I am pretty sure that the first time you have seen this marvellous instrument on would be YouTube, right? Flashy display, unique button tapping live mode, finger drumming and other amazing features... but mainly colours! At first, the Launchpad was capable of three colors and two blended colors with varying levels of glow (red, yellow, green, orange, and yellow-green to be exact). At the time, it presented a unique control scheme as well as plug-and-play functionality with Ableton Live; something more high-priced competitors like the Monome couldn’t offer. Over the next few years, the little grid controller was seen as a must-have after producers like Madeon proved it to be an effective live instrument and production tool.
As time went on, limitations like low-brightness LEDs, a range of only 5 colors, and a lack of velocity sensitivity were met with criticism. Whereas, the introduction of the Ableton Push seemed like the ultimate demonstration of what people wanted in a drumpad-based workstation, notably including the signature 8x8 Launchpad-esque grid. While the Push offers tons of scale modes, a screen, encoders, and enough functionality to make QWERTY keyboard shortcuts obsolete, it isn’t portable enough or cheap enough to reach the same masses of producers and performers as the Launchpad. Now, Novation has the Launchpad Mk2 and Launchpad Pro once more pushed the forefront on what it means to be stylish, functional and reasonably priced.
As we all know, the eye candy features of any product in market gains a lot of popularity. So just go on and combine bright lights with music and wait for the magic to happen! It seems that novation had the same idea (a looooong time before I had it... obviously!) hence they made the most impressive change in the new line of Launchpad; the vibrant colour palette. From deep dark reds to vibrant violets, a full spectrum of expression is at your fingertips. But what’s so great about the colour improvement anyways? Well, it allows you to determine what clip is being played or recorded through its correlating clip colour in Ableton Live. This means you can close the laptop lid and get lost in the music, or at least navigate a live set without having to read tiny text on your computer screen. Smart eh? Oh yeah!
Additionally, the pads can be fed RGB data via note velocities, allowing you to program your own lightshow that can help you enhance your performance. Other aesthetic changes include the Novation logo in the middle of the grid, USB and other ports being moved to the top of the device, and recessed parts of the case making the device easy to grab off the table. It also features a separate RGB LED at the base of the unit. However, these are not even the bread and butter of what makes the Launchpad so useful. So don’t just imagine read on!
Well, all the show, colour and glitter are all fine and dandy; what about its functionality? Can I shed some light on that? Well of course... The diverse modes and styles of control offered by the Launchpad are vital and useful for anyone working with digital music, either as a performer or producer. The skill to quickly change recording modes, volume levels, bus/send channels, soloing, and panning, allow for the user to stay on the Launchpad and keep their hands off the keyboard. This allows for the Launchpad not only to function as a drumpad, but a fully capable and portable workstation. With the Launchpad Pro, you also gain access to metronome, delete, quantization, duplication, and dedicated record buttons, which allows for Push-like control over Ableton and other software.
In addition, the Launchpad Pro model has velocity sensitive pads, making any instrument have a varied dynamic range. As far as other special features go, the Launchpad Pro has scale and chord features much like those seen on the Ableton Push. This offers unbelievable range in a very small form factor which is achieved via a guitar-styled “fretting” where notes overlap from row to row so that the hand can move vertically or horizontally to play (unlike a piano which only allows for horizontal movement to change range).
But...how much does it cost ? Trust me, its affordable. Check this out here.
So to conclude
With new features, brighter and more expressive pads, the option for velocity control, and scale/note mode, the Launchpad line has finally grown out of its shell and into something better. Some years ago, the Launchpad was something radical, new, and defined a whole new form factor and approach to music. Now it has borrowed from the devices which borrowed from it and is back to stay as the go-to, low-budget MIDI controller for electronic music, either in the studio or on the stage.