Since my dad died on Feb 3rd, I set a goal to keep my brain really busy (I suppose as a way of dealing with his death) and continued work on a huge midi-mapping project that I started as a fun little thing back in November 2018. It involves MIDI controllers as control surfaces, for my favorite DAW, Reaper 5 by Cockos Software.
You may have heard of devices such as the Mackie Control Universal MCU Pro, Behringer X-Touch, Presonus Faderport, Faderport 8 or Faderport 16, or the Korg Nanokontrol 2. Those are all cool controllers (a tad overpriced, especially the Mackie Control Universal Pro), but my project focuses on what I feel are the most useful midi controllers for that purpose, but are also DOPE controllers for making music with (not just a “control surface” but a Control Surface combined with a MIDI controller (drum pads, or keys). If you don’t need motorized faders (and let’s face it, they’re cool, but are they necessary?), you might dig this project.
Here’s how it all came about, and how you can benefit from my 10 solid months of work!
It kicked into full gear back in February….. when I realized just how powerful Native Instruments’ Maschine MK3 is:
– full-color screens
– usb-powered (doesn’t require a wall wart)
– the huge amount of faceplate buttons / touchstrip / 4-way encoder (that ALL can be customized as a Template with the Native Instruments Controller Editor software)
– the PAGES of encoders and buttons (each page has 8 assignable buttons/rotary encoders)…. if you make a Template that has say, 10 pages… not only can you see exactly what each button and encoder does on the screens, but that’s 80 assignable MIDI functions! 20 pages = 160 assignable functions! And that’s not even including the faceplate buttons!
The total faceplate buttons on the MK3 equal 39! 26 on the left half of the unit (not including the 4-way encoder, but including the transport)
13 on the right half of the unit
And the 4-way encoder has 5 buttons on its on– up/down/left/right, and the top click (PLUS, turning it left or right can be a function on its own!). So in essence, 45 tangible things that can be assigned to anything you want, per template (using Native Instruments’ Controller Editor software).
So I thought…. sweet! I’m going to customize my MK3 and set it up for common Reaper functions, so I could use the mouse a lot less (isn’t that always our goal?)
Then I got to thinking…. what if I also did this identically for Maschine Studio? And Maschine MK2? And even Maschine Mikro MK2? Or the forever-awesome Maschine Jam?
That’s how the project came about.
And then I thought…. what if I set it up similarly to other MIDI controllers I have, like the Arturia Keylab Essential 61? And Beatstep ? And Beatstep Pro? Minilab MKII? What about the Behringer X-Touch Mini (which I still LOVE)? And then, what about the Novation Launch Control XL and its 24 knobs, 8 faders, and over 20 assignable buttons (and 8 User Templates)? What about the regular Novation Launch Control (no longer in production) and its 16 knobs, and 12 assignable buttons?
So, here I am, 10 months later… still working on and tweaking the project. I’ve done a LOT of work so far… thinking, brainstorming, mapping on notepads, crossing things out, considering MIDI channel and assignment conflicts… considering a million factors… it’s kept my mind busy…. it’s been a lot of fun, while a tremendous amount of work (well over 120 hours so far… and yes, I’ve kept track).
If you own any of the controllers I listed, and love Reaper (who wouldn’t? It’s the best damn DAW, period— and it’s for Windows AND Mac), and are curious about this whole thing…. please comment below or send me an email (themelodies AT gmail DOTcom).
And also, check out these two videos— the Maschine MK3 video isn’t current, as I made a ton of changes to the pages and button layouts (especially the midi CC assignments), but I did explain what was what, and basically how it works. The second video shows me using my white Maschine Studio in action, demonstrating what it can do and how useful it is.
At the end of the day, it’s all about improving workflow, and relying on mouse-clicking and moving the mouse a lot less…. and I think this project is pretty awesome and am excited as hell to finally finish it for all Reaper people. I get a lot of happiness by helping others… my day job is music teacher. I feel this is going to help a lot of people, and they’re going to really dig it.
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