ableton Live Lite, Drum Synth 500 by AIR Music Tech
9
Arturia KeyLab Essential mk3 — 61 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Analog Lab V Software Included

Rating is 4.2 out of 5

Arturia KeyLab Essential mk3 — 61 Key USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with Analog Lab V Software Included

  • New creative features: Scale Mode, Chord Mode, and Arpeggiator, making composition, songwriting, and beat-making more intuitive than ever.
  • Custom DAW integration: KeyLab Essential 3 features custom scripts for deeper control over DAWs, including Ableton Live Logic Pro X, FL Studio, and more.
  • Easier controls & interface: RGB-backlit pads with velocity and pressure sensitivity, contextual button, and a bright new 2.5” LCD screen for real-time feedback.
10
Alesis V49 MKII – USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 49 Velocity Sensitive Keys, 8 Full Level Pads, Arpeggiator, Pitch/Mod Wheel, Note Repeat and Software Suite

Rating is 4.1 out of 5

Alesis V49 MKII – USB MIDI Keyboard Controller with 49 Velocity Sensitive Keys, 8 Full Level Pads, Arpeggiator, Pitch/Mod Wheel, Note Repeat and Software Suite

  • Plug in the USB Powered V49 MKII MIDI keyboard, and turn your PC, Mac, or iOS device into a feature packed production studio - Ideal for home studio producers, piano beginners, and desktop djs
  • 49 Full-Size, Velocity Sensitive, Synth Action Keys alongside 8 velocity sensitive backlit beat pads with full level and note repeat controls, all in a design that fits easily into your workspace
  • Pitch Bend and Modulation wheels for added expression, and an Arpeggiator with 6 modes for creating unique melodies and inspiring creativity


How to customize MIDI controllers for virtual instruments?

  1. Choose your MIDI controller: Make sure you have a MIDI controller that is compatible with your virtual instrument software. Some popular options include keyboards, drum pads, and knobs.
  2. Install the necessary software: Install any necessary drivers or software that may be required for your MIDI controller to communicate with your virtual instrument.
  3. Mapping controls: Most virtual instrument software will have the option to map the controls on your MIDI controller to various parameters within the software. This can typically be done by going into the settings or preferences menu and selecting the MIDI controller as the input device.
  4. Assigning controls: Once you have mapped your MIDI controller, you can start assigning controls to parameters within your virtual instrument. This can vary depending on the software you are using, but common parameters include volume, pitch, modulation, and effects.
  5. Experiment and customize: Take some time to experiment with different control assignments and find a setup that works best for you. You can customize the controls to match your playing style and preferences.
  6. Save your presets: Once you have customized your MIDI controller for your virtual instrument, make sure to save your presets so you can easily recall your settings the next time you use the software.
  7. Practice and refine: Spend time practicing with your customized MIDI controller setup and refine it as needed. The more you use it, the more you will be able to fine-tune your setup to suit your needs.


How to customize MIDI controllers for DJing?

  1. Choose the right MIDI controller: The first step is to select a MIDI controller that suits your DJing style and preferences. Look for a controller that has all the necessary features like jog wheels, faders, knobs, and buttons for controlling various functions.
  2. Connect your MIDI controller: Once you have chosen your MIDI controller, connect it to your computer or laptop using a USB cable. Make sure that the controller is recognized by your DJ software.
  3. Map your MIDI controller: Mapping is the process of assigning MIDI messages to different functions within your DJ software. Most DJ software programs have a mapping feature that allows you to easily customize your MIDI controller. You can assign different knobs, faders, and buttons on your controller to control functions like volume, EQ, effects, and more.
  4. Customize your mappings: After mapping your MIDI controller, you can further customize the mappings to suit your workflow and preferences. You can assign specific functions to different knobs and buttons, create custom presets, and adjust sensitivity settings.
  5. Test your MIDI controller: Once you have customized your MIDI controller, test it out to make sure everything is working properly. Try mixing tracks, adjusting EQ settings, adding effects, and using other functions to ensure that your controller is responding correctly.
  6. Save your settings: Once you are satisfied with your mappings and customization, save your settings in your DJ software. This will allow you to quickly load your customized settings every time you use your MIDI controller.
  7. Practice and refine: The key to mastering your customized MIDI controller is to practice using it regularly. Experiment with different mappings, explore new features, and refine your settings to improve your DJing skills. Over time, you will become more comfortable and proficient with your customized MIDI controller.


How to customize MIDI controllers for specific genres of music?

  1. Identify the characteristics of the genre: Before customizing your MIDI controller, it is important to first understand the key elements and characteristics of the specific genre of music you are working with. For example, electronic dance music may require a lot of intricate control over synthesizers and effects, while hip hop may need precise control over drum beats and samples.
  2. Choose the right MIDI controller: Consider the type of MIDI controller that would best suit your genre of music. For electronic music, a controller with a lot of knobs and sliders for tweaking synth parameters may be ideal, while for live performances, a controller with drum pads or keys may be more appropriate.
  3. Customize mapping and presets: Many MIDI controllers allow you to customize the mapping of knobs, sliders, and buttons to different parameters in your DAW or music software. Create presets that are tailored to the specific needs of your genre, assigning different controls to parameters such as filter cutoff, resonance, LFO rate, etc.
  4. Utilize MIDI mapping software: There are several software programs available that allow you to easily map MIDI controls to various parameters in your DAW. Use these tools to create custom mappings that suit the requirements of your genre, saving you time and effort in the long run.
  5. Experiment and refine: Once you have customized your MIDI controller for your chosen genre, take the time to experiment and refine your setup. Play around with different mappings and presets, and make adjustments as needed to optimize your workflow and sound.


By following these steps and taking the time to customize your MIDI controller for specific genres of music, you can enhance your creativity and productivity in the studio or on stage.

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