Life on the grid gets better and better. Yes, these blinky, lighty arrays of squares do continue to proliferate. But musicians are also hacking away to make them more useful.

And they do that with perhaps nothing as much as the Novation Launchpad, a kind of workhorse of the grid world. While one of the simpler grid controllers available, Novation’s hardware is also uniquely affordable – and uniquely rugged, standing up to plenty of abuse.

Here, we get to see how the Launchpad S differs from the original, how both Launchpads can emulate Ableton’s flashy-new Push, and what happens when you play this grid – or turn eleven of them into a really expensive display.

The Launchpad S was a subtle update, but the recently-redesigned went through a detailed video review of those subtle tweaks, visible at top.

Controllerism’s Sunny Haair also has a detailed video showing what happens when the Launchpad emulates Ableton’s Push – no mean feat, given that push has additional controls and color feedback. Interestingly, Sunny is also a Push owner; the Launchpad then becomes a lighter Push substitute on the go.

Built on the hacked Python API for Live, with bits of Hanz Petrov’s step sequencer for Akai’s APC40, the script impressively duplicates both control and melodic features on the Launchpad’s control layout. Henri David of Berlin is responsible for the work, and has fully documented how it works and links to GitHub:


At SONAR this year, there was a fantastic Music Hack Day full of wonders. Launchpads courtesy Novation were on-hand and therefore integrated with many of the hacks. But one of the most impressive was that by Johan Uhle, who rigged some eleven Launchpads into a single, crazy-huge LED display.

Practical? Absolutely not! But this sort of thing might inspire other goodness. And the “because you can” motivation, ideal at hack days, can often lead to other discoveries.

Speaking of which, don’t miss Johan’s other reflections on life and hacking, including how he hacked his brain to speak English (also impressive, speaking as a native speaker):

More on the SONAR Music Hack Day 2013, from the SONAR Festival:

And the official site:
Music Hack Day Barcelona

Just keeps showing up. The Novation Launchpad (original model). Photo (CC-BY) Mooganic.

Just keeps showing up. The Novation Launchpad (original model). Photo (CC-BY) Mooganic.

You’ll find endless Launchpad performance videos online, too, played by artists more dextrous than I. They range from the original – like M4SONIC’s Virus, here, showing off two-handed Launchpad technique (8×16!):

— to this over-achiever Sphereal mashing up some 43 songs:

More in our Grid Tricks series coming soon, so monome, Tenori-On, APC, MPD, and Push owners, we want to hear from you, too!