Fader Controller for Automation

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Rohann

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Thanks again Charlie, you've been immensely helpful.

-Nanokontrol: Can't help but agree here from the reviews and looking at the thing. Every time I go "it's only $70, why not", I don't have the peace of mind to actually click "add to cart". It may be $70 but I don't need $70 sitting in a drawer.
-Launch Control: Good point. I don't know why most of these things always seem to be marketed as "Ableton Live Controller", but I suppose we're in the EDM age right now...I find it incredibly irritating that everything around the sub $500 pricerange seems to have fader lanes shorter than half the length of my index finger. The Launch Control XL at least has 60mm faders, which isn't actually that bad.
-FaderCtrl: $250USD is a little harder to come by as a student, but I'm considering it quite strongly. It really does look like something actually created for composers, and the majority of these Ableton controllers look like precise fader control was the least of concerns. If I'm not mistaken, orders are closed for this current run, however.
I really do wish my keyboard had faders on it but I'm not sure it's worth trying to upgrade to a weighted 88-key keyboard with faders.

However: gpax does have me interested. As much as I'm wanting to created realistic orchestral mockups, sound design is also equally in my horizon, so tools that add to ease of this also pique my interest. Do you have any comments in regards to something like the Maschine Jam being more usable for something like that as well? Not a huge consideration at $600CAD at the moment, but I'm curious from a theoretical standpoint.

I appreciate your thread on MPE's, and besides being somewhat out of pricerange, I can see the immense utility for sound design/electronic stuff specifically with a Haken continuum or similar, but can also see it being more difficult to use than a regular keyboard for orchestral libraries. Trying to figure out if there would be particular utility in something like a Maschine Jam for this, but I'm wondering if special utility would require x-axis manipulation as well. It may well be the case that what works best for MIDI CC in terms of real sampled instruments doesn't work as well for synth/sound design manipulation, and vice-versa.
 
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Rohann

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Thanks for the heads-up, Jay.

I'm really amazed at the utter hole in the market here. The FaderCtrl seems to really hit an important midpoint. Do most other people just use the faders on the keyboards or on higher end programmable motorized boards?
 

Ashermusic

Senior Member
Thanks for the heads-up, Jay.

I'm really amazed at the utter hole in the market here. The FaderCtrl seems to really hit an important midpoint. Do most other people just use the faders on the keyboards or on higher end programmable motorized boards?
Why do you think I was the very first one here who said to Cackland, "Can you make one for me?"
 
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Rohann

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Why do you think I was the very first one here who said to Cackland, "Can you make one for me?"
Haha fair enough. I didn't pay too close attention to it as I assumed it was a more boutique piece of kit, but in reality the majority of the stuff on the market seems to be either superfluous and expensive, or poorly made for tight fader control. Really quite surprising and disappointing. You'd think sampling companies would hop on an opportunity like this, really. Even something simple but well-designed like the FaderCtrl.
 

charlieclouser

Senior Member
You know, I haven't played with Maschine Jam, or any of the NI Kontrol keyboards or whatever, mainly because they really want you to work within some shell of an NI software product, inside which you then load any third-party software instruments and plugins you want to control. I do have the original, first generation Maschine controller and software, bought because I thought it might be a modern-day software MPC - but it kind of was and wasn't at the same time. It is possible to use that Maschine controller without using any NI software, just as an agnostic pad and knob controller, but the thrill wore off quickly. The NI Kontrol keyboards really DO want you to use the Komplete Kontrol software in order to get the slick parameter labels in the displays below the knobs - and that whole concept will not work AT ALL with Logic's built-in instruments because they are NOT plugins as such - they are built into the Logic app and so you can not load up the Komplete Kontrol plugin and then instantiate EXS-24 or whatever inside KK, which is how they need it to work. So the whole world of KK keyboards is a Komplete non-starter for those of us who use Logic's built-in instruments. I like the key lights I guess, and the slick soft knobs with labels would be cool, but 95% of my music comes out of EXS-24 so this is not an option for me. I am not a typical case though - I think nobody serious uses EXS anymore except me. If somehow I could magically map the KK knobs to control EXS parameters then I might be interested, but those keyboards still have the touch strips instead of normal pitch and mod wheels, which is no good for me, and the display and knobs are dead-center, right where I need my Mac keyboard to sit, so if I was going to use a KK keyboard I would need to disassemble it, move the display and knobs section over to the left, and either reassemble it or just build it permanently into my desk. Too much hassle for not enough benefit at the moment.

