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28. Using the APC Controllers

The APC series is a collection of dedicated controllers for Ableton Live, co-designed by Ableton and Akai Professional*http://www.akaipro.com. The following controllers comprise the APC series:

  • APC40 (first generation)
  • APC40 MkII
  • APC20
  • APC mini
  • APC Key 25

This chapter will help you set up your APC and introduce its capabilities.

28.1 Setup

The APCs are included in the family of Live’s natively supported control surfaces (see 26.5.1), so setup is easy. Once the APC has been powered on and connected to your computer’s USB port, it will be automatically configured by Live. If it does not configure properly you can manually select your APC in Live’s Preferences:

  1. Open Live’s Preferences from the Live menu in OS X, or the Options menu in Windows;
  2. Go to the MIDI/Sync Tab;
  3. Select the appropriate APC preset from the Control Surface chooser. Then select the port that your APC is connected to in the Input and Output choosers:
APC20Setup.png
Setting Up The APC20.

28.2 Clip Launch Matrix

The APC controllers feature a matrix of buttons that gives you physical access to the clips in your Session View (see Chapter 7). The APC mini features 64 buttons arranged in an eight-scene-by-eight-track grid, while the other APC controllers offer 40 buttons (five-scenes-by-eight-tracks).

The color-coding of the clip launch buttons lets you know exactly what is happening in each clip, and directional controls let you move around inside your Session View.

APC40ClipLaunchMatrix.png
Session View Clip and Navigation Controls on the APC40 (first generation).

Pressing a clip launch button triggers the clip in the corresponding clip slot in Live. If the track is armed to record, pressing the button records a new clip.

The buttons in the matrix light up in different colors so you know what’s going on. In the APC40 (first generation), APC20, APC mini, and APC Key 25, the button coloring works as follows:

  • Amber: this slot contains a clip.
  • Green: this clip is playing.
  • Red: this clip is recording.

The APC40 MkII features RGB clip launch buttons, and the button coloring works as follows:

  • The color of non-playing clips in the Live Set will be shown on the corresponding pad.
  • Playing clips will pulse from green to white.
  • Recording clips will pulse from red to white.

Many aspects of the Live interface are replicated on the APC controllers. You can fire horizontal lines of clips with the Scene Launch buttons or stop all music in a track with its Clip Stop button.

Note that the APC mini and Key 25 do not have dedicated Clip Stop buttons. On these controllers, holding Shift while pressing the corresponding Scene Launch button changes the functionality of the eight buttons below the clip launch matrix.

APCKey25SecondaryFunctions.png
Secondary Functionality via the Shift Button on the APC Key 25.

The controller tells you what’s going on in the software, but, importantly, the software also reflects what’s happening on the controller. The clip slots currently being controlled by the APC’s button matrix are shown in Live with a colored border.

The directional arrows and Shift button increase the scope of the clip launch grid:

  • Pressing Up or Down moves you up or down one scene at a time. Hold the Shift button while hitting Up or Down to move five scenes up or down (eight scenes on the APC mini).
  • The Left and Right arrow keys move you left or right one track at a time. Hold the Shift button while hitting Left or Right to move eight tracks at a time.

28.3 Session Overview

(Note: this functionality is not available on the APC mini or Key 25.)

Certain APC models feature a Session Overview that lets you navigate through large Live Sets quickly without looking at your computer screen. Hold down the Shift button and the matrix zooms out to reveal an overview of your Session View. In the Session Overview, each clip launch button represents a five-scene-by-eight-track block of clips, giving you a matrix of 125 scenes by 64 tracks. Hit a button to focus on that section of the Session View. For example, hitting the Shift button and then pressing the button in row three, column one will put the focus on scenes 11-15 and tracks 1-8. Furthermore, while Shift is held, each scene launch button represents a block of 25 scenes (if they are available in your Set.)

In the Session Overview, the color coding is a little different:

  • Amber: indicates the currently selected block of clips, which will be surrounded by the colored border in the software.
  • Green: there are clips playing in that block of clips (though that may not be the block of clips selected).
  • Red: there are no clips playing in that range.
  • No color: there are no tracks or scenes in that range.

