More like this, please. Novation’s Launchpad 2.0 updates (for Launchpad Mini and X) are a great example of how manufacturers can make it easier to adapt hardware to your setup. Now they’ve added keystrokes to the custom faders and melodic and drum widgets you can lay out on your custom controls.

This matters, because the dark side of controllers being custom-made to fit certain software workflows is it increases the likelihood of them sitting in a corner collecting dust – or worse, in a landfill. (Nooooo!)

Now, to be fair, the basic requirements to solve controller obsolescence are pretty simple. First, make devices driverless (so they support standard USB MIDI class implementation, so they work on any OS). That’s true of most gear nowadays, partly thanks to this unlocking compatibility with iOS. Second, make their controls support MIDI – same.

But Novation here has made this easier, and allows you to use not just MIDI assignment for shortcuts, but also keystrokes. As usual, they also support this via Novation Components, so you have an easy interface that works from any Web browser.

Launchpad evolution

I’ve been following the progress on the Launchpad line here on CDM since the very start – literally, as I reviewed serial# 7 of the first model. That included adding a clever open-source toolkit in Pure data. But Novation’s offerings are now graphical and really easy, all in the browser. So dust off that controller or — shhh, don’t tell too many people this — see if you can get one used / from a friend who isn’t paying attention to what you can do with these now.

Both Launchpad X MK3 and Launchpad Mini MK3 support this new 2.0 firmware. Launchpad Mini gets 4 slots; Launchpad X gets 8. There’s also a Custom Mode Global Channel setting in this release.

Novation has included some Apple Logic Pro examples to get you started, but it’s really creating your own where the fun gets started.

Make your own custom controller layout with widgets

So Novation sent out some news here, but I think they didn’t totally explain how awesome this is. There’s a ton you can do with widgets:

  • Custom keystrokes
  • Add faders, horizontal or vertical (either center-zero, like you’d have on a crossfader or pan fader, or zero at the bottom or left, as you’d have on a volume fader)
  • Chromatic notes
  • Keyboards mapped to scale
  • Drum grids
  • Specific MIDI note triggers
  • Program Change triggers
  • CC buttons

Here that is in the UI:

Good stuff. Check it out in the usual spot (you’ll need a browser with Web MIDI support):

And yeah, it may sound like I’m cheerleading for Novation here, but I am really cheerleading for the idea. Whether it’s the manufacturers themselves or open source community efforts, we urgently need to keep hardware from becoming obsolete. I started June onstage with Ableton’s head of hardware, Jesse Terry, talking about the importance of that from an environmental and ethical standpoint, but also as the entire industry faces real parts shortages that mean you may soon be unable to buy grid controllers as easily and/or as cheaply as you have in the past.

But even beyond that, we’re musicians – we’re happiest when our stuff keeps working and we stay productive.

Now I am going to take my own advice and make some controller layouts with the Launchpad, as this looks both fun and a great way to get some tracks and live sets moving along.