As to Maschine Jam, well, it didn't excite me much. I think the pads are not velocity and pressure sensitive drum pads but are just simple on-off buttons for launching clips, like what you'd find on a Launch Pad or whatever. I may be wrong, anybody know? The touch strips are not my favorite - I have iPads and some Dave Smith synths that have touch strips, and I really prefer good old-fashioned faders and knobs with which I can FEEL what I'm doing without having to actually look at the thing. With touch strips, a touch screen, or an iPad control surface you MUST look at the thing way more than I want to when in the heat of battle, so anything like that is a non-starter for me. Slate Raven, iPad control surfaces, etc - I just can't. The touch strips on the Dave Smith synths are not so bad because you're usually looking at the synth and standing right in front of it, but I find myself using fader controllers very differently - my eyes are either on the keyboard or on the screen, and never on the control surface. That's why I want a Fader Ctrl - I can just grab and figure out which fader I'm using by FEEL, and estimate how far up or down the fader is in it's throw range by feeling with my fingers against the edges of the case. You kind of wedge your thumb against the lower edge of the case and move the fader with your middle finger and you can easily tell without looking how much you've moved the fader. Hard to explain why this makes a difference for me but it's huge enough to keep me pointed at the same kind of normal hardware fader boxes I've used for 20+ years. I think it comes from my years behind the big SSL consoles, where you wanted to keep looking straight ahead and not down at the faders, but the excellent (accidental?) ergonomics of these consoles meant that you could slide your hands left and right and sense, either by well-known and familiar distances and muscle memory, or by actually counting in the back of your mind how many of the little ridges between the fader plates your finger had passed over, what channel your finger was on. Similarly, parking your thumb on the little raised bezel around the VCA group rotary switch next to the fader gave your hand a positional reference when adjusting faders. My hands, and what's left of my brain, still kind of work this way.

I'm not sure if Maschine Jam can be used as a software-agnostic controller in the same way that the original Maschine controllers can, but even still - those touch strips do nothing for me and I don't need a clip-launcher button grid. Same deal with all those Akai grid-based controllers - can't use 'em.
 
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charlieclouser

Senior Member
Why do you think I was the very first one here who said to Cackland, "Can you make one for me?"
And I'm glad you did, and got the ball rolling, Jay! That's why I also said, screw it, and PayPal'ed my $$$ right on over. I've had an eBay alert for a JL Cooper FaderMaster Pro going for a while, and once in a while one will pop up, usually beat to hell and exorbitantly priced, and then I remember that I already paid full pop for one 15 years ago, wore it out, and ditched it... so I could never bring myself to plonk down for a thrashed one, and I was sure that as soon as I bit the bullet and ordered a fresh one at the full $900 something like the Fader Ctrl would come out, with better ergonomics, USB MIDI, and a much better price. And I am sure glad it did! Can't wait!
 

synthpunk

Senior Member
Charlie, Jay, I wonder if we will ever see an update to EXS-24 ? Didn't Apple buy a company with the intention of using the sample editing technology in Logic and then we never heard about it again?

Charlie, I agree with you on touchscreen faders overall but you should try and give Logic Remote app a chance using the key commands screen is actually very very useful in my opinion.

