That didn’t take long – there’s already a how-to video for using an iPad as a multi-touch controller for Ableton Live. Great work, Atlanta music tech wizards! You can thank RyanNoise.com. Note: See notes for why they’re using this combination of software. Code is online in GitHub. Updated: the video has been refreshed (clips needed re-arranging), and we’ve got more details and some good discussion happening in comments.

Wrote this in haste and didn’t get to really point out why it’s cool:

  • OSC provides control of clips – a feature the open source project used here will continue to develop.
  • For everything else, you also get MIDI support, translated in this case by Osculator for Mac but possible with other Mac/Windows tools and soon also the Live API.
  • More will come in the future – the project is open on GitHub so anyone can contribute, and more sophisticated integration is planned. That means a nice rival (or companion, if you’re really lucky) to JazzMutant’s just-released Mu. The competition could spur lots more to come in Live performance.

TouchOSCiPad info is at http://marshall-law.co.nz/touchoscipad/
Code on GitHub: http://github.com/willrjmarshall/AbletonOSC

Of course, I have to make a few observations, just to observe that there are a number of different directions all this technology can go – not necessarily that one alternative is superior to the others, so much as we have lots of choices ahead.

1. This would be a lot easier if Ableton had native OSC support. Via Zeroconf and built-in support for OSC, this actually could be made as easy as turning on the iPad (or another device) and having instant control of Ableton.

2. Alternatively, who says you wouldn’t just run Live on the tablet instead of carrying two devices?Details are murky, but with gadgets like the HP Slate coming later this year, there’s nothing saying you won’t soon be running both control and Live (or another performance tool) directly on your tablet-style device – no separate controller needed. And with actual USB support, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be routing audio through a lousy, underpowered headphone jack, either. The downside – and it’s a big one – I’m not yet convinced any of these devices this year will come close to the quality and responsiveness of the iPad touch input. Then again, maybe you’ll be willing to sacrifice some of that in order to run Ableton (albeit a CPU-optimized set); time will tell.

3. And it’s not just Live you may use live. For anyone who’s been waiting for Live to have some competition for your onstage time, check out videos like the one after the break. I’m still concerned by the reliance on the iPad’s headphone jack, though, which could mean, again, some of these alternative tablets become interesting over the course of 2010.

So, anyone complaining about this being “all iPad news,” it’s not – it’s about more than the iPad. What’s evolving now can lead to a variety of options. If there’s an angle you want (controlling traditional apps with multitouch, using new apps on a tablet, remaking traditional apps on more powerful tablets), it’s happening.

And keep in mind, there’s really no reason the iPad will be the only platform in this game – Linux-, Windows-, and more mature Android-powered tablets are all in on the act, too, each with their own strengths and weaknesses for developers and users.

For a glimpse of some of the new ideas people are exploring with touch-controlled music interfaces, check out this video of the promising-looking chipPad for iPad, from Earsmack. It’s a fascinating variation on the grid concept – really, not quite the monome’s MLR, but something else.

chipPad for iPad from earsmack on Vimeo.

  • http://zombie-j.com zombie-j

    this isn't really that great a video – i wasn't able to locate the python remote control scripts on the website mentioned in the video, and they aren't really necessary. I used osculator to make OSC->midi mappings and assigned them to my ableton dj template last night. the wireless of the ipad gives a touch more latency that a wired controller, but an hour of practicing and i got used to it.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I think they seem to be adding extra steps as I watch again. But I do appreciate them sharing. If someone cares to document the process here, go for it.

  • http://RyanNoise.com Ryan Noise

    Just to let you know, You can download the python remote control scripts from ( RyanNoise.com/LiveOSC.zip ) until the new Scrip is done

    Sorry for any inconvenience

  • http://drift.es tricil

    Ryan will be speaking at our local Atlanta Ableton Users Group Tuesday 4/13 along with Richard Devine and his Jazzmutant Mu (the new max for live automappy thing) Lemur.

    More info here: http://abletonatlanta.blogspot.com/2010/04/april-

    Peter, if you'd like to add this to the post, please feel free and thank you.

