Have you ever wondered why, when you plug in the APC-40, you can go about twisting knobs and pressing button and you never have to MIDI map one single thing? Meanwhile, in order to use your own controller, you need to plug it in, enter MIDI map mode over and over again until you get all the controllers programmed and THEN save the whole thing as a template. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get this plug and play mapping with your own controllers? Luckily you can and I will give you one very good reason why.
Ableton allows you to create what are called “User Remote Scripts” in the form of a .txt file placed in the User/Library/Preferences/Ableton/Live 8.1.3 (or current update)/User Remote Scripts. Go ahead and look in that folder and you will see that there are already some goodies in there. You can also check out this cool article at CDM. If you want to make a custom script, just edit the file entitled UserConfiguration.txt and save it in place, in a folder with a snazzy, easy-to-remember title. Now, when you go to the Preferences in Ableton, you will see your shiny new script in a the dropdown menu under MIDI control surfaces! This means that some MIDI controllers will be “Hard mapped” to certain elements in Live without having to enter MIDI mapping mode every time.
This script allows your MIDI encoders (0-8) to control the first 8 parameters of any selected device. This means that you can now use just 8 knobs to control the main parameters of any device in Ableton. The only thing that is necessary is to make sure that you have some way to shift the focus from device to device. All this takes, though, is mapping either your computer keyboard or your MIDI controller to the title bar of any given device. When you press that button, the corresponding device will be highlighted and voilá, your eight encoders are now in control of your favorite eight parameters.
I can anticipate your thinking, though. “Anthony,” you say, “what will happen when I shift from one device where parameter 1 is at, say 30% to another device where parameter 1 is at 75%, won’t the knobs jump something awful?” You are right. Here, though, is where the advice comes in. Here is why I use the Novation Nocturn.
Combining this kind of script mapping (impossible, btw, with normal MIDI mapping) with a controller with infinite, LED controllers allows you to avoid knob jumps because the LED indicator of the knobs will change every time the selected device changes. This means that there is never any discrepancy between the controller and the computer. Beautiful. I use the Nocturn for this because it is simple, durable and cheap. You can also use TouchOSC for something very similar.
I advise taking a gander at the UserConfiguration.txt file. It explains very explicitly how to edit it to allow you to map all kinds of useful stuff, from the first 16 cells of the drum rack to the master faders, etc.
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