MIDI controllers for Note Entry in Notation Software

In one of my previous posts, Step Entry Note Entry Tips, I mentioned that the fastest way to enter notation in Sibelius and Finale is using a MIDI keyboard or controller, assuming that you have some facility on the piano keyboard. This post deals with some of the ways you can get connected to use a MIDI keyboard controller for note entry.

MIDI Interfaces
Do you own or have access to a MIDI keyboard? Most MIDI keyboards made in the last 25 years are MIDI capable. The older models have MIDI IN, MIDI OUT and MIDI THRU on the back panel. The newer ones have the MIDI ports and a USB port to connect to the Mac or windows computer via a USB cable. If you have an older keyboard without a USB port, you will need to purchase a MIDI interface. They come in many different versions. An inexpensive interface is the M-Audio Uno for around $35.00 dollars.

If you have an older Mac or Windows PC, you might find that there is latency or a slight delay when you play into your computer. There are settings that can address latency in Finale or Sibelius. Go to the help menu and open the Reference and do a search for latency. One way to address this is to purchase a FireWire interface. FireWire interfaces have a faster data transfer than USB. Your computer will need a FireWire port. Macs have FireWire built-in. Some Windows Computers have FireWire. In Windows, FireWire is called IEEE 1394. The M-Audio FireWire 410 has both MIDI and audio inputs and works great for entering MIDI with no delay or latency.

USB MIDI Controllers 
The other option is to purchase a MIDI controller that has a MIDI interface built-in. Some MIDI keyboards also include a USB MIDI interface so check the specs before purchasing. Controllers typically do not produce sound of their own. Rather, the only enter MIDI information. Therefore, they must be used with a computer software program such as Finale or Sibelius. A good entry-level controller is the M-Audio Keystation.

With USB MIDI keyboards, you just plug them directly to the computer USB port. Sometimes drivers need to be installed. If they do, the Keyboard will come with an installation CD. I usually check the manufacturer’s website for the most recent drivers. These can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website for free.

Other MIDI Controllers 
Three are a host of controllers on the market. I have been using an M-Audio Oxygen 8 for years. The Oxygen 8 is no longer produced by M-Audio. It is compact and fits in my brief case. I have even used it on plane flights in coach! Bring down the food tray and put the computer on it and place the controller on your lap. You can also get controllers in various sizes.

M-Audio is not the only company that makes quality controllers, Others includeRoland , Novation and Korg. Remember, Sibelius 5 and Finale 2009 do not take advantage of the knobs and sliders that come with the more expensive controllers, so only purchase these keyboards if you have use for them with your DAW software such as Pro Tools, Logic, Sonar and the like. Below, is a compact, powerful, M-Audio Axiom 25.

The Korg nanoKEY
At the NAMM show this month, Korg introduced a revolutionary new keyboard for under $50 street price ($62.00 retail) with full size keys and velocity sensing called the Korg Nano Key.

Check out a performance of the Korg nanoKey on YouTube

This is going to be my constant companion when I travel as it easily fits in my carry on bag. It actually fits in the inside pocket of my suit jacket! If you are not entering your notation in Finale or Sibelius using a MIDI controller, you now have no excuse.

What MIDI keyboards/controllers do you find useful for notation entry?