There’s a big push among software makers to deliver integrated solutions – and that’s great. But if you’re a big user of both, say, MASCHINE MK3 and Ableton Live, here’s some good news.

NI made available two software updates yesterday, for their Maschine groove workstation software and for Komplete Kontrol, their software layer for hosting instruments and effects and interfacing with their keyboards. So, the hardware proposition there is the 4×4 pad grid of the MP3, and the Komplete Kontrol keyboards.

For Maschine users, the ability to use Ableton Live and Maschine seamlessly could make a lot of producers and live performers happy. Now, unlike working with Ableton Push, the setup isn’t entirely seamless, and there’s not total integration of hardware and software. But it’s still a big step forward. For instance, I often find myself starting a project with Maschine, because I’ve got a kit I like (including my own samples), or I’m using some of its internal drum synths or bass synth, or just want to wail on four pads and use its workflow for sampling and groove creation. But then, once I’ve built up some materials, I may shift back to playing with Ableton’s workflow in Session or Arrange view to compose an idea. And I know lots of users work the same way. It makes sense, given the whole idea of Maschine is to have the feeling of a piece of hardware.

So, you’ve got this big square piece of gear plugged in. Then sometimes literally you’re unplugging the USB port and connecting Push or something else… or it just sits there, useless.

Having these templates means you switch from one tool to the other, without changing workflow. You could already do this with Maschine Jam, which has a bunch of shortcuts for different tasks and a big grid of triggers (which fits Session View). But the appeal of Maschine for a lot of us is those big, expressive pads on the MK3, so this is what we were waiting for.

On the Komplete Kontrol side, there’s a related set of use cases. Whether you’re the sort to just pull up some presets from Komplete, or at the opposite end of the spectrum, you’re using Komplete Kontrol to manipulate custom Reaktor ensembles, it’s nice to have a set of encoders and transport controls at the ready. The MK2 keyboards brought that to the party – so, for instance, now it’s really easy in Apple’s Logic Pro to play some stuff on the keys, then do another take, without, like – ugh – moving over to the table your computer is on, fumbling for the mouse or keyboard shortcut … you get the idea.

And again, a lot of us are using Ableton Live. I love Logic, but there have been times where I find myself comically missing the Session View as a way of storing ideas.

The notion here is, of course, to get you to buy into Native Instruments’ keyboards. But there is an awfully big ecosystem now of third-party instruments (like those from Output, among some of my favorites) that take advantage of compatibility via the NKS format. (NI likes to call that a “standard,” which I think is a bit of a stretch, given for now there’s no SDK for other hardware and host software makers. But it’s a useful step for now, anyway.)

So, here’s how to get going and what else is new.

Maschine 2.7.4

The big deal with 2.7.4 is new controller workflows (JAM, MK3) and Live integration (MK3). Live users, you’ll want to begin here:

How to Set Up the MASCHINE MK3 Integration for Ableton Live [Native Instruments Support]

There are actually two big improvements here workflow-wise. One is Live support, but the other is easier creation of Loop recordings. With the “Target” parameter, you can drop recordings into:

1. Takes
2. “Sounds” (the Audio plug-in, where you can layer up sounds)
3. Pattern (creates both an Audio plug-in recording and a pattern with the playback)

I think the two together could be a godsend, actually, for composing ideas in a more improvisatory flow. The Target workflow also works on MASCHINE JAM (via different controllers).

There’s also footswitch-triggered recording.

So, Native Instruments are finally listening to feedback from people for whom live sampling is at the heart of their music making process. It’s about time, given that Maschine was modeled on hardware samplers.

The Live integration includes just the basics, but important basics – and it might still be useful even with Push and Maschine side-by-side. The MK3 can access the mixer (Volume, Pan, Mute / Solo / Arm states), clip navigation and launching, recording and quantize, undo/redo, automation toggle, tap tempo, and loop tempo.

As always, you also get various other fixes.

Komplete Kontrol 2.0

Again, you’ll start with the (slightly annoying) installation process, and then you’ll get to playing. NI support has a set of instructions with that, plus some useful detailed links on how the integration works (scroll to the botto, read the whole thing!):

Setting Up Ableton Live for KOMPLETE KONTROL

The other big update here is all about supporting more plug-ins, so your NI keyboard becomes the command center for lots of other instruments and effects you own. NI now boasts hundreds of supporting plug-ins for its NKS format, which maps hardware controls to instrument parameters.

Now that includes effects, too. And that’s cool, since sometimes playing is about loading an instrument on the keys, but manipulating the parameters of an effect that processes that instrument. Those plug-ins show up in the browser, now, if they’ve added support, and they also map to the controls.

Scoff if you like, but I know these keyboards have been big sellers. If nothing else, the lesson here is that making your software sounds and effects accessible with a keyboard for tangible control is something people like.

By the way, NI also quietly pushed out a Kontakt sampler update with a whole bunch of power-user improvements to KSP, their custom language for extending/scripting sound patches. That’s of immediate interest only to Kontakt sound content developers, but you can bet some of those little things will mean more improvements to Kontakt-based content you use, if you’re on NI’s ecosystem.

All three updates are available from NI’s Native Access.

If you’ve found a useful workflow with any of this, if you’ve got any tips or hacks, as always – shout out; we’re curious to hear! (I assume you might even be making some music with all this, so that, too.)