Ableton Controller – Part 4

I’ve been off blogging my adventures in dork land for a while now, so firstly I apologize for anyone out there wanting to know how to go about doing a similar sort of thing. Blogs are a fantastic resource for learning stuff.

Secondly, its finished! When I last posted about this project, I had drilled the acrylic, fitted the pillars and the case was starting to take shape…

Then disaster struck. When sawing the hole for the launchpad, the acrylic, being the brittle material it is especially at 5mm, snapped. After an extended period of shouting and swearing at a piece of plastic, I did the only logical thing; gave up and paid for a top sheet to be laser cut.

Sorry for the wonky image. Im sure you can turn your head. Its 0:33 and I have work tomorrow. I’m not editing it now.

The design was knocked up in illustrator and cut by Zap Creatives, who charge by the minute with no set up charge. The whole sheet, at nearly A3 size, cost just over £26 to get cut. A bargin compared to some quotes I got in the £80 region.

Next step, hooking up the electronics and pluging things into the arduino. I ran a few additional software tests at this point to get things working with Pure Data. I abandoned the arduino programming language and opted to use the Firmata library.

The idea with firmata is that you simply load the Standard Firmata program onto your arduino, which sits there taking whatever is plugged into your arduino, and sending it out the USB in serial form. The advantage being that you no longer need to edit and reupload code to your arduino; everything is controlled via the chosen software. It simply provides an incoming/outgoing stream and you manipulate the data how you wish in the software; a great way to make multi-functional devices. Why change the firmware when you can simply change the patch?

The final step was the launchpad. Since the holes for each button lined up nicely now, it was a case of just elevating the circuit board to fit flush with the casing. I used the same 35mm risers as I used for the original case, except filed down by around 2.5mm to compensate for the circuit board. There were nine risers in total forming a 3 x 3 grid, note that some of the risers have grub screws in the tops of them, this is to line up with the holes for the original launchpad screws in the PCB. Having these would ensure that the circuit board is stable on the risers and would not slip out of place between the risers and the silicon button layer.

And there she is.

I finished this the day before I was due to play a gig with it. It got some great feedback and was actually described in a review as “something which looks like the unholy union of a Speak and Spell and a Rubik’s Cube”. Awesome!

And a look at the Pure Data patch…

It’s still unfinished here. It’s basically opening the communication between the arduino, scaling everything from 0-127 to be compatible with MIDI, then being routed through various CC’s to mac’s IAC driver, which passes the MIDI CC’s into Ableton Live.

So there you have it. A few things are missing, the LED’s still need to be added and tweaked, a problem with there not being enough power to illuminate the very demanding buttons, although I plan to resolve this with an external DC adapter though.

Well the basics are there and the rest shall be developed in good time.


5 responses to “Ableton Controller – Part 4

  1. Pingback: Arduino Blog » Blog Archive » Arduino To Ableton Live Via Pure Data

  2. Pingback: Arduino To Ableton Live Via Pure Data |

  3. hi! good work! contragrats!

    im interesing on dev generic midi controller.
    Can you sendme a example code to send two analogs potes to midi with arduino?

    can you publish your source code?

    thanks! (and sorry for my english :P)

    • Hi Facu, thanks for the comment, firmata is great for building midi controllers with the arduino as you can control it entirely from pure data instead of having to constantly tweak the firmware. It’s not covered a lot in tutorials so I think I’ll write a tutorial about it and publish some source code in the next day or two 🙂

  4. Hi there,
    Could you send me an example patch of two potentiometers and two digital inputs and a few tutorials on pd would be great
    thanks in advance

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