If you’re a musician, or know one, the new line of Microkey keyboards from Korg may be a great gift idea, especially if that someone likes making music on the go.
The keyboards come in three sizes, with your choice of 25, 37 or 61 keys. Each use velocity-sensitive keys that feel natural and respond with the right touch as you play. Each various keyboard comes with features that range from the basic (on the lower-end 25-key) to the full-featured (on the 61-key). Each of them can be connected to a computer for music creation or, more impressively, an iPad using Apple’s Camera Connector kit. I tested out the 25-key unit with an iPad as well as a Windows-based computer.
The keyboards come with a full complement of various software for the computer, but there’s also a good selection of MIDI based apps available, too. For example, the keyboard was easily recognized by Apple’s “GarageBand” app, and I could use it to quickly and smoothly enter tracks to work with. Within about 30 minutes, I had a short piece cobbled together with drums, piano, strings and more. The beauty of the keyboard is the pressure sensitive keys that are next to impossible to duplicate in a digital, touch-screen application.
There are few controls on the 25-key version of the keyboard: four buttons and a joystick. The joytick will control pitch and modulation of the tone being played, while the buttons control octave up/down shifts as well as activating an arpeggiator function. Unfortunately, there isn’t a speaker on the smallest of these keyboards, so it cannot be played on its own.
A nice thing about the 25-key unit is that it is powered directly by the iPad. This means that to create music on the go you only need the iPad, the connector and USB cable, and the keyboard. That’s it. This won’t suit most for full-on composition work, but this is perfect for sketching out ideas anywhere the inspiration strikes you. I did try using the keyboard with the full version of the score creation app, “Notion,” but the keyboard wasn’t recognized (perhaps in future updates?).
Even with this setback, the 25-key unit is a reasonably priced (approximately $70) addition to any musician’s piece of kit. With the Apple Camera Connection kit (approximately $30), you have an extremely portable music-writing and playing solution that can help musicians respond to their muse whenever and wherever she inspires them.