As many musicians will tell you, having a working knowledge of the piano and its keyboard will greatly help you mature as a musician. And, with the onset of many touring bass players doubling on synth bass as well as the bass guitar, keyboard fluency becomes all the more important. However, the price of keyboards can be considered impractical for someone looking to just get started, or to try and expand their marketability. The people over at IK Multimedia have a couple of affordable keyboard controllers that not only fit the budget of the working musician, but also work well with the iOS devices and laptops that many musicians already have.
Despite its small footprint, the iRig Keys PRO is a 37-key (3 octave) keyboard, featuring full-size, velocity-sensitive keys, allowing for a realistic playing feel. For maximum playing comfort and versatility, the Keys PRO is equipped with modulation and pitch-bend wheels, as well as an expansion jack, to allow you to connect either a sustain pedal or expression pedal to control parameters such as volume, tremolo, vibrato, rotary speaker speed and more, dependant upon the individual patch you are using.
While a program such as SampleTank 3 (which is also available in a free, fully functional sound & groove workstation format, as SampleTank 3 SE) from IK Multimedia may seem the logical choice to pair with the iRig Keys PRO (and it definitely takes full advantage of the capabilities the program offers), the controller can easily work with any mobile app (iOS or Android) or laptop program with a keyboard patch. With the supplied cords (to mini USB, regular USB and lightning cable), I was able to plug the iRig Keys PRO into my iPad, iPhone, and Macbook to take advantage of all the live instruments available in SampleTank as well as GarageBand. And in full disclosure, I spent the better part of 15 minutes playing the opening line to Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,” while reveling in my ingenuity (you bass players know what I’m talking about). The iRig Keys PRO plugged right in, was immediately recognized and worked flawlessly. With other controllers, you’d discover some latency issues at some point. Not so.
Using a mobile device makes the entire unit a portable keyboard, allowing you the ability to practice – and perform – nearly anywhere. With a 1/8″-1/4″ adaptor, you can easily take the line out from your mobile device and plug into an amp, allowing you to easily double on bass guitar and synth bass (especially if you have the Moog Animoog app) in tight quarters. Or, pair it with the iLoud Portable Speaker, and you have a fully functioning rig, ready for late night studio sessions or whenever creativity decides to rear its head.
For those musicians that REALLY want to dive into this, there are 4 different sets that you can create, which allow you to tweak parameters such as the touch sensitivity, transposition and more to your personal playing style. Add to that full MIDI capabilities, and the iRig Keys PRO – as well as the rest of the family – are much more than just a simple keyboard controller.
More and more musicians are turning to learning the keyboard as a way to gain a deeper understanding of music theory, as well as expand their marketability in a very competitive world. With the iRig Keys PRO – as well as the other keyboard controllers – from IK Multimedia, the modern musician has the capabilities of a fully functioning keyboard that can easily fit in their bag to be as mobile as they are.