Shiny

Push Style Layout For any DAW with Katapult

Last week I talked about how great the Push was.  It’s still great, and I still don’t have one, but the scripts I made for FL Studio let me close my eyes and pretend a little.  But what about other Digital Audio Workstations?

Anyone using Ableton Live will probably make use of the built-in scripting options to make your own Push-ified Launchpad.  Motscouscous.com really dug deep into the Python scripting for Ableton and made a ridiculously functional Push emulation available HERE.

For anybody using a DAW other than those listed above, I recommend Katapult:

Katapult is a very flexible mapping application for the Novation Launchpad and apple iPad. It allows you to map customisable multipage layouts to the Launchpad  or iPad and send the MIDI output to any MIDI application or device. Katapult supports bi-directional communication, meaning that your software can update the controls on the Launchpad or iPad surface.

– midikatapult.com

Alongside some great built-in controller layouts, you can script your own pages (up to 16) by editing ‘layout.txt’ in the Katapult’s home folder.   I’ve created 8 pages of Push-style keyboard layouts available HERE.  You can use this file to replace the original OR you can open your current layout and paste the text at the end.  Be sure to rename the page numbers at the beginning of each layout page to numbers that are not already taken.  I recommend 9-16, as it will give you the native Katapult functions on the first row and the Push scalar layouts on the second.

Page order is as follows:

  1. Major
  2. C Dorian
  3. C Phrygian
  4. C Lydian
  5. C Mixolydian
  6. C Aeolian (Minor)
  7. C Locrian
  8. Chromatic Layout (lit buttons are white keys, unlit buttons are black keys)

Korg Monotron Duo

I’m a softsynth guy for the most part.  Why bother with heavy and space-consuming hardware when it can all live in your computer, right?  But recently I’ve been craving something to fiddle with, something with dedicated controllers that I did not have to painstakingly assign or configure.  And, oh yeah, something on the cheap.

The Monotron Duo is the second in Korg’s series of Monotrons (the first was the plain old monotron, the third is the Monotron Delay).  The design and layout is a very simple but powerful monophonic subtractive synth with two oscillators, a low pass filter, an X-Mod knob for cross modulation between the two oscillators, and a ribbon controller.

monotron front

The Oscillators

You can get a lot out of these little guys.  Activate just one oscillator (VCO1 mode) with no cross modulation and you’ll get a very plain, biting, clipped saw/square. Add a little of the x mod the silent second oscillator will modulate the frequency of the first, giving you a mild detune at low intensity, and all sorts of craziness at high intensity.  Activate VCO2 mode to get the second oscillator going.  Your tonal center will be unrecognizable in no time.  Hot tip: activate both oscillators in VCO2 mode, put them in unison or in octaves, turn the x mod up to 3 or 4 and you’ve got yourself a nice fat lead (that sounds like a lot more than just two voices).

There’s just a touch of leakage between the oscillators.  Manipulating VCO2 when only VCO1 is activated (and cross modulation is set to zero) does produce a tiny amount of modulation.  Also, if the cutoff is set low enough, you can hear a click on any note release.

The Ribbon Controller

You’ve got just over an octave in 4 different modes.  Each press of the little red button will change the ribbon controller to the next mode, the order being continuous – chromatic – major – minor.  Continuous sets the ‘keyboard’ to be truly continuous with no discernible pitch between one place on the keyboard and another, which is very useful for big slides and noise/effect creation.  Chromatic mode will give you every note you see on the keyboard, which, for me, was a pretty clumsy endeavor.  I found it was pretty difficult to really aim your finger in the right place with so many discrete notes packed into a 2+ inch space.  Major and Minor mode set the keyboard to those respective scales.  All you’ve got to do is drag your finger around and you’ve got a melody.  With the non-harmonic notes out of the way, I found I could consistently play the notes I was aiming for.  Use the VCO1 pitch knob to set C to the key of your tune (or another note, if you want to get modal) and go nuts.

monotron back

Output

The little speaker is okay, I guess, but you’ll need to use the headphone jack to really hear the depth of this synth.  On the downside, there is a faint stream of white noise audible at all times.  You’ll either want to gate, remove, or find a way to make use of this noise.  This device will not give you pristine output, even from the headphone jack.

Verdict

I’ve had an absolute blast with this thing, and have used it in recordings already.  While this is, most definitely not a pristine engineered piece of equipment, it’s drawbacks if your goal is a little dirt and chaos.  The thing to remember is that this is more of a deliberately messy noisemaker and less of a dedicated synth (at $50, what can you really expect).

The Icicle

Structure

You’re going to see one of two pictures of this thing if you search for it on the internet.  There’s this version (and its variants):

Don't I look robust and sturdy?

And then there’s this version and (its variants):

I wish that the Icicle felt as solid and sturdy as that first photo.  I mean, damn, look at that thing.  The chassis is brushed metal with rubber along certain edges for protection.  There’s even a bit of ribbed rubber where the USB cord meets the main housing to keep the wire from kinking.  Unfortunately, the second, plastic Icicle is the true Icicle.  Plastic except for the XLR contacts.   If you were to (more…)

The AudioBuddy: Actually Pretty Nice

Structure

Metal body with sturdy plastic knobs.  If you were to drop it from over your head, it would probably survive the fall and work fine.

Function

Idiot proof.  If the connection fits, that’s probably where it goes.  Turn the knob to the right for more signal.  If you need phantom power, press the button marked phantom power.  The market is saturated with devices that depend on software or a menu of some kind to gain access to hundreds of parameters, most of which you’ll never use.   But the AudioBuddy (more…)