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!

  • cassiel

    Since you asked, a couple from the vaults, 4 or 5 years ago: some audio slicing/sequencing with monome 128 and audio cubes: – and a demo of a rendering system in Java and Python called “shado”:

  • LegsMechanical

    Why the world sleeps on nativekontrol’s work with the LP (and a ton of other controllers) is a mystery to me.

    Custom LP/Live interface with step sequencer/scales:

    Comprehensive Push emulator for LP:

    • Peter Kirn


      Also, I hope I don’t count as ‘the world’ 😉 … but we can certainly let the world know! Will write this up soon.

    • Em

      I’ve had NativeKontrol LPC for a while – it increases the value of my LP significantly. And yes, I also own LPC Ditto and use PDE to emulate Push’s Display. Outside of actually owning a Push, nothing is beating this. I’ve cracked open the Push manual to see how well it’s functions are emulated in Ditto – thoroughly impressed.

    • LLCoolJeans

      thanks for posting this. I just bought the MPKRX. Haven’t used it yet but it should make my MPK61 exactly how I want it to work. Comprehensive control over DAW from the MPK so I can do most important functions right from there. <3. Now I just have to get used to live from fl studio…

  • Lloyd Barrett

    I’ve found the LaunchpadS as a controller for Numerology 3 is brilliant for playing with external synths.
    Also the J74 ISOControllers are very useful in Live – (

    What would be better is combination of the two.


    This blog post appeared on the LinuxAudio planet (, but it has nothing to do with Free Software or Linux oriented audio as far as I can tell.

    Maybe you can set up a category or tag so that your posts there are filtered? I’m interested in your articles, but only as far as they impact Open Source production, and the Launchpad MIDI device has been specifically designed to work with only proprietary apps. I’d even go so far as to say that Novation and Abelton are deliberately excluding FS users to the extent that they’re able.

    • Peter Kirn

      The scripts are under an open source license, and hosted on GitHub as such, so I felt it was appropriate. And it’s not atypical for those to then be repurposed on open source hardware. (The Launchpad is now driverless, so can work with Linux.)

      But, I’m sorry, on what planet am I personally responsible for another site repurposing our feeds?

  • Johan

    The code for that 11 launchpad display from Sonar is online here:

  • Santo Domingo

    Excellent Peter! Your blog is excellent!
    Saludos desde Buenos Aires