The Novation Launchpad debuted in 2009 and 10 years later it is still the go to grid-based MIDI controller for DJs, producers, and music makers of all kinds. The Launchpad has evolved quite a bit over the years and so have its users. Beyond just simply music making, Launchpad’s can be seen controlling video installations, lighting rigs, and other imaginative creative endeavors.
There are 3 models of Launchpad (Launchpad, Launchpad Pro, and Launchpad Mini) that all share the same basic level of control, but each one has a distinct set of features that you should consider before purchasing. Here is our Buyer’s Guide for the Novation range of Launchpad controllers.
The Launchpad MIDI controller has full color pads that you can customize depending on your Ableton Live session. The pads allow for launching clips, playing drumbeats, and controlling FX and your mixes with volume level and panning control. Check out the video below to see these features in action.
For the music maker, the Launchpad comes with everything you need in the box to start creating and performing music. Ableton Live Lite is the included DAW (digital audio workstation) with it’s own collection of virtual instruments and samples. But Novation also include a 4GB pack of loops, samples, and one-shots from Loopmasters to give you a wide pallet to work with.
If that’s not enough, Novation’s Sound Collective provides regular free and discounted plugins from popular software companies. Novation also provide free access to finger drumming lessons from practice/tutorial website Melodics.com.
If you are brand new to Launchpad, Novation have created a browser-based application called Launchpad Arcade. It’s a great way to understand how the Launchpad uses clips in a performance context, and there are even a few light show demos to get you started. Launchpad Arcade works with all Launchpad models.
But if you are already familiar with Launchpad, you’ve been making some music in Ableton Live, and you need a few extra performance controls, you should consider upgrading to the Pro model.
The Launchpad Pro can perform all of the same functions as the Launchpad, but with the Pro model you get velocity sensitivity, polyphonic aftertouch, and dedicated control over your metronome, undo/redo, quantize, duplicate, and double. You also have the ability to put Launchpad Pro into Scale Mode where you can select the root note then one of 32 different keys and modes, and every pad will be placed within the selected scale. This is great for the novice who has limited music theory knowledge, but it can also be advantageous to the pro when stuck in a writer’s rut.
The Launchpad Pro also features MIDI In and Out via 1/8” breakout cables. This allows you to connect Launchpad Pro to various MIDI controlled devices like synthesizers and drum machines. Check out the video below to see how easy it is to transition from Ableton Live control to outside the box MIDI hardware control.
The Launchpad Pro comes with all of the same software as Launchpad, but you also get a free piano virtual instrument from XLN Audio Addictive Keys and a free 14 days worth of Launchpad Pro courses from ADSRSounds.com. This coupled with the Melodics.com finger drumming lessons should get you up to speed on Launchpad Pro in no time.
But if all of this is too much for your current skill level, or you just want to have something portable to make music on the go, then you should consider the Launchpad Mini.
The Launchpad Mini might not have all of the deep functionality you can find on the Launchpad Pro, but all of the same functions you find on Launchpad can be found on the Mini version. One of the main differences is that the Launchpad Mini has tri-color pads with only green, orange, and red lights. Besides that, the operation of Launchpad and Launchpad Mini is the same.
The real power of Launchpad Mini is in its size. Being able to chuck the Mini into a small bag for long plane rides, road trips, or outings around town, makes it the perfect solution for when inspiration strikes, no matter where you are. Like Launchpad and Launchpad Pro, Launchpad Mini will work with mobile apps for your iOS device such as an iPhone or an iPad. You can have a truly mobile music making rig with just the Launchpad Mini and your portable device.
The versatility of Novation’s Launchpad controllers are matched only by the limits of the imagination of its users. Stages and studios around the world have found unique ways to use the iconic 64 pad grid to cater to their production needs. Launchpad isn’t exclusive to DJs and electronic dance music. You can find examples of different uses including DMX lighting and video control and sample/track playback for live performances. Lightshows on YouTube and popular social apps like Tik Tok get millions of views, turning bedroom creatives into online stars.
The Launchpad inspires those that use it to work in creative ways. Once you find the one that’s right for you, you will surely be inspired too. Be sure to contact your local Sam Ash store for any questions you have about the Novation Launchpad.