 
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Rohann

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Charlie: Great points. At $600 new here, I have a hard time visualizing what kind of extra utility the large increase in price (comparatively) would justify, and while I see the appeal of the aforementioned benefits, I have a hard time believing it worth the extra cash for myself personally.
 

gpax

Senior Member
You know, I haven't played with Maschine Jam, or any of the NI Kontrol keyboards or whatever, mainly because they really want you to work within some shell of an NI software product, inside which you then load any third-party software instruments and plugins you want to control. I do have the original, first generation Maschine controller and software, bought because I thought it might be a modern-day software MPC - but it kind of was and wasn't at the same time. It is possible to use that Maschine controller without using any NI software, just as an agnostic pad and knob controller, but the thrill wore off quickly. The NI Kontrol keyboards really DO want you to use the Komplete Kontrol software in order to get the slick parameter labels in the displays below the knobs - and that whole concept will not work AT ALL with Logic's built-in instruments because they are NOT plugins as such - they are built into the Logic app and so you can not load up the Komplete Kontrol plugin and then instantiate EXS-24 or whatever inside KK, which is how they need it to work. So the whole world of KK keyboards is a Komplete non-starter for those of us who use Logic's built-in instruments. I like the key lights I guess, and the slick soft knobs with labels would be cool, but 95% of my music comes out of EXS-24 so this is not an option for me. I am not a typical case though - I think nobody serious uses EXS anymore except me. If somehow I could magically map the KK knobs to control EXS parameters then I might be interested, but those keyboards still have the touch strips instead of normal pitch and mod wheels, which is no good for me, and the display and knobs are dead-center, right where I need my Mac keyboard to sit, so if I was going to use a KK keyboard I would need to disassemble it, move the display and knobs section over to the left, and either reassemble it or just build it permanently into my desk. Too much hassle for not enough benefit at the moment.

As to Maschine Jam, well, it didn't excite me much. I think the pads are not velocity and pressure sensitive drum pads but are just simple on-off buttons for launching clips, like what you'd find on a Launch Pad or whatever. I may be wrong, anybody know? The touch strips are not my favorite - I have iPads and some Dave Smith synths that have touch strips, and I really prefer good old-fashioned faders and knobs with which I can FEEL what I'm doing without having to actually look at the thing. With touch strips, a touch screen, or an iPad control surface you MUST look at the thing way more than I want to when in the heat of battle, so anything like that is a non-starter for me. Slate Raven, iPad control surfaces, etc - I just can't. The touch strips on the Dave Smith synths are not so bad because you're usually looking at the synth and standing right in front of it, but I find myself using fader controllers very differently - my eyes are either on the keyboard or on the screen, and never on the control surface. That's why I want a Fader Ctrl - I can just grab and figure out which fader I'm using by FEEL, and estimate how far up or down the fader is in it's throw range by feeling with my fingers against the edges of the case. You kind of wedge your thumb against the lower edge of the case and move the fader with your middle finger and you can easily tell without looking how much you've moved the fader. Hard to explain why this makes a difference for me but it's huge enough to keep me pointed at the same kind of normal hardware fader boxes I've used for 20+ years. I think it comes from my years behind the big SSL consoles, where you wanted to keep looking straight ahead and not down at the faders, but the excellent (accidental?) ergonomics of these consoles meant that you could slide your hands left and right and sense, either by well-known and familiar distances and muscle memory, or by actually counting in the back of your mind how many of the little ridges between the fader plates your finger had passed over, what channel your finger was on. Similarly, parking your thumb on the little raised bezel around the VCA group rotary switch next to the fader gave your hand a positional reference when adjusting faders. My hands, and what's left of my brain, still kind of work this way.

I'm not sure if Maschine Jam can be used as a software-agnostic controller in the same way that the original Maschine controllers can, but even still - those touch strips do nothing for me and I don't need a clip-launcher button grid. Same deal with all those Akai grid-based controllers - can't use 'em.
I’m starting to miss the focus here, as I was simply putting another option out there for Rohann's discussion about MIDI CC boxes, by offering an example of something that I’m finding to be useful, but which is not necessarily related at all to whatever else is tried-and-true for others. It certainly does not negate anything else that also works in that respect.

