Tired Of Playing The MacBook? Play The Raspberry Pi!


Hit up any club, party, or get together where musicians are present and you’ll probably find a DJ booth stacked to the gills with faders, various MIDI devices, and a MacBook. However abundant an OS X-based DJ platform is, we haven’t heard hide nor hare of a Raspberry Pi being used as a sequencer, MIDI device, or MaxMSP box.

[James] over at Illuminated Sound put together a great tutorial for making all those cool electronic music devices play nice with a Raspberry Pi. He used a Novation Launchpad, an 8×8 MIDI controller that can act as faders, a keyboard, or even a functional equivalent to the pads on an MPC.

Hardware is nothing without software, so [James] used Puredata and libusb to turn the MIDI data into notes and audio effects.

[James] added a download that includes the Launchpad driver and a Puredata sketch to test everything out. You can see how it all fits together in the video after the break.

29 thoughts on “Tired Of Playing The MacBook? Play The Raspberry Pi!

  1. One of my friends is a professional DJ. I’ve been to gigs with him, and it’s changed from a mixer and amps being provided and you bringing your own decks and vinyl, to there just being half empty racks and a place to plug your laptop in.

    Weirdly enough, those random CDs that accumulate under the DJ’s desk are still there, even though the players left years ago.

    1. Sounds like an unfortunate trend in your area. Nearly every club in this city has their own Technics 1200s and a reasonable mixer. Some have Serato built-in for the laptop DJs, and very rarely do you just see an empty table for computers/controllers. Pioneer CDJs have become standard rider fare for touring acts, so there’s a few of those floating around too.

      There’s still the odd club where you have to bring all your own equipment, but whenever I see someone spinning there they bring Techs and a mixer – usually with Serato.

      There’s one ambitious duo who use the Emulator (a $5000-$7000 multitouch projection table thing running Traktor) but like most people I talk to, they also hate Traktor.

      1. A club I used to go to about 10 years ago had a laptop, running Winamp, for the whole show! Sitting there unmanned a lot of the time. A lead out the headphone socket going into the multi-kilowatt amps somewhere. The atmosphere was great, and the laptop never crashed, far as I know.

    1. I have to agree with you. I would rather see the launchpad control something through an rpi that it’s not intended to control, or possibly have the rpi detect some other type of data to translate to midi and send to ableton.

  2. The LaunchPad is a production tool – if you are using it to DJ you are not DJing.

    There are about a hundred better DJ controllers for actually performing without a pre-recorded set. If I want to travel light with a single controller, I usually go with the Novation Twitch or Numark NS6.

    1. Launchpad is not a production tool, it can be used as such but was intended as a DJ/mixing controller. I know you probably think it’s not DJ’ing if you don’t use some type of turntables, but it is mixing, it’s just a different medium. Imagine unlimited numbers of turntables with no beatmatching, it’s a whole different world when you start mixing stems rather than whole tracks, recording your own loops and building your own effect chains on the fly.

      The Novation Twitch or Numark NS6 would not be an equivalent to the Launchpad , they are meant to emulate turntables and do not have the same capabilities as the Launchpad.

      Also, if it were a production controller it would have velocity sensitivity. Who told you all this?

  3. You can create a custom midi map and ditch the laptop and use the launchpad to control any midi interface. Or run PD patches on the pi for use with a laptop that has no native support for pd or extensive midi io mapping jackrack/ soundflower. And you can make this work with as any interface. Like to control Ableton as if it were an apc40 or other controllers…

  4. I always wondered why macbooks, with their lack of USB ports were so popular among people doing digital music. All the software runs on Windows so the OSX argument isn’t relevant anymore, nor is reliability any different.

    1. stability, and image… not necessarily in that order!

      you can ask all the djs that used to run on windows, and now run on mac, but playing for 6 hours a night, how many times their windows crashed, and how many times their mac has crashed.

      1. I’m not sure how resource intensive DJ work is, but my computer has crashed just once while gaming during the last 5 years, and that was my own fault. (Display driver bug; had to roll back.)

      2. As a musician i am around a lot. seriously, at any gig i see at least one guy having problems with their mac book. Hd failure after varanty run out and total crashing so you have to even unplug the battery for a chance to reboot. I think i dont even know someone who is satisfied with apple gear in live situations.

  5. Launchpad to Raspberry Pi… to another computer? What is the point?

    I’ve been experimenting with the Pi as a music making device, and having a lot of trouble trying to get the audio to work well. The built in audio isn’t very good, and USB sound cards (of the ones I’ve tried) crackle or have weird issues. It would be nice to have some good RPi live audio resources.

