Product Review: Keith McMillen Instruments 12 Step Chromatic Keyboard Foot Controller
Company Website:
Price: $289.95 US (MSRP)
Rating: (4 out of 5)

 A few companies offer 12 or more pedal units such as Roland, Hammond and even Behringer with their FCB1010. The problem is their portability, and Keith McMillen Instruments (KMI) seems to have figured that out with their ultra compact 12 Step pedalboard.

My Experience: According to KMI, “12 Step is one of the world’s lightest, smallest, and most expressive foot controllers. It weighs 1 pound and is 17.5” x 4” x .75”. The keys are about 1.25” X .5”.” When you see it in person, you will be impressed at just how compact they have made it, while still keeping it functional. The 12 Step buttons or keys are beautifully backlit, and the workmanship is excellent, down to the lovely carbon fiber back.

Our review unit came with a few accessories to get us started, along with a well-documented, printed quick start guide. The accessories include a thin nylon protective sleeve, a 15 foot A to B USB cable, and a 1/8″ to 1/4″ expression pedal adapter. There is also a mini-usb jack if you prefer to use that. I quickly connected the 12 Step to my Mac using the included USB cable, running Apple’s Mainstage software in a bass pedal setup. The pedals, or keys, take a moment to get used to, as they require more force to activate then a conventional organ-style pedalboard, but they are velocity sensitive so you can definitely vary your note playing.

If you need to connect your 12 Step to another synth, processor rack unit, or device without a USB port, you will need the optional KMI MIDI Expander which provides MIDI in and out, along with USB ports for connecting to the 12 Step and power through a USB cable and AC adapter.

While we didn’t need any technical assistance, the KMI website has a Support page where users can open a ticket with the support staff.

If it’s good enough for Billy Sheehan…

Using With A MIDI Setup: The 12 Step features a no-nonsense ease of use, and can also be used in different modes or presets. I used it while jamming with a guitarist and drummer (I’m a bass player who also plays bass pedals), and it worked just as well as my regular organ pedalboard. I set my 12 Step up to trigger prerecorded parts, as well as play a few different synth patches on songs like Rush’s “Limelight”.

By default, the Chromatic Scale mode is chosen, and this will be enough for many users. Use the SIXTY other modes to add legato, aftertouch, powerchords (useful for guitar or bass players), and various lead modes that enable the user to select different scales such as pentatonic, blues, minors and majors. Check out the manual for more information. While I didn’t try it in a MIDI stomp box or guitar/bass effects environment, I did use it controlling Mainstage and have no doubts that Guitar Rig, or just about any MIDI-controlled software or hardware, especially using an optional expression pedal for wah or volume would work just fine.

Conclusion: KMI’s 12 Step is a great investment if size is a consideration. It worked very well, it’s ridiculously small and portable, as well as insanely easy to use, and well-built. I have no doubts its carbon fiber construction will allow it to stand up to regular gigging. My only complaint is the flimsy protective sleeve that tore when I tried to shove the USB cable in with the controller. With the price of the unit, I think a more sturdy gigbag with perhaps a pocket and strap or handle would be a nice compliment to an outstanding product.

Reviewed by Terry Goyette
This review © 2018