MIDI control surfaces are very useful - they allow you to reach inside your DAW with something other than your mouse, and make music in ways that feel more natural. They give you greater control and more flexibility when playing and producing music.
There is enormous variety in the available MIDI controllers, and more seem to be invented all the time. Here are 35 Youtube videos that cover a wide perspective on MIDI controllers and control surfaces. Which do you find crazy, and which do you find credible? Which do you find helpful, and which do you find humorous?
1. Driver’s License as Ableton Live MIDI Controller
“Using the magnetic strip on the back of my driver’s license to make a ribbon controller which then controls Autofilter in Live 6 via MIDI.”
2. AirPiano - Controlling Ableton LIVE
“The AirPiano is an innovative musical interface which allows playing and controlling software instruments simply by moving hands in the air. Above the AirPiano is a virtual matrix of keys and faders, each assigned with MIDI messages and ready to be triggered. The length of a triggered note is equivalent to the time a hand is placed on the corresponding virtual key. This is also confirmed by LED feedback. The AirPiano Software allows easy setup, loading/saving presets and transposing notes.
“The AirPiano is still in its prototype phase and its concept of a virtual matrix might eventually be used for other applications and purposes.”
3. MIDI paper
“Using a piece of paper as a midi controller.”
4. Hyper Editor and Control Surface - Logic Studio Tips
“Using the Hyper Editor and setting up control surface.”
5. Setting up a Control Surface for Live
“Going through setting up a control surface to use in Live.”
6. Alesis Master Control FireWire Interface and DAW Control Surface
“The Alesis MasterControl audio interface and control surface provides up to 192kHz recording capability directly to your computer via a low-latency FireWire connection. The audio interface on the MasterControl features two mic inputs with phantom power and channel inserts, six line inputs, and incredible expansion capability: a total potential of 26 simultaneous inputs with the additional S/PDIF and dual S/MUX ADAT Lightpipe inputs. Six analog outputs are configurable as 5.1 surround or three separate stereo mixes. Get hands-on control of your recordings with the Alesis MasterControl!”
7. midiGun - Alternative MIDI Controller
“The ‘midiGun’ is a novel handheld MIDI controller. This gunshaped interface was especially designed to remotely control realtime music softwares like Ableton LIVE, Traktor DJ or others.
“The ‘midiGun’ replaces the classical DJ mixer and the keyboard at the same time. The ‘midiGun’ is a new kind of device that can be intuitively used because of its handy shape and easy accessible knobs, buttons and sensors.
“The user can trigger and control sounds and effects on a PC without watching a monitor or using a mouse and keyboard. The controllers and sensors can be individually customized to fit the connected software or to serve special user preferences. The ‘midiGun’ offers 16 different controllers which can be cascaded in 16 switchable sets. This allows for a total of 256 independent sound and effects controls at the reach of your fingertips. Additional lighting effects and a visible distance measuring laserbeam guarantee for the attention of the audience.”
8. Akai MPD32 MIDI/USB Software Control Surface
“The MPD32 is Akai Professional’s ultimate velocity-sensitive pad controller for musicians and DJs. Modeled after the industry-standard MPC series, the MPD32 delivers the most expressive software beat control available.
“Sixteen velocity and pressure-sensitive genuine MPC pads provide the industry’s finest feel and expression. Four selectable pad banks for a total of 64 playable pads, eight assignable faders, eight assignable switches and eight assignable, 360° knobs for transmitting MIDI Control Change data, all combine for unprecedented creative freedom. Three selectable control banks extend the number of available faders, buttons and knobs to 24 each. Two assignable footswitch inputs and an expression pedal input takes the total assignable controller count to 75 - the most by far in any pad controller.
“The MPD32 also features transport controls for interfacing with DAW/sequencing applications. The MPD32 is a fully programmable controller and multi-functional control surface that fits perfectly within any production or performance environment.”
9. Akai MPD24 Drum Pad Controller Video
“Akai Professional’s MPD24 is the velocity-sensitive pad controller for musicians and DJs. Modeled after the landmark MPC series, the MPD24 allows for an extremely expressive and intuitive solution to percussion and rhythm programming.
“The MPD24 comes with 16 velocity and pressure-sensitive genuine MPC pads, four selectable pad banks for a total of 64 playable pads, six assignable faders. Eight assignable, 360° knobs for transmitting MIDI Control Change data, deliver you unprecedented creative freedom for manipulating sampled material. The MPD24 also features transport controls for interfacing with DAW/sequencing applications. The MPD24 is a fully programmable controller and multifunctional tool that fits perfectly within any production or performance environment.”
