Been talking to a potential client, and the topic of Device Mapping has come up. (Device Mapping: that nifty feature that lets you use your bank of 8 knobs to control devices in Live.)
Hidden in the bowels of the Help section of Ableton Live 8 is a handy reference guide for these mappings. The guide is built into the “Lessons” pane. This can be a little cumbersome in use, so I extracted all the relevant data out of the guide, and re-formatted it in a friendlier format.
Many of my efforts focus on allowing people to stop looking at the damned screen when they make & play music. Staring at a reference manual isn’t much of an improvement, so let’s just call this a baby step.
Moldover and I are collaborating on another project. This one is concerns the MOJO, the custom controller he tours with.
The MOJO has become an open project, available for anyone to make. In the video below, Moldover details the MOJO’s history, its design and a typical build.
This is still Moldover’s baby, but 60 Works is becoming a clearinghouse for all things MOJO. (We’re also selling MOJOs for people who’d like to buy one instead of making one.)
What’s the reason for 60 Works’ involvement? Moldover is too busy being Moldover, artist extraordinaire… while I actually want to be tackling things like pre-sales support, invoicing and logistics. It’s an ideal partnership for the Artist dude/Business dude relationship we’ve developed.
The controller is built specifically for version 2.0 of Arturia’s Minimoog V Virtual Instrument, which is in turn inspired from the original Minimoog. If you’re not familiar with Virtual Instruments, I’m sure this all feels quite “meta,” but it’s pretty common in music technology.
Mark B makes his living off music. He uses that particular Virtual Instrument extensively. He has very specific travel and MIDI control needs. In other words, his needs are a perfect fit for a custom controller. The PMM isn’t a luxury novelty to him. It’s a tool in his toolbox — one that took weeks of collaboration to conceptualize and design.
A bunch of anecdotes from the build are below. Scroll down further for tech details and pictures:
International Feel Recordingsis a damned fine label. I’ll describe it without getting into genre specifics (which thankfully, they defy). They make the kind of music that makes you feel you’re peeking into a world of people and places that are much cooler than you’ll ever be.
Mark B found me without the benefit of my existing Rolodex in the music technology world. He discovered 60 Works thanks to Synthtopia’s posting of the Hale Micro Build Video. This is heartening. It means the business can attract clients on its own, instead of depending on the good graces of friends & colleagues.
PMM stands for “Portable Memorymoog,” a cute joke about the MIDI & Polyphony functionality on that particular synth. I’m going to keep calling it the PMM to protect myself from the ire of the Moog folk. (Not that they’re particularly litigious. I just respect them too much to Bogart their name out of the blue.)
Even though the end result of these projects is a box with buttons and knobs, the entire experience has much in common with contract graphic design or architecture work (as opposed to a factory or retail fulfillment experience). There were moments of great frustration and wonderful elation. A number of lovely concepts were canned or re-configured for the greater good. There were moments where we IM’ed so often that I jokingly referred to Mark B as my Temporary Work Wife.
A bit more on the controller:
The lid is an exact “negative” of the knobs and buttons that stick out the top. It is kept in place by high-strength magnets at its base, and by additional magnets hidden under the panel of the controller.
It’s smaller than it looks. The entire controller could fit on a Letter (or A4) piece of paper.
It’s two UMC-32+Ms, chained together. It’s possible to fit all the I/O into a single UMC, but there were some specific MIDI CC requirements that forced a second board.
There are indicator LEDs on two of the switches. They illuminate to match the behavior of the Virtual Instrument, but they’re NOT controlled by MIDI. They’re simply powered based on their position, then the position was rotated to match the user interface on the Virtual Instrument.
(Getting pretty technical for a moment.) We managed a nifty trick with the Rate and Waveform selectors. The underlying component isn’t a rotary potentiometer, it’s a 6-position rotary switch. Instead of connecting each switch to a digital input, I wired a resistor “ladder” between the switches and hooked the entire unit up to an analog input. The result was a rotary switch that would “jump” to specific CC values based on its position. This significantly reduced the number of required inputs, and allowed for control of the Virtual Instrument without any sort of MIDI translation software.
Confused at that last one? Here’s the bottom line: the Waveform and Rate selectors behave like they would in a synth (clicky knobs that stop directly at the indicators), instead of like in a MIDI controller (smooth knobs where you don’t know exactly where you are).
Mark B and I may end up selling these. Please contact me if you have any interest in buying one.
A recently-completed project with a client in South America. More on this soon.
An in-progress project with a customer in Canada.
Multiple potential clients in the hopper!
The biggest highlight is the lightning fast transition from desperation to busy-ness. I’ve gone from praying that a custom controller market exists to working actively in it.
Fun fact for potential entrepreneurs: you’re not supposed to start a business for a market that you don’t know exists. I got lucky.
That said, I’ve only turned a corner. It’s not time to rent a giant industrial space, or to hire people. It’s time to take five minutes to celebrate, then to dig back into this fun world I’ve created for myself.