Daw controllers

I’m curious to know if you use midi controllers for your DAW and instruments.

I have a couple of sliders and knobs on my midi keyboard controller, but I don’t really use them often. The functionality is just too limited. So I just use a mouse. But recently I’ve been looking at a more dedicated DAW controller second hand. I have several reasons.

The first is that I’d like to have a couple of sliders to control midi instrument parameters (e.g. expression on orchestral instruments or B3 Drawbars) so my orchestrations can sound a bit more realistic. Automation should be easier with a slider than a knob.

The second is that i’d like to see if mixing with real sliders (8 at a time should be enough I’m guessing) makes a difference to the way I work. I read about it, but I haven’t tried it yet.

The third is not so important, but who knows: using transport buttons. When I’m recording I use my phone to directly control the most essential Reaper parameters. That works quite well, so a much bulkier midi controller is not a good option. But I do record midi instruments from behind my desk, in which case a controller might be easier than using a mouse.

Tonight I was eying a second hand Nektar Panorama 1 controller for this purpose (new about 230 euro’s, bidding price starts at 75 euro’s).

I know some of you have real consols - that is obviously not an option for me. I’m curious what your experience is with DAW controllers. Are they just toys that you stop using after a while, or are they a real part of your workflow? And which controllers do you use and for which specific tasks?

Oh sorry, should have checked if this was not already on an earlier thread.
Most of it is:

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I use software based daw midi controllers, panning controllers where you can specify a formula for panning, dryness and wetness. Comes in quite handy in setting up a soundstage. For example if I want to move my guitarist 3 feet back to the left, cellist 2 ft to the right, pianist 8 ft directly back and lets say 4 french horns up high on the Z axis top right and left etc etc.

I simply have to touch and drag the location as I see fit. Can create good depth very quickly.
This functionality however is proprietory to FL Studio daw, that I use often.

As far as hardware based external controllers, like faders and knobs… I have used some of them but after a while they become inconvenient.

I use the Native S88… mostly for live though. Does a great job controlling knobs on MainStage and Komplete Kontrol enabled plugins (Stuff compatible with the Native Instruments ecosystem).

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I bought one of these for €50 from a Cash Converters many years ago

It was missing one of the rotary controllers at the top so got it for half the price. If I’d known just how hard it would be to replace, I would have not bought it! But replace it I did and haven’t regretted buying at all. It’s noisy (due to motorised faders), but I can’t really sit at my PC without this thing. I don’t use the transport functions save for the rewind and play, but the faders and knobs are in constant use. Sitting and recording the automation with physical faders (and being able to do multiple channels at the same time) is beautiful.

They have the new X-Touch and X-Touch compact, which are basically updated versions of this predecessor, but I’ve never needed any more functionality than this old battered controller.

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This has been my limited experience so far. Interesting to see that someone like you who is heaviliy into orchestrated music uses software based controllers. Michelle, how do you add expression to your instruments (vibrato, legato, whatever)? Do you have a high end midi keyboard with aftertouch and such?

Do you have to setup the different functions each time, or can you store the setup for Fx automation? I suppose you could store it in a Reaper Fx chain?

I used to use one and it just held me up more than anything .just happy with a mouse because im just so used to it now

I use a small Faderport with the left hand, essentially for fader and knob adjustments (they are MUCH more accurate than the mouse) and transport functions. My right hand is on a track ball and I use the keyboard in between for shortcuts and data input.

Ergonomics quickly become an essential topic as you spend more time mixing everyday.

Thanks! I am curious about your choice for a one fader solution rather than more faders. I’m guessing you do most of your mixing with the trackball and use the Faderport for automation in particular? Or do you use the mouse to move around the DAW mixer view and select channels and then use the Faderport to change the level?

I just checked on the second hand market. To my surprise people are asking prices of 125 to 175 euro’s for these Behringers! That’s a lot of money campared to the much newer Necta Panorama 1 which I can get second hand for 75 euro’s. Did I understand correctly that you don’t really use the motorized part of the fader functionality?

There are rarely enough faders on a controller to cover all the tracks in a mix anyway so I decided that I’d rather have just one since I am not moving more than one track at a given time. A single click on a track “activates” it and any action you make on the faderport (fader move, pan pot, mute, solo…) is assigned to this track until you click another. It is a lot more accurate and pleasant to move a real fader than the mouse, and having a hand on each device allows me to be faster overall.

Also… I didn’t have enough room on my desk for a multi fader solution anyway :wink:

I do yes, I have the native instruments Komplete Kontrol Ultimate keyboard. It has an exhaustive set of functions.

I also use the software library harddrive that works with the keyboard.

they are expensive but they have not disappointed.

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Sorry for going off-topic but regarding NI Komplete, would you say upgrading from 12 to 13 is worth the price?

Depends what you use it for mostly. 13 includes guitar rig pro and some other lucrative stuff.

Mostly using the virtual instruments: strings, synths, pianos, bass. None of the other plugins I’ve tried have impressed me but I can’t say I have tried them extensively.

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On the contrary - I’m a huge fan of the motorised stuff. You get 8 faders corresponding to 8 channels, and then you can “page” to the next 8 channels and so on. Logic’s really good at letting you know which 8 channels are currently mapped to the controller. So as you page through tracks the faders assume their positions, and for me that functionality is worth the entry price. But they are noisy, especially if you’ve been riding the faders across multiple tracks. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me, but on a heavily automated mix and do the adjustments and then just page out during playback.

Crikey - I’ve never thought about controlling fx automation - I’m generally controlling volume and pan and that’s about all. But in theory you could assign the controllers to control everything. There was also a BCR2000 made up of only rotary controllers, that I know was a favourite of some back in the day. I might sit down tonight and experiment with mine and see what I can control!

I sometimes use orchestral backing on my songs. I’ve been following Guy Michelmore’s You tube channel (as well as one or two others) about using orchestral plugins. Even with a decent strings plugin it still sounds a bit unrealistic because there is too little variation in the attack, the way the string is bowed, vibrato etc. But these plugins do come with options to make it sound more natural, only you should realy be tweaking two or three of these whilst playing… Now, I have difficulty enough to play a simple melody on a keyboard, so I can’t see myself doing that. But you can of course automate to your hearts content after recoding the take. Perhaps even 2 or 3 at the same time, by adjusting faders. I found out how by watching one of these video’s.

Sounds great, but I couldn’t afford that. Nor am I worth it; my keybord chops are terrible. I have a Nektar Impact LX25. It’s ok, but 25 keys is just not enough. I don’t want a large keyboard, it takes too much space and I generally play one hand at a time, but shifting octaves up and down all the time is annoying, so I’m going to try a 49 keys midi controller. And what I do like is the the idea of aftertouch. I haven’t experienced it, but it sounds like you can express yourself a bit more like you can with a guitar. So an affordable 49 key midi keyboard with aftertouch and preferably a few programmable sliders is next on my wish list. Any one ever used a Samson Graphite 49? That fits the description.
Maybe I’ll throw in a second hand Faderport or the Behringer X 1 fader. I like @Lophophora 's workflow set up! I’ll have to check which works best with Reaper.

I wouldnt let a keyboard dictate whether you are worth it or not :wink: but I do like your strategy.
I am not an exceptional piano player who can improvise across all octaves simultaneously. Most times I am layering tracks, so my keyboard real estate is hardly used on overload.

Havent used it but the reviews are split between cheaply made to exceptional. Though the specs look great and will get the job done I think. Price range looks good enough to roll the dice.