drk’s Electronic Music Blog

A "handy" way to control a Continuum Finger Board

NOTE: Continuum firmware version 8.0 altered the MIDI commands used to select both user and factory presets. Sadly this means that Machine's buttons and pads can no longer be used to select presets with a single button/pad action.

I've been trying to be disciplined these past months as I get to know the Continuum. There is just so much new to explore with multidimensional performance control, and the wonderful built-in Continuum synthesizer. Why muck up the works by adding this, that, or the other to make it "better"? But I am a hands-on control kind of person (as evidenced by Delora Software) so this past weekend I decided it was time to add some good ole hardware tweaking to the Continuum's internal synthesizer.

The Continuum's synthesizer has a well considered set of MIDI commands to control the active synthesizer patch, and Haken Audio provides the necessary ingredients to utilize two different "MIDI knob boxes", the Kenton KillaMix Mini and the Arturia BeatStep. Furthermore, the Kenton has elevated status as it is pretty much integrated into the Continuum Editor application.

Alas I own neither, but do have a first generation NI Maschine. A few hours of reading chapter 8 of the Continuum User Guide, plus some quality time with the NI Control Editor applications and I was rocking the Continuum's synthesizer with Maschine's rotaries.

Maschine? isn't that kind of an odd choice drK?

Admittedly, but the Maschine hardware has a rich set of endless rotaries, buttons, and drum pads. Plus NI has always been good about making the hardware user adaptable. It's physically larger than I would have liked, but I could make room for it on the desk surface immediately behind the Continuum. Besides, it is a general purpose controller with some nice drum pads so I was confident it would find other productive uses. And did I mention that I already owned it? Always a plus.

The NI Control Editor application was used to construct the template. There were some compromises due to how the Continuum uses MIDI control, and limitations in Maschine's control implementation. None of these were show stoppers but one casualty was that Maschine's LCDs would not be able to show current parameter values. Not a big deal since I planned on having the Continuum Editor anyway. More details in the companion article.

One nice touch the Maschine hardware made possible is preset selection by name. Maschine's 128 drum pads (eight banks of sixteen) can each have an assigned label. A simple, fast, button sequence shows those labels on the LCD. So the drum pads were used to select Continuum presets, and the labels set to short versions of the preset names.

Alas, one of Maschine's other nice features, button and pad LEDs, could not be used effectively. Their use for proper feedback requires additional software intervention, like a custom Max patch. Perhaps a project for another day.

So how did it turn out? Here's a screen shot from the NI Control Editor that shows one page of rotary assignments, and one bank of drum pads set to sixteen EaganMatrix factory presets.

You can find more details about how all of this came together, plus download the Maschine template, in the companion article.