Hacking The Launchpad: Novation’s Progressive Open Hardware

We had Mad Zach dig into the new Launchpad Pro in his review a few weeks ago – but something that often gets overlooked on new controllers is how well they can be modified by the end-user. Novation has gone above and beyond with open source firmware on the new Launchpad Pro. Learn what this means and how some have already started taking advantage of this hackable firmware in the article.

Launchpad Pro Open Source Firmware

The team at Novation have had a coming of age due to their involvement with music-based hack-a-thons around the world – and have realized how allowing individuals to break open the code behind their controllers could be a fantastic push that would boost the popularity of their controllers.

With the Launchpad Pro, Novation have gone the next level with their willingness to allow modifications of their controllers. The company has released an open source “firmware” (really more of an app framework) that allows programmers with experience in C to

“implement your own unique standalone apps[,] create chorders, sequencers, light shows, games and more”

Novation goes on to elaborate quire a bit more on the official code repository on Github, including a complete explanation of why they didn’t dump the entire factory firmware into the hands of the users, instead building a cleaner solution.

Stagecraft Software’s Launchpad Hacks

Just demonstrated over this last weekend is a new program from our friend Aaron at Stagecraft Software that takes full advantage of the Launchpad Pro’s hackability. As he explains in the video, this first round of the software allows a few unique modes, including the ability to play in a true scale/key selection mode that is more like what you might get on the Ableton Push.

“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.”

The app (which will also run as a plugin) is currently unnamed and still in Beta – but if you want to try it out right away, you can sign up to be a beta tester here on Stagecraft Software’s site.

Historical Launchpad Hacking

As noted at the beginning of the article, the Launchpad Pro wasn’t the first Novation foray into helping hackers work with custom firmware and modify how the controllers behave. There’s a healthy history of the company helping hackers make unique projects. Here’s a few of our favorites:

Big Expensive Display is an clever Launchpad S hack debuted at SONAR 2013 that involved writing text across 11 different launchpads in time with the music. The code for this scrolling text hack is available on Github here.

Novation Launchpad Spectrum Analyzer is self-explanatory – a bit of Python that allows Launchpads to display a live spectral analysis of playing audio on the RGB pads. It’s also available on Github here.

Song Illustrator allows anyone to program light sequences onto a Launchpad in time with MIDI input from a DAW – while still allowing it to be used as an input device to play a track. The app is compatible with FL Studio and Ableton Live, acting as a virtual MIDI hardware interface to sync up your lightshows with a performance. It’s pretty powerful stuff – read more and download the full program on the developer’s website here.

Have your own Launchpad hack that you’d like to see? Share comments below and maybe a developer will magically appear out of thin air and start granting code miracles. 

The Launchpad Pro is available on the DJTT store here – if you’re considering buying one, please support us instead of buying from a soulless mega-retailer.

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