The Monome has been long revered as the holy grail of DIY controllers. It’s open format and active community of builders and developers make it great for people who want to completely customize their music making experience. But building your own can be a steep climb for those not familiar with electronics or programing. Novation recently introduced their own Monome-like controller that begs the question, can it work the same way?
A Monome works with Open Sound Control (OSC), which allows it to send and receive control information in a variety of ways, and many Monome users have developed and shared applications built specifically for the Monome. These applications either work standalone, letting you chop and sequence within one program, or as bridges to other software sending midi and control information to your DAW (Ableton the popular choice among Monome users). While a lot of the standalone apps are built in Max/MSP, they only require you have Max Runtime, a free program to run them. Almost as soon as Novation’s Launchpad hit the market, Monome programs and emulators were adapted to work with the Launchpad and have it function much the same way.
To get the full scoop on how the Novation Launchpad stacks up in the Monome community I hit up Adam Rubaido, developer of the popular Monome Ableton control program 7up. Check the questions below to get inside with an insider:
How has the Launchpad been received by the Monome community? It’s design and functionality have obvious similarities. Is this a bone of contention among Monome users or wanna be Monome users (Wannomes)?
Understandably, the release of the launchpad was initially seen as a big corporation’s affront on a much loved independent business’ success story. It’s hard to argue that the Launchpad and APC40’s designs weren’t lifted from the monome, but the fact is that the demand for grid-based controllers far exceeded supply and those companies made what proved to be a business savvy choice by meeting that demand. At this point, launchpad users have been accepted as a source of fresh blood in a community of enthusiastic hackers and musicians.
Does the new version of 7up work natively with the Launchpad? Do you need an emulator?
Using any monome application with the Launchpad will require an emulator to translate the messages coming from the Launchpad into messages that monome applications understand (OSC). That being said, the process has become relatively painless with a number of emulators out there including MonomeEmu and NoNome.
MonomeEmu works especially well with SevenUp 2.0 as we’ve included support for Launchpad’s multi-colored LEDs. However, it’s worth mentioning that any time you use an emulator, you’re adding overhead to both your workflow and CPU utilization.
How does 7up compare to the native Launchpad functionality when controlling Ableton Live?
This is something of an apples and oranges comparison as the Launchpad’s built in control surface capabilities serve different purposes than SevenUp’s capabilities. But, I will however say that in *general*, and especially since the release of Max4Live, you’re going to find more features to play with, more creative capabilities, and more surprises from community-developed monome applications than the out-of-the-box Novation functionality.
Has the Monome community set the standard for open sourcing controllers? Do you see more commercial products and software becoming user programmable?
I don’t know if the Monome community has set the standard but it’s certainly a successful example of how a business plan can be crafted with community and open standards as a key component. Right now the community is Brian’s [Monome creator Brian Crabtree] best salesman and also his support department.
Taking a step away from music and software, I think as consumers become more tech savvy, more curious hackers will emerge and businesses will see the benefits of letting their users take the products to places they had never envisioned. You see this already with video games (did John Carmack ever envision Team Fortress) and with social apps (did Mark Zuckerberg ever envision Farmville?). So absolutely, I see user programmability a huge part of tomorrow’s marketplace, music or otherwise.
You’re a producer/Monome user yourself. What’s your favorite thing about using a Monome?
I had a vision for how a grid controller would react to my button presses and I was able to *gasp* act on that vision. That’s powerful stuff.
But my favorite part of the monome has to be the community that surrounds it. I’ve met so many amazing people, traveled to so many places, and played so many shows all because of this dumb little box of blinking lights. It’s been a beacon that’s brought together programmers and musicians and everything in between. Turns out we get along ok.
Thanks very much Adam!
Adam produces and plays live with his Monome as Making the Noise. You can listen to his new album at makingthenoise.com/anything. You can also see the latest version of his program 7up in action with Ableton Live and and MaxForLive at makingthenoise.com/sevenup.
Novation’s Launchpad could be a great route for people looking to break into the customizable Monome community, and is a pretty slick little Ableton controller on it’s own. Check through some of the links above to see videos of Launchpads and Monomes in action. Check it out in the store using the link below, and for getting to the end of this article you get a special discount code on the Launchpad! Use the promo code “launchpad7up” for the best price on a Launchpad anywhere on the net.