Controllerism & Production
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  1. #1
    Tech Convert
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    Default Controllerism & Production

    Hey all. New to the DJ/Controllerism scene. I'm currently a songwriter, but I'm getting into mixing/mastering and I do some producing/studio session work every now and then too. Looking to make a move at doing the whole recording/touring artist thing. It started when I bought the Kontrol S2 as a means to control VSTi's in an analog-type fashion. Started messing around with traktor because it came with it and now I'm really hooked on all these new sounds and styles. Not looking into becoming a DJ or anything, but I am learning the techniques and the style. Currently saving up to get a MF and a Hot Hand, but don't want to jump too far into it until I really get a hand on midi mapping quickly. I'm still a little confused about some things though.

    1. Why Ableton? I haven't gotten too much information on it, but after going through a couple DAWs (Audition, Cubase, Sonar, Logic, and Pro Tools) I'm wondering about it. Currently I use Logic for production and Cubase/Pro Tools for recording/mixing(depends on who I'm doing it for). Is it mostly because of the extra software or is it a workflow thing?

    2. VSTi's live? Normally when I use a VSTi in a song, I'll (usually) record it through a speaker so that it mixes well with normal recorded instruments. Do you guys literally just chop up your own stuff and trigger them or do you have some of the buttons set to control VSTi's

    3. Do you ever assign effects to buttons? Like, maybe a button was set to move the mix knob on an effect by 5% or something like that

    4. Do you guys ever use stepped encoders for anything that isn't a scroll/jog function?

    5. Who inspires you guys? This seems like a pretty underground thing and it's a little hard to find information on it beyond gear stuff. Kind of hard to tell what is hip and what is cheesy and stuff.

    6. How many MIDI controllers can you use at once? I've only used 2 at a time, but controlling the same thing(on the same channel). Logic gives me 16 channels, but wouldn't some sort of a wordclock for that much stuff? Especially when using an external soundcard like the S2 or a Universal Audio Apollo?

  2. #2
    Tech Wizard
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    I'll do my best to answer.

    1. "Why Ableton?": Because. Ableton is probably the most useful and versatile software made to date. While it hosts a WIDE array of music production tools, it also can be used as a live software unit. It is most definitely a "work-flow thing". I cant stress this enough. Many major label producers (Ultra, Toolroom, Wall) use MANY different DAW and have expressed workflow as the reason why. For example, to me, FL has one of the most creative adaptive piano rolls to date, versus everything else which is pretty horrible to me. To each his own , its whatever you feel comfortable using as a medium to express your music.

    2. "VSTI": While VST are easy to use in replacement for analog equipment, which can cost thousands, it still serves a strong purpose as midi-controlled devices too. People who make AMAZING examples of this are acts like Feed Me, and Skrillex. I know some people hate those guys, but look at the freaking originality behind that stuff. They took a Mac Book (with Ableton) and made THAT, mostly using VST automation at that. But once again, it comes down to what you want. Its your sound to express, so express it with individuality. For example: I bought an SM57 about a year ago to strictly record samples from instruments and vocals. I mic'ed up my Melissa and Doug baby piano and added the samples into a live input in Sampler, a Ableton platform, and added a ton of ridiculous modulation and effects on top of those samples to create a really cool and unique sound.

    3. "Insta-Grat Button Mapping" (as its known around here): It depends on your style of mixing. Some contollerists use the insta-grat stuff on their mixer (such as DJTT's S4 mapping). This can save ALOT of time while mixing, and also give you a unique edge in live performance.

    4. "Stepped Encoders": I'll be perfectly honest on this one: I noticed ALOT of people adding stepped encoders as EQ on their recently posted midi fighter X submissions. It appears that the Encoder MIGHT replace the latter options, due to the ability to completely map any setting to only ONE knob, instead of many different. Defeats the purpose of "searching for" the setting. Especially the ones which are programable, like on the APC40.

    5. Inspiration comes with innovation for me. I think innovative thinkers, like many of the awesome guys who write the articles on the blog portion of this site, inspire me heavily. Makes me want and go "test" out the fundamentals they are teaching so simply and effectively. I really enjoy making my own music, so musically I guess you could say I try create my own influences based on what I want to hear.

    6. I only use three. Period. I often upgrade them based on my needs. I currently use a MPK49 for writing and producing. I use a Traktor Kontrol S4 for live performance of my productions. Then I have a Launchpad which I use for both. If you wanted, you could count my TouchOSC IPAD, but technically its just used like a analog mixer's controls would be used for. I designed it to make my job easier. I hope to get something like a MF3D or Pro soon to do a bit of "jamming" with some of my more heavy tracks.

