Skip the Computer: BeatStep, Programmed with iPad, SysEx Hack

Blessed be MIDI, again, for making us independent. Frankfurt am Main-based untergeekDE decided he didn’t want to go to a Mac or Windows PC just to edit settings on his Arturia BeatStep. MIDI (System Exclusive messages)m to the rescue. Actually, even calling this a ‘hack’ isn’t really fair: this is exactly how this is supposed to work. Edit the settings you want on the hardware using anything you like, in this case taking advantage of TB MIDI Stuff. That handy app is practically reason enough to get an iPad, even a compatible used one. In the process, untergeek even changed …


Watch how Arturia’s BeatStep Pro sequences all your gear – mega meta roundup

Do call it a comeback. The hardware sequencer, once a forgotten relic of the computer age, has returned with a vengeance. And the reason is simple: we need it. Sure, we might play with a computer, but we’ve fallen for other synthesizers and drum machines – a lot of it quite cheap, too. We want hands-on control so we can play live again, improvise with our hands rather than furrow our brows over a mouse and screen. And we might even have beloved analog gear and want it to groove along with everything else. Few companies represent the blossoming of …

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Launchpad Pro Grid Controller: Hands-on Comprehensive Guide

Novation’s Launchpad Pro is here. It shares the same compact footprint as earlier Launchpads, but adds full color, pressure-sensitive pads, and MIDI inputs and outputs, plus the ability to operate without a computer. So, with other grids to choose from, where does this one fit? The Launchpad line of controllers has always been about simplicity. Even when the original Launchpad was introduced, it did less than its nearest rival, the AKAI APC. But it was popular partly thanks to being simple, light, small, and affordable. That fits many users’ needs, and can be nicely combined with other hardware. The Launchpad …


Akai Launches New MPD Pad Series, with More Controls

Akai is a name synonymous with pad controls, via their MPC. But the MPD line of controllers hasn’t gotten a lot of attention lately – until now. Today, the company unveils a big update to the MPD line. The numbers are parallel to the MPD18, MPD26, and MPD32, but these are really new pad controllers. They remain inexpensive but add additional hands-on controls and features, as well as a redesign of the pad sensing that Akai says is “ultra-sensitive.” Sounds a bit like something condom packaging would say, but Akai’s flagship MPC Revolution has terrific pads, so I’ll forgive the …


Mad Zach Has Tips on Finger Drumming, Production, and His Free Live Pack

All those pads – it took virtuoso finger drummer Mad Zach to take advantage of them. Mad Zach’s five free Drum Racks accompany today’s release of Ableton Live 9.2. Since he, frankly, makes most of us look bad with his agile use of the Push hardware, I wanted CDM to talk to him more about what he’s doing. He joins us to share some tips for live performance, production, DJing, and more. 64 Pad Lab by Mad Zach


LK Gives Your iPad or Android Tablet Easy Control of Ableton Live [Gallery, Hands on]

Ableton Live is happily running on your laptop. It’s not yet running on your iPad or tablet, or optimized in any way for touch. And that’s left a window wide open for touch controllers. Now, the question is, is there room for yet another control app? touchAble retains the crown for all-around control of Ableton Live; there’s very little this app doesn’t do, from replicating Live devices to MIDI editing to custom templates. But the relaunched LK, released today, has a few reasons for consideration, as an alternative or complement to other solutions. First, if you’re an Android user, LK’s …


How Akai Advance Could Best NI’s Komplete Kontrol in Smart Keyboards

Smart keyboard controllers that integrate with software have been something various makers have tried frequently over the years, with various degrees of success. Propellerhead helped lead the way with Automap in Reason, which could cleverly link on-screen controls to devices. But by the time this was translated to multiple pieces of software, the resulting “automatic” features could be harder to use on than off. I tried at various points Novation’s ReMOTE, M-Audio’s Axiom Pro, and Cakewalk’s A-PRO keyboards, and found them all to be perfectly nice hardware – once I gave up and turned the automatic stuff off and just …


One Reason to Watch Casio: They’re Step Sequencer Crazy!

Okay, so Casio have crammed a groove box into a Millennium Falcon, and that was a little strange (and means squeezing some of the controls, since the shape is irregular). But now that the shock has worn off, the next question: should we get one for review when it arrives later this March? Should you keep it on your 2015 gear radar? The answer turns out to be yes, as a few readers have told me online and offline. And the reason has to do with a keyboard you probably ignored from Casio a couple years back. Let us explain. …


Maschine 2.2 Proves Playability Matters: Scales, Chords, Arp for Your Pads

There are plenty of things computer drum machines / groove workstations can do to show off. There are plenty of long feature lists they might add. But actually coming up with something you can play? That’s what can really make music better in the studio and live. And that’s why Maschine 2.2 is a welcome update. First off, let’s admit something. Amidst all the clever functionality with grid-based controllers, there’s something that remains useful about a big, 4×4 grid of pads and MPC-style workflows for certain kinds of music. Those bigger targets don’t require a lot of accuracy, and it’s …


MPC Software 1.7: Direct Looping, Better Mixer, Track Automation, Proper Export, and Hybrid Synth

Let’s get one thing straight: now that Akai has made the jump from hardware to hybrid hardware/software, the hardware they make is very, very good. The MPC Studio is slim and messenger bag-friendly, when Native Instruments’ Maschine is big and luggable. The MPC Renaissance is more of a “throw it in your station wagon” affair, but it feels fantastic – the pads are brilliant. The downside has been software. But Akai is making headway there. I’m not convinced the changes are going to make anyone switch, but I can imagine what Akai is delivering here should make existing users very …