28.4 Mixer Section

The APC controllers can adjust mixer parameters for eight tracks at a time. You can shift these eight tracks around the Session View using the directional controls. Press the right or left arrows to move incrementally, one track at a time. Hold the Shift button and press the right or left arrows to jump in blocks of eight tracks at a time.

Both generations of APC40 and the APC20 also feature a Master fader which controls the master volume and a Cue Level knob to control cue volume (see 15.6), so you can pre-listen to a clip or the metronome without your audience hearing it. The specific functionality of the other mixer controls varies from controller to controller. Consult the documentation that came with your specific controller or Live’s built-in Control Surface Reference lesson for more details.

APC40Mixer.png
Mixer Controls on the APC40 (first generation).

28.5 Device Control

(Note: this functionality is not available on the APC20.)

The APC controllers feature faders and/or encoders that map automatically to the parameters of the devices in your Live Set. (see “Instant Mappings”).

Note that the APC mini and Key 25 do not have dedicated device controls. On these controllers, holding Shift while pressing the corresponding track select button changes the functionality of the knobs (Key 25) or faders (mini) to allow for control of device parameters.

APCKey25SecondaryFunctions.png
Secondary Functionality via the Shift Button on the APC Key 25.

On both generations of APC40, the dedicated Track Selection buttons route the eight endless encoders to the first device or Rack on that track, with LED rings to automatically show you the levels on the selected parameter.

APC40DeviceControl.png
Device Controls on the APC40 (first generation).

The cluster of buttons below the dials give you additional control options. On each generation of APC40, these buttons have a slightly different layout, naming, and function:

APC40 (first generation):

  • Clip/Track lets you switch between viewing the devices on a track or the properties of a track’s clip in the currently selected scene.
  • Device On/Off turns the currently selected device on or off.
  • Device Left and Device Right (indicated by two arrows) shift you one step sideways along a track’s device chain.
  • Detail View opens and closes the Clip/Device View, so you can see more of your clips.

Some effects or virtual instruments have more than eight parameters. When holding down the Shift button, the eight buttons in this cluster let you select eight banks of eight device parameters. For more information, see the Control Surface Reference Lesson.

APC40 MKII:

  • Device Left and Device Right shift you one step sideways along a track’s device chain.
  • Bank Left and Bank Right buttons shift to the previous or next bank of eight device parameter controls.
  • Dev. On/Off turns the currently selected device on or off.
  • Dev. Lock locks the device control knobs to the currently selected device.
  • Clip/Dev. View lets you switch between viewing the devices on a track or the properties of a track’s clip in the currently selected scene.
  • Detail View opens or closes the Clip/Device View.

28.6 Transport Control

(Note: this functionality is not available on the APC mini.)

Live’s transport functionality can be accessed via dedicated buttons on the APC controllers. The specific transport functions differ between the different controllers. Consult the documentation that came with your specific controller or Live’s built-in Control Surface Reference lesson for more details.

APC40MkIITransport.png
Transport Controls on the APC40 MkII

28.7 Track Control

(Note: this functionality is not available on the APC20.)

The faders and/or encoders on the APC controllers can be used to adjust pan and send levels for whichever eight tracks are currently selected.

Both generations of APC40s have dedicated encoders for track control. On the first generation APC40, the buttons below these encoders let you change the function of the encoders between pan and the first three sends. On the APC40 MkII, up to eight sends can be accessed by holding the Sends button and pressing one of the eight track buttons. Additionally, the MkII features a User button, which allows the track encoders to be freely mapped to the parameters of your choice.

APC40MKIITrackControl.png
Track Controls on the APC40 MkII

28.8 Tempo and Global Control

(Note: this functionality is only available on the APC40 (first generation) and APC40 MkII.)

Tap Tempo and Nudge Left/Right buttons are useful for live performance, helping you to stay in sync with turntables, other musicians or a live band, and correct timing issues quickly.

APC40TempoGlobalButtons.png
Tempo and Global Control on the APC40 (first generation).
APC40MkIITempoGlobalButtons.png
Tempo and Global Control on the APC40 MkII.

As you hit the Tap Tempo (see 9.1.2) button once every beat, the tempo of the Live Set will follow your tapping.

