I'm learning to play guitar and I've noticed learning music theory is equally important. I'm actually enjoying the theory part and it seems lots of people recommend learning theory on a keyboard/piano.

Would 32-key midi controller be enough? Since this is just for learning theory, I want something small and cheap which I could later use to record some music in my laptop when I get there.

I know the main thing I'll miss is moving scales in to higher pitches, but theory-wise, would I be too constrained?


  • 1
    What do you mean by "music theory"? You only "need a keyboard" if you are planning to do activities that involve "playing a keyboard" - and then (obviously) the number of notes you need on the keyboard depends on what you want to play.
    – user19146
    Jan 4, 2017 at 19:54
  • I think nearly 3 octaves is enough that you shouldn't be constantly be falling off the edge when trying out chords and scales. What model is it, BTW? Jan 4, 2017 at 20:14
  • @alephzero By music theory I mean note vocabulary, intervals, scales, chords and all the basics.
    – Fernando
    Jan 4, 2017 at 20:53
  • @topomorto This is the one I saw earlier a.co/flITJZm but apparently is TOO cheap, looking to see if I find other alternatives.
    – Fernando
    Jan 4, 2017 at 20:54

1 Answer 1


One way to think about it is:

  • a single staff spans about an octave and a fifth, i.e. about 20 notes, so if your exercises/experiments fit within a single staff (treble or bass) 32 keys should be enough. With a MIDI controller, you should have the option of (octave) transposing the keyboard as necessary to cover either of these cases.
  • The grand staff covers 3 octaves, from the G at the bottom of the bass staff to the G in the space just above the top line of the treble staff. Depending on which key the keyboard starts on, you might just barely be able to cover the full grand staff, but I wouldn't count on it. Almost all "real" keyboard (or ensemble) music will go beyond this range and be impossible to play, if that is your goal.
  • 1
    Cool! I think your description fits my case. I mostly want to fully understand the theory of notes, scales, chords, etc so that I can apply all of that to the guitar with more ease. I don't see myself actually playing piano for a while, hence not wanting to spend in a larger, more expensive keyboard. I definitely want to learn how to read music on staffs but I doubt I'll be playing from that in a while. Thank you!
    – Fernando
    Jan 4, 2017 at 20:56

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