With the Akai APC40, it is possible to not only use the controller with Ableton Live (which is its intentional primary used software) but also to use it with Traktor Scratch Pro.
I did a bit of research of available map-presets (*.tsi files) out there and found nothing I could use effectively right of the bat. So I decided to dive headfirst into the various mappable functionality of the famous DJ software connected with my APC40.
I’ve spent a whole night and early morning (4:00am) configuring this controller in such a way that myself and other users could benefit. I didn’t plan anything on paper (although I probably should of), yet I do believe I have this controller set with very convenient mappings.
So, first of all, I’ve had tons of frustration controlling the LEDs of the square-pushbuttons. I’ve discovered only 3 states to them so far (Note: If you know of any other MIDI values to obtain the other states [Red, Red Blinking, Amber, Amber Blinking] – PLEASE SHARE YOUR FINDINGS BY LEAVING A COMMENT!)
– 0 = OFF
– 1 = GREEN ON
– 2 = GREEN BLINKING
– … (where are those mysterious MIDI values for the other color statuses!?)
And I fought for hours, trying to understand why I couldn’t set a given “pressed” button the state I wanted. If I recall correctly, it seems like the controller itself has a built-in behavior of turning OFF the pressed button. Which leads me to think … “WTF! How does Ableton Live get to force a GREEN status on the given pressed button?” … interesting indeed, but I think they simply have their own secret way to communicate directly together in order to access these LED statuses.
So ok, that sucks… and the time it tooked me to figure that out sucked even more! But here’s a bit of a “workaround” in order to have some sort of visual cue of what’s happening on your APC40:
– When I press my “Play” LED pushbutton, it only briefly gets lit by its default behavior (pressed ON, release OFF). I have it assigned as a “Toggle” action;
– By telling Traktor Scratch Pro to map a second LED pushbutton to output the state of that particular Deck, I can tell it to stay GREEN ON while the Deck is playing, and GREEN BLINKING while the Deck is in **Scratch mode**;
-Since I didn’t want to leave that LED pushbutton useless to serve only as an indicator, I’ve decided to toss it the Cue command on the “Hold” action;
– PRESTO! Now I have a Cue command that acts just like the one found on a Pioneer CDJ-200 (and newer, I think?). You can use it to get back to your cue point, relocate your cue point, press+hold to play and release to stop and come back to the cuepoint’s location! OH! And also IF you “mistakenly” press Cue and your timing is just peeeeeerfect with another song on the verge of ending – you can safely resume the playback by pressing your assigned “Play” button for that deck and release both buttons;
-Also, for each of the playback / cue buttons that I had assigned to a respective Deck, I added the “Deck Focus Select” command to their corresponding Deck. It makes sense that whichever Deck you’re fiddling with becomes your Active Deck – “n’est-ce pas”?
Ok so that was cool.
Now, how about activating the decks? Now… THAT… was a big pain in the butt to figure out. So the trick here is that… by default, the Activator pushbuttons on the APC40 don’t work as “Push one, Turn off others”, and I guess this is a good thing in certain cases. But in Traktor, where you can only have one active Deck, it becomes logical to only have the corresponding Activator pushbuttons lit at any given time. So! The Solution?
– Assign a “Deck Focus Select” DIRECT action to assign your 4 desired LED pushbuttons to their corresponding Decks;
– Also assign on each controller a “Deck Focus Select” OUTPUT action to listen to only their respective Deck value (Min & Max should be equal: [0-0 for A, 1-1 for B, 2-2 for C, 3-3 for D], with a MIDI Min-Max value of 0-1;
This will ensure that each Activator pushbutton only lit WHEN their corresponding Deck is active (NOTE: I haven’t found a fix for this yet, but pressing the active switch again will keep your Deck selected, but the LED won’t be lit – so just keep that in mind!).
Ok… so far we’ve got some playability triggers, indicators, deck selection… Faders! Well that’s easy!
-The first four faders I use for each Deck’s Volume control (A,B,C and D);
-The next four faders I use for each Deck’s Tempo adjustment (again, A,B,D and D);
-The last – and very well calculated to have this 9th fader on this controller – serves as… you might be able to guess… MASTER Volume control!
Alright cool, this rocks!
Now how about cue Monitoring? Very easy as well:
-The first four Solo/Cue blue pushbuttons are used as a Toggle action for each Deck’s PFL command;
-The APC40’s Cue knob is primarily used to control the Cue/Master mix command (ONLY when **Modifier M8 = 0** … keep reading to understand why);
-Again, the Cue knob is also assigned to the Monitor Volume command (This time, assigned when **Modifier M8 = 6** … trust me on this);
-One last time, the Cue knob will serve to control our current focused Deck’s “Jog Scratch / Tempo Bend” command (This one is assigned for **Modifier M8=7**);
So, what is all this Modifier jargon you say? I won’t keep you waiting any longer!
-The APC40’s SHIFT button is used as a “Hold” action to change Modifier M8 = 7;
-At the same time, although maybe its regarded not as such a good practice, I assign it to enabled “Scratch ON” the current focused Deck – again, on “Hold”;
-The “Tap Tempo” button (which I personally never trust on any software / hardware), is used as a secondary SHIFT button – you can think of it like the CTRL key on your computer keyboard. This one modifies Modifier M8 = 6, on “Hold”;
A Modifier’s role really, in this case, is to raise even more functionality out of all the controls. When SHIFT is held down, Scratch mode is enabled, my current Deck stops, and I can use the Cue Knob to scrub through the track. The relatively close distance between these two controls makes it easy to access them simultaneously with one hand. I can release Shift, hold “Tap Tempo” to modify my Monitoring volume, release it and adjust my Cue/Master mix all while tapping my deck’s Cue button to keep monitoring levels / timing / harmony blends.
Monitoring couldn’t be any funner :)
Having understood the concept of Modifiers – I’ve then used that knowledge to control the Gain, Pan Pots, EQ knobs, Browser navigation and EQ kill-switches with the remaining controls (LED knobs, LED toggle buttons, Arrow buttons). I still have a lot more commands to assign (Effects, Loops, Folder navigation within the Browser) – but for now I have more than enough usable controls to keep my hands off the mouse and keyboard to play a continuous gig!
I will post the *.tsi file once I have those remaining functions implemented (unless someone asks for it immediately so they can use it as it currently stands), and maybe a video demo. I realize maybe my preferences don’t fit the needs of other APC40 users, but maybe by showing a technical video of how to use this setup in a live performance you’ll be able to appreciate this preset! It does make heavy use of SHIFT’ed and CTRL’ed functionality, so I will definitely cover those areas in the video.
Alright, enough said! Can’t wait to get my hands back on it tonight!
Happy Midi Mapping!
To all that were looking for the TSI file: http://www.mediafire.com/file/y3yn1djrimz/APC40_PierreC.tsi
Unfortunatly I haven’t been using this in a while (nor Traktor or the Akai APC40 for that matter) so your best bet to understand how to use the settings is to play around with it! My only hope is that my blog post explains most of it clearly so you get a good idea of how to use it, or at least accidently discover each functions I’ve mapped lol.
Hope it helps!