    What’s posted here sidesteps the issue entirely, but doesn’t really make sense. “Now your Raspberry Pi works just like a Mac running Ableton Live! (Built with a Raspberry Pi and a pre-existing Mac with Ableton Live)” Am I missing something?

  6. i get what he’s done here… i just don’t get why.

    so he’s used the pi to take the data from the launchpad and convert to midi to plug into ableton…

    i can do that with this neat cable, called a usb cable.

    remove the computer, and have it as a sample player, or a cdj control unit, or something, but not a $35 cable that requires a screen and knowledge of sudo whatever

    1. It’s about improving the built in functionality of the device from a headless standpoint. Also to allow the use of Pure data without running on the host machine. Say plugging the launchpad into an MPC’s midi in ports directly and running all the pads in the 8×8 grid no mac or pc required.. use your imagination.

      The demo is to display the use. it’s not the end result.

      1. But, as it is, it *isn’t* headless. It’s… two headed?

        The use case you outlined would be one of the few I can think of that pertain to the RPi in the music production realm. Even then, why exactly do you need your Launchpad to trigger your MPC without a computer involved? Not exactly a groundbreaking or particularly useful configuration.

        Maybe a MIDI/OSC router? Something along those lines. But that’s really not that big of a deal.

        However… a self-contained Ableton inside of a Launchpad, it ain’t. You certainly aren’t “playing” the Pi. Maybe if it was hooked up to that 8bit synth I saw making the rounds a couple months ago, that would qualify. People have had the impulse to make the Pi a dedicated DJing/live machine, but I haven’t seen any yet that really work. Sound issues, USB issues, amount of processing power, etc.

        I thought this post was going to be a breakthrough in regards to that, but it wasn’t. Judging from the similar reactions, I don’t think I’m the only one. I appreciate the ‘demo’ aspect of this, but if you’re wondering why people are saying what they’re saying- that’s why.

  7. Ya know, there are other laptops quite capable at doing music. Thanks for not mentioning them on purpose. I built a quad core for a douche nozzle that thought he needed that to run plugins and soft synths, and of course Ableton, because the was NEVER ANY AUDIO SOFTWARE BEFORE ABLETON if you ask the internet lmao. Just shake my head, collect my check and continue doing the exact same thing on a p3 800mhz. This whole article and mainly the summary made my head hurt a little.

    1. My old laptop was a core2duo @ 2.2ghz and 4gb of ram. One of my (large, multi-hour) Ableton sets had crackly audio a few times when i had many plugins enabled, and the CPU-usage bar inside Ableton didn’t ever peak above 30 or 40%. I concluded that because audio processing was being handled by the CPU (no dedicated sound hardware in most laptops!), there were instantaneous moments where there just wouldn’t be enough bandwidth.

      Having a crackly sound setup is a quick way to not to get booked by that promoter again, or a quick way to get mauled by a drunk mob.

      1. Also check your power management. If your proc is speed stepped or throttled to save battery power, you will find that you are often running at a third of the juice ;) My other tip is to just disable the internal FM synth chip if you are doing pure DAW since it will pick up and put all kinds of interesting hissy noise in there. Check your DMA IRQ conflicts for less crackly audio and you are dead on about the lack of dedicated (decent) sound cards in laptops. Sometimes ya just can’t beat the physical specs of available voices or resources and that seems to be coder (of the plugin) dependent. Keep on rocking and watch out for the flying pints ;) There is always the route I ended up on with the 8bit graywave and dhr scenes where they love the noise and with dubstep who can tell what is meant to be a crackle and what is not an effect lol?.

  8. Again, this is to demo the intended use and to show someone who doesn’t know anything about Linux how to get a graphical code writing environment “PD” under the hood of the launchpad….

    would you like me to spell it out for you.

    you can launch the pd patches at the command line with no GUI

    so this IS a headless machine and “THE DEMO IS TO DISPLAY THE FUNCTIONALITY”

    people really cant see anything unless it is staring them in the face..

    yes this would be an excellent thing to plug into an 8 bit synth or some other piece of midi hardware you have…

    it IS a work in progress

  9. Not sure why you guys are all going on about having multiple head units… the Raspberry Pi is running the software in question. Ableton is running on the Raspberry Pi, that’s what the screen you see is plugged into. Small size for live digital playback, screen not necessarily required.

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