This is an exciting new functionality introduced in MIDI Designer Pro 2: you can directly upload Layouts, Pages and Preset Packs directly.
See the simple instructions here.
This is an exciting new functionality introduced in MIDI Designer Pro 2: you can directly upload Layouts, Pages and Preset Packs directly.
See the simple instructions here.
This is an interview with Theodor Galanis. Theodor is a brilliant guy and a well-known music technology evangelist. A discussion on FB about live rigs and improvisation piqued my curiosity, and I wanted to learn more about his rig. This interview was conducted on Google Hangouts in February 2016.
Let’s start from the musical side of things. Pretty soon we’ll hit the physical topology — I see you’re rocking those BCR-2000’s, I know you’re a Lemur expert and I”m pretty sure you’re using Ableton. But first: what kind of music are you producing with your rig?
I am mainly interested in making tecnho music – which may sound kinda vague given that this genre has a lot ermmmm……divergent subgenres….Anyways think huge bass-y kick drums, driving basslines, NOT an excessive useage of effects and swooshes and stuff like that….and usually some sequenced synth riff on top of it all to make you want to dance….I think this pretty much covers it.
And your goal is to show up at the gig (or in the studio) and improvise new music using an essentially fixed rig?
Yeah well I have been DJing for quite some time now but I was always fascinated by the posssibility of making the music right there, real time….as opposed to DJing. Of course seeing artists like Tim Exile or Beardyman had a huge impact on me. So….while a couple of years ago, producing music was a different “era” and playing music for people as a DJ was something else….I now strive to combine the two in one. I came to the conlcusion this can only be achieved by either a huge investment in hardware or simply take advantage of my already purchased midi controllers plus a well thought, planned out fixed rig as you called it.
So we’ll call this your Live Rig, ok?
Yup fine with me! 😉
How does your Live Rig integrate with your DJing equipment? Same computer, different computer, CDJs for DJ’ing, etc.?
Well actually when I started DJing I didnt have much cash to spend on equipment but I already had a laptop, was already producing and had already checked out the major “DJing” software out there. Coming from a production background, I chose to DJ with Ableton Live as it was far more fascinating for me to set up my own chains of effects, something I couldnt pull of with, say, Traktor which was up on my list. Then I figured I might as well add some extra “tracks” (audio channels) to play some loops on top of the ready-made tracks I DJed with.
So essentially this whole thing evolved after time into my Live Rig – you could say my Live Rig is also my DJing rig. The computer running all the show is an HP laptop with an i3 CPU and 4GBs of ram. NOT too much, but over the years I’ve learnt to optimise Windows for real time operations and Im extremely cautious with fishy websites and the likes, bloatware and all that stuff. It rarely, if ever fails me but I guess its also a bit of luck. It happened to turn out an OK machine.
Very cool: while we’re here I might as well ask if you’re using an audio interface? I’m guessing you are
Yeah of course – thats a “must”. I have a Focusrite Scarlette 6i6 in my studio and a Native Instruments Audio 2 for the gigs – its small, but effective and reliable, plus very loud outputs. As you might guess, Im using one of its stereo outputs as the main output to the PA and the second one as “monitoring – cue”. All the mixing is done internally, in the box.
Great! The Scarlett stuff is relatively cheap and awesome. And yeah, the Audio 2 is loud and gives you just what you need: 4 outs! (Personally I cannot get my Audio 2 to stop glitching, but that’s another story/interview/article)
Haha – try the driver that came with it – I think the later ones had some problems 😉
Okay, will do!
So: let’s dive into the overall concept of the Live Rig. You said something on Facebook the other day about having a ton of MIDI tracks able to route through a bunch of different sound options. Can you explain that a bit, please?
Oh yeah actually I love explaining that – I really want people to understand what is possible with today’s computers and software because its amazing.
So, prepare for a huge reply.
In the software side of things I run Ableton Live. I have saved a project which features all the channels, all the effects, all the configurations and all the midi mappings I use minus the ready-made tracks for when I want to DJ. So essentially Im using this project as a “template” – since Live doesn’t have the luxury of saving project templates.
