C64s, Control Voltage, MIDI … iPads, Keyboards and Audio: NAMM Saturday [Gallery, Impressions]

Everything old is new again. And everything new is everywhere – at least if we’re talking iPads and so on. At Anaheim’s massive gathering of music gear, there were some definite themes. Photographing for CDM, James Grahame and Marsha Vdovin give us a look at the tools on the floor. James has stumbled upon various fascinating oddities, and of course the booth celebrating MIDI’s 30th anniversary. (We’ll be talking more about MIDI’s history and legacy in the coming weeks.) From top, the keyboard models that made the history first connection, and a Commodore 64 talking to an iPad. Synthtopia has …

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Novation Puts Launchpad in a Keyboard, Makes iPad Apps Part of the Experience [Q+A]

What should a keyboard controller do for you in 2013? Should you plug it into Ableton Live and get colored control of clips? Or leave the laptop at home and use it with an iPad for synths and loops? Novation takes on both those ideas in their latest offering. Back in fall 2009, CDM was the first to get a hands-on with Novation’s Launchpad. At the time, this was big news. Grid controllers had gained popularity in the handcrafted, niche monome community, but hardware built just for Ableton Live with an integrated, light-up grid was something novel. Maschine, Push, and …

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Giant Steps for Step Sequencing: Two Free Ableton Sequencers, with a Twist

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of physical control of a step sequencer for immediate, musical results. But you’d be forgiven for thinking there isn’t much more you can do with the concept. Think again. New step sequencers demonstrate how to get more with less, using clever tricks to maximize the musical variations you can get with just a few pads. They’re each free, and they’re each from Ableton Live, coming to us from our friends Sebastian Tomczak aka little-scale, the obscenely-prolific musical inventor in Australia, and Matt Black (UK, of Ninja Tune / Coldcut fame) working with Ableton guru …

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Novation MiniNova: Little Keyboard, Vocal Effects, $500 – From a Synth Design Great [First Look]

Being popular as a person may be a complex formula. But for keyboard synths, “a fun, cute, cheap date” just about covers it. And — sorry, any snobs out there, but no complaints about that. So it is that Novation has a 37-keyboard that combines lots of sound and effects from the company’s UltraNova into a compact body, bringing the price at dealers to about $500 bucks US. (Actually, to quote Novation’s press release, personally I endeavor to be “compact” and “affordable,” myself, though I don’t think I qualify as “amazingly powerful.”) It’s impossible to look at this and not …

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Lauflicht 2 is One Tricked-Out Step Sequencer for Launchpad, Renoise

Late at night, you may hear them, a distant tapping of fingertips against pads and keys. They are the hackers, geeking away the late hours to make insanely-sophisticated custom musical contraptions, engineering some new forms of dance music or other electronic pattern. Thilo Geertzen is the latest, back with an even more pumped-up edition of the step-sequencer-on-stereoids that is Lauflicht. Sure, big hardware vendors are hard at work on hardware/software integration, but this is the DIYer’s answer. It’s a plug-in that combines Renoise’s powerful tracker-derived music construction features with Novation’s popular, now affordable-as-ever Launchpad. It’s bio-directional, fully integrated with the …

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As Battle to Define Digital DJing Heats Up, Dubspot Tests Novation Twitch

The evolution of what we now call “DJing” is inseparable from the turntables and mixer. So, what happens when you enter the digital domain and you really don’t need to refer to either device? Many digital DJ controllers have simply mimicked those previous inventions, with virtual tables and a mixer-style layout. To some extent, they must, not only for familiarity but to even make it possible to perform the kind of tasks DJs expect. Then again, the computer, endless shapeshifter that it is, can do whatever you like. And so we’re beginning to see mass-market controllers marketed at DJs – …

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Fruity Loops Gone Live: New FL Studio Performance Mode in Alpha (Video)

FL Studio, beloved to its users by its original name “Fruity Loops,” has long had a Playlist mode that could be used to assemble simple live performances by jumping to sections of your music. But a new alpha mode takes this mode far further. It’s still based on the Playlist, but can add clips dynamically – including Audio, Automation, and Pattern. While still in early testing, developer Image-Line has released some information about how triggering works, as well as the video above. And oddly enough, just like the video we saw earlier this week in Renoise, it employs a Novation …

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More Renoise Step Sequence Goodness: Launchpad + Lauflicht (Other Controllers, Too)

There’s a beautiful immediacy and tactile quality to hardware step sequencers. And there’s all the flexibility, convenience, and power of software. Solution: combine them. We’ve been following various custom creations for the music production tool Renoise – the latest being a lovely performance grid, and back in 2009, the beginnings of Launchpad grid sequencing. You can thank Renoise’s powerful API, which allows its users to modify the way the app works with surprising ease (at least for the hack-inclined), all for free. The latest is Lauflicht, an 8-, 16-, or 32-step step sequencer for the Novation Launchpad controller (or, alternatively, …

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Random Fun: Novation Launchpad as Live EQ Display, Built in Processing

If you’ve got a whole bunch of colored lights, it seems only right to do something with them. Cacheflow sends a fun little hack with a Novation Launchpad. Of course, turning a Launchpad into a live EQ display means you can’t simultaneously use its lights to, like, play the Launchpad, but provided you have another controller, this could be a fun way to liven up your stage setup. We looked at a free e-book on Processing last week; if you’re playing with Processing, you can now use a handy, free library to integrate this simple and elegant coding tool with …

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Novation’s New MIDI Keyboards: Automap, Aftertouch, Ableton Pads

Novation has unveiled their newest product, a line of USB MIDI keyboards called Impulse. Shipping in September, they’ll run street/dealer prices of US$249.99 for the 25-key, $349.99 for 49 keys, and $399.99 for 61 keys. This pits Novation squarely against some similar MIDI keyboards, including the M-Audio Axiom to which I gave the nod in a Keyboard Magazine round-up I wrote. (It even has a similar control surface layout.) The Novation picks up on some of the issues I noted, and adds some unique features: Aftertouch. Keybed quality is paramount for obvious reasons. What’s typically missing, for those who like …

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