Hacking the Launchpad Pro

The recently released Launchpad Pro has generated a lot of buzz lately. With full RGB-color, velocity-sensitive pads, built-in MIDI support, and Push-like controls for Ableton, it opens up some interesting new possibilities. And at $299 to the Pushs’ $565, its price point might introduce new people to this category of devices.

What’s really got us excited here at Stagecraft Software though is that Novation has open sourced its “firmware” (GitHub repo)— it’s not technically the firmware but an API that gives you enough low-level control to be dangerous (and not to yourself). We spent a long weekend hacking and came up with some promising results.

One obvious advantage to Novation’s strategy is that developers will introduce features that Novation doesn’t have the time (or care to) implement. A common criticism in reviews of the Launchpad Pro has been that its Notes mode uses a chromatic scale, as opposed to “locking” the user into a key or mode like Push does. So we’ve implemented our own note quantization with mappings that makes sense to us.

Additionally, there are also many ways, especially with full RGB color, that the Launchpad Pro could be used for visual feedback to the musician. It’s not just for pretty light shows (though we like pretty lights shows too). Our “session mode”, which turns the columns into a basic graphic EQ, is just one exploration of this idea.

Outside of hacking with the API, the built-in MIDI could be interesting as well. As pointed out in Peter Kirn’s recent article, the Launchpad Pro’s can interact with other instruments and devices without needing a computer. A game changer for people that find creating music on a PC akin to making Excel spreadsheets (we respectfully disagree:).

These initial experiments have got us excited and we’re looking to keep hacking. If you have any feedback/idea, hit us up on our Facebook, Twitter, or email.

We are currently running a beta program to finalize certain features of this product. It will be available for download in the coming month.