The Novation Launchkey Mk3 MIDI Keyboard comes as the latest exciting mark in the digital music company’s line of widely acclaimed MIDI keyboard controllers. This powerful new product showcases some of the most comprehensive Ableton Live 10 and Logic Pro X integration to be found on today’s keyboard controller market. It is designed to cover as many of the bases of the general production workflow as possible, providing not only the essentials for session management, with helpful transport function controls and multifunctional pads and knobs, but also an extensive software bundle sure to kickstart many a production endeavor. The keyboard also has a standalone operation mode, so you can even hook it up to your other hardware to use it as a controller!
A few months ago, Novation launched an update to their Launchkey Mini series with the Launchkey Mini Mk3. This received high praise for its deeper Ableton integration and fun arpeggiation features. The mini keyboard has since been widely acclaimed as one of the best mini Ableton controllers one could wish to have. Now, with the Novation Launchkey Mk3 MIDI Keyboard, the line of regularly-sized keyboards have been treated with equally impressive upgrades.
Four Model Sizes of the Novation Launchkey Mk3 MIDI Keyboard
The Novation Launchkey Mk3 MIDI Keyboard comes in four differently-sized variants, with 25-, 37-, 49-, and 61-keys. These different options help to meet the varying needs of producers, who sometimes prioritize key range, and other times, portability. The 25- and 37-key options are therefore great for mobile producers, and the 37-key option is pretty unique in my opinion, because it serves as a useful middle-ground to fill the otherwise awkward jump from 25- to 49-key options. It allows for many more two-handed chord voicings, while still remaining relatively portable.
The 25- and 37-key variants do, however, lack the faders and fader buttons included on the 49- and 61-key versions. If this is something you specifically want your MIDI keyboard to have, or if you are looking to have a slightly larger setup in general, these two larger makes might be more appropriate.
All keyboards support USB as well as 5-pin MIDI, and include a sustain input.
Impressive Integration: Functions of the Novation Launchkey Mk3 MIDI Keyboard
Perhaps the defining feature of the Novation Launchkey Mk3 MIDI Keyboard is its incredibly thorough integration with both Ableton Live 10 and Logic Pro X. It also comes with out-of-the-box functionality with other DAWs like Cubase and Pro Tools, or any DAW featuring HUI compatibility. If you don’t know what that is, it is basically what allows for having control over basic parameters in a DAW, like track volumes and pans.
All versions of the Novation Launchkey Mk3 MIDI Keyboard include large, easy-action, velocity-sensitive keys, as well as 8 rotary knobs, and 16 multi-color pads with improved velocity sensitivity. Having this many pads is a huge plus in my book, especially when many smaller MIDI keyboards out there limit their pads to 8 or less.
These pads will of course launch your samples, but they can also launch clips and scenes in Ableton that you can start, stop, solo, or mute as necessary. The keyboard’s pads have multifunction capabilities as well, where you can modulate a range of additional things like volume, pans, and sends using the knobs.
Also, while playing the keys, you can snap your performance to a grid instantly with a Quantize button. All of these functionalities work especially well in a live context, when your performance is based highly on recording and playing back loops on the fly. The controls are fortunately all right there for you as a performer.
Scale and Chord Modes
A Scale button transposes keys and pads to play notes in a selected musical scale, making otherwise tricky key signatures extremely easy to play in. You also have three different chord modes:
- Scale Chord Mode gives you predefined chords within any given scale, including triads, sevenths, and ninths.
- User Chord Mode lets you create your own chords to assign to the pads.
- Fixed Chord Mode lets you create a chord that you can play transposed across every key on the keyboard.
Another impressive feature of the Novation Launchkey Mk3 MIDI Keyboard is its arpeggiator. You can quickly conjure some very magical vibes by experimenting with this. Change parameters of the arpeggiator like note direction and rate using the pads.
Then, further develop your sound with a few knobs such as “swing,” “gate,” “mutate,” and “deviate.” The last two work like randomizers, changing up notes, and adjusting the rests between them, respectively. That’s a lot of arpeggiator options!
Other Features of the Novation Launchkey Mk3 MIDI Keyboard
Some other useful features of the Novation Launchkey Mk3 MIDI Keyboard include a metronome Click button, and a cool little screen that lets you know what parameter you are currently changing.
There is also a lengthy software instrument bundle with tight integration, including things like Ableton Live 10 Lite, Serato Sample LE, Splice Sounds, Spitfire Audio LABS Expressive Strings, and other software.
I truly envision novices and professionals alike using this MIDI keyboard. Its interface is simple enough to not immediately overwhelm you, but it also offers incredible power when played at its potential. Just reading about this keyboard makes me want to put a set together and start playing!
The Novation Launchkey Mk3 MIDI Keyboard is currently priced from $159.99 up to $259.99. See availability and compare models on Focusrite’s store. Have fun playing around with this keyboard!
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