I finally got my copy of Ableton Live 9 Intro from a friend who was coming down to India for holidays. I also bought a new controller!
I had been using M-Audio 32 keystation, which was decent, but it lacked other controls such as knobs and pads. After I started using Live, I realised that a lot could be done using a controller. Midi mapping on Live is super easy, and there was very little I could do with keystation.
So, I decided to buy a controller that offered me more than just keys. My first choice was Akai LPD8, which I thought would complement the keystation by providing all the missing features I was interested in. I would have bought it if I hadn’t come across MPK Mini II that packed in more features. This device combines features of both the above mentioned controllers, and has pitch modulator joystick and an arpeggiator which are kind of cool. It has fewer keys than keystation, which I’m fine with, considering how little I use both my hands to play the keys.
Coming back to Live, I have started using the Intro and it is simply awesome. The best part about it are the limitations! I’m a beginner and guess it is sufficient to work with 12 tracks, 8 scenes, 26 Audio effects and 3 instruments. I don’t think I’m even eligible to use the word ‘limitation’ at this point of time as I’m yet to learn and experiment with what I have. I need to reach the point where I experience the limitations, work within it, and move forward.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, the possibilities in combining sounds are just infinite. I’ve a feeling that working within constraints can help us master little things and achieve goals in parts.
Now that I’ve spoken great things about the two, you can imagine how much more fun it can be when the Mini is plugged into Live.
I had no trouble setting up the Mini with the Live. All I had to do was to go to the preferences in Live, and update the Midi sync tab. Just select the MPK control surface and the corresponding input, output, and then turn on the track, sync and remote for the input MIDI ports and you are good to go.
I loaded some samples and it was fun playing them on the pads. Even more exciting is how you can map the knobs to various parameters like cutoff, Q, LFO etc and change this as you are playing.
You already begin to feel like an electronic musician! Such is the power of Live.
The only thing that some of you might like to change is the channels on which the pads and the keys operate. The default editor of MPK has channel 1 set for both the pads and the keys. The problem with this setup is that if your keys are in a certain octave range (say C1, D1 etc) and you have a pad assigned to C1 (or any in that range), then both the key and the pad will trigger the same sound. This might not be desirable, especially when you want both of it to work independently, say when you are playing a solo, you don’t want to hear some drum or trigger some other operation.
The solution for this is to update the channels. Basically the pads and the keys must send signals on different channels so that values do not overlap. This can be changed in the MPK editor, which can be downloaded for free from the website.
If you are using mini II along with Ableton Live and want to have this setup, you might find the below two links extremely useful.