When I add a device, it’s for a specific reason in terms of enhancing workflow, and as such, is not necessarily meant to replace or discard something else in that flow. I am thinking of keyboard discussions here, which sometimes sound as if it’s the last choice one will ever make in life, but where it’s really about the budget in hand at the time.

Keyboards and controllers are, to me, like string libraries. They add up, do different things, and sometimes coexist if not integrate with each other for maximum benefit. Each is very personal, as you also indicate detailing your experience with various touch surfaces you have tried. But I watched that excellent tour you gave, and those wonderfully unique and esoteric instruments in your studio, and as I often do, and found analogies there with the meager things I sometimes integrate in my studio, relative to what new or different workflows they might inspire.

I also come at this from the perspective of a visual impairment, and where the LED options in the NI hardware has met a need recently, despite some of my initial reservations (and the price tags). But faders are also here to stay, for many, and for all the preferred reasons you mentioned, and which I agree with as well to some degree.

With respect to the NI Kontrol keyboard, or any of their hardware, it is absolutely a non-starter for some, and to me that is an obvious point. But the narrative that sometimes gets posited in these threads seems to lapse into disparaging something that actually can provide great benefit for others in a particular context. Part of that context here being the $70 - $250 MIDI CC options, where I mentioned another perspective, albeit it one that does not use physical faders.

But to clarify what little I know about integrating the NI hardware recently and some of the questions you raise…

The JAM buttons are multi-faced in terms of setting up scenes, launching clips, step sequencing, and a host of other functions. They do not function as full velocity buttons for select clips/sounds, but are set at 50%, and can be edited to a different value. I suspect there will be other functionality as well as they release future updates.

Which is where it dovetails into the Maschine Pads, but where you are then beholden to buying into that combination if you want/need that full velocity. I think this is where the more established Maschine types are both loving and/or hating things, where the JAM also now shortcuts a lot of the shift+ combinations in the other Maschine hardware.

The touch strips are not just used for controlling parameters and levels, but in instrument mode can trigger strums, arpeggiations, designated chords/modes and even be tapped for some very performable iterations. In this way, it’s not merely an EDM approach, but for me, opens up some exploration, such as programming in an array of Spitfire Chamber Strings patterns I started to selectively trigger amongst a myriad of sound-sculpting instruments loaded into Kontakt.

But you are partially right, in that these devices are all dependent on the workflow of the NI software integration, which is either in tandem with Maschine (which also loads as a VST into a DAW), or, as with the Komplete Keyboard itself, as in instance of Komplete Kontrol in the DAW, to then have access to al the visual and mapped parameters and keyswitches.

But where, for me, the development of NKS support in many of my orchestral libraries is absolutely a boon when loading up an instance and having full articulations, keysiwtches and parameters already visually mapped.

But the keyboard also “swaps” to its MIDI controller status when not using the software, via the “auto focus” when simply clicking on any track instance of the DAW itself. And as such, all the knobs and sliders are then doing whatever you have designated them to do. But to reiterate something you and others have said, perhaps limited in scope in terms of being a full on MIDI controller on par with others. Hence, my point that many of these devices are supplemental, and very useful in the environment of the NI software as well, but not necessarily what some will want for a main controller.

The JAM is also pending support for templates to use it as a Mackie-style device, but as I said earlier, this does not interest me.
 
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charlieclouser

Senior Member
Charlie, Jay, I wonder if we will ever see an update to EXS-24 ? Didn't Apple buy a company with the intention of using the sample editing technology in Logic and then we never heard about it again?

Charlie, I agree with you on touchscreen faders overall but you should try and give Logic Remote app a chance using the key commands screen is actually very very useful in my opinion.
Yes, Apple bought Redmatica, which was really just one guy who made three awesomely powerful programs: KeyMap, AutoSample, and ProManager. I own and still attempt to use all three, but I think the endless MacOS update cycle finally killed them as they don't launch under Sierra. I still keep some Yosemite boot drives around so I can switch-launch when I need to use them. KeyMap is pretty amazing - it can automatically map samples based on root key information that's been encoded into the sample names or metadata, and it can also do pitch analysis to figure out how to map a bunch of samples with stupid names like Piano-01, Piano-02, etc. It's pretty great, but very complex, kind of ugly, and a little inscrutable. Apple actually did use some of the technology of KeyMap and AutoSampler in Logic and GarageBand's ability to "Convert Audio Track to Sampler Instrument" and stuff like that, but they haven't completely absorbed and implemented everything from those programs.