  3. #3
    Tech Guru botstein's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SirEarl View Post

    1. Why Ableton?
    Ableton is the best choice for live use (session view especially), flexible routing, and warping (audio time-scale/pitch modification).

    Quote Originally Posted by SirEarl View Post
    Do you guys literally just chop up your own stuff and trigger them
    Sometimes, yeah.

    Quote Originally Posted by SirEarl View Post
    or do you have some of the buttons set to control VSTi's
    Yes - personally, I use a Maschine controller to control each instance of Maschine I'm using, for example.

    Quote Originally Posted by SirEarl View Post
    3. Do you ever assign effects to buttons? Like, maybe a button was set to move the mix knob on an effect by 5% or something like that
    Yes, a lot of the MIDI Fighter mappings (Instant Gratification, this one, https://maps.djtechtools.com/mappings/1386, etc) are all about that.

    Quote Originally Posted by SirEarl View Post
    4. Do you guys ever use stepped encoders for anything that isn't a scroll/jog function?
    Sure, they're good for browsing, assigning, volume, swing, tempo, you name it.

    Quote Originally Posted by SirEarl View Post
    5. Who inspires you guys?
    Controllerism evokes turntablism and traditional musicianship and virtuosity. I'm inspired by a great number of musicians - too many to list, as well as innovators (e.g., Bob Moog, Steve Jobs). Here are some top-of-my-head examples of people I look up to (at least in part) because of their controller and turntable performances that you could check out.

    Turntables:
    A-trak, Craze, Grandmaster Flash, Grandwizzard Theodore, Jazzy Jeff, Shiftee, Q-bert, and others.

    Controllers/Pads/Samplers/Synth:
    Araabmuzik, Bass Kleph, Thavius Beck, Ricardo Betti, Daedelus, Daft Punk, Dorian Concept, Jeremy Ellis, Tim Exile, Izn, Priscilla J, Rheyne, M4Sonic, and others.



    Quote Originally Posted by SirEarl View Post
    Kind of hard to tell what is hip and what is cheesy and stuff.
    Good DJs are great at telling the two apart.

    Quote Originally Posted by SirEarl View Post
    6. How many MIDI controllers can you use at once?
    I've performed with software with just a MacBook Pro and with everything-in-my-signature-plus all at once, and most combinations in between. It's sort of a personal thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by SirEarl View Post
    I've only used 2 at a time, but controlling the same thing(on the same channel).
    One of my basic setups was four tracks in Ableton with Maschine on each of them, two Maschine controllers (it's easy to switch between Maschine instances), and a crossfader. Ableton + APC40 is a setup unto itself. A number of people just play with an all-in-one like the S4.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by scattrrbrain View Post
    They took a Mac Book (with Ableton) and made THAT, mostly using VST automation at that. But once again, it comes down to what you want. Its your sound to express, so express it with individuality.
    You forgot where they use the same sound engineer for designing their patches; hence Skrillexes sound changing on his last album (as his laptop was stolen along with alot of his samples, pre defined patches, his go to combis etc)

    So i think its a little over the top to say they took a MacBook and Ableton and went to town with originality (Plus Sonny started on a PC :P You overpriced Apple hipsters hehe)

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by balakoth View Post
    You forgot where they use the same sound engineer for designing their patches; hence Skrillexes sound changing on his last album (as his laptop was stolen along with alot of his samples, pre defined patches, his go to combis etc)

    So i think its a little over the top to say they took a MacBook and Ableton and went to town with originality (Plus Sonny started on a PC :P You overpriced Apple hipsters hehe)
    Good points mate.
    Refer to the gear thread to see what I produce with.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by scattrrbrain View Post
    4. "Stepped Encoders": I'll be perfectly honest on this one: I noticed ALOT of people adding stepped encoders as EQ on their recently posted midi fighter X submissions. It appears that the Encoder MIGHT replace the latter options, due to the ability to completely map any setting to only ONE knob, instead of many different. Defeats the purpose of "searching for" the setting. Especially the ones which are programable, like on the APC40.
    I've used the loop encoders on the S2 to control EQ plugin(the plugin was stepped) gain levels before. Like that? Or are you talking about mapping multiple controls to a single encoder



    Thanks for the input guys. I'll have to demo Ableton sometime. Maybe once I clean up and repair my PC. Poor SSD on this laptop is all crowded with 2 DAWs, Traktor, and hundreds of samples and plugins and whatnot already.

    Has anybody had experience using old video game controllers before? I've got a MaKey MaKey kit, which is pretty fun to play with, but it's more of a novelty kind of thing. I've got LSDJ for my gameboy, but I think making it a straight up MIDI device would be much cooler. Maybe a PS2 controller for velocity control.

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