    Johnny

  • http://marshall-law.co.nz Will Marshall

    Hey guys,

    I've moved this project to it's own Github repository at http://github.com/willrjmarshall/AbletonOSC and given it a dedicated page at http://marshall-law.co.nz/touchoscipad/

    There are reasons to use both Osculator and the Python API. Osculator makes it easy to translate OSC into MIDI and back: which simplifies the connection of 9/10s of your controls and lets you sync your iPad up to a hardware controller (like my APC40, in my case) so the controls remain in sync.

    The Python API, however, can handle much more complex behaviour than MIDI. In my software, I've got a simple test-case in which I'm sending Clip Names via OSC to TouchOSC, but obviously there can be much more in-depth functionality here, along the lines of the Jazzmutant Mu template.

    Now the iPad has come out, I am going to restart this project, and get something in TouchOSC and Python that approximates the Jazzmutant Mu functionality. I'll probably use Python rather than Max for Live for this: but I might be able to avoid using Osculator completely, if I stick to LiveAPI-accessible controls.

    I'd really welcome ideas/feedback/etc on this: and developer time, if you're a coder. It'll be released for free and OSS.

  • http://marshall-law.co.nz Will Marshall

    (Basically, anyone can set up simple MIDI control via TouchOSC and Osculator. What I'd like to do is get a Python script enabled that exposes more complex functionality via OSC: and some example templates showing how to integrate nicely with this in TouchOSC. Clip launch grid is the first and most important bit)

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Hey Will – thanks! Yeah, definitely makes sense. And incidentally, in pointing out these other options (like running directly on a tablet), my point is primarily that we'll have various options. Getting smarter about what we're doing will make all these platforms more productive. So it's fantastic to see guys like Will sharing so openly. Keep it up!

    And if anyone makes it to Atlanta Tuesday, do report back!

  • http://marshall-law.co.nz Will Marshall

    Personally, I don't think you could shoe-horn Ableton onto a tablet successfully: it's too complex and the UI is too fiddly/professional/small. The best use-case currently I can see is using the iPad as a controller (with TouchOSC or whatever) for a configured Ableton set.

    I'm interested in seeing whether the Abes will release a cut-down version of Ableton for iPads and stuff: but I suspect the cost/benefit ratio here will make this untenable.

    I suspect dedicated iPad apps will look more like the Korg beatbox app: simpler and friendlier, but less powerful. I can't say this is a bad thing: most of the tools available I think are skewed too heavily towards features at the expense of usability, and the iPad simply prevents this.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Will: The only reason I suggest that is that I have seen people running Live on netbooks. Heck, when I got started, I was running on a 400MHz G4 (though not well!)

    It depends entirely on your setup. If you like keeping complex sets, then it's unlikely to work well. On the other hand, if you find – as I have lately – that you're bouncing a lot of stuff out and keeping low-CPU effects, you might be able to get away with it.

    I don't expect an iPad app, no. But then, that means with a little customization, you might trim Live down to something a bit simpler for performance. Or you might use something else entirely, of course. ;)

    I think then it's a question of whether you'd rather spend your $500 on the iPad because you enjoy the experience of those apps, or spend the $500 on a netbook and have an ultra-compact solution that more resembles your current desktop rig. I'm not advocating one or the other – actually, if I advocated anything, it'd be that desktop developers experiment, too, and not just leave all the fun to the iPad devs. ;) I think it's a matter of interest. I'll be interested to see what people uncover in the coming months.

  • http://thecovertoperators.org Andreas

    "really, not quite the monome’s MLR, but something else."

    is it, though? The only thing different is that you can dynamically change the number of steps. The rest looks juuust about the same.

    Fun, but just an augmented MLR. Still, you could really gig with just that app and an iPad, no problem. Must be fun!

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, the ability to have variable step size in the same width to me is already a radical change – that very limitation is part of the monome's appeal, but also restricts its flexibility. (So, whether it's a good change is dependent on the user.) But also the ability to give steps different functions is a pretty big deal.

