Touchscreens? Good, old-fashioned faders, knobs, and pads? Why not just use what suits the job – especially when you can choose both on the cheap?

Nay-Seven shares some of his latest work with Usine, the brilliant, modular and touch-centric tool for Windows. It’s a futuristic rig that’s also down-to-earth. Touchscreen monitors can be had for around US$300 street, and the Akai LPD8 and Korg nanoKONTROL controllers each figure under a hundred bucks. Usine, the software, is a bargain for its depth at EUR120, and free and educational versions are available.

Cost aside, though, this also puts sound making directly under your fingertips. Even aside from live performance, that means making sound kinetic — essential in the studio, too.

I asked Nay-Seven to comment on how he’d thought through this particular set of controllers – coming just as we cover the work done on grid-based sample control with mlrv2 and fader-based control in Max for Live:

Yeah, was funny to see your article at the same time I was working on this video..

My actual reflection is about the best place of a touchscreen in a set. And I join you in the idea that software has added a layer to the hardware.

Here, I use the LPD8 and the nanoKONTROL as an instrument, because we all prefer to use real pads and push-buttons to play, but itโ€™s so fantastic to customize those tools to our own needs. And itโ€™s more and more easy and quick. I’m using here the next version of Usine (it will be public soon), which adds polyphony in sub-patches. You create a sampler with the switch, add the buttons you need, change the polyphony of this patch to 5 and itโ€™s done — you have a 5-voice polyphonic sampler !

I suppose the future will be a balance of all this, some customizable tools for users, more and more easy-to-use, real pads, keys, and faders so we can feel our musical expression, and a touchscreen to provide new tools like graphics and physical models.

Heaven, in fact. ๐Ÿ˜‰

More from the video description:

Here’s a work where I use the sequencer of Usine not to sequence audio or midi but patches: patches appear only when I need them, an easy way to have only the controls you need on the screen. I also associate here works with faders and pads via personal patches for [Akai’s] LPD8 and [Korg’s] nanoKONTROL and the use of a touchscreen . Made with Usine ( ) thanks also to Michael Ourednik for his great vst Argotlunar

Note: Argotluner is free and open source (GPL) and has both a Windows and Linux (32-bit + 64-bit) build. Someone could build it for Mac, too.

nay-seven also uploads some patch images, so I’ve included those here. The granular patch, top, controls Argotluner. LPD8 and nanoKONTROL patches, bottom, connect to hardware (see callouts on the Korg image).

All images courtesy Nay-Seven – be sure to check out his excellent Flickr account.

Bonus: here’s a nice video demonstrating the touch side of things, posted in September.

  • Usine is great! I love cost-effective rigs, especially living in a 3rd world country, where things are expensive and difficult to get. 

    I am surprised that the AKAI controller has MIDI feedback. Didn't know. I swapped a nanoKontrol for a Nocturn some time ago to get some visual feedback. I wonder if the new nano line has this feature. Otherwise they are almost useless to me. 

  • greaterthanzero

    I haven't had a lot of luck with AKAI's MIDI feedback.  Specifically, I couldn't make my patches immune against the default behavior of a light turning on when you press a button and turning off when you release it.  That may just be poor mapping on my part, though.  I'll readily admit, I gave up pretty early.

  • zimonsz

    wow great! where i can find the LPD8 player

  • coteaa

    Great show! very interesting what is coming down the road!

  • 23fx

    usine FTW! hey nay, u got independant feedback for lpd8 vs trigger? might get one.

  • this is impressive – loving the sounds most of all – and the physics control over the physical modelling synth (I'm assuming this is what I'm hearing). Nice.

  • First thank you peter for this post and your kind words !
    @zimonsz : those patch will be a part of addons soon , certainly with next release.

    About the midi visual feedback , you can have it in different way : if you need on/off position , you need to use the toggle mode in the editor
    To have a sequence ,in Usine you just have to use the midi learn on the leds and use the remote mode.
    The problem was to have the 2 function in same I've found a way , not really friendly for midi flux but works : when a pad is pressed i use a clock module to send constant CC value to this hop

    And thanks also for your cool comments

  • yum

  • Thats it, constant CC to maintain status..

  • al

    working on a similiar concept
    of making a live audio manipulation looping thingymajigg utilizing all my available midi controlers using max/msp 4.6 demo

    ive got most of the core control elements done

    for my lpd8 – nanopad- korg ea1- bcd3000- exsession – and kp3

    only problem is ive got 6 days left
    and the audio engine aint finished

    does anyone know if i can authorise max/msp 4.6 as its no longer supported and how much will it cost to use this version


  • I am actually quite eager to get Max for Live myself so I can try all that! For now though I'm running a similar setup with an LPD8, Nanokontrol and Launch Pad.

    In "composing mode" I use the LPD8 for drums, the Launch pad for clips, arming and soloing and the nano for the mixer.

    In "live" mode, I use the pads from the LPD8 in CC mode to turn on and off effect racks with the knobs going to the macros.

    With the nano, scene 1 goes to the main mixer, scene 2 is mapped to each element within the drum rack so I have control over mutes, solos and levels.

  • I use an Electribe ESX, I have pads, I have knobs, 3 FX processors, 14 channels, plus countless stuff, all in one box. I compose, I play live… 

    PD: I also use M4L, but for video ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Fractal

    Nay-Seven FTW ^^

    I'm soo sad to have any time to make music in this moment…but Usine is my favorite software

    Stay innovative Nay ๐Ÿ˜‰


  • hey, cool to see you here Fractal !
    hope you’ll find a way to back to Music and Usine

  • Apple missing the boat in this area…