Archives for August 2010

Max for Live, Launchpad, and sequencing

For my birthday this year I bought myself a copy of Max 4 Live. Even though I already had Reaktor it seemed pretty clear to me that, because I use Ableton Live a lot, M4L would prove to be a superior MIDI handling environment. And I really like the look of the devices that came with M4L (at the time I was mostly interested in Buffer Shuffler but it turns out that the Loop Shifter is considerably more interesting, a real gem in fact).

The last month or so I've really started hacking into M4L. It started with my wanting to do some track routing in Live to make it easy to address multiple Kontakt instruments from a single keyboard. That lead to my first M4L device MIDI KeySwitch.

Recently I was very interested in Audio Damage's Axon plugin. For $59 it seems pretty good value except that I wasn't really interested in the built-in synth and I'm trying not to buy any more plugins for a while. It seemed an ideal opportunity to improve my Max chops, so I thought I'd have a crack at reproducing Axon's neuron sequencer as a M4L device.

Neurotik was duly born and in fact worked pretty well. Here's an early prototype playing a hybrid guitar/piano patch from Omnisphere:

In fact I think this is so promising that I heartily recommend that you buy Axon and have a play with it. Audio Damage have a no-fuss refund policy in the, I think, unlikely event that you don't find Axon pretty inspiring to play with.

Neurotik interface

Neurotik doesn't have Axon's lovely interface or the Audio Damage attention to detail. What it does have is an extra neuron and a more flexible (and possibly less well thought out) design. The extra neuron is because...

Recently I bought myself a Novation Launchpad. I'd been hankering for one as a way of making it easier to launch clips in Live but, at £149, it never justified it's cost. However, when I saw the Novation StepSeq device and realised how the Launchpad could be used to interact with M4L devices I was sold.

As soon as I started thinking about the button matrix on the Launchpad and the connection matrix in Neurotik I realised I had to be able to configure the device from the Launchpad. Then I started thinking about adjusting thresholds in terms of adjusting levels. It just seemed like such a great fit.

This weekend I've taken the first steps towards integrating Launchpad control into Neurotik. So far I have the Launchpad button matrix controlling the connection between the 8 neurons along with the ability to switch the device between 3 sub-modes: connections, thresholds, monitoring.

Probably not a lot of this makes sense unless you (a) know a little about Axon, (b) a little about M4L, and (c) have some passing idea what a Launchpad it. The gist is that I am about 25% of the way towards having my software sequencer entirely controlled by my Launchpad & not needing to touch the computer or look at the screen at all.

That turns a rather geeky sequencer with a dodgy interface that you can tinker with using the mouse into something more akin to a fully-playable instrument with feedback right on the Launchpad.

I'm finding the combination of Max for Live & the Launchpad really rather powerful and exciting.

29/08/2010 23:22 by Matt Mower | Permalink

My kind of noise

For about the last 5 months I've been wanting to get a Novation Launchpad but I kept putting it off because I wasn't sure if it would turn out to be an expensive gimmick.

Well I'm about to buy a new Mac Pro and that's going to be expensive. I figured that, after that I do that, it's going to be very hard to justify buying anything & this was my last chance. So, yesterday, I went to Dawsons in Reading and picked one up.

So far I'm very pleased with it. Clip launching in Live is much easier than using a mouse. I often found it very hard to deactivate one clip and launch another, in a different track, using the mouse and that becomes trivial with the Launchpad. From this admission you can tell I am not a hardcore gamer. The mixer mode looked useless in the video's I've seen but, in fact, I think it could be useful when I'm more used to it.

For the basic functionality I'd say the Launchpad is great, but probably not worth £149 to me. But I don't regret the purchase because I've already found extra value in two ways:

First I played with StepSeq (Novations Max for Live sequencer for Launchpad users), you get some idea what monome users have been enjoying all this time. StepSeq is a bit rough around the edges (it is a beta) and I found it messed with the other modes of the Launchpad when I was using it. But it hints at what I might be able to do with my own Max for Live devices. I have some specific things in mind that I will be trying to develop in the next month.

Second I've found that the Launchpad actually makes a better keyboard for playing LoopShifter than my keyboards. I'm a bit of a LoopShifter freak so this is actually quite cool. I've found that it's easier to remember clusters of good regions in the shifter and quickly swing between them. It makes Loopshifter into a more playable instrument for me.

To that end here's a piece I made last night playing 3 Loopshifter's directly with the Launchpad. Effects used are Dubstation on a send, fed from the 3 Loopshifters, and Eos on the master channel (along with compression & limiting).

The only downsides of the Launchpad I can see so far are that (i) it's not a class-compliant USB device so it requires a driver from Novation, (ii) it's only an 8x8 grid and you quickly realise a Launchpad-128 or Launchpad-256 would be better :)

21/08/2010 10:47 by Matt Mower | Permalink

Glitchy with a laid back feel

I've been playing a lot with LoopShifter which is the main instrument that comes with Max for Live.

I'm still a vastly inexperienced piano player and most of what I try and improvise on the piano sounds really bad as music. But I have a great piano sound and some parts can sound okay (e.g. I play short arpeggio's that sound nice). So I've been feeding little bits of music to LoopShifter and playing with the resulting timbres.

One of the things LoopShifter does really well is a kind of crackly, spitting, granular sound that is often an unwanted by-product in other granular effects/instruments but sounds really good coming out of LoopShifter.

So I've been doing my thing... turning snippets of straight piano into glitchy improvisations and then adding some backing parts with Stylus RMX. In this case a very minimal kick drum with some EQ, delay, and some Replicant.

I felt an urge for it to sound more musical and turned to Omnisphere for some accompaniment parts. Really Omnisphere is such a great idea factory. It's hard to browse the sounds available not find things you want to use.

In the end one of the steel guitar patches, run through Omnisphere's Retroplex delay, had the perfect kind of lazy, ethereal, quality I was looking for. I went about arranging that and then continued rummaging for some more sounds to fill it out.

The resulting track is rather longer, at a little over eight minutes, that I intended and, if i were in a critical mood, i'd say it needed another element to justify that length. But overall I think it's not bad. Hope you enjoy it.

04/08/2010 13:08 by Matt Mower | Permalink
More about:

Ode to a Speck

New track I made yesterday:

I'm still on a granular kick and messing about with Loop Shifter a lot to see what different types of source material come out like.

Update: fixed confusing typo in the title.. i do not make odes to specs!

02/08/2010 11:34 by Matt Mower | Permalink