What Software Do You Need for Novation Launchpad?

By Jack SteinLast Updated September 3, 2020
Photo Courtesy: Novationmusic.com

The Novation Launchpad was primarily designed to work with music-making and editing software called Ableton Live. As the software's name implies, Ableton Live has a live performance aspect and a Launchpad control device offers an easier way to create and edit music with the software for live performances like in DJ club and festival shows. Apart from being a music-making controller for Ableton Live, the Novation Launchpad may also be used to create light shows to go along with the live DJ performances by using LED feedback from the software.

Ableton Live: A Live Show Favorite

Ableton Live belongs to a category of audio editing tools called digital audio workstations (DAWs). Other examples of DAWs include Adobe Audition, Audacity, Apple's GarageBand and Avid Pro Tools. DAWs have been around since the 1970s, but because of the very limited computing power during that time, the DAWs were mainly device-oriented.

Photo Courtesy: Luis Toledo / EyeEm/ Getty Images

The advent of powerful computer processors made the operability of some DAWs software-based and completely independent of hardware. Other DAWs, including Ableton Live, have the option of being integrated with hardware controllers, such as Novation Launchpad, for alternative ways of audio creation, production and editing.

Ableton Live works similarly to other DAWs in that it offers various functionalities to create and produce a full electronic composition. In a recording studio, DAWs are also useful for recording musicians while playing live instruments, either individually or simultaneously, creating sound effects, recording voice-overs and even auto-tuning off-pitch vocal performances.

What sets Ableton Live apart from other DAWs, are its functionalities that make it a perfect fit for live performances. This is one of the reasons why this tool is a favorite among popular DJs including Deadmau5, Skrillex and Armin van Buuren. Ableton Live gives its users the ability to play compositions in a linear arrangement or improvise on the fly, moving freely between prerecorded clips and scenes, without the constraints of a timeline.

This ability to improvise also allow Ableton Live users to experiment and tweak their compositions by mixing and matching musical ideas with audio and MIDI loops easily. Another interesting feature of Ableton Live is warping. This feature enables users to add and change the tempo and timing of various sound clips in real-time without having to pause the clips and scenes that are currently playing. Some of the other features that make Ableton Live a favorite among users are its clean graphical user interface (GUI), easy and fast navigation, quick automation and the expansive amount of sampled materials that come with the software.

Novation Launchpad: Designed With Ableton Live in Mind

The Novation Launchpad is a physical controller for Ableton Live. A Launchpad looks like a flat box with white buttons set on an 8x8 grid. Depending on the Launchpad's model, there are buttons on one side or around the grid of white buttons. Models of the Novation Launchpad include the Launchpad Basic, Launchpad Mini, Launchpad X and Launchpad Pro. Another Able Live controller called the Launchpad XL includes extra features, such as 24 knobs and faders, along with 16 buttons.

Photo Courtesy: Novationmusic.com

It will be easier for those who are familiar with Ableton Live's GUI to understand how the 64-white button grid and the other buttons on a Novation Launchpad work. The white buttons represent the "clip slots'' on an Ableton Live's GUI while each column of white buttons represent the "tracks" and each row are the "scenes." The extra buttons on the right side of the white-button grid represent the launch buttons for each scene, just like in Ableton Live's GUI.

Users, who have filled up the clip slots on an Ableton Live with beats, bass lines, melody, vocals and other effects, can launch the audio by pressing on the corresponding buttons on the Launchpad. The Novation Launchpad, therefore, makes it easier to compose and create music during live performances with prerecorded audio files on the clip slots. As opposed to just using a mouse and a laptop for live performances, Launchpads give its users the feeling of playing a musical instrument, thus adding an element of showmanship to their live mixing sessions.

Using Launchpad for Light Shows

Although not specifically designed for light shows, performers can use Novation Launchpads to manipulate the lights in a live show to harmonize with the music that's playing. Launchpad communicates in both ways with the Ableton Live software. As each button triggers an action with a corresponding software function, the Launchpad receives LED feedback from the software.

Photo Courtesy: Niklas Skur / EyeEm/ Getty Images

The LED feedback is sent to a specific MIDI channel. The LEDs on Launchpad responds differently to each MIDI note on the channel. The color of the LED lights varies according to the velocity of the note. Those who want to use this extra feature on Novation Launchpads need to understand how MIDI control protocols work and learn how to properly set up a Launchpad controller with light controllers and consoles.

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