What is Aftertouch in a Midi Controller? (Explained)

Most keyboard players might hear some additional vibrations or sounds when they stroke a key in their midi controller. If you listen when you press the key and hold it a little harder, some midi controllers will give out additional sounds. You might wonder what can cause this and why it happens only on certain midi controllers and not on all of them. 

You might also hear some musicians and producers utter the word aftertouch when they talk about keyboards or midi controllers. 

So if you wonder what is aftertouch in a midi controller? We have the answer for you.

Aftertouch is simply a MIDI message which you send to the midi controller when you apply some pressure to the key, which will result in additional sounds like vibrations, tremolo, bend, volume, or any paraments you set to your midi controller. 

Aftertouch in Midi Controller

How does aftertouch work?

When you put pressure on a keyboard after you struck the key on a midi controller, MIDI data is sent to the controller. This MIDI data can be routed to control many parameters like volume, vibrato, and other things. 

There are two types of aftertouch in a midi controller: 

  1. Channel Aftertouch – Channel Aftertouch is also known as Mono aftertouch, Channel pressure, and Mono pressure. In a channel or mono aftertouch, even if many keys are struck, only the one with the highest pressure applied on the key will transmit the MIDI message; therefore, only one key can work for the aftertouch response. 
  2. Polyphonic aftertouch – In polyphonic aftertouch, each key can transmit value independent of the other keys. This means even if you hit many keys at once and applied pressure to each, they will all send the MIDI data separately and simultaneously. Polyphonic aftertouch is much harder to control and is therefore used mostly by professionals. 

Do I need aftertouch?

The importance of aftertouch in a midi controller can depend upon your condition. If you just started playing a keyboard and have no experience with it, aftertouch can be pretty hard to play, so for a beginner, I don’t recommend an aftertouch option in a midi controller. 

And if you’re going to use it in your home studio for producing music, then you probably don’t need aftertouch. You can play around with the parameter using the mod wheel, or you can also use the Digital Audio Workstation built-in software to assign the parameters you want.

On the other hand, if you are going to play live, then aftertouch can be a crucial feature for you. For example, if you’re using synth and want some vibrato or you want to raise the volume or some other parameters, but your hands are all on the keys, and you cannot reach the mod wheels or the volume knob, then aftertouch is necessary. 

How important is aftertouch on a Midi Controller?

Aftertouch enables you to control the sound after you put pressure on the keys. The sound can be anything from a vibrato, volume, or different modular expression. This is important, especially if you are playing live and you don’t have enough hands to control the mod wheel or other button for the effects to work. 

Difference between Aftertouch and Velocity Sensitivity

Aftertouch and Velocity sensitivity are closely related, and many beginners often get mixed up between the two. 

In short, aftertouch is the continuous pressure applied after you hit the keys, which affects the modulation like vibrato or volume depending upon the parameters assigned to the keys. 

Velocity sensitivity is the speed used when striking the key. The harder you hit the keys, the louder the volume will become. This is the velocity sensitivity. If you play a midi/keyboard or a piano, the pressure you applied to the keys will make a huge difference in the outcome of the volume. 

What are the best MIDI controllers with aftertouch?

There are many MIDI controllers with aftertouch in the market today. Here are our top 5 favorites: 

1. Novation Impulse 25 USB Midi Controller Keyboard, 25 Keys

If you are working in a small confined studio and are looking for a midi controller with a smaller size, then Novation Impulse 25 is the right fit for you. 

This small but powerful USB Midi Controller keyboard packs a punch in its feature:

  • Excellent software control
  • Ultra-responsive aftertouch 
  • Equipped with 8 knobs, 1 fader, and a button
  • Multifunction drum pads

2. Akai Professional MPK249 49-Key Keyboard

The Japanese brand Akai is one of the top players in the electronic music industry. Many professional music producers recommend Akai products, and Akai professional MPK249 is one of those recommended products. 

Some of the features which stand out from the other Midi Controllers are:

  • 49 semi-weighted, excellent aftertouch and velocity sensitivity for the perfect piano-style play performance
  • 16 MPC-style pads for creating the perfect loops, samples, melodies, one-shots, etc.
  • 8 faders, 8 control knobs, switches which are excellent for virtual instrument mapping.
  • Comes with music production softwares like Ableton Live Lite, SONiVOX Twist 2.0, Hybrid 3 by AIR Music Tech.

3. M-Audio Keystation 49-Key

This full-sized 49 velocity-sensitive key is perfect for music producers who want a midi controller which feels and plays like a real piano. 

M-Audio Keystation 49 looks simple but is packed with incredible features like:

  • Pitch, modulation wheel, volume fader, and directional button for easy control. 
  • Octave up and down button as well as sustain pedal input for the perfect easy performance even in live events.
  • M-Audio Keystation 49 comes with incredible premium software like Ableton Live Lite, Velvet, Hybrid 3, ProTools First, Vacuum Pro, Eleven Lite, Loom, Eighty Eight Ensemble, XPand 2

4. NI Komplete Kontrol S88 MkII

Native Instruments has become one of the most popular brands in the virtual music industry today. Their virtual instruments are used by most modern producers and growing rapidly. 

If you are familiar with their software and if you are a satisfied customer, then you should definitely try their NI Komplete Kontrol S88 MkII, which is one of their best Midi Controller products today. 

Some of the features of NI Komplete Kontrol S88 MkII are:

  • Excellent 88 hammer-action keys
  • Komplete instruments are pre-mapped in the Kontrol S88, so if you are using Komplete, you cannot mess up with the setup.
  • Their aftertouch response is excellent. 
  • It comes with RGB color indicators.
  • It comes with incredible music software like KOMPLETE 12 SELECT and MASCHINE Essentials.  

5. Arturia KeyLab Essential 61 

If you are looking for an all-round Midi Controller which is packed with features for controlling almost everything from the Midi Controller itself, then Arturia Keylab Essential 61 is just what you are looking for. The sleek-looking design will capture the eyes quickly but does not hamper the features. 

These are some of the features of Arturia Keylab Essential 61:

  • Excellent 61 keys with great velocity and aftertouch response
  • Contains 9 assignable knobs as well as 9 faders and 8 backlit velocity sensitive pads.
  • Quality modulation wheels and pitch bend.
  • It comes with a great music software like Ableton Live lite, Analog Lab Software with over 5000 synth Sounds. 


To conclude our article, we hope we have covered any of your doubts on “What is an aftertouch in Midi Controller?’ and helps you in your decision if you want an aftertouch option in your midi controller. 

Jacob Miller

Hi, I'm Jacob Miller, and welcome to AudioOver, a platform designed to help aspiring music producers create music from home. With a musical background inspired by my award-winning father, I've been passionate about music since I was young.

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