  • http://marshall-law.co.nz Will Marshall

    @Peter

    Agreed on all counts, there. My main trepidation about the iPad is that touch UIs basically fail at complex tasks, so the netbook option is much more "powerful" at the same price point.

    What I'm really hoping for from the iPad is a set of high-quality apps with very intuitive UIs. Ableton is awesome, but out-of-the box single-purpose apps which are pretty and fun to play with might help with the creative side. I sink into the dark depths of software hacking too quickly when I'm in front of a full-blown computer with options up the wazoo.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Actually, I'd like to see some of the same reductionism in computer software — that's as much about eliminating distractions as eliminating power or even complexity. It's just eliminating complexity that's there for its own sake.

  • http://debsinha.com deb

    "Much more to come"?

    Oh geez. Guess I'll have to give this blog a miss for a while until (or if) the ipad furor dies down…

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @deb: Are you sure you aren't *already giving the blog a miss*? (i.e., not reading?)

    Here, allow me to quote from what I wrote:

    "So, anyone complaining about this being “all iPad news,” it’s not – it’s about more than the iPad. What’s evolving now can lead to a variety of options. If there’s an angle you want (controlling traditional apps with multitouch, using new apps on a tablet, remaking traditional apps on more powerful tablets), it’s happening.

    And keep in mind, there’s really no reason the iPad will be the only platform in this game – Linux-, Windows-, and more mature Android-powered tablets are all in on the act, too, each with their own strengths and weaknesses for developers and users."

    Translation:

    Touch, control, OSC, interface design, live performance – these are not specific to Ableton Live or iPad. The "more" is "more of lots of other stuff."

  • http://marshall-law.co.nz Will Marshall

    "Actually, I’d like to see some of the same reductionism in computer software — that’s as much about eliminating distractions as eliminating power or even complexity. It’s just eliminating complexity that’s there for its own sake"

    This is very wise. I am finding increasingly that I get better results when I limit my toolkit, hide distractions, and only do one thing. Not something I expected, but it's pretty consistently the case.

  • http://www.myspace.com/fsk1138music FSK1138

    using a iphone or ipad to control live is pointless – for under $800 you can buy a multi-touch laptop or multitouch 20 inch screen and just run live on it

    - this ipad stuff is getting old quick

    - i like the korg ielectribe :) !

    almost as good as Sonic Charge µTonic

  • http://marshall-law.co.nz Will Marshall

    Sure you can: but the Live UI is not designed for touch control, so you'd need to run some kind of MIDI or OSC control surface app regardless.

    The iPad is a good option because A: you've already got a laptop, and B: it's wireless. You can treat it similarly to any other external controller, which is psychologically useful to me at least. It's useful for the same reasons a Lemur is useful even when touchscreen laptops exist ;)

  • HEXnibble

    @Will Marshall: Very excited to hear about the TouchOSC/Python project you're working on. Right now there's TouchControl but it requires Max4Live license for anyone to use it. We need more tools that can just use a python script or max runtime to control and navigate Live with the functionality of Launchpad/APC.

  • http://monome.q3f.org ST8

    I didnt quite get the started quick enough. Heres an initial beta of a proect im working on. Its a port of LiveControl for the monome to TouchOSC. Supports full automap in ableton, should be a piece of cake to scale up for the iPad.

    http://monome.q3f.org/wiki/LiveControl_TO

    its just a midi remote script, no need for max for live

  • http://www.third-space-mind.com/ seejayjames

    Lots of good OSC-based control apps out there, but for me this one looks the most flexible and powerful:

    http://www.nr74.org/c74.html

    Customizable and dynamic like no other control apps, except possibly the Lemur…

    of course, these new ideas and gadgets are appearing all the time, so who knows what's next.

  • Brian

    the python scripts are superfluous secondly, has anyone managed to hack osc or midi over usb yet?

  • Pingback: Some thoughts over the break | 453 Research Compile

  • Dan

    That guy in the video is a real piece of work. I bet he's never worked a day in his life.

  • Serg

    Find application in the appstore called “Midi Studio” it’s best app for midi control and playing on keys