Diving into this, I’ve got 4 audio tracks which are for DJing purposes – I simply drop the tracks I want to play when I’m DJing in them.
Next up I have 16 channels all consisting of a native Ableton’s Sampler. These channels are grouped into two groups of 8 and are color-coded differently. These serve as my drum machines. Each of these consist of Sampler instance where I utilise the “zone multisampling” feature. Most current software samplers allow you to “map” different samples to the same key (in what they call “zones”) – note and trigger a different one according to velocity – this helps for current samplers’ realistic sound. The interesting part however is that in Ableton Live the Sampler “sample slot” can be midi mapped directly as opposed to being “selected” by velocity. So to get the picture of this, imagine a simple midi channel with a Live Sampler named “Kick” where I have specifically chosen kick drum samples, imported them into the Sampler and then have a simple MIDI mapped control to “select” the sample (that is, imported kickdrum) that will be triggered by a specific note. Since MIDI can send up to 128 discrete values ( 0 – 127) I can pretty much create “drum sets” made out of samples which are made out of 128 possible kick drums, toms, percs, etc etc – 8 channels in total – 128 sounds per channel – x2.
The x2 part is because the audience, being accustomed to the DJ styled rapid changes of beats I figured I needed two completely independent drum machines so that I can mix the one with the other as a DJ does. Otherwise the whole thing gets too ermmmm slow in progression, which is fine if your audience is expecting a live show….but not OK when you have to be on par with DJs and all that clubbing culture.
These two sample-based drum machines are triggered by a Novation’s Launchpad. There is this guy, Motscousus who has released modified versions of Ableton PY controller scripts for the Launchpad. They basically transform it to the “poor guy’s Push” if I may say so. Amongst other goodies, they feature a step sequencer page, exactly like the one Push has: bottom left half of the pad-matrix serves as a drum selector, the top section is the sequencer and the bottom – right section is the loop-size selector.
Needless to say I have also midi mapped the most “sensible” parameters of those Samplers such as attack, decay, a couple of send FX channels and whatnot to add variation to my drum sequencing.
Next, I have 3 instances of Native Instruments Massive and one instance of Native Instruments’s Absynth. I have set those up to “receive” midi notes on specific channels (as opposed to default “omni – all”) – specifically they start from midi channel 3 up to 6. See, midi channels 1, 2 were reserved for midi mapping action (CC messages) and I didn’t want to mess up the whole thing. I wanted to know what is mapped where in the fastest way possible and keeping the midi channels separated like that, certainly helps when troubleshooting. Now there are two main things that led me to choosing these VST plugins
Initially I was trying to play these VSTs with Lemur – designed keyboards so I had also incorporated “looper” Live devices after the VSTs to be able to loop – record what I play on the fly. I completely abandoned the idea firstly because of the accumulated latency ( MIDI over wi-fi + the buffer size of my audio interface) and, because I have to admit Im not that much of a great keyboardist. So, here is where initially Arturia’s Beatstep came into my set up, which I then sold and replaced with a BCR2000 with a modified firmware that turns it into a full blown 32 – step sequencer. I won’t get into details about it but it rocks and if you have a BCR2000 laying around google “Zaquencer” and thank me later ( link ).
So, with the Zaquencer (modified BCR2000) I can sequence all four of these VSTs since it actually features 4 independent “tracks” – all with their own settings, as in midi channels, sequence length, etc etc.
As if all these weren’t enough, next up I have yet more 8 channels consisting of the “multi – outs” of the fabulus drum synthesizer “mTonic” by SonicCharge. It took me months to create a full blown Lemur controller for it, and frankly I couldnt leave it out of my set up even though it may be a bit of an overkill, having already those 16 drum channels I discussed initially. It does make some great bliipy noises though plus its fun to play with.
The last, finally channel is one instance of Reaktor where a modified, Lemur – OSC compatible ensemble of “metaphysical function” is loaded. This serves as the main “drones – pads – atmos” synth. To be honest, it is kinda heavy so when it is not used I have midi mapped its “enable – disable” button (that litle “power” button all rack devices have in Live) and switch it off.
