Are pad controllers becoming more important than MIDI keyboards?

The MPC Touch is the latest in a long line of pad-based products from Akai.
The MPC Touch is the latest in a long line of pad-based products from Akai.

It would have been almost unheard of not so long ago, but some producers are now choosing not to bother with a MIDI keyboard, instead using a pad-based device to input all of their MIDI data.

Does this mean that the pad controller is now king, though? We asked five in-the-know types for their thoughts on the matter.


"I wouldn't say pad controllers are more important than MIDI keyboard controllers. I love both, but pads are certainly fashionable and, in fairness, are more versatile and better suited to currently en vogue chord-/melody-light electronic music and clip triggering.

But when the bubble bursts on those, there will inevitably be a shift to keys again - or guitar MIDI, or something new. Manufacturers love any controllers, because kids can't download cracked versions of hardware! We'll be seeing them pushed as hard as possible for as long as possible!"

Alex Blanco

Akai Professional

"Akai's MPC was the first real pad-based sequencer to deliver a new way to create records without the need for a MIDI controller. As we've seen the live aspect of production increase, pad controllers have become far more sophisticated with features like touchscreen feedback and RGB colours, as featured on the new Akai MPC Touch, allowing producers and DJs to focus on performance, not their laptop."

Andy Mac

Dr Beat

"While personally, I think I'll always prefer keys for playing and capturing melodic parts, I can appreciate that those unaccustomed to the music keyboard might prefer the less 'fixed' layout of a pad controller. And, of course, pads are clearly the better option when it comes to drums and percussion, since they're struck rather than pressed. The pad- based likes of Native Instruments Maschine and Ableton Push make programming beats far more rewarding and fun than any keyboard could ever hope to."

Ronan 'Dr Beat' Macdonald


"No, they're both important. Each instrument offers unique possibilities and has different strengths. It's hard to create beats on a keyboard, but equally hard to play challenging keyboard lines on a pad controller. The best part is being able to go from one experience to the other and let creativity flow with the strength and limitations of each instrument.

"Both controllers, of course, need to deliver intuitive workflow and integration with the DAW. With that said, it should be every person's birthright to go through life with at least one of each."

Niels Larsen


"The pad controller as an interface to a piece of software such as Ableton Live is almost an essential item now. They've evolved from something used to trigger a sample to a new approach to melodic and drum input. If you've come from a non-keyboard-playing background, there's now no reason why you'd also need a keyboard when you can use your pads to cover all your musical needs. A box of buttons is now a legitimate instrument."

Olly Burke

Computer Music

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