come in many different shapes and sizes and colours. They have
a large and varied range of uses in sound and a/v
[audio/visual]. They are found everywhere - on stages, inside
studios, on the go, at homes, clubs, bars, with live shows'
MIDI controllers are used in various areas:
Djs use them,
in many different ways.
Live PA acts
use them (Daft Punk and their setup).
Audio and Video
studios use them (DAW control mainly).
Vjs use them
(somebody get me pics of Ohm being used live!).
them on stage for live performances, this includes Solo
artists, bands, projects etc.
producers use them at work, at home, everywhere they
Live A/V acts
use them for live manipulation of video and audio.
It pretty much
covers every area where there is music and many areas of video
and a/v as well. So what are the different types that we are
talking about here?
MIDI Controllers can be classified in many different
ways. It can be based on the softwares that are used, people
who use them, areas in which they are mainly used, etc. But I
am going to talk about them in terms of form factor or
This sort of classification will be immensely helpful for
studying the purpose of each of these devices. It will also
help us to judge their usefulness to specific people. Now,
remember, each of these types can have entire pages devoted to
each of them.
Keyboard MIDI Controllers - Keyboards are originally
responsible for starting the entire MIDI revolution. In
their MIDI Controller form, they can be anything from simple
and focussed to complex and versatile. They can range from
the simplest ones
with just the keys, two wheels and a few controls to really large and expensive ones
with pots, faders, clocks and much more. The simple ones are
usually used for playing virtual instruments during
songwriting, composing, etc. The really complex ones are
usually for studio environments, which need a lot controls.
And for live use, it really depends on the artist.
Controllers - These have really become popular in recent
times. Most of these controllers are in their 2nd or 3rd
product cycle at max. Some are brand new offerings. The
general rule is simple - just throw in twin jogs, up and
pitch faders, a crossfader, mixer controls and some buttons.
Most of the compact controllers go for what is often
referred to as the [Vestax] VCI layout. There are also controllers
that are 'single deck', ones that emulate just the dj-mixer.
There are also bigger format controllers like the
series from Allen & Heath. These also have audio interfaces
built into them. The VCI series doesn't though. The latest
crop is now trying to emulate a tuntable, complete with
spinning platters and real torque. These mainly used by,
ahem, Djs. But people always fine myriad uses for almost any
MIDI Controller out there.
Controllers - These are constituted mainly of pads and
may and a few other controls. Most of these instantly remind
you of Akai's legendary MPC products. But there are also
those that bend the genre and redefine it. Take
Zendrum for instance! They
are an amazing work of craftsmanship, each and everyone of
them. These are commmonly used to trigger samples, cues or
play drums. They are commonly designed to be used with
and switches - These are usually used in conjunction
with other devices to gain extra functionality. This can be
a sustain or an expression pedal on keyboard controllers or
an entire board full of foot switches to be assigned anyway
or Knobs only boxes - Exactly what the category says,
these are just boxes with loads and loads of Faders or Knobs
on them. Best (and in some cases the only) examples are from
Even Daft Punk uses a few of these. They do have a few other
types of controls, mostly buttons.
Machines - These are machine that seek to converge,
bring together the features of multiple devices into one,
much like some advanced mobile communications devices. For
It it is a high quality audio interface and mixer with MIDI
Control surfaces. Or this similar but different purposed
One if for Dj booths and the other is for studios. And then
there is the DN-HS5500
Boutique controllers - These are Controllers that are
produced on a small scale and usually sel out quite fast.
There is usually a order queue. They are preferred by highly
professional artists or people who can afford it and have a
specialised use for it. But some of these are really
versatile, so they can be used in many different places. So
the choice lies with the end user - how much effort you want
to spend to get a custom setup with unconventional
controllers. Examples would
Jazzmutant's dexter and
the monome project,
modular controllers, etc.
Controllers - These contain button matrices and are very
useful for on the fly sequencing. These would include the
Lemur again (it actually does everything you want, so it
will basically be everywhere), monome,
Controllers - These are home-brewed projects that are
made by enthusiasts and inventors. there are many famous
projects around. And they are bascially anything you can
imagine and have the know-how to create. Some are meant to
be general purpose, some are meant for DJs, some are just
plain experimental. A very famous project is the
Experimental controllers - This is really a relative
term. So the definition will change from person to person.
But it generally means that it is a highly conceptual
controller that is still in the stage of development and
hasn't had much of adoption, and that is probably because
only one exist. Examples are - the scratch controller,
[a design student's project],
siftables [these do many
things, only one is controlling]
Making Music with MIDI
Connecting a MIDI Keyboard to a Computer
MIDI is a
trademark of MIDI Manufacturers Association Incorporated.