The BopPad is a highly flexible MIDI device that can spit out a variety of data to control MIDI capable software and hardware. One thing that users have been wondering about is how to play different sounds based on the location in a particular quadrant. This is usually done with notes, and while the BopPad cannot send out different notes from one quadrant based on location, it can send a CC based on the distance you are from the center of the pad. With some creative MIDI mapping in Live, we can quickly set up “zones” on our BopPad in Ableton Live.
To follow along with this quick tutorial, you’ll need a copy of Ableton Live (any variety should do) and a BopPad. A basic understanding of MIDI, Live, and the BopPad Editor will also be useful, though not necessary.
The first thing to do is configure our BopPad to send the appropriate MIDI messages. The Sticks factory preset is set up to do this by default, so simply open up the Editor and select the ‘Sticks’ preset. You should also send this to slot 1 on your BopPad so when not connected to the Editor, this will be the default preset on the device. The reason that this preset is a good choice is that the radius CC is sent on a different channel for each quadrant. This will be important once we start doing our MIDI mapping in Live.
There are a couple of different approaches to this and I will walk through the two that were most obvious to me (there may be more!). Both can be accomplished by building a custom Drum Rack. First create an empty MIDI track (cmd/ctrl + t) and place a Drum Rack device on the newly created track. The next thing to do is to drop an instrument rack onto one of the cells correspond to one of the notes sent by the sticks preset (36, 38, 42, or 47). I’ve chosen 42, which corresponds to quadrant A. I like to use descriptive naming to stay organized, so I’ve named that cell ‘Quadrant A’.
Now let’s drag some samples into this instrument rack. Find a few sounds that you would like to play on one quadrant. I’ve used some random snare samples here for the sake of demonstration, but feel free to use whatever you’d like if you’re following along.
Once you have your samples loaded into the instrument rack, click on the ‘Chain’ button to expose the Chain Selector. This allows you to select a sample based on the position of that small orange bar at the top.
Right now, all of our samples are at the same location. Drag one of the location indicators all the way out, so that it takes up the entire range of values.Then, select all the samples and right-click to bring up a contextual menu and select ‘Distribute ranges equally’.
This will place each sample over a unique section of the chain selector. The final step is to MIDI map the radius value of the quadrant to the location of the Chain Selector. Enter MIDI mapping mode, and click on the chain selector. Make sure the radius value is soloed in the BopPad Editor and then touch the playing surface. You should see CC2 on Channel 2 pop up in your MIDI mapping pane (Note for Windows Users: multi client MIDI support is coming soon, but for now, you’ll want to turn the pressure off for this preset to help with MIDI mapping). You should now be able to play different samples depending on where you strike the quadrant!
There’s another similar technique that will allow you to play different notes depending on where you strike the pad. We’ll start the same way, but instead of dropping samples, lets drop a synth into the instrument rack (I’ll use analog here, but use anything you’d like). Drag a Pitch MIDI effect in front of the soft synth, and then MIDI map the radius to the pitch knob as we did for the chain selector. In the MIDI mapping, you can set the range of notes that will be sent out. To send an octaves worth of notes set the max to 12 and the min to 0. In order to constrain these notes to a musical scale, you can use Live’s Scale plugin to make sure all notes coming from the BopPad are in key. You can also insert another pitch device to transpose the notes to different ranges of the scale. Mapping this to a macro can be useful. You can forego this, of course, and play as chromatic as you’d like. I’ve also included a velocity device to give some control over the dynamics of each quadrant. You should now be able to play different notes depending on where you strike the quadrant, and they will always be in key.
The next step would be to build similar instrument racks in the drum racks for each quadrant. You could set up a drum rack with a huge variety of samples. Or a polyphonic always-in-tune synth. I’ve included a Live set with these ideas two ideas implemented and you can download it HERE.