A piano keyboard or fretboard is set up with a particular mapping of pitch in mind. But the major advantage of any undifferentiated grid is the ability to work with scales. You can have any tuning and modes you like. A new free update to Novation’s Launchpad Pro adds that functionality to their grid controller – and that transforms how you’d use it musically.

scalemode

Now, Novation’s grid controller is far from the first such hardware to add the ability to map the pads to scales. Native Instruments’ Maschine (4×4) and Ableton’s Push (8×8) each have scale modes for their grids. But the Launchpad Pro has a few advantages that make its addition significant. For one, it’s pretty affordable. It has a uniquely simple layout – one that isn’t specific to a particular piece of software – and that makes getting to scale mode quick and easy.

And, crucially, Launchpad Pro works standalone with MIDI gear even without a computer, so this means the same scale functionality works with all your other gear, whether the laptop is handy or not.

image002

There are some 32 scales packed into the Launchpad Pro. That includes all the so-called “church” modes (Major, Minor, Phrygian, Locrian, whatnot), though those are a bit confusingly not all in the first group. But there are also a bunch of additional scales, including the jazz “BeBop” scales (I remember practicing these at jazz camp, literally), and Ukranian and Hungarian modes, plus lots of Japanese options.

There are some clever implementation details, too – which again set this apart from something like Maschine or Push in terms of getting right at playing the scales.

SHIFT + NOTE enters the mode; NOTE leaves it.

You can choose an OFFSET to decide how far apart each successive row is from the last. This is huge, actually, as it means there are really 7 x 32 layouts, not just 32 – you aren’t restricted to the developer’s choice as far as how the intervals are spaced vertically between rows.

You choose a root note and an offset and have the layout just where you want it.

And when you save that setting, too, it sticks – in standalone or software mode. (The only trick to this is you can’t load up a few different scales quickly for a performance set – you’ll have to swap them on the fly.)

Now, what a keyboardist is doing essentially is teaching your brain “scales mode” on the piano keyboard, so this may still not win you over if you don’t like grids. But to me it’s a pretty useful tool, and the Launchpad Pro grid feels great and has terrific velocity response – maybe my favorite for an 8×8 grid. (My 4×4 grid favorite remains the latest Maschine revision, but playing a 4×4 and an 8×8 grid are oddly really different.)

Full details are in the support section (there’s both the firmware updater and a PDF):
https://novationmusic.com/launch/launchpad-pro/support-downloads

This is normally the point where I complain about the Launchpad Pro not having something for those of us with poor finger skills, like a repeat mode. But… actually, maybe that isn’t a good idea. Watch this video Novation have produced of Harry Coade playing the instrument. (It also gives a good overview of what this mode is about.)

Given there are lots of step sequencers and things with various quantized repeat modes out there, this makes me want to just stop complaining and embrace some human rhythms — and actually practice. So, ironically, the Launchpad with scale mode might be the thing that convinces you to play more off the grid.

  • leolodreamland

    Seriously I’m becoming a Novation fan for life, there isn’t a week goes by where they don’t release an update that makes everything so much better… i bought the circuit and launchpad pro and i’m using launchpad app and blocs wave in all my live sets now. i swear they read my mind when i think “now wouldn’t it be cool if it worked like that”

    • Immon

      Novation are smashing it atm

    • kobamoto rin

      please help a fellow Novation fan out and request that they put panning in the launchpad app, the blocs wave app, and the circuit groovebox…… for gods sake please!!!

  • PaulDavisTheFirst

    re: the offset per row …

    in developing push 2 support for Ardour, I’ve had to consider why Ableton used a value of 3. Maybe I blinded myself to the other possibilities, but I am strongly convinced that when playing a grid-pad, you really only have 3 useful digits. The thumb and pinky finger are just not useful if you want to play melodies at speed. Grid pads are different from pianos because you run the risk of hitting an undesired pad in a 2d space, not the 1d space representated by a keyboard.

    So the offset=3 value means that you can play 3 notes of the scale with those fingers on one row, then move up one row and start over, with very little hand movement and great speed. So the precise fingering for an ascending scale run looks like this, starting the “bottom left”, which can be anywhere on the grid-pad itself:

    . . . etc.
    789
    456
    123

    I guess I can see some potential value for offset=4 for people who can use their pinky finger as part of the set, but larger values seem more to do with an intellectual benefit rather than an ergonomic one.

    • Ah, but it depends on what you’re playing… for example, chords 😉

      I mean, I’m pretty used to reaching longer distances to finger different harmonies (even monophonically)… I think playing style, which *other* instruments you’ve been playing, harmonic content, lots of variables here.

      I have to actually check out your Ardour Push support.

      • PaulDavisTheFirst

        It isn’t available in a build yet. It is in the push2 branch, which will get merged in before the release of 5.1. Hint: we just released 5.0 ….. Things works quite well already but there are a lot of details and improvements I want in place before I set it before the world.

  • Henri David
    • Z Wolf

      Thank you so much for sharing this. Just one night of playing around with this has changed my life.

  • Mark Lentczner

    I’ve been playing with it extensively since it came out. Here are some notes:

    1) The “church” modes are all clumped together in the first two rows because the scales on the first two rows map exactly to the scales available on Circuit, which has only 16.

    2) Overlap is logical from a physical mapping point of view, but you must remember that the interval jump per row will depend on how many notes are in the scale and which scale degree you are on:

    Example 1: C Major (7 scale degrees), Overlap 5: F is above C, G above D, etc… giving intervals of a 4th for every note except F, which has B above it, a tritone.

    Example 2: D Blues (6 scale degrees), Overlap 6: G above D (4th), Ab above F (min 3rd), A above G (maj 2rd), C above Ab (maj 3rd), D above A (4th), F above C (4th)!

    Different scales, and different overlaps lead to different styles of chords and melodic lines one plays, and is nice for pushing myself beyond “standard” approaches to those scales.

    3) Playing the chromatic grid w/an overlap of 3, (yielding 4ths consistently), is a very different musical experience – you focus more on chordal form (since every finger shape is always exactly the same species of chord), and easily take excursions from standard keys and scales. Note: This is the same layout as the original Note mode on the LP Pro – only the original mode has a better lighting pattern for this – so I turn scale mode off to play this way.

    4) When playing chords on grid, overlaps that give intervals in the 4th and 3rd range are best (remember the fingers are one or two rows apart – so if the note above is a 4th or 3rd, then the next over is generally a 4th or 5th which works for the middle finger, then two over but back on the same row is usually a 3rd of some sort).

    Paul’s comment is correct, there are only two or three overlaps that are useful, but which they are depends on which scale you are using (see examples above, but generally fewer scale degrees need bigger overlaps ), so the overlaps provided are all useful, given the variety of keys.

    These overlaps work melodically, too… but also setting the overlap so that the rows are octaves apart (like on Circuit, so with a scale with 7 degrees, an overlap of 1) works very nicely for melodic work as well.

  • Ben Mason

    Is it possible to combine overlap and chromatic mode to produce rows separated by fifths? #violmatters :p