Midi Controller Reviews – Wind Vs Keyboard

Midi Controller Reviews – Wind Vs Keyboard


A lot of midi controller reviews focus on an individual product, but in the midst of the wind/keyboard debate, I often hear producers extolling the merits of wind controllers over keyboards. So I decided to do a little research into the subject.

Midi wind controllers, or wind synthesizers, are not as new as some people might think. The Lyricon, one of the first popular wind controllers, was created as long ago as the 1970s. This analog controller mimicked a saxophone in terms of both fingering and mouthpiece, which enabled it to set the stage for correct interpretation of the various breath control and reed use techniques familiar to saxophone players.

Today, wind synths have come a long way, with Yamaha and Akai taking over the market with their respective WX and EWI series. Both companies offer a variety of sounds that can be manipulated through their controllers, but Akai takes the cake for fun names. The EWI3020m sound list includes such delightful options as Stony, Boxer, Sparkle, and Fog Set.

One of the disadvantages is the precision required to make the right sound. Sometimes even advanced wind players will have difficulty drawing out exactly what they expect to hear, due to minor misplacement of the fingers or slightly incorrect mouth technique. For this reason, wind controllers can be sloppy for live performance, although these challenges have been overcome by many successful electronic music buffs.

Another potential problem occurs due to the physical manipulation of the instrument. Since keyboards allow the user to keep one hand free, real-time changes in sound are literally at their fingertips. For wind, both hands are necessary, which limits the player’s ability to change the expression of the sounds he or she is producing.

While strings and wind instrument sounds work perfectly, less intuitively related sounds like percussion sometimes don’t come out as cleanly as one might like. Furthermore, many synth modules are designed expressly for keyboards, which means that certain features might not be compatible with or even available to wind controllers.

They do have some advantages over keyboards, like their accessibility to people with limited mobility in some parts of their body. They are also very cool when synced up with midi lighting systems, as the breath controller can create effects that you might not be able to accomplish on a keyboard. Overall, though, the benefits are limited when compared to their keyed counterparts.

But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth the investment. Wind controllers are great for touring, since they are lighter and easier to pack. For players with good breath control, they do provide greater versatility and expressiveness than keyboards, once you’ve figured out how sensitive they can be.

At the end of the day, it seems that wind controllers have something to offer, but maybe not as much as the rave reviews might suggest.



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