If the “Start Playback with Tap Tempo” button is enabled in Live’s Record/Warp/Launch Preferences, you can also use tapping to count in: If you are working in a 4:4 signature, it takes four taps to start song playback at the tapped tempo.

On stage and in the studio, you may find yourself in situations in which you need to adjust to sources that aren’t locked to one tempo, such as live musicians or turntables. You can use the Nudge buttons (see 9.1.3) to temporarily speed up or slow down Live’s playback to match what you hear.

Metronome turns the metronome (see 16.4) on and off. On the APC40 Mk II, the Tempo encoder adjusts Live’s tempo in increments of one BPM. Holding Shift while adjusting will set the tempo in increments of .1 BPM.

The first generation APC40 has a button called MIDI Overdub which enables Live’s Session Record button (see 4.11). On the MkII, this functionality is controlled with the Session button.

Record quantization (see 16.5) can be toggled between “none” and the last selected record quantization setting by pressing the Rec. Quantization button (first generation APC40 only).

Live’s global launch quantization (see 4.11) can be set from the APC40 MkII by holding Shift and pressing the Track Select buttons. (Note that this functionality is not available on the first generation APC40.)

28.9 Crossfader

(Note: this functionality is only available on the APC40 (first generation) and APC40 MkII.)

Both generations of the APC40 feature a replaceable crossfader, an essential DJ control that can also be reprogrammed for controlling effect, volume, and modulation curves.

In Live, you can set any track as an A or B destination, and then crossfade (see 15.5) between the A and B selections. The MkII also has dedicated crossfade assign buttons for each track.

APC40MkIICrossfadeAssignButtons.png
Crossfade Assign Buttons on the APC40 MkII.

Normal wear and tear can render a crossfader obsolete. The APC40’s crossfader is fully replaceable from the bottom of the device, so you can extend the lifetime of this already durable unit.

28.10 Note Mode

(Note: this functionality is only available on the APC20.)

Pressing the Note Mode button changes the functionality of the APC20’s clip launch matrix. When Note Mode is on (i.e., when the button is lit), the buttons on the grid send MIDI notes instead of controlling Live’s Session View.

APC20NoteMode.png
Note Mode Button.

28.11 Footswitches

(Note: this functionality is only available on the APC40 (first generation) and APC40 MkII.)

The first generation APC40 has two ports on the back which allow you to connect momentary footswitches. Footswitch 1 launches the currently selected scene, while Footswitch 2 launches the currently selected clip.

The APC40 MkII features a single footswitch port, which allows for hands-free control of Live’s session recording functionality.

A single tap of the footswitch will toggle Live’s Session Record button, thus switching between recording/overdubbing and playback of the current clip. Quickly double-tapping the footswitch is the same as pressing Live’s New button; it will prepare a scene for recording new clips.

28.12 Customizing the APC Controls

You can change the assignment of all of the knobs, faders and buttons on the APC by enabling the Remote switches in the MIDI/Sync Preferences, as described in the section on manual control surface setup (see 26.5.2).

APC40ManualSetup.png
Setting Up The APC40 (first generation) For Custom Assignments.

Now, by entering Live’s MIDI Map Mode (see 26.1.1), you can override the pre-assigned functions of all of the APC’s controls. On the first generation APC40, the eight Track Control knobs can be assigned in four banks, which can be switched with the buttons below them. Likewise, the Device Control knobs can be assigned in eight banks by holding down Shift while pressing one of the eight buttons below these knobs.

Tip : If you have overridden the APC’s default mappings with manual mappings, you can easily switch back to the defaults by deactivating the Remote switch of the APC’s input port. Activating the switch again will re-establish your manual mappings.

28.13 Combination Mode

(Note: this functionality is not available on the APC mini or Key 25.)

When you connect more than one APC40 or APC20 to Ableton Live, the controllers will automatically work in Combination Mode. You can use up to six total APCs side by side. The topmost controller selected in your preferences will control tracks 1-8, the second controller selected will control tracks 9-16, and so on. When an APC40 and an APC20 are connected at the same time, the APC20’s buttons will default to Track Selection, and its faders will default to volume, allowing swift access to an expanding array of clips and tracks.

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