The do keep updating EXS-24, but they don't really make a big deal out of it, so many of the new features kind of fly under the radar. They've recently added the ability to have release samples attached to normal samples without using a whole separate release-triggered Group, which is amazingly simple and kind of better than how any other sampler (including Kontakt) deals with this issue. They're also rolling in Articulation ID as a Group Select and Mod Matrix Parameter, so instead of using key switching or whatever you can just use strip-chart-edited Articulation ID to select Articulations, and use incoming MIDI data in the Mod Matrix to select Articulations - and this is pretty great. With v10.3 they've increased the loading speed for EXS Instruments by a factor of three (!) and despite the ancient-looking user interface it's still amazingly powerful. Yes, it's still lacking user-scripting, user-created GUI, and true-legato sample transitions, but I still think it's a bad mofo and I use it for 95% of all my sounds simply because it is so well integrated with Logic and its CPU use is so small that it's basically negligible. Auditioning and selecting Instruments from Logic's Browser and automatically saving Instruments and Samples within a Project folder are pretty great. For 15+ years now it's had a feature called "Keep Common Samples in Memory When Switching Songs" which is basically the functionality of VEPro's "Preserve but not DeCouple" function, except even better - this means you can switch between huge Logic songs that were built from the same template in seconds (like, 10 seconds) instead of minutes, while all of the front panel settings DO get brought in from the new song. This lets me adjust things like filter and envelope settings on a per-song basis without actually saving the instrument files or messing with the previously-stored settings. But it's the speed and light CPU use that really sells it for me. Even my biggest EXS-based songs load and play just fine on my five-year-old laptop. I'm talking about a huge Logic Project, with 240+ EXS instances, fourteen Space Designers, a few hundred compressor and eq's, etc - completely workable and usable on pretty much any Apple computer. Here's a screen shot of my CPU use on a quad-core i7 laptop (MacBook Pro 2012) when playing a dense passage from a recent movie score of mine that's using the full whammy of seven surround stems outputting to 48 outputs via MADI on MOTU AVB interfaces, playing all EXS samples and 20 or so audio tracks from the internal SSD boot drive:

EXS cpu use.png

You got to admit, that's just nuts! I recently had a very productive meeting with Clemens (the primary Logic dev team member behind EXS) and some cool new things are coming soon that will make EXS even more powerful and keep it relevant for some time to come - but it may stay looking the same for a while. That's okay by me, I don't mind the old black-n-green interface.

As to the Logic Remote app, I have it, I've used it, it's fine. It is handy when I want to do wireless transport control from across the room while tracking. But at this point I've already assigned hundreds of key commands, and I've been tweaking my key commands setup for decades, so there's almost nothing that Logic Remote can do that I can't already do from a memorized key command, and since my fingers are already right there on the Mac keyboard, it's just faster to do it that way. Since all of those nice big colored command buttons in Logic Remote are just a new skin on existing Key Commands, I already have most of them mapped and memorized. Whenever a new version of Logic comes out I do spend an afternoon scouring the Key Commands window looking for new ones, and integrating any new goodies into my already massive set. At this point none of the factory key command settings remain - I started building my key commands set in 1994 when I switched to Logic from Opcode's StudioVision, so my commands are actually descended from those old StudioVision key commands, if you can believe it. At this point my Key Commands set is so tweaked and evolved that I almost never use any pull-down menus at all, and can operate the Key Editor and EXS Instrument Editor almost totally from the keyboard, in addition to using a lot of User Transform presets to select and modify MIDI notes and controller data. I do like some of the goodies in Cubase, like dedicated key commands to scale existing CC events in the strip charts, but a lot of this stuff is already available in Logic but may be well-hidden and not immediately obvious.

