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imageI’m not much of a keyboard player. I started writing music on the computer tapping notes into trackers with the computer keyboard. I also have a shitty right arm that wigs out when I play keyboards. So I’ve wound up trying a variety of different MIDI keyboards and for the most part they sit beside me and I put papers and junk on top of them and then avoid using them because I’m too lazy to clean them off. So I wind up playing basic sequences in with the computer keyboard.

Enter the inexpensive, tiny Korg Nano Series.

I snapped these up when I read about them, thinking they’d come in handy for live performances (I’m not optimistic enough to think I’ll write music away from my office) but when I got them home I realized they solve at least part of my MIDI keyboard problem. Now I keep them on a shelf under my desk and pull them out whenever I need them.

The Kontrol and Pad are great – simple and effective and relatively sturdy. I’ve tried many different drum pads over the years and the nanoPad is actually my favorite, which is surprising for such an inexpensive device. The nanoKey is the most dodgy, but also the one I’ve used the most, so it can’t be that bad. The keys feel exactly like (kind of cheap) laptop keys. It has the same weak/wobbly spring feeling. I’m not looking for sweet action, but it would be awesome if they felt slightly more crisp – something comparable to a child’s plastic keyboard would be fine.

My only other complaint isn’t Korg’s fault (I think) – the nature of these devices is that I want to plug them in as I need them, swapping them out at will. But all the audio software I’ve tried with needs to restart (or at least reset the audio device) each time I plug in or unplug a device. Minor thing I know.

All in all, they’re very useful tools and I’m happy to have ’em.

Update (3/4/11): My Nanopad randomly died and in researching fixes that seems to be an epidemic. So I wouldn’t bother. The Akai LP line seems to be more durable and that’s likely what I’ll switch to.

Posted on - September 23, 2009 [at] 3:41 pm by Brad
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8 Comments on this post

victor on Nano series review
September 23, 2009 at 5:18 pm

I just picked a couple of the Nano’s as well. The iHome USB hub was about $12 USD at Fry’s

here’s a quick google result—switches-ihome-usb-hubs.html

felix on Nano series review
September 23, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Had any malfunctions with them?

I ask because I’ve had a nanopad for about 6 months. It’s a great piece of kit, I love the response of the pads and it’s amazingly versatile for such a wee thing, but I’ve had to send it back for repairs twice already – first the USB jack and now the hold button.

I’m wondering if I just got a dud – built late on a friday afternoon perhaps – or if other people have had troubles like this. I want to get a kontrol as well but I’m having 2nd thoughts after the 2nd fail.

Oh and yeah, I like that “make music on the bus” thing too. Heh, it’s an awesome little tool and I’m sure you could but shit, I do like to get away from the computer for a couple of hours a month.

Jess (@libertyluver) on Nano series review
September 26, 2009 at 3:00 am

Sorry for posting fan mail on your blog post about whatever the hell that thing is (uh…yeah.)

I just discovered your music through FMA. I’m a law student and I write for a semi-well known blog called Social Media Law Student (#24th most popular legal blog in the U.S.) I just wrote a post about Creative Commons licensing and where it’s going. I wanted to follow up my CC post with examples of where and how CC is changing certain industries online such as music, movies, images, etc.

Anyway, while doing research on the music part I stumbled across your stuff. I thought it was cool that you had your music licensed under CC and that you willingly and freely distributed your music.

Needless to say, I’m a fan! Your music is great! I love your stuff and I wanted to say thanks for being so awesome in sharing your music with everyone! I’ve already posted several links on my blog to your stuff and I hope to get a post written about CC and the music industry soon on SMLS. I’ll definitely be linking you!


Mark Mosher on Nano series review
October 5, 2009 at 8:41 am

I’m a big fan of these devices as well. Like you, i use the nanoKeys way more than I expected. Nice alternative to QWERTY when composing on the go.

I recently did a demo of real-time vocoding for the Denver Ableton Live User’s group using just my laptop, a nanoKeys, and a nanoKontroler to trigger clips. One trip from the car with a backpack!!!

Mark Mosher

failrate on Nano series review
October 23, 2009 at 11:50 pm

If you take an actual child’s musical keyboard (10 ~ 20 USD) and saw off the cheap crappy music circuit and speakers, you are left with a PCB that has an array of wires and contacts for the switches that are held in a membrane between the PCB and the set of keys.

In your nanoKorg thing, you will find a similar set up. It would take a bit of soldering, but you could rewire your nanoKorg to use the different keys.

failrate on Nano series review
October 23, 2009 at 11:52 pm

Nevermind, I just looked at its specs. You probably couldn’t do what I just recommended. Too bad. A nanoKey in a Guitar Hero controller would be nice.

failrate on Nano series review
October 25, 2009 at 1:16 am

But here’s something you definitely *could* do:

ken on Nano series review
February 18, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I just picked up the Akai LPK25, which is slightly more expensive (and bulky) than the nanoKey but has more traditional keys and action and plays great. If you were looking to upgrade.

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