ZeroDebug have coded several tools that make using touchscreens as command tools for making music extremely useful. One of their software; Touchable, has been around for a loooong time in tech years: almost a decade. So we can call it venerable. Zerodebug are aware of the creakiness, and have accordingly released a spangling new version, called Touchable Pro, taking the concepts and application of Touchable to a whole new level. They’ve plumbed the depths of Ableton’s source code, and come up with a multi-platform software (for iOS, Android and Windows) that controls a remarkable amount of Ableton Live (9.7 or later – oh, since you’re here, you might want to check out our Ableton Live 10 review).
Touchable Pro – Exploring The Interface
The learning curve for Touchable Pro is quite high. It is possible to figure it out by just pressing buttons and seeing what happens, but it is quicker working alongside the manual, which clearly outlines the touchable layout.
The main transport functions are on the top of the GUI, as with Ableton Live, as are general functions for Touchable – split screen, open library browser, settings and network connections, etc. The quantize and snap settings are up there too.
To the right of the GUI are two columns of icons – one is for the ‘module’ selection – which consists of the Ableton clip page, the mixer, audio/midi device, keyboard, XY and interface creation windows. Once you select the module you want to use, the next column gives you all the function controls for that particular module. I’ll run through some of the things you can do with the clip window as an example:
The modules all mirror Ableton in real-time. Whatever clips are in your Live session show up in this module immediately. All the clips can be started by touching them. Holding touch opens up a drop-down menu that enables renaming, editing, colour selection etc. Hitting the edit button sends you straight to the piano roll if it’s a midi clip, or waveform editor for audio. You can open the library browser, listen to audio files you have in your library directly in touchable, and then drag the selected clips onto a channel on the clip page, and edit from there. See the video below of a quick demo of how you’d do that.
Touchable Pro – In Use
Ableton Live instruments and plugins are all fully represented graphically. You can drag them into a channel, and every parameter that you can see on your computer screen is available on the touchscreen. This is super exciting to me – being able to interact with all of Ableton’s instruments and plugins on a touchscreen is super intuitive and makes you approach using the tools in a different way. Opening up EQ8, and tweaking settings took seconds. Being able to change multiple parameters on wavetable at once, for example, means you address the instrument differently, and potentially create different sound through controlling it on a touchscreen.
A current/future promised update (not clear – there is a template editor, but it seems fairly limited at the moment. I couldn’t get my head around it…) I’m excited about is a device template creator, which would mean that you could create control templates for every plugin/instrument you have in your arsenal. This will represent a huge leap forward for Touchable, and I can’t wait to get the update! Below is a demo video of interacting with wavetable as clips are playing. Another feature represented here that I like is the split screen function – enabling you to access either of two modules at once. In this instance I have the clip window and device window open, so I can play different clips and adjust the wavetable at the same time.
Touchable Pro has come a long way since the last iteration. There are many functions included that make it super useful as a touchscreen controller for Live. Most useful to me were the hands-on control of Ableton devices, and even Max for Live devices also. When it comes to creating sound, I’m all for new ways of interacting with software to go in fresh directions, and this certainly helps with that.
I love how instantaneous it is – there’s no latency once the network is connected. If i’m recording one of my instruments into Live, and I’m not near the computer – this is absolutely incredible as a mobile transport station – i can mould the sound I’ve created without having to leave the instrument I’m at. Once I got used to the layout, it’s actually really quick to get around. I also loved the recordable XY window, with 4 parameters to record the movement of, and a simple assignation to various parameters of whatever instrument/effect you have loaded up. There are lemur-esque physics rules that come in to play with the bottom bar raised – gravity, snap and bounce, all adjustable.
Touchable Pro is a great evolution of control software. It can really boost productivity, especially when recording away from the computer. It connected strongly to the network, and I didn’t have any issues with that. However I found it a tiny bit buggy to work efficiently by itself. The audio clips I could never get to show up in edit mode. The midi roll just wouldn’t stay still, and hitting the show all clips button made the clips mis-align from the channels they were in. I personally wouldn’t trust it yet performing live, for example. Although I think it’s really close, and I’m just a nervous person. A bolder reviewer would probably be all for it.
Having said all that, however, after looking around the forum, I noticed that the coders were responding quickly to posts about bugs, are aware of a lot of them, and are in the process of updating. I TOTALLY think it’s worth using the software even while the bugs are being ironed out.
I found the most use for Touchable Pro was in tandem with my desktop. When using Ableton Live’s built-in effects and instruments, the song creation and mix process was immeasurably faster. Being able to load an eq and tweak it immediately on the touchscreen is just phenomenal. Recording automations is just so much quicker using touchscreen than a mouse. I much preferred that method. I highly recommend using Touchable Pro as an additional controller, that will hopefully get more and more integrated the more solid the foundation becomes.
Pricing and Availability
Touchable Pro is available for iOS, Android and Windows, currently for $29.99. It requires Ableton Live 9.7 or higher.