Arturia KeyStep Compact MIDI Controller

KeyStep 37

Last Update 11-25-2023

My workbench contains pretty much all the measurement and generator instruments for my work with music gear.  I had a malfunction with the MIDI interface of one of my gear and realized that I needed an instrument to generate repetitive MIDI messages - or a "MIDI function generator" that could operate hands-free.  The repetitive function permits troubleshooting with an oscillscope so that a steady trace can be observed.  Something compact would do the trick to avoid crowding valuable benchtop space, so on a music store trip to buy guitar strings I passed by the shelves with compact desktop MIDI controllers and started looking at the choices.  Until now I didn't have any need for a desktop controller in my studio, but I saw its usefulness for my workbench.  After studying the feature sets of the various makes and models, I bought the Arturia KeyStep 27 from the store.

The KeyStep provided its "function generator" via the arppeggiator - configure the rear panel mini-switches to "internal clock" (hint: the settings shown in the user guide are WRONG), press the PLAY button, don't press any keys, and it generates a repetitve real time MIDI clock signal in the MIDI OUT port.  The cycle of the clock signal can be varied by the RATE control on the left side of the panel.

OK, so what else can this curious toy do?  Quite a bit!  The 37 keys are velocity sensitive with aftertouch, touch controls for pitch wheel and mod wheel, octave shift buttons.  Machine control buttons for the sequencer/arpeggiator.  The SHIFT button interfaces with the 37 note keyboard to set the MIDI channel, gate width, swing amount, and other functions - intuitive!  Eight polyphonic or monophonic step/real time sequences with divisor, transpose, strum (with chord mode), and swing/gate variations.  MIDI in/out, USB MIDI, sync in/out, mono pitch CV output (v/oct or v/hz, variable scale), gate output (S-trig or V-trig), mod CV output (MW, AT, or velocity), arpeggiator (with ratcheting), sequencer, sustain pedal, four assignable knobs, DAW transport buttons, master or slave clock USB/MIDI/sync including tap tempo.  Nice controller whether you want to control over MIDI, over USB, or CV/gate outputs for external synthesizers.

I was pleasantly surprised that it has a sturdy metal base and not cheap plastic.  While the keys are short, their width is nearly the same (except the flat keys) as a standard keybed.  This could serve as a controller for left hand bass gigs that I sometimes play.  At least they aren't the "minikeys" which I am not fond of.  It can be powered from USB (using standard mobile phone charger) or external low voltage 12VDC/1.5A (supply not included).  And THANK YOU for including a POWER SWITCH!
There are deeper features that can be accessed using a separate app (WIN, OSX).

It ain't no MIDIBoard, but the KeyStep came in handy for experimenting with gear when I don't need the power of a big controller.  It has also been handy for travel, if I have some time to kill in the hotel room I fire up Garage Band on my MacBook and jam on the KeyStep.

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