Dubspot Blog contributor Josh Spoon explores wireless Ableton Live control with the touchAble 2 iOS application for iPad and iPhone.
touchAble is a popular iOS Ableton Live controller application that has been around for a few years now. With the recent launch of touchAble 2 for the iPad and now iPhone with touchAble Mini, the application has received a makeover and some new features that enhance the experience. Some of these new features include:
- MIDI Clip Editor
- Isomorphic Keyboard (similar to Push keyboard)
- Template Controller Editor
- New browser
Setup is very straight forward. Download the touchAble server on your computer and follow the setup instructions, you’ll be set up in minutes. If you do get lost, don’t worry, they have links to tutorials in the app. It does work only on WiFi and there is no lag in triggering.
Transport and The Browser
Its transport bar at the top provides you with almost everything available on Live’s transport bar including the ability to add tracks, clips and duplicate clips.
The browser is a new addition to touchAble 2 and turns this app into a full production tool. Select an instrument in your Library, effect, or sample and drag it on to a track without going to your mouse. Note: As of April 2014, you cannot load VSTs and Auto Units. Once the elements are dragged in, you can edit them in the Device Module, where you have global access to all the instruments and effects.
The Device View
The Device View allows you to edit with a general edit template though EQ Eight is the only device to have a template that is almost identical to Live’s EQ Eight. It’s easy to get around because the names of the parameters are visible on touchAble. This is a very robust section with tools to bank through parameters, group devices into one view and set momentary effects; just to name a few.
Clips Module, MIDI Clip Editor
The Clips Module is a representation of clips in your session view but it can do more than launch clips. You have the ability to customize the size of your clips, stop clips, set loops and their length as well as create and edit clips; to name a few.
In the MIDI clip editor you can draw out your notes, set scales, velocities and have access to everything that is available in clip view at your finger tips. If you are into drawing in all your notes using a mouse, MIDI Clip Editor might be a great alternative for you. You just tap for a note, hold and drag to move that note, drag the edge to change the length and long press to delete. The drum editing mode makes it easy to program beats; tap to add a note, tap again to delete, and drag your finger across the clip to make quick 16th note high hat sequence.
Keys & Drum Pad
If playing is more of your thing touchAble2 has you covered with a standard keyboard that can keep you in key and a drum pad with many bells and whistles. You have options to control your octave, note and velocity range, aftertouch pitch bend as well as note repeat and even per pad on the drums. This access is something that may take a lot of clicking or mapping to achieve with most Live users.
The Isomorphic keyboard is a great addition especially for those who are interested in Push but don’t have the money or like to travel light, this is a good alternative. A great feature to this keyboard and all keyboards in touchAble 2 is it labels each square with the note it represents. This really allows you to get hands on in your Live set (pun heavily intended). There are very few controllers that allow you to easily see the notes or beats you are working. Most are just rubber squares so you have little reference to what you might be playing and edit and touchAble has executed it quite well.
This module is my absolute favorite. Not only do you have a replica of the Live’s UI on iPad but you can design your own controller and toggle back and forth from it or split the screen with one of the other modules. Buttons, Slider, Knobs, XY surfaces and many containers are all available to you to create DJ, VJ and global effects controls with unlimited pages for a single or multiple Live Project.
I’d say this is my second most favorite feature in touchAble 2. The redesigned XY-Pad you can control up to 12 parameters with up to four fingers. After you quickly set your parameters to be controlled on the pad you can then make up to 8 snapshots of the sweet spots of your XY-Pad. If that’s not enough the pad has a record function so you can play back your automation while executing other tasks while the XY-Pad is in half mode.
Once automation is recorded, there are options to loop, play and reverse as well as a forces of gravity and the ability to bounce off the corners of the pad. When you are done you can save it all as a template for later use.
MIDI Mapping External Controllers
touchAble 2 has also added the ability to use a hardware controller, connected through your iPad camera connection kit, to map to the switching of modules, toggling of the transport bar and control the current Device Module’s parameters. This gives you a best of both worlds feel with the tactile feel for faders, if you choose with the accessibility of touchAble2. It will also free up one port on your laptop if that is something of interest to you.
touchAble 2 Mini (iPhone)
- Isomorphic Keyboard
- Drum Pads
- Template Module
- Recording XY-Pad
I’ve been an iPad user for just a few months now and one of the first apps I got was touchAble 2 and I was very happy from the start. It has some hiccups sometimes but usually if I switch to another module and come back it will update it’s parameters.
The beauty of touchAble 2 is it’s simple but useful multifaceted layout. Being able to toggle from full view of a section to split view of two sections eases workflow. I can draw in notes for one synth while effecting the parameters of another synth and have all of the information of both synths in full view.
The layouts can be resized depending on what tools you may or may not want to use at the time, helping you make the most of your iPad/iPhone real estate. touchAble 2 has become the companion to my Push; assisting in duties like modulating effects while I play on Push and working as my mixer when mixing down tracks. I’ve even started using touchAble 2 as my controller for handling visuals for live performance with the XY Pad and custom Templates.
There are some many great features that each Live user can find useful as their main controller or a secondary controller and for the price of $29.99 for iPad and $9.99 iPhone it really is hard to beat.
Dubspot blogger Josh Spoon is an Ableton Live veteran, blogger, drummer, music producer and live performer. Josh has a residency with the eclectic Los Angeles electronic music collective Space Circus, performing every third Friday of the month, and just released his first concept EP of grooving low-end originals entitled Man on Mars.
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