Controlling MIDI in Ableton Live with a Video Game Controller

joystick ableton
Get your video game controller to do stuff in Live.
DO WHY? Because doing so is awesome. Duh!
DO HOW? This is where it gets tricky. But not that tricky.

MIDI or KEY mapping? Key mapping alone is groovy, but you are limited to toggling between two values. That’s no fun for a filter sweep! With 0-127 ranges you can map that analog joystick to control knobs and faders with full precision.

STEP 1: Find a program to convert game controller input to midi and/or keyboard mappings
STEP 2: Map stuff to things and stuff

On my old macbook which i stopped using a couple years ago, I used to use ControllerMate for keyboard mappings and OSCulator for midi.

I think that ControllerMate is a badass program. It has a really cool modular programming flow (somewhat reminiscent of max for live) which is fun and very powerful to come up with nifty ways to set up how controller inputs react. You can, for example, make a button so that it has “hold” instead of “toggle” behaviour (much more useful for using gamepad buttons to turn effects on and off on the fly since you don’t have to remember which are on or off… just let go of all buttons to turn off all effects), set up a button so that each press cycles between different actions, make “combo” actions which are only triggered when multiple buttons are pressed at the same time, and much much more. Back when i used it, there was no midi control option, but apparently they have that capacity now, which i think would exponentiate the capabilities (if you would like to buy me a new macbook i would be happy to give it a fresh investigation).

OSCulator is also very powerful. It uses a less sexy format than controllermate, but it does send midi or osc messages from wiimote to macbook via bluetooth. You can do fun stuff like make effects which switch on when you press the nunchuck’s “c” or “z” buttons and parameters tied to the nunchuck’s angle sensors, or make swinging the wiimote trigger quantized drum samples tied to the velocity and pressing different buttons changes which samples play. Here’s a picture of me swinging a controller around at Cervantes in Denver for the “Party for the Children” event in 2011.
This article goes into wayyy more detail on this methodology. Apparently OSCulator now also has “Bi-directional MIDI” with TouchOSC which sounds cool.
Speaking of TouchOSC, use that to transform your tablet or smartphone into a midi controller (or in my case, your wife and your son’s tablets since you don’t have one of your own). It’s badass too. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

Since i switched to windows, i now use  JoyToKey for keyboard mappings and Rejoice + LoopBe1 for midi.
Neither of these methods is as powerful as the aforementioned mac options, but they are good enough for what is needed.

JoyToKey is pretty self-explanatory to use. It has a few advanced options but nowhere near the flexibility of ControllerMate. You can figure it out. I believe in you.

Rejoice doesn’t seem to have its own webpage, so i’ve linked the page it was found via. For internal midi routing the free LoopBe1 is recommend. It only has one option: “mute”. Dead simple.
In Rejoice, select your gamepad under “joystick”. Sometimes it shows the same name for multiple controllers… if so, you can figure which is which by trial and error: select each and move controls until you see numbers popping up. Actual mapping is not immediately obvious… to map a control to a midi message, click the “Add” button while pressing or moving the desired control. Then use the options and boxes to determine which midi message gets sent (example: map the “x” axis of a joystick to channel 1 cc 8 with a range of 0-127). In the “Midi Out” section choose “LoopBe Internal MIDI” (if you already have another internal midi option you can select that instead). In Ableton Live’s midi preferences make sure “LoopBe Internal Midi” is set to ON for “track” and “remote”. Now you should be able to midi map in ableton using your game controller just like any other midi controller. Proceed with mapping every button and stick of all of your gamepads, joysticks, etc until they are all set and click on “export” to save the configuration, which should automatically load next time you open rejoice.

The cool thing is, once you set up your mappings, you never have to think about it again (unless you accidentally double-book mappings). It is advised to make a plan of your midi channels if you are using multiple controllers. An idea is to dedicate one midi channel to each device–for example, “logitech attack 2” joystick sends all its values on Channel Nine. Channel Nine. Channel Nine. Channel Nine…. Joystick mapping is also neat because you can have performance effects which “snap back” to the middle. This could be really cool for fx which are “dry” in the center value but apply their effect when turned either left or right (such as so-called “one-knob filters”).

Congratulations, you’ve just transformed that cheap thing you got at the thrift store for a few bucks into the equivalent of a controller costing a hundred dollars.
Pat yourself on the back and go glitch some beats.

Check out these new albums from groovy local Colorado artists…

From Charlie Milo (& produced by yours truly): The Official CD-R

From Phloethik: Crossing Paths

Be sure to check out Phloethik’s GoFundMe project for a walk-in Audio Visual 3-D Model!

Also check out the newly curated “PerforModule Collection” bundle from Isotonik Studios... the most performodule goodies you can acquire for the best price yet!

What is it going to be???!!!???

Ionic Rubix transparent w shadow

“The Blue Hand” for Instant Mapping in Ableton Live

blue hand print

So you might be like “what the heck is that blue hand i keep seeing in Ableton Live?”.

