I’ve just got my hands on an MPD18.

MPD18

My primary controller, the launchpad, lacks velocity sensitivity, so I purchased an MPD18 to control the drums for live performances much like the fantastic galapagoose.

It worked straight away and linked automatically with drum racks in ableton live and kong in reason, but the sensitivity was shockingly poor. You had to smash them to reach a reliable velocity.

Since I was looking to be only performing the MPD18 pads with only one hand I needed them to be much more sensitive.

Luckily plenty of people online have vouched for a simple and cheap solution to this problem.

By removing the plastic fader (it takes a strong tug), then unscrewing the back panel, you can expose the rubber sheet that makes up the drum pads.

MPD18 Interior

With this sheet attach roughly 4 layers (to taste) of electrical tape to the circular parts on the back of each pad.

By the end it should look something like this;

Pads

This trick reduces the gap between the pads and the sensors meaning that the pads become a lot more sensitive. It does violate your warranty but it makes the controller actually usable.

With this I found that I could comfortably play the MPD18 with one hand and still have quite a dynamic range of MIDI velocities to work with.

Its first semi-public outing will be with QUBe this wednesday (when were not playing cowpong we make some interesting music). I will be using the MPD18 alongside my joystick effects controller. The two in combination can make some pretty otherworldly sounds.

A video demonstration of MaxTilt, a device that accesses the built in accelerometer & light sensor in Macbooks and converts the data into MIDI.

Click here for a free download for the M4L version of MaxTilt.

Click here for a free download for the Max Runtime version of MaxTilt.

Instructions on how to use can be found here.

*Note, version 1.2 has been released in the links above. Instructions for these versions can be found on the same pages.

Macbook Accelerometer & Light Sensor to MIDI M4L device

After giving the SmackTop app by the awesome Altitude Sickness a go I wanted to make my own smoother version of it that didn’t require whacking my precious laptop.

A quick google search didn’t come up with anything so I decided to make my own.

This works much like the tilt function on a monome does except its built into your macbook already. I’ll upload a tutorial/demo video next week.

DOWNLOAD IT HERE

MaxTilt accesses the built-in accelerometer featured in all Macbooks made after 2005 and outputs MIDI messages based on X & Y orientation.
It also accesses the light sensor beside the webcam and outputs MIDI messages.


———————-SETUP————————

1. Download the aka.booklight & aka.bookmotion max externals from here:http://www.iamas.ac.jp/~aka/max/

2. Unzip and copy the .mxo and .help files to the ‘externals’ folder within MaxMsp (for me this was applications>Max5>Externals. You may have to create this folder if it doesn’t exist already. Ensure this directory is within the searchable MaxMsp filepath by opening Max, and clicking options>file preferences, pressing the + button to create a new path called ‘Externals’ and selecting the folder path you had just created).

——————————-MIDI SETUP————————-

1. Open ‘Audio MIDI Setup’

2. In the toolbar select ‘Window’ -> ‘Show MIDI Window’

3. Double Click on IAC Driver

4. Make sure ‘Device is online’ is checked

5. Click on + to add a port.

6. Rename this port something like ‘MaxTilt’

——————-ABLETON——————

1. In preferences go to the MIDI Sync tab.

2. Ensure that Track & Remote for the Input of your new virtual MaxTilt port are active

3. For the virtual MaxTilt output port make sure only the Track is activated.

4. Drag the MaxTilt device to a new MIDI track

5. With the I/O settings for the new MIDI track, set its MIDI output to the new virtual MaxTilt port you created, and any MIDI channel you prefer.


———————CALIBRATION————————-

1. Position your laptop in the orientations shown in the three pictures and press the corresponding buttons when in each position.

————————-MIDI MAPPING——————

1. Hit the MIDI map button in ableton.

2. Select the parameter you wish to control.

3. Move your laptop in the direction you want to control the parameter (or shine a light/cover the light sensor.)
*note; you must move the laptop in one pure direction, i.e. hard left/hard right, straight up/straight down. If you lift the back right of your laptop in the air for example you will be outputting two midi messages simultaneously and ableton will not know which to midi map.

————————————————————————————

The MaxTilt device should then be fully calibrated and midi-mapped and you should be able to control any filters or reverb sends like a wizard.

This Max4Live device uses two externals made by Masayuki Akamatsu.
Inspired by the awesome Altitude Sickness’ SmackTop.

So when it comes to buttons and controllers, things can get expensive. My Novation Launchpad cost around €100. A monome can be five times that. 

While I’d love to have another launchpad or monome to add to my live gear I couldn’t justify spending so much money on something I already own. So instead I’ve bought this:

Keypad

It might not be sexy or give lighted feedback but this £6 usb numeric keypad makes the perfect midi controller. I was thinking I’d have to make a simple max patch that converted qwerty commands in to midi messages but of course in ableton midi clips can be triggered by qwerty presses. 

So this cheap little keypad is now my glitch box. Dummy clips in ableton are keymapped to automate effects on the master bus including beat repeats, and grain delays. It works perfectly. Even the buttons feel sexy.

Add this to the $15 usb joystick aswell and I can happily bash away at them without fear of needing expensive replacements.

happy mofo

Since moving over to a mac laptop one of the things I’ve been looking forward to trying is the ‘autonome’ app for launchpad by demian tools.

Buttons

During my live set I usually stopped between songs to load up a new song in ableton live. This meant slow awkward silences between songs.

With the Autonome app, it allows you to choose which midi channel your buttons presses are being transmitted. Before I was stuck with only one channel but now there are 16. Meaning I can switch between up to 16 different songs on the fly. 

To do this I have to combine all of my live sets into one megaset. This is taking forever but it’ll all be worth it.

The autonome is by far the best app for launchpad there is out there. I tried in the past to program something similar myself and failed miserably. Heres a video of it in action (not by me; from www.demianlab.com)

You can download it from here

I’ve been messing around with some live performance ideas lately.  ’Lokey’ over on the wonderful monome forums put up a link to an interesting max4live device called b-keeper. It tracks the tempo of your drumming via microphones on your bass drum and snare and sets the tempo in ableton.

So I was instantly thinking if I hook up my drums to this, then I could send pre-recorded midi riffs to say, a disklavier (they have one in sarc that I will get a chance to play around with around October time), then I could have a live jam with a phantom piano player with adaptive tempo according to my lead. Put simply I can jam with a robot piano and I can set the tempo just by drumming faster or slower and the robot piano will follow my lead automatically.

Magic!

Although I’ve been testing it today.. its a bit of a pain to set up and once it does get going it doesn’t take to quick tempo changes nicely. It can only manage say going from 100bpm to 120bpm over a minimum of 30 seconds which isn’t fast enough to have noticeable quick shifts in tempo. 

I’ll keep hacking away at it though, it definitely has potential.

disklavier in action

One of my quick demonstration videos of a diy ribbon midi controller went over a thousand views there recently.