Then I have 3 “send” channels – each of them featuring an effect chain. One reverb and two delays. I also have a compressor dropped after the reverb which is sidechained with a “silent 4 on the floor” kickdrum and the sidechain input level is midi mapped too so I can choose to completely eliminate the “rhythmic pumping reverb” effect (sidechain input level down to minus infinity).
The whooooole of these tracks end up in a “sub master” channel where I also have two basic filters, a High Pass and a Low Pass for those sweeping moments of drops, Live’s native limiter and then the whole end up to the master bus. Having a “sub master” channel helps when you want to monitor in your headphones what you send out to the PA. There is no “solo – cue” button on Live’s master bus but of course there is on any other channel regardless if you have routed it as such, to serve as a master bus.
Of course…..in most of all the channels I mentioned, a typical DJ-style EQ I have designed out of FX racks of Ableton live resides – and actually you can download that FX rack from my website – its the Ableton Live’s missing 3-band DJ-ing EQ. Also, after the VST synths I have added HP and LP filters and yet another sidechained compressor triggered by the same “silent” kickdrum – this helps un-clutter the mix by “ducking” a bit the synth sounds when the actual kick is heard – or simply add a rhythmic pumping effect.
So pretty much this is where all the sounds come from. Now on the controlling side of things, besides the ones I already mentioned (Launchpad, BCR2000 Zaquencer) I have a second BCR2000 which has two pages: on one page the 4 audio tracks and all the effects are mapped – this is the basic DJing controller mode for me. When performing live music, a different page features the groups of those 8-channel drum machines, so thats like having two DJ decks only they are made out of the drum machines plus the effects mapped as per the first page.
One BCF2000 serves as a typical mixer for the 4 VST plug ins plus the mTonic master bus, plus the Reaktor channel and Lemur is there to control the lot in more details. With the great help of scripting, I have managed to save into “arrays” the drum slot selectors – essentially I can tap on a button and load “Kick drum no34”, “tom no23”, “perc no78″…..etc etc without having to manually change each drum sound on by one. Also in Lemur are all the midi program change messages for the VSTs and all those details.
I think I have covered most of the basics of my set up. Not to be misunderstood, this whole thing wasn’t created overnight. It has taken me roughly 3 years of adding or leaving out bits and pieces till I find what works and how, and of course I’m still experimenting with it.
So you have 8 Samplers for (kick, snare, hi-hat etc.) and then the same setup again (8 more channels), and you can switch between 128 samples on each. So you can choose a kick from 128 kick-like sounds, is that right?
Yup, thats correct!
So those are controlled by a step sequencer running on your custom Launchpad. Is it… so when you look at the Launchpad, is it showing you the notes for one channel, e.g., tom 2?
Yes that is correct. I can select the “visible” channel by tapping on one the bottom-left half of the pad matrix – but limited to only one of the 8-channel groups. To switch to the other 8-channel group I use either the top left-right arrows of the device or two “select” buttons I have on the BCF or Lemur.
Okay, which is why you need two 8-channel setups: otherwise you wouldn’t be able to “drop it!”
Yeah exactly that….In my first ever Live gig, a year and a half ago, I only had one 8-channel group. The transitions were quite slow and I noticed that the crowd wasnt responding so well. Essentially it all sounded like a loop slightly changing over time. If I tried to change lots of drum sounds at once, then the whole thing sounded like an un-talented DJ was on decks. After that gig, I created the second 8-channel group. While the first one is playing, I can have the master out of the second muted, and start working on its pattern and then simply mix it in with the playing one – or, yeah just drop it.
That’s very cool. And I see you’ve got Lemur on iPad controlling Massive, Absynth, mTonic and Reaktor. How is it routing to the PC?
Its connected via Wi-fi and the utility daemon software plus a third party virtual midi cable app, LoopBe 30. You might be asking now, if the latency isnt trouble – it was when I was trying to trigger actual notes with it. Since I have been using Zaquencver however I rarely use the midi “keyboards” in Lemur and well, truth be said. changing parameters in synths and mixers can be a lot more “forgiving” as far as latency is concerned.
