When Ableton introduced Push, I reckoned it would only be a matter of time before they would integrate polyphonic aftertouch (a.k.a. polyphonic key pressure) within Live’s work flow. I mean: here was this great device with pressure sensitive pads… what a waste to not use that to it’s full potential.
When no announcements surfaced that people at Ableton were working on this, I figured it might be a while, and decided (also just for the fun of it) to see if I could come up with a workaround using Max for Live. That worked out well, and I’ve been using my own polyphonic aftertouch a lot since then.
We now have Push 2 and Live 10, and as yet no word on integration of polyphonic key pressure.
So I thought I’d work on my Karma and share my workaround here.
Moreover, I thought it best to share it as a tutorial, rather than as a ready made collection of devices/patches. There’s a couple of reasons for this.
First and foremost: the workaround is a bit hacky and might require some tweaking by the user; understanding what’s actually going on, might help in making the necessary tweaks.
Second, while the tutorial is focussed on Ableton Push (generation 1), the same approach should in principle work for other devices outputting polyphonic aftertouch, from ‘traditional’ midi keyboards to alternative controllers like Push 2, Launchpad and QuNeo, to mobile apps.
Third, Polyphonic Expression has recently been added to the official Midi protocol. In the future this might lead to new types of midi data being available in Ableton Live. To be able to use those, not just with dedicated VST’s, but with native Ableton Instruments and Effects would be nice, and the current system could be a take-off point for that.
Finally, I think the workaround involves some interesting and generally instructive ways to use (midi) data in Max in unconventional ways. For me, this is probably the single most valuable thing Max offers: putting all types of data on a level playing field, allowing me to reimagine (and if necessary to subvert) the tools I have available to serve my personal and often idiosyncratic ends.
In all, sharing this as a tutorial makes sense to me. I hope you will enjoy!
What we’re aiming for is to set up a system in Ableton Live that will allow us to: