When I first started out producing and composing, I had only my laptop and a pair of SkullCandy ear buds. Too much to start out on? Most definitely.
Jokes aside, I was running on less than nothing hardware-wise. I fiddled around for hours on FL Studio trying to make a simple riff in a pattern. I mostly kept to single note riffs and rarely used a chord. This can be attributed to (1. Not having any piano experience and (2. Not having a MIDI keyboard/controller. As time progressed, I started putting in chords that I would play on guitar and figuring out what note the fourth fret on the E string was. (Spoiler alert, it’s a G#.) Still, it was ever-so time consuming to slap down any decent chord progression within the piano roll.
Samson Graphite 25 – USB MIDI Controller
I bought this piece of hardware over six months ago from Amazon.com and after some serious usage it still runs like a truck. This little brother to the Graphite 49 has all of the features you really need without the buyer’s remorse of a ~$200 price tag. My memory is foggy but I know for a fact that I didn’t pay more than $125 USD for my G25. Why is it called the Graphite 25? It has 25 total piano keys. No other reason really. Gee, that was a disappointment, wasn’t it? Its older brother, G49 has 49 keys. Surprising, I know.
The G25, on top of the 25 piano keys, has a pitch shifter, modulation wheel, octave switching buttons, transposer, drum pads, and more. (Again, look at the picture.) It connects to your computer via USB and receives its power the same way. It also has an input for a sustain pedal as well as DC power input, for those who still roll that old school. It also has an actual MIDI port just for you try-hards out there.
There are pages of information out there for what this machine can do and you can read on it yourself if you’re interested. However, let me take some time to say that this machine can do much more than just work in FL or Ableton. Since it is a MIDI Controller, it can work in any program that can accept midi. That means that you can also use to DJ a live set. I occasionally do a DJ set on Mixify.com and I use Virtual DJ to do it. Virtual DJ has a MIDI mapper that allows me to map controls to the G25, so much so that I don’t even have to use my keyboard or mouse anymore. Everything can be controlled with my G25 and that gives me a step up from my competition.
And if everything I’ve told you already hasn’t sold you, maybe this will. The Graphite 25 comes with a copy of Komplete Elements. That’s over 3GB of music production/composition data. Pretty nifty. To be fair, Elements isn’t anything ground breaking. It’s got some vintage drums and a few other ins and outs, but it’s free with your G25 (and I believe 49 as well, but don’t quote me on that.) Let’s be honest, in a world of $600+ music programs, something free is always nice.
The one criticism I have for the G25 is that the drum pads are a bit too stiff. I feel like I need to really hammer them down sometimes to get that high velocity hit to transfer into whatever plugin I am using. It’s a small complaint but it’s worth mentioning. Other than that, the keys feel great, the buttons work fine, knobs turn fine and the two wheels haven’t given me any problems.
Let’s cut to the chase here. Who should buy one of these? If you are anything above a beginner piano player, this isn’t for you. The two octave range of playing severely limits what you can play in one take. Yes, you can play Scotland the Great. No, you cannot play Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. If you ever want to play a rhythm and a lead part on the piano at the same time and record it, just save up for a G49. If you want something to do some simple chords, two octave riffs, do some DJ work, or have something just small enough to use with your laptop, this hardware is for you.[author image=”https://www.producerspot.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Jared-Day.jpg” ]Jared Day is a producer/composer/musician who goes by the stage name “AppleJared”. He is the head music producer and composer for the independent video game company “SharkBird Studios”. Instruments: guitar, drums, piano. DAW: FL Studio 11[/author]