Mechanical Keyboards versus MIDI Controllers for Music Production

May 22, 2024

Recording and producing studio music is more than just auditory art. No, it's not just liberal arts or reading musical notations. It's actually a complex technological mishmash that requires creativity, precision, and a sharp ear for details.

To help in their work and to produce the best output possible, musical producers and sound engineers turn to electronic devices. Among these is the MIDI controller and, recently, the mechanical keyboard. Yes, the peripheral that is most often used by gamers.

How do the mechanical keyboards and MIDI controllers work and synchronize with each other? What are their functions? What are their similarities and differences? This article will explain those concepts.

Difference Between a Mechanical Keyboard and a MIDI Controller

A mechanical keyboard and MIDI controller can be used in music production, especially if it involves a digital or electronic aspect. However, they are vastly different in functionality.

Mechanical Keyboards

  • These computer keyboards use high-quality mechanical switches rather than silicone dome membranes used in standard keyboards. These switches often provide tactile feedback for each keypress. 
  • Mechanical keyboards, while primarily intended for typing, can be customized for music production. This customization helps streamline workflows. Their tactility also makes them ideal for editing digital music segments with precision.

MIDI Controllers:

  • MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) controllers are specialized devices that send MIDI signals to computers or synthesizers. They can come in various forms like keyboard controllers, drum pads, or control surfaces.
  • MIDI controllers are designed specifically for music production. They allow producers to play instruments virtually, control synths, adjust effects, and automate mixing parameters within digital audio workstations (DAWs). They often feature programmable knobs, sliders, and buttons for comprehensive control over software instruments and sounds.


  • Both devices can be used to streamline and customize music production or the workflow it involves.
  • Mechanical keyboards are primarily designed for typing but can be adapted for music production. MIDI controllers are purpose-built for musical input and software control.
  • Mechanical keyboards require remapping or additional software configuration. MIDI controllers are plug-and-play platforms that are compatible with music software.

Purpose in Music Production

Mechanical keyboards can be used alongside MIDI controllers. Each device's functions may complement the other.

Mechanical Keyboard

Just like in gaming or professional work, mechanical keyboards streamline workflow in music production and increase productivity. 

  1. Efficient Workflow
    • Custom Key Mapping: By remapping keys to perform specific functions within a digital audio workstation (DAW), mechanical keyboards can help sound engineers and music producers accomplish tasks like starting/stopping playback, recording, or switching tools.
    • Macros: Automating repetitive actions with macros speeds up routine tasks and streamlines the production workflow.
  2. Personalized Control
    • Layers and Profiles: Producers can create separate control layers or profiles tailored for specific activities such as composing, mixing, or mastering.
    • Hotkeys and Shortcuts: They can access frequently used commands with simple key combinations. Producers and engineers won't have to rely on the mouse or on-screen controls.
  3. Ergonomics and Comfort
    • Typing Experience: Working on a musical production can involve long hours of composing and editing. Mechanical switches provide a comfortable typing experience during those long hours.
  4. Auxiliary Controls
    • Rotary Dials, Sliders, and Buttons: Some mechanical keyboards have extra controls that can be mapped for volume adjustment, pitch bending, or effect control.
  5. Visual Feedback
    • Backlighting and RGB Effects: Programmable RGB lighting can provide immediate visual cues about active modes, specific track layers, or when recording is live.

As you can see, mechanical keyboards can be a valuable tool for those involved in music production. 