The blue hand will magically take hold of the controls of the selected device… IF you have instant mapping enabled for a midi controller.

Whatever device you have last clicked on the header bar of with your mouse (or selected via key commands or midi) will have the blue hand, and will be controlled by instant mapping.

I used this guide to help me figure out how to set this up for my Novation Nocturn controller. I didn’t like the knobs being lined up numerically rather than mimicking the physical positioning of the 8 knobs in racks, so i changed the values to re-map them. I also set up my BCR-2000 controller to have a scene with a set of 8 knobs which provide instant mapping powers.

You can right-click on a device to select “lock controller” options for any available controllers. This will, as you might guess, lock that controller to controlling that device, until you deselect it. If you have more than one controller setup with instant mapping, you can have more than one blue hand. I will often temporarily lock one controller to a specific device to be able to control it while moving the view around, and using the second controller to manipulate any selected device on the fly. This is equally useful for live performance and for studio experimentation.

You can also use controllers to automatically control other things in Live.
To find out what your midi controller does in “control surface mode”, go to the menu and select “help view”.  In the  select “midi controllers” near the bottom and click on “To learn specifically about setting up MIDI control surfaces, click here.” Go to the next page and click on “Control Surface Reference“, then select your controller from the list. For these controls to operate as such, the specific controller must be selected under “midi-sync preferences”, and must not be custom-mapped.

In addition to controlling racks, you can also control any native Ableton device with a blue hand.
SO… it’s easy to control any audio effect, instrument, or midi effect rack with the blue hand if you have a controller with 8 knobs set up in a similar arrangement (2 rows of 4 knobs).
HOWEVER… it’s not at all intuitive to control devices directly with instant mapping, since it’s hard to tell which parameter is going to be affected unless you memorize them.
THEREFORE… i have made text files (just for you) which include the parameters controlled by the first 8 “instant map” knobs for each and every core Ableton device. You can reference these to see which parameters will be affected by which knob, before you even touch them. Yippee!

Here’s the lists. Click on the titles to download the text files directly:

BlueHand Controls: Audio Effects

Continue reading

Announcing new “Tasty Mastering” service by PerforModule!

Announcing the official launch of Tasty Mastering by PerforModule.


After years of polishing various material for various musicians of various genres from various locations around the world, and having refined our technique and workflow to an exquisite degree for consistently tasty results, our custom hybrid analog + digital m/s mastering service is now available to the general public.

We’re offering a special launch deal (until September 1st) of only $20 to master a song (normally $40)!

Additionally, anyone purchasing mastering work will get 20% off any order at (where PerforModule Ableton Live Packs are available as well as some insanely innovative max for live devices). Likewise, those who make any new purchase at isotonik studios will receive a discount for the tasty mastering service.

Click on the “Tasty Mastering” gif above to be transported to the Tasty Mastering website.
There is much more info there about the process and pricing as well as audio examples.

p.s. good luck finding the easter eggs on the site…

Just Possibly the Greatest Podcast Ever: The UBK Happy Funtime Hour

Just wanted to pass the word along, in case you are not already a listener, about the “UBK Happy Funtime Hour” by Gregory Scott and Nathan Daniel, which is the greatest (and only??) audio production podcast out there. It’s highly recommended!
It is informative yet goofy. It’s hard to keep track of how many useful tidbits have been garnered from listening.
In particular, i’ve reacted pleasantly various times to hearing suggestions for non-intuitive and unique techniques which happen to be things i have gleaned in my own production learning journey (which is validating both to my own process and to the authenticity of the material presented). I enjoy how the focus is on feel, results, and understanding of core concepts rather than on the [ahem] technical elitism which tends to suffuse internet forum threads.
What’s extra-groovy is that you can send in questions yourself! Go ahead and ask them a question (but make it a good one…)

In case you’re unfamiliar with Kush Audio well, now you can be.

“Maicro Management”: free fx for micro macro manipulation

You’d be surprised what impact values of less than one can sometimes have.

Sometimes you don’t want to add in a crazy, obvious change to a sound. Sometimes you need subtle precision.
Here’s an effect rack which allows for itty bitty adjustments to volume, panning, and width, as well as for adding in tiny touches of saturation, phaser, and reverb.

A few ideas for implementing “Maicro Management” effects:
-Use the volume knob to augment a volume change to have hundredths precision.
-Use the width knob to subconsciously dilate key sections to enhance drama.
-Use the panning knob to automate extremely subtle panning movement.
-Use the phaser to add a touch of life & crispness to dull material.
-Use the saturation to add in a sense of subliminal thickness.

Keep in mind, these are more practically suited for refining touches to an already mostly-complete mix than for initial drafting.

Maicro Management effect rackMacro Controls Include:

Maicro Volume: alter level by less than 1dB.

Tone: use this to set the tone response for the saturation, phaser, and reverb.

Maicro Panning: alter panning by values less than 1%.

Maicro Phaser: add in a touch of subtle phasing.

Maicro Saturate: add in a touch of gainstaged parallel saturation.

