The Core is Getting Soft.11: TouchOsc

TouchOsc-ScreensI’ve always been a latecomer to technology.  When I got a fax machine in 1997, someone I worked with said, “Welcome to the ’80’s!”  I didn’t get a cell phone until late 2008, and I didn’t get a smartphone until a few months ago. Continuing this trend, I got myself an iPad last week.  The reason was that I was frustrated with either the technical limitations, expense, or inter program incompatibility of various MIDI controllers I either tried of was thinking of trying to use to play musical software in a more fluid and spontaneous manner.  I have an Akai MPK 49 that hasn’t worked out that well for me in terms of using it for pads, assigning faders to software controllers, etc. – though I like it fine as a MIDI keyboard w/ good weighted keys and a nice arpeggiator.

While reading a review of stuff like Maschine and Launchpad on my favorite guilty pleasure, the Gearslutz forum, I came across a post advocating ditching MIDI controllers in favor of an iPad outfitted with the TouchOSC app, which allows you to choose between a mutlitude of different control layouts that can work with DAWs, plug ins, virtual instruments, etc.  I took the plunge and took his advice, and I’m ever so glad I did.

Sometimes forums on Gearslutz remind me of forums in the Roman Coliseum.


The Wall of Gear (slutz)

Both of these forums appeal directly to mankind’s – and I do mean MANkind’s – basest “divide and conquer” type instincts to draw swarms of spectators, whether they’re using killer outboard gear to pierce eardrums or killer swordplay to cut throats.  But wading through the muck of Gearslutz threads answers more of my questions about music technology than pretty much anything else I have found online, although I do like the reviews at as well.

OSC is a new language that is billed as the next generation of MIDI, prompting one French blogger to name a post about TouchOSC “L’apres-midi?”  TouchOSC is one of a few different apps that use this language, (these apps also can transmit via MIDI too.)  TouchOSC’s main counterpart/competitor is Lemur, Lemur iconwhich is 5x more expensive and 1,000x more difficult to set up than TouchOSC, but more advanced and powerful. I got both.  I just spent hours trying to set up the different Lemur programs on the iPad and iMac to work together, without success.  Googling the IP address and network related problems led to a blizzard of forum discussions on Lemur’s website that told me that such problems are very common.  Dedicated users of the app reassure panicked new customers on these threads that the pain of hooking Lemur up is well worth it.  I hope so!

In the meantime, the ease of setting up TouchOSC to work with Logic 9 is even more appealing today than a few days back when I first tried it.  (If you’re counting at home, that’s 5$ vs 25$, and five minutes vs. three hours and counting re installation.)  But what really got me jazzed was the Logic Pro template that you can get with TouchOSC.  I didn’t have to assign anything to anything, it all just worked  like a charm right out of the gate:  transport controls, mixing controls and faders, and working with (most) plug in effects and virtual instruments.  Effects and VI’s from the following developers had all of their controls appear right away in TouchOSC *without* me having to assign or map ANYTHING – NADA!:

Universal Audio, Korg, Madrona Labs, TAL, Ohm Force, stock Logic VIs and plug ins, Sound Hack, Valhalla, NI Monark (w/in Reaktor).

I didn’t have the same luck with Kontakt instruments, or Slate Drums, or Amplitube.  And I haven’t figured out how to get it to trigger samples within logic using its drum pads template yet, which was another thing I got it (and Lemur) for.

For the software that did show up right away, it was like discovering a whole other instrument.  Instead of finding a setting and letting it run through the whole song, I could manipulate the parameters live through the song with no discernible latency.  This made it much easier not to rely on presets and create my own patches as well.  The responsiveness of the faders and knobs and so on was actually better than hardware – quicker, less liable to break, not limited by my hand twisting backwards over itself around a knob.

The only trouble is it’s been so much fun playing synths and effects with TouchOSC that I’ve yet to get around to making a full proper meal since I got it. I keep snacking and tweaking.  Time to turn off the computer and remedy that now.  But I’ll be back!



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