In a digital audio recording setup, most of the operations can be done with computer keyboard and a mouse. DAW’s mixing controls and other effects controls are on screen and can be fully controlled by keyboard shortcuts and mouse movements. Since the musical data is in digital form and it can be modified or processes in a PC or Mac computer to achieve the desired results, big pieces of hardware became unnecessary. In the early days of digital audio recording, this was a challenge as on screen mixing and tweaking of effects, at times, became operationally slightly less efficient compared to hardware controls used in analog recording setups.
This issues was address then manufactures came up with MIDI controllers. The original purposes of developing the MIDI specification was to allow live performers the ability to control the sounds of multiple synthesizers from a single keyboard. Technically, a keyboard controller is a device with piano or synth-style keys, and usually a selection of knobs, buttons, and sliders. These transmit MIDI data to external sound modules (synthesizers), computer software synthesizers, or a hardware or software sequencer. Similarly, other controllers are there that mimic the design of typical audio mixers offering slide or rotary gain faders, pan pots, solo/mute and channel select buttons with the added feature of a full transport controls. Certain controllers also offer all-in-one capabilities that can be straightforward and cost-effective devices for first-time buyers. Often, these devices include a multi-channel audio interface, MIDI interface ports, monitor capabilities and full controller functions. Others may already have an existing digital mixer that can be used as a fully functional controller when connected to a DAW host program.
Keyboard MIDI Controller is an essential piece of gear to make full use of your DAWs software instruments. Most keyboard MIDI controllers come with several control knobs that can control several effect plugins. Many DAW software and controller drivers provide the ability to map midi control knobs to software control buttons of your DAW or plugin. Moreover, MIDI keyboards usually are velocity sensitive - helping you play your musical expressions – often with pitch bending wheel and vibrato controlling wheel. All this features help MIDI programming a lot more easier and quicker. MIDI keyboards come in different sizes from 25 keys to 88 keys. The keyboard action type also differs in different models. Weighted Hammer Actions replicate the mechanical action of conventional piano. Semi Weighted Actions is similar to Weighted Action, but with less key resistance. Other variation is Synth-action keyboard which is similar to electronic organ with light keys which can be moved quickly.
A control surface will normally be equipped with faders and rotaries to adjust levels, panning and other parameters; and transport controls to start, stop, and locate within the playback. Most control surfaces offer access to advanced functionality such as EQ and dynamics plug-ins. Many of the current control surfaces feature touch-sensitive/motorized faders that update seamlessly and provide a great visual aid when looking at your levels. Working with a control surface completely changes the sequencing experience. It is much more like working with a standalone multi-track recorder with the access to standard tape-like transport buttons.
Though most of the controllers available in the market work with mostly major DAW setup, it is always advisable to check the recommendations of your DAW software for control surfaces. Most of them available today are USB MIDI controllers and they come with their own drivers. Ensure that you have the latest driver installed for your version of operating system and may be DAW in order to ensure flaw less operation.