Maicro Reverb: add in subtle reverb. Can be useful to make “dry” or “thin” sounds feel like they have a “space”. The character and response of the reverb are also determined by the setting.

Maicro Width: narrow or widen the stereo field by less than 1%.

Multiplier: make the entire rack more intense in steps up to 6x. Do this to temporarily hear the result of the effects more clearly, or if you’d like the results to be not quite so subtle. By x6 the effects will have crossed well into being obviously discernible.

Click on the image above or here to grab “Maicro Management” now for absolutely free!  And enjoy it, friendly freaks!


Ableton Live Templates from Subaqueous

Reporting that Subaqueous has released 10 free template packs for Ableton Live based on songs from his latest album “Tides of Twilight”. Explore the production process from the inside out!
There are also available packs which delve even deeper into it, giving you extra tools, material, and videos.

Check out the album in its entirety for free HERE.

I personally really dig this music for being tasty and emotional, with a focus on subtle elements rather than the overt (and frankly annoying) “bro-ishness” which has been pervading popular electronic music lately.
I am way more into stuff (such as this album) which has dynamics, vibe, and heart than music which is appealing to the “lowest common denominator”. So in other words — it is highly diggable. Click the image below to be transported to the “Tides of Twilight” template packs…


-Animus of PerforModule

Free LANDR “Tone Sculptors” Ableton Live pack + other nifty stuff

I recently helped tweak and finalize a set of free audio effect racks in collaboration with online mastering service LANDR.
These are three effect racks suited for quick and easy “tone sculpting” of parts which are centered on low, mid, or high frequency ranges.

Check out the story about it and find download links here:
tone sculptors ableton

If you’ve never used LANDR, i highly recommend it as a way to test your mixes. Finish a mix and send it off to LANDR… listen to the master they send back to you, hear problems more clearly, and then go back to your mix and fix. It’s also a great way to get a new track ready for live performance before it has been sent off for professional mastering or officially released.

Also, check out the new ARCHIPEL ELEMENTS live pack, with drum racks featuring juicy recorded samples ranging in the 4 elements – earth, water, air and fire. Great material for sound design and experimental composition.

archipel elements
ALSO be on the lookout for the epic “DynaMixing Three” Live pack which will be releasing at isotonik studios this friday. This pack includes some of the most insane and advanced devices yet developed by PerforModule, featuring envelope followers which “automagically” adjust certain parameters in response to input characteristics. Some of these effects are “secret weapons” for sublime mixing and mastering solutions.
Check out the video overview for “DynaMixing Three” HERE.


(There is EVEN MORE incredible stuff going on behind the scenes which you will find out about soon.) 

P.S. Bonus shoutout to AFRODJMAC for being super groovy. You should totally join the afrodjmac music production club, because i said so. And because it is very affordable, and awesome.


Sometimes the simplest things are the most useful… introducing the free “Utilification” Ableton Live Pack

Here’s a {free} ableton live pack of effects that are made for simple yet extremely useful purposes, including fading, stereo panning, m/s encoding and decoding,.

It is highly recommended to grab these and implement them into your Ableton Live library.



Audio FX

“-inf to +0 Fader” — just like it says, this is a simple fader from negative infinity to zero decibels. When you want a quick and easy volume knob that goes all the way to silence and maxes out with no boost (unlike the “utility” device), use this.

“LR to MS Controller” — this will switch a Left-Right Stereo file to transmit its left channel as the sides and its right channel as the center, or you can swap those results so the right is the sides and the left becomes the center.
You can then tilt the center and sides channels, mute them, and alter their levels.

“MS to LR Controller” — this will switch a Mid-Side Stereo file to transmit its sides channel as the left and its center channel as the right, or you can swap those results so the center is the left and the sides becomes the right.
You can then tilt the left and right channels, mute them, and alter their levels.

[an example of using these controllers would be to make an MS recording into LR to be able to apply a stereo effect to it, then to return it back to MS again]

“Instant Muter” — Mutes the audio, plain and simple, the moment the knob is moved above its minimum value. Use this to be able to easily interrupt the audio flow wherever you want within a chain.

“Stereo Panner” — Allows for “stereo panning”. Using clever routing, this allows non-exclusive panning of audio wherein the content from the opposite side is moved over rather than being faded out (while maintaining overall level). This allows for more natural-sounding panning of stereo sources without losing material.
[For example, let’s say you have a stereo track with a guitar panned hard to the left side and a piano panned hard to the right. Normally if you use a pan knob to move right, the guitar sound would be lost. With this, panning right will gradually move the guitar over to the right along with the piano, rather than removing it.]

“Phase Adjust” — Select among 4 phase-flip options with one knob, and implement micro-delay to align waveforms more carefully, either between the source and the mix or between the left and right halves of the source.

“Utilify” — “Swiss army knife” which includes most of the above devices in one rack.  Use this as a more robust replacement for Ableton’s built-in Utility effect.

—>>> Download “Utilification” for Ableton Live 9 via Isotonik Sutdios <<<—