And now in 2016 you’ve got more options for a direct connection, at least for MIDI (including the project that I’m a part of, musicIO).
Yeah thats true – I have bought MusicIO, its a great app and Im definitely looking in ways to incorporate some iOS apps into the set up. The truth is, I have an archaic iPad2 so I rather wait till I have enough money to get me a more powerful iOS device – or even better, keep the iPad2 as a controller, and add a newer and more powerful iPad for actual sound source.
Good points, except that the iPad Pro — being bigger — offers new possibilities for controllers. Generally more controls and/or more clarity…
Yeah choices…choices…so many choices. I think thats the main reason many people seem to prefer the analogue gear – unless you are way focused, you can be lost in all these choices and end up doing nothing. Frankly speaking I ‘ve fell too many times into this trap – there are some FX stuff in my Live Rig I still rarely put to good use in when performing. They seem like a good idea when designing the thing, but without constant practise, your fingers just wont go there while you are on stage.
So let me ask you about that. You’ve got several different controllers, multiple sound sources, etc. First, just to understand, when you’re playing, if someone comes up and says, “hi!” can you shake their hand, or are you too busy?
Haha no actually I cannot shake their hand. I have to constantly change stuff in the background or mix it in, otherwise I risk of sounding too repetitive. Well ok, a fast shake wont hurt I guess but you get the idea.
definitely. So: how do you work with all this possibility? Let’s say you’ve just mixed in something on one of the 8-track drum machines. Where to you look next?
Well, I try to take a “one by one” approach. So for example once I’ve laid out a drum pattern, I then move on to a synth pattern. Then when this is done, I add some variations to the drums then while doing those in the background Im preparing the next synth – when the next synth is done and while Im mixing it in, Im starting working on the second drum pattern. When the synths are mixed, I slowly mix out the “old” then proceed with the “switch” of the drum patterns and so on and so on. Of course, in this whole procedure the typical “cut the bass” (HP filter) then drop it with a change in something else helps a lot. And of course I have to be honest, I usually practice a lot before a live gig and I even write “notes”, actual notes on paper where I keep track of what presets I will load, with what drum sets they ll go together and all that stuff. Also, quite frankly, most of the times I dont keep up with the notes after a while – the whole process tends to ermmm get a mind of its own and I simply go where it takes me. But hey, thats the nice part of playing live isn’t it?
Yes indeed. Well thanks so much for speaking with me. Any gigs lined up that you want to mention, or anything else (FB Groups, etc.)?
Well for gigs and all that stuff you can always visit my FB page at https://www.facebook.com/Softc0re
Of course I have to mention the iPad Musician FB group which is quite helpful and informed on all things iOS music and lastly I want to thank you for the invitation on this small chit chat. Also a big shout out to CannibalRadio.com where you can listen to my radio show every Tuesday.
Thanks again Dan, its been a pleasure.
Thank you again, it’s been inspirational! See you on the Interwebs, or perhaps in Greece or New York City or somewhere else!
Haha, surely let me know if you ever come here in Greece. I’ll give a great tour around. 😉
Keep up the good work with your apps. 👍
Will do, thanks again!
Just in time for NAMM 2016, Confusion Studios LLC is proud to announce two new apps: MIDI Designer Pro 2 and MIDI Designer Player.
MIDI Designer Pro 2 is a fully customizable performance-oriented MIDI controller platform for iPad (optimized for iPad Pro), iPhone and iPod.
MIDI Designer Pro took the music-making world by storm, and Pro 2 is set to do it all over again.
MIDI Designer Pro 2 is currently available for beta testing: Users who want early access should shoot us an email at mdp2beta [at] midiDesigner [dot] com.
First-class, ultra-low-latency MIDI controller player. Comes with several general-purpose MIDI controller layouts. Users can access Community and Professional MIDI Designer Pro layouts via in-app purchase.
Available for download from the App Store in Q1 of 2016.
I spoke with Craig Knudsen — MIDI Designer Core Test team member and Top Yamaha Consultant — about the amazing video he made with Tony DeSare and Robbie Vicencio.
