29. Using the Launchpad
The Launchpad is a dedicated controller for Ableton Live, co-designed by Ableton and Novation*http://www.novationmusic.com/. Launchpad has 64 square-shaped pads and 16 round buttons, all of which are pre-configured to integrate perfectly with Live. This chapter will help you set up your Launchpad, and introduce its capabilities.
Once the Launchpad has been connected to one of your computer’s USB ports, you will need to select the Launchpad in Live’s Preferences. The Launchpad is one of Live’s natively supported control surfaces (see 26.5.1), so setup is quite easy:
- Open Live’s Preferences from the Live menu in OS X, or the Options menu in Windows;
- Go to the MIDI/Sync Tab;
- Select the Launchpad preset from the Control Surface chooser. Then select the port that the Launchpad is connected to in the Input and Output choosers:
29.2 Launchpad’s Four Modes
The row of buttons on the top of Launchpad includes four directional arrow buttons to navigate through the Session View, and four ”mode buttons” which switch between Session mode, User mode 1, User mode 2 and Mixer mode. These modes are explained in more detail below.
29.3 Session Mode
In Session Mode, the Launchpad’s matrix of pads gives you physical access to the clips in your Session View (see Chapter 7). The matrix has 64 three-color pads arranged in a eight-by-eight grid. The color-coding system lets you know exactly what is happening in each clip, and directional controls let you move around inside your Session View.
29.3.1 Launching Clips
When Launchpad is chosen as an active control surface, a ring appears on the Session View in Live to indicate which clips are currently controlled by the pad matrix. This ring is red if Launchpad is enabled in the first of Live’s six control surface choosers. Each chooser has a different colored ring, allowing you to assign multiple Launchpads at the same time.
The directional arrows and the Session button increase the scope of the eight-by-eight grid:
- Pressing Up or Down moves you up or down one scene at a time. Hold the Session button while hitting Up or Down to move eight scenes up or down (bank shifting).
- The Left and Right arrow keys move you left or right one track at a time. Hold the Session button while hitting Left or Right to move eight tracks at a time (bank shifting).
Pressing a Clip Launch pad triggers the clip in the corresponding clip slot in Live. Hitting an empty clip slot in a track that is not armed will stop the clip playing in this track. 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:
- Amber: this slot contains a clip.
- Green: this clip is playing.
- Red: this clip is recording.
You can also fire horizontal lines of clips (Scenes) with the buttons on the right hand side of Launchpad.
29.3.2 Session Overview
The Launchpad’s Session Overview lets you navigate through large Live Sets quickly without looking at your computer screen. Hold down the Session button and the matrix zooms out to reveal an overview of your Session View. In the Session Overview, each pad represents an eight-by-eight block of clips, giving you a matrix of 64 scenes by 64 tracks.
Hit a pad to focus on that section of the Session View. For example, hitting the Session button and then pressing the pad in the third row in the first column will put the focus on scenes 17-25 and tracks 1-8. Furthermore, while “session” is held, each scene launch button represents a block of 64 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 ring 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.
29.4 User Modes
The User modes allow the grid of 64 buttons plus the 8 vertical system buttons to be freely assigned to any parameter in Live. Alternatively, if no assignments have been made then note data will be sent from the 64 button grid in a layout designed to work well with the Drum Rack device (starting from note C1).
When User 1 is selected, Launchpad can be used to play note data into Live’s MIDI tracks (if no custom MIDI assignments have been made.)
When User 2 is selected, Launchpad does not send note data by default. This mode is ideal for doing extensive MIDI customization or programming Max for Live (see Chapter 25) patches.
29.4.1 Customizing the Launchpad Controls
You can change the assignment of all of the Launchpad’s controls by enabling the Remote switches in the MIDI/Sync Preferences, as described in the section on manual control surface setup (see 26.5.2).
Now, by entering Live’s MIDI Map Mode (see 26.1.1), you can override the pre-assigned functions of all of the Launchpad’s controls.
Tip : If you have overridden the Launchpad’s default mappings with manual mappings, you can easily switch back to the defaults by deactivating the Remote switch of the Launchpad’s input port. Activating the switch again will re-establish your manual mappings.
29.5 Mixer Mode
Launchpad’s Mixer mode gives you access to essential mixing controls in Live: volume, pan, sends, clip stop, track activation, solo and record/arm. The directional arrows to change the focus of the ring are still accessible in Mixer mode.
29.5.1 Mixer Overview
This is the view displayed when pressing the Mixer button. It provides an overview of the main mixing controls in Live.
The top four rows of pads indicate the status of track volume and track pan, as well as sends A and B, for each track:
- if the parameter is at its default value, the pad is dimmed
- if the parameter is NOT at its default value, the pad is fully lit. Hitting the pad will instantly set the parameter to its default value (0 dB for volume, center for pan, 0 for sends).
The bottom four rows of pads and the bottom four buttons on the right provide direct access to key controls for each track:
- pads in the ”stop” row will stop the clip currently playing in this track
- pads in the ”trk on” row will mute this track (the pads turn off)
- pads in the ”solo” row will solo this track
- pads in the ”arm” row will arm this track
The bottom four buttons on the right provide additional control for each track:
- the ”stop” button will stop all clips currently playing
- the ”trk on” button will mute all tracks (all pads turn off)
- the ”solo” button will un-solo all soloed tracks
- the ”arm” button will un-arm all armed tracks
29.5.2 The Volume Page
Press the ”vol” button to enter the Volume page.
In the Volume page, all eight pads of a column turn into a track volume ”fader”. The pads have the following values in dB, from bottom to top: -inf, -48, -24, -18, -12, -6, 0, +6. All pads below (and including) the selected value light up in full brightness to indicate the ”fader position.”
29.5.3 The Pan Page
Press the ”pan” button to enter the Pan page.
In the Pan page, all eight pads of a column turn into a track panorama ”knob” for the selected track, with left at the bottom and right at the top. The pads have the following values, from bottom to top: 50L, 30L, 15L, center, center, 15R, 30R, 50R. The pan control is centered when the two pads in the middle are fully lit.
29.5.4 The Send Pages
Press the ”snd A” or ”snd B” button to enter a Send page.
In the two Send pages (for Send A and Send B), all eight pads of a column turn into a send ”knob” for the selected track. The pads have the following values in dB, from bottom to top: -inf, -48, -24, -18, -12, -6, 0, +6. All pads below (and including) the selected value light up in full brightness to indicate the ”knob position.” The behavior of this page is similar to the Volume page.