MIDI Controller

a MIDI controller

MIDI controllers are an entirely different thing. MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. These controllers are electronic devices that send signals or instructions to other devices such as a computer or another MIDI device. They don't actually create any sound themselves. What they do is control and modify the sounds that other devices make. MIDI controllers are integral to modern digital music production:

  1. Real-Time Performance
    • Playing Virtual Instruments: MIDI controllers enable musicians to perform live using virtual instruments in a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) or sound module. For example, keyboard-style MIDI controllers mimic traditional instruments like pianos and synthesizers while drum pads offer rhythmic input.
    • Expressive Control: Velocity sensitivity, aftertouch, pitch, and modulation wheels provide control over dynamics and expression.
  2. Hands-On Control of Software
    • Adjusting Parameters: Knobs, sliders, and buttons can be mapped to control DAW functions such as volume levels, pan, and effect parameters.
    • Transport Controls: Play, stop, record, and loop buttons provide easy access to recording and playback functions.
  3. Creative Inspiration
    • Creating Musical Ideas: With MIDI controllers, producers can instantly translate musical ideas into their software. Many controllers include arpeggiators, step sequencers, and chord modes for different musical patterns and styles.
    • Inspiring Sounds: Some MIDI controllers have built-in sound libraries or presets, giving operators instant access to a vast range of musical sounds.
  4. Automation and Modulation
    • Automating Changes: MIDI controllers can automate changes in effect parameters, volume, and other aspects to generate dynamic mixes and arrangements.
    • Modulating Sounds: Continuous controllers such as mod wheels or expression pedals allow users to control sound modulation.
  5. DAW Integration
    • Custom Mapping: Modern MIDI controllers have software for easy mapping to DAWs. They often have templates for popular DAWs.
    • Control Surfaces: Some controllers are designed like mixing desks to facilitate control over track levels, EQ, and plugins.

A MIDI controller provides hands-on, intuitive control over digital music software, bridging the gap between traditional musical instruments and computer-based music production.

Can a Mechanical Keyboard be used as a MIDI Controller?

A mechanical keyboard cannot directly replace a MIDI controller; it is not designed to do so. However, it can be configured to perform some similar functions but with certain limitations:

How It Can Be Used

  1. MIDI Mapping Software: You can use MIDI mapping or keyboard remapping software to assign keyboard keys to specific MIDI notes or commands. You can trigger MIDI functions through a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
  2. Macros and Hotkeys: By programming macros or hotkeys, you can assign mechanical keyboard keys to trigger loops, samples, or specific commands, providing limited control over music production software.
  3. MIDI Translator Software: Programs like Bome MIDI Translator or LoopMIDI can translate keystrokes into MIDI messages, making it possible to use the keyboard as a limited MIDI input device.


  1. Limited Range and Feedback: Unlike MIDI controllers, mechanical keyboards don't have velocity-sensitive keys, aftertouch, or other expressive controls that offer musical input.
  2. No Knobs or Sliders: Mechanical keyboards generally lack dedicated controls that provide tactile control over synth parameters or mixing functions.
  3. Lack of Integration: Mechanical keyboards aren't optimized to integrate seamlessly with DAWs. It might require more configuration compared to plug-and-play MIDI controllers.


While mechanical keyboards can be configured to work like MIDI controllers to some extent using appropriate software tools, they are not a complete replacement due to their lack of velocity sensitivity, control surfaces, and musical expressiveness. However, mechanical keyboards can complement a music production setup. They are best used alongside dedicated MIDI controllers and other audio equipment.

Chris Greiner, a Mechanical Keyboard specialist, boasts a solid educational background with dual bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Business Management from Lewis University. His additional certification in Mechanical Keyboard Design showcases his dedication to staying on the forefront of keyboard technology. Chris primarily writes for keyboard enthusiasts and has been featured on platforms like Jestik, solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the mechanical keyboard community.
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Pinstack is a dedicated online media platform focusing on selling and reviewing mechanical keyboards. Our commitment is to provide comprehensive reviews, in-depth guides, and much more. With our active presence on YouTube and our website, we strive to deliver top-quality content across multiple platforms, aiming to bring the best to our audience.
Subscribe to our newsletter
Subscription Form
We care about the protection of your data. We’ll never share your details.

Pinstack is an Amazon Affiliate. All earnings from this website are from qualified purchases. Learn more about our affiliate disclosure terms.
2023 - Copyright, All Rights Reserved
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x