…[we’re using] a YAMAHA Disklavier and an EZ-220 for the underwater shot! Just in time for the 40th Anniversary of JAWS release on June 20th, 1975.
I used MIDI Designer Pro (MDP) to enter the aftertouch codes to hold the Disklavier keys into special positions to create the “teeth” on this 88-toothed shark. Tony played the piano and I created these “animations” around his playing, bringing this shark piano to life.
With MDP I was able to create the special After Touch codes and test them out wirelessly, and see what they looked like. This was connected via a Quicco Sound MIDI device to turn the Disklavier into a wireless receiver to test the patterns. Then, using an iConnectivity midi4+ model, I isolated Tony’s MIDI performance data and switched between the two.
MDP was literally the only app I found to send these unpublished MIDI codes wirelessly to the piano during development.
Tony and Robbie used several LCD projectors to broadcast the video directly on the piano. By the way, for the piano arrangement, Tony created all the sounds using the acoustic piano… or rather all the sound effects
I’m really grateful for the shoutout, and very excited to be collaborating with such high-caliber artists. For more information:
Craig on Facebook @craigaknudsen
Tony on Facebook @tonydesare
Robbie on Facebook @robbievicencio
On August 11, 2014, fans of MIDI Designer got in touch to let us know that they had seen the App on TV. In Barcelona! In Singapore! On the Discovery Channel! In the New York Times!
Apple featured MIDI Designer on the apple.com homepage from August 11 to Sept 10, 2014, in the hands of Luke Wang of Yaoband.
The landing page mention linked to a Your Verse focus on Yaoband and their use of the iPad in music-making. We’re extremely grateful to Yaboand and our users all around the World, Apple for highlighting us in this story, and for the excellent apps that keep us company in the ad:
About MIDI Designer
MIDI Designer is the most advanced professional MIDI controller platform. Since its launch in the Apple App Store in 2012, the award-winning app has been lauded by Music Industry publications including Sonic Touch, Recording Magazine, Sound on Sound and DJ Tech Tools. It’s been used on stage and in the studio by well-known musicians, music producers and DJs around the World, including Todd Rundgren, POSTYR Project and Shadow Child. More recently, MIDI Designer has taken part in the production of Network TV series and sporting events.
Hundreds of thousands of users trust MIDI Designer as their go-to MIDI controller, and the App is the motor for an active and growing community which shares layouts for popular MIDI hardware and software from Casio, Korg, Roland and many more. MIDI Designer has also been chosen by Antares and Casio as their iOS MIDI controller for select hardware. The App is available on the App Store for iPad and iPhone in Chinese, English, French, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.
dream | create | play
Introduction of Swift
On June 2, 2014, Apple announced a new programming language, Swift.
This is exciting news from a developer perspective. It means we’ll be able to add new features and functionality faster. In addition, new code will more bug-free and flexible going forward.
Swift will only be supported from iOS 7 onwards. This means that you’ll have to upgrade to an iPhone 4S or better, an iPod touch 5G or better, or an iPad 2 or better.
iPad 1 users and others running iOS 5 and iOS 6 will continue to have unrestricted access to MIDI Designer 1.6, the most powerful MIDI controller for iOS.
This is a very exciting period for software development on iOS, and we’re looking forward to sharing what we’re able to do in Swift in Version 1.8 of MIDI Designer Pro*.
Note from 2014-10-07: MIDI Designer Lite is back!
As of July 20, 2014, MIDI Designer Lite—the ad-supported version of the most powerful MIDI controller platform for iOS— is officially on vacation. The other light version, MIDI Designer 12, went on vacation a week earlier.
We’ve had overwhelmingly positive reviews for Lite (92% of 300 reviews are 4-stars or above). Our last review leaves off on a high note:
Having multiple versions of the same App is confusing. Therefore, we will only be offering MIDI Designer Pro at this time.
Existing Users of MIDI Designer
MIDI Designer Lite has nearly 200,000 users who will continue to use the App, receive upgrades (simultaneously with MIDI Designer Pro), and be able to unlock to remove the Lite Bar. For existing users of Lite, your experience will not be altered in any way.
