Three unique MIDI keyboards that will change the way you make music

Go beyond charted territory.

Every once in a while, there comes along a spin on a classic tool that’s so innovative and off-the-wall that it can shift the entire way you work. In the world of music and art, that’s especially true—and a unique take on a musical instrument can move the bar on creativity and help artists break new ground in a big way.

Keyboards have come a long way since the days of harpsichords and fortepianos, following popular music and expanding in functionality to control computers, include drum machines and pads, act as samplers, and much more. Check out some of these truly unique upgraded and evolved keyboards and see how they can take your creativity to new heights.

Groundbreaking, five-dimensional touch keyboard. Amazon

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This kit from Roli combines one of their sleek blocks and control blocks into one super-instrument that for beat making. The Lightpad Block sports beautifully colored lights and acts as an expressive control panel, offering effects and acting as a traditional pressure pad for adding beats to your music. The other block included is the loop block, which contains transport controls for the software workstation of your choice, offering loop, and playback functions.

Crystal-clear onboard displays for maximum efficiency. Amazon

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For a more traditional MIDI keyboard that fulfills everything you’ve come to expect with efficiency and grace, check out the Komplete Kontrol S61 from Native Instruments. It’s designed to control your library of instruments from directly on the keyboard itself, thereby minimizing time you have to spend clicking around on your computer and maximizing the time spent on creative flow. The pitch and modulation wheels are a fresh spin on a capability musicians have come to expect from a keyboard, designed with ergonomics in mind. Its two high-resolution screens offer not only library navigation but mix and edit capabilities as well. A strip of LED lights punctuates the keybed and activates according to your preferences to help you find the sounds and samples you need at a moment’s notice. This keyboard would be great for any composer, film scorer or producer who works in high-volume situations with limited time.

Everything a traditional synth can do and then some. Amazon

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This one-of-a-kind instrument comes from Roger Linn, a designer perhaps best known for creating the very first sample-based drum machine back in 1980. It’s essentially a MIDI controller that forgoes a traditional keyboard layout in favor of that of a guitar fretboard or stringed instrument, which makes it perfect for performing slides, bends and other organic effects that you can’t do on a regular synth with astonishing realism.

The 200 onboard pads are polyphonic and touch-sensitive in five dimensions, reacting to pressure, motion along both axes, and strike and release velocity. The vivid LEDs clearly show users the position of their desired notes, making this instrument very easy to learn and play for being so close to the cutting edge. Tune each row individually like you would the strings on a guitar or violin and let your imagination run wild.