Controller Keyboard for gigs

What’s everyone’s thoughts on controller keyboards. My Gig rig for the last few years has been my K2600x and Triton extreme both fully loaded with toys. Many, joyful hours have I spent zoning, splitting, layering, assigning, sampling, loading and playing of course to my delight at home and gigging. But even though I’m capable of carrying and setting up, one of my bands plays fests and small venues with short changeover times. So as you can imagine, its been very arduous at times with the rig.

For the last week, I have been using a SL-880 with a Korg Nanocontrol2 and its working very well, though I’m looking for a all in one package. I’ve also seen some of you folks at using a MS Surface, how do you get on against a laptop.


I don’t know about 88 keys controllers, I’m on a Nord Stage and love that keyboard action and weight.
But as for midi controllers, you can only make me happy with a Samson Graphite 49.
I even have 2 of them, at home and on my live rig.
I’ve had many other evn more expensive controllers, but only this Samson is the best:

  • not expensive
  • many sliders, rotary and button
  • large screen
  • has transpose/octave buttons
  • lightweight and…
  • aftertouch !
    If only the quality of the keyboard was a bit more serious, but that’s why it only costs a bit above 100 €.

I use a M-Audio Code 61. For me, it’s the perfect solution because of the 16 Pads which i use for triggering events in cantabile. Also, the X/Y-Pad is working very good. First time I see that on a controller keyboard. It also comes with a great editing software which let’s you control almost every single button and fader and knob and so on…


Currently, I’m super happy with my Kurzweil PC3K - love the keybed, the sliders and the fact that it allows three switch pedal inputs plus one expression pedal. I can live with the fact that it is a pretty heavy beast…

Of course, a lot of its power currently goes unused - I’m not using its tone generation or its master keyboard functionality at all - all that is handled inside the box with Cantabile. So if I had to build a new setup, I would probably just get a pure controller keyboard with sufficient controller options to control my live setup. Most likely candidate ATM would be th Arturia KeyLab 88 (

It’s much lighter than my Kurz; it’s got sliders, pads and pots, and it looks cool! To deal with the fact that it doesn’ have as many switch inputs, I’ve built my own little USB MIDI switch box - but a MIDI Expression could also do that trick.

I also use a M-Audio Code at home in my studio (the 49 keys variant) - cool controller with aftertouch, but a bit light-touch compared to a truly weighted keybed. On stage, I need my 88 keys, so the M-Audio or the Samson would just be too small.

An alternative approach that I use for solo performance when there is already a weighted keyboard on site (digital piano or whatever): I simply come with my laptop, audio interface, an expression pedal and my USB switch box, plus a Novation Launch Control to substitute for the sliders (and if needed for pitch and mod wheel) on my Kurz. I can fit all that into a small backpack - how’s that for travelling light?




I used a Venom before, but abandoned it because the low build quality.

Audio jackets came loose, rotary were toy quality, pitch bender got stuck on -0.1 in live situation.
Pitty because i loved that Synth.
How is it with the new stuff they have?
Better quality?

A controller needs at least aftertouch, also i want them not to be wide. So the controls need to be above the keyboard. Fits in my bag haha. :joy:

I am using an Akai MPK249 (the limited RED edition). This thing is fantastic!

I’m in the market for an 88-key controller, and have looked at the same one Torsten is looking at, the Arturia KeyLab 88, but as I MIGHT be buying into the NI ecosystem soon, I am also very tempted by the Komplete Kontrol 88. Tough choice! Both have very good key beds. I like the Arturia having 9 sliders to match the number on a B3 organ plugin! :slight_smile:

When doing streaming concerts (as I will be doing again soon), I employ everything I’ve got. But I never would drag that much stuff to a live gig at a venue.



Looking good also :slight_smile:
and hey Terry, might fit the red theme I’ve made :wink:

So, how do you control the volumes with a right fader?
Isn’t it against your left hand?

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I tend to fiddle with faders and knobs much more for pads and chords or notes held with my left hand, so I prefer having the controls on the right.

For soloing, I like to control things with the mod wheel and expression pedal most. I do fiddle with some filter knobs during solos, but prefer to have Cantabile map my expression pedal to any of those things as a state change for that section of a song.

Yes, your red theme may be employed very soon!


Hehe, I recognise :wink:
My hand is the whole concert fixed on that volume knob. Like an amulet for good luck :smiley:

You’re wasting a hand, man! :relaxed:

Pre-program volume levels and let Cantabile do fader duty!


I wouldn’t if gitarist wouldn’t turn up their volumes all the time :wink: :stuck_out_tongue:
But maybe you’re right, I could setup a main volume also to control all the volumes, now I have 3:
1 for my Nord
1 for my Vst’s
1 for my Guitar Vst’s

I could combine that into 1 indeed :slight_smile:

Well let me just see what the first concert with Cantabile will give and I’ll let you know :slight_smile:

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See, that’s why I would love the Akai, the controllers are on top of the keyboard,so it all takes a little more space. And space is what we all like, isn’t it?
I don’t understand why other keyboard builders don’t get it:

  • move the controllers to the top
  • add aftertouch
  • add octave/transpose keys
    Is that so much asked? :wink:
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I am patiently waiting to see what controllers are offered for deep sale prices come the “Black Friday” sale season. Arturia Keylab 88 and Komplete Kontrol S88 are the two contenders, but price could sway me in some other directions as well…

This is such proof of the theory of relativity… clock watching definitely slows time!


I’m finding one of these a very practical solution for our Camel tribute band:


That thing definitely possesses that certain aura of AWESOMENESS! :slight_smile:


That does look good…and is powered by the same technology as VB3, by any chance?

Also…Camel tribute band you say…where are you based?


I’ve kept two ELKA MK88s alive since the mid 90s because they have Poly Aftertouch!
I can’t remember what modules I was able to take advantage of with that implementation but I do remember that when Arturia released their CS80V I immediately purchased a Kurzweil ribbon controller and it was like playing the beast itself ! I have to be careful with them now - Elka are long gone.
I’ve used a pair of Axiom 61s which have reasonable controllers, knobs and pads (the pads have aftertouch which is great for vibrato) but they are also getting long in the tooth and the keybed takes getting used to.
I’ve never been particularly impressed by the build quality.
Anyway, the main thrust of my post was to say, LONG LIVE POLY AT!


Poly AT is one reason why I’m thinking about getting a VaxMIDI when they finally become available :relaxed:

Yeah, it’s the work of Guido and friends at GSI. It’s got so much going for it that the list of shortcomings looks picky: only one midi in, I’d prefer endless encoders, and now, poly AT (though with 2 manuals you get some flexibility).

We’re in the Oxford area. We’ve recently got a new lead guitarist who’s coming up to speed very nicely (he plays an absolutely splendid Rhayader Goes to Town). I think we should be gigging again by the end of the year (bearing in mind we’re a bunch of keen amateurs). I’ve taken on Mel Collins’ sax duties in First Light with a TEControl breath controller and SWAM Sax and it is joyous.

They look great. Are they not shipping? I built a tasty basket and it looked like they’d be happy to supply. Stinging taxes etc. to send to blighty though. I’m seriously all spent out for the foreseeable.