The same goes for existing users of MIDI Designer 12.
We think we’ve accommodated all of our users in this change, but you can always get in touch with us with questions, problems or encouragement.
New Users of MIDI Designer
Except by special arrangement (e.g., press inquiries, App giveaways), we will only be offering MIDI Designer Pro to new users at this time.
MIDI Designer Pro has received glowing reviews from leading industry publications (including DJ Tech Tools, Recording Magazine and Sound on Sound) and is used on stage and in the studio by professional and amateur music-makers as varied as Todd Rundgren and Shadow Child. Our first-rate Community shares layouts for top-flight gear from Roland, Yamaha, Korg, Line6 and many more.
One potential user from the Netherlands wrote, “Why always iPad only. So sad” and then, later, “I simply like multiplatform. So programmers not forcing people to use a specific device/brand. There are a lot tools which are able to output ‘any’ OS.”
WHY NOT JUST MAKE IT MULTIPLATFORM?
Here’s how you imagine the development process:
MIDI Designer development started in 2010, about two months before the first Android tablet was released (the Samsung Galaxy). It was a sunny Summer day, and I remember taking my mountain bike to Best Buy in New Jersey where I picked up my first iPad 1.
MIDI Designer was originally written in Java (cross-platform) and called “VirtualThang” (see this article which shows images of VirtualThang in Java on OSX). The movement to iPad was gradual and development was slow as I learned Objective-C to make MIDI Designer for iPad. There were no other tabs at this time, and serious cross-platform frameworks like Titanium Appcelerator didn’t come to focus on mobile until 2012!
I was using early versions of MIDI Designer in my personal drum rig by February 2011. User #1 didn’t begin to take MD seriously until about September of 2011, and suggested that we launch for NAMM 2012.
User #1 and I headed out to NAMM 2012 expecting people to object to MIDI Designer on three grounds:
OSC vs. MIDI—On the first point, it turns out that adoption rates of OSC are not what we imagined. For smaller companies, it’s hard to find the development time and spare the cost to implement OSC. For larger companies, having hundreds of products to add OSC to is a huge cost as well. As we learned at the 30th Year Anniversary of MIDI, and continue to see every year at NAMM, <opinion>MIDI will not be supplanted by OSC any time soon.</opinion>
No Automap?!—Automap and related concepts are huge in the MIDI world. Our competitors at Touchable, LiveControl 2 (requires Lemur) and many other players use concepts that we refer to as “automap”. Automap is awesome and they seem to be doing quite well. However, there’s still a huge market for a “generic” (or “modular”) MIDI controller platform like MD, both for custom rigs and for creating “editors” for MIDI-enabled hardware and software.
No Android?!—We were shocked see ONLY iPads at NAMM 2012, and again in 2013. This year (2014), there were some Android Tablets, but excluding those that were integrated into a device, they were few and far between. Professional music manufacturers were still focusing on iOS. This will change over time, of course, but in 2014, iOS still dominates for Pro Music applications.
MIDI Designer is written 100% in Objective-C, which means that it’s written exclusively for Apple devices. For this to change we would need to rewrite MIDI Designer, essentially from scratch, either:
None of these options are easy to do, and all would require a lot of development time. There are some technical difficulties to consider, relating to UI API differences, CoreMIDI/rtpMIDI availability on other platforms, and screen sizes on non-iOS devices (there are four general screen sizes for Android, and many more real sizes).
WILL WE RELEASE AN ANDROID/WINDOWS VERSION? Yes! We are confident that one or more of these three options is viable, and we’re currently exploring how best to translate the experience of MIDI Designer to other platforms. In the meantime, if you want MIDI Designer, an iPad 1 costs $99 on eBay. That’s cheaper than ANY Android tablet on the market. So there’s that…
For now, our main focus is on adding features to MIDI Designer for iOS. We’re expanding the platform that our users love and have dedicated hundreds of thousands of hours to. Will MIDI Designer be multi-platform in the future? YES!
Also see our article on the Master Design Refresh of the Peavey AT-200 Layout
Also see our article on the Master Design Refresh of the Peavey AT-200 Layout