gpax - I don't mean to slag off the Maschine Jam, it just didn't excite me all that much. I don't really use things like the strum strips, smart arpeggiators, or goodies like that, even when they conveniently show up as freebies in Logic Remote. This is not to say that Jam is not a good purchase, or poorly designed, or meant to downplay its innovative new control features - it just didn't light my fire. Same with the NI keyboards - for anyone who doesn't use EXS-24 (which means basically everyone but me), these keyboards look pretty amazing. Having plugin parameter names automatically mapped to the soft knobs is a feature I'm VERY jealous of, and if it somehow worked like this with Logic's stock instruments I'd find a way. I've already opened up the big NI keyboard and verified that if I needed to disassemble it and build it permanently into my desk, with the knobs/display moved over to the left, such a scheme IS possible, even though I might need to extend a ribbon cable or three. And even though I'm not a huge fan of Komplete Kontrol and being forced to open third-party plugins from inside the NI shell, I will admit that it does seem to work just fine and didn't screw up on me at all - it's just a workflow preference for me at this point - and since this can't work with EXS then that's a compelling reason for me to skip it for now.
 

synthpunk

Senior Member
Another Masterclass.

I wish I had any sort of a memory to remeber key commands, but I'm a Geezer now.

Charlie if I started a dedicated exs24 thread would you kindly copy and paste the first part of that last post over there please?
 
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gpax

Senior Member
@ Charlieclouser - I did not see your mention of the new thread until today, obviously after my previous response here. Reading through it now...

I think it's safe to say the original inquiry here is about budget, and readily available options for CC control where Rohann mentioned orchestral libraries. As you are now broadening that discussion elsewhere to the scope of multi-dimensional input, my point here was to simply offer another consideration alongside that short list of boxes you had narrowed it down to.

Nothing more, nothing less. Not sure how I feel about being the opening case study in the other post, though I appreciate the shout out. But I am simply discussing here what I could afford (as well as delving into the Maschine side of things), and the viability of more expressive control using the device mentioned, compared to different things I've worked with before.

@ Rohann - Hopefully the bigger discussion about the viability of input devices is also helpful to you, if not also broaden the list to include something not necessarily on the radar. Feel free to PM.
 

mark.warman

Member
For all I know, ALL of the Behringer motor fader boxes can switch modes between MCU and MIDI CC - perhaps someone else on here who has a BCR can confirm?
I use Behringer's largest model (the X-touch Universal Control Surface) to control and write automation to Logic and Pro Tools. I can confirm that it is unable to send MIDI CC information.
 

robgb

I was young once
NanoKontrol works fine for me. I use it for expression and vibrato mostly and it does a great job for a low price.
 
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Rohann

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So I bit the bullet and jumped in on the order. Significant portion of my budget but from the wealth of responses/advice, the lack of decent products on the market for anything in the medium-affordability range and for a similar price to a Behringer BCF (something I've read an awful lot about needing to replace after breakage), it seemed worth it to have a decent piece of kit that I'll likely make a permanent part of my workflow. Experience tells me that messing around with frustrating pieces of gear tends in order to try and save money tends to cost more money and time than investing in something decent (not that I don't think a Nanokontrol wouldn't function).

gpax: Just wanted to chime in that I appreciate your input and the value such a console adds to your workflow. It's gotten me intrigued with different types of options for MIDI control, especially for synth work, but personally the extra $250 for a JAM doesn't seem worth it in my case. This has been an invaluable thread though, thanks all for the contributions.
 
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Rohann

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I'm trying to use TouchDAW as an interim before the FaderCtrl arrives, but I'm at a loss to the lack of explanations and tutorials for a program like Studio One re: mapping controls to realtime MIDI CC. I can draw these in manually in S1 in the part editor, but to do this in real time, does one actually need a program like MIDI Shaper?
 
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