10. Making a beat with an Akai MPD 24 - Its Alright by DJAJ
“Making a beat with an Akai MPD24 and Reason 3.0 produced by DJAJ.”
11. Silent Drum Controller
“This controller was originally developed in 2006 by Jaime E Oliver in collaboration with percussionist Matthew Jenkins with the support of CRCA.
“This is a video demo for a talk by Katharina Rosenberger for a Conference at Technische Universitat Berlin (TU). The subwindow is the output image of the computer through an external for Pd/GEM called pix_drum.”
12. Ableton: Hands on Control
“Live’s controls are always at your fingertips, or your toes, with the use of any MIDI controller. Assign Live’s playback, recording, clip and scene launching, effects controls, tempo, and just about any other feature to your favorite MIDI controller. Live is so expressive that it even allows you to improvise complete performances with the computer. Your computer actually becomes a musical instrument—an expressive and creative tool perfectly at home on stage or in the studio.”
13. Overview of Korg padKontrol
“Overview of the various uses of the Korg padKontrol.”
14. Getting Started with padKontrol and Reason
“Going through set up and making a simple beat with the padKontrol and Reason Adapted, which comes with the padKontrol.”
15. Kaosspad, padKontrol and Reason
“Several tricks. :)”
16. Axis 64 MIDI Controller
“Designer Peter Davies threw out preconceptions of what a music keyboard should be and designed a layout based on the Harmonic Table. According to C-Thru Music, the arrangement of notes helps you understand note relationships and create as you never have before.”
17. Wii Wiimote Ableton Live Controller
“Using Wii Wiimote to control Sample firing; transport controls; sample transposition; and effect parameter control in Ableton Live 5.”
18. MIDI Laser Drum
“Using a laser to send MIDI.”
19. Live 6 Touch Controller
“Controlling Ableton Live 6 using pennies, popsicle sticks and a ucontroller.”
20. Donkey Kongtroller
“This is a prototype of a Donkey Konga controller hacked to send MIDI notes to Ableton Live/Battery.”
21. KP3 as a MIDI Controller
“In ‘EXT CTRL’ mode, KP3 acts as a MIDI controller. It has eight virtual sliders, fourteen keys, one slider and volume. These controllers are assignable to any MIDI notes or CCs using KP3-Editor (PC software).
“KP3 is not just a multi effector; It is also a MIDI controller with nice LED illumination I think KP3 is one of most cost-effective gears in the current market.”
22. The Dragon MIDI Controller
“A touch screen panel and real hardware encoderson a LCD screen - the ultimate MIDI controller for Cubase!”
23. MAWZER modular midi controller @ Musikmesse 2007
“Presentation of MAWZER Modular MIDI Controller during Musikmesse 2007 in Frankfurt.”
24. Zendrum Digital Midi Controller
“Zendrum MIDI interface demonstration at the 123rd AES New York. Sounds powered by Fxpansion BFD.”
25. Vestax VCM-600 MIDI Controller for DJs
“USB MIDI Conyroller VESTAX VCM-600 @ NAMM 2008. This model shares the same quality control parts used on VESTAX mixers! This model is designed with VESTAX mixer technology, and has excellent compatibility with Ableton LIVE 6 & 7.”
26. Stanton’s new MIDI Controller
“A sneak peek at Stanton’s all new MIDI controller aimed at making DVS systems a lot easier to use.”
27. iXY MIDI Controller
“iXY has X/Y pads on iPhone/iPod touch. It works as a Wi-Fi remote MIDI controller.”
28. Smart AV Tango Control Surface
“Smart AV Tango Control Surface demo.”
29. Reason 4 Control Surface Tips
“Reason 4 has many preferences and one of the first things to do is have the computer recognize your control surface. Learn basic tips on how to get started from a Reason expert in this free video clip.”
30. Pro Tools Control Surface Using PD
“Pro Tools control surface using Pure Data.”
31. Axio - Alternative MIDI Control Surface
“I designed the electronics and firmware for the chording keyboard in this alternative MIDI controller in the early 90’s. It was made using a set of Yamaha DX7 key contacts. These contacts have both make and break contacts which allow for velocity sensing.”
32. Kahuna - Control Surface
“Introduction to Kahuna Control Surface.”
33. D Show Control Surface
34. Control Surface Emulation
“Quick tutorial on how to to use MIDI messages to control Logic via control surface emulation.”
35. Novation Nocturn MIDI Control Surface
“A video introduction to the Novation Nocturn MIDI Control Surface ”