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Carl Posz

ACT and Control Surfaces

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My old keyboard of many years was going out, so I figured I key a keyboard controller to replace it. Thus my following questions. I've provide a lot but I wanted to make sure I provide info on what I've done and what issue and successes I've had.

I've did a fair amount of research and most keyboards, it seems are going to require some tweaking to get them to work.

So I went for the Akai MPK261.

 

My first question is, Is there a good document on ACT. I've read all the online help and I still am a little puzzled with the use of it. Under the Controller/Surface I've tried

  • "ACT Midi Controller" with Input and Output of MPK261
  • "Cakewalk Generic Surface" with the same input and Output of MPK261

None of the help documents I've read really explain the tabs in Controllers and Options(in ACT Midi Controller and All the combinations of parameters on the Generic. It's like, here you go, figure it out and spend days and days playing with every what combination and see if you can figure it out. What are "Banks" are they the same as Groups of faders/Pan/buttons or is it really more. And if so what really is the difference between them all.

I get it. I've read so many help pages, forum posts, Craig Anderton documents in SOS, videos. I'm Still puzzled on a lot of things.

 

One of the things I noticed is that I do NOT see the AKAI MPK261 listed as a Controller/Surface in the settings menu. There was no driver provided by Akai and I have a question into them on this. But I don't think if you are using ACT that it matters. Both Studio One of Ableton Live show MPK261 as a Controller Surface.

 

What I have been able to accomplish, so that you know that I'm figuring some of this out is this.

 

Using the "ACT Midi Controller" as a Starting point

What's working

  • I have my keys transmitting midi to my songs.
  • I have channels 1-8 Faders and Pan (except for channel 5 pan) working. I’m not convinced it remembers those assignments yet ( and yes I have saved).
  • I can see the WAI colors on the channels and tracks.
  • I got the pads and keys to work with AD2.

What is isn't working

  • The Akai has 3 buttons called Banks A,B,C. When you have a fader or pan selected and you go to Bank A, it is Fader/Pan 01, B Fader/Pan 09, C Fader/Pan 17. But I have not been able to get this to sync with Cakewalk. In each I have
    • Type = MIDI CC
    • MIDI channel is A1-16 B1-16. I have set fader 1/pan 1 to A1, Fader 2/2 A1 and so on.
    • I have tried not doing anything for 09 and above. I have also tried setting 09-16 to A9-A16 and that didn't work either.
    • However, if I drag the WAI indicators to different channels they work. I just can't do it from the MPK261.
    • I downloaded Presonus One Prime and make 18 tracks. When I use the Banks A-C all to faders move accordingly. (Pans don’t work at all. What?)
  • Channel 5 pan (fader works fine). This is so odd. Why that channel?
    • Ableton Live Lite comes with the AKAI and the channel 5 pan works with no problem. So it's not hardware.
    • When I drag the WAI indicators to different locations, channel 5 still doesn't work.
    • I've verified that the exact same parameters are set for this channel as any other pan setting.

Using the "Cakewalk Generic Surface" I haven't had much luck at all. But I'm really confused on how to configure that.

I'm making progress but I'm still not there. Any Help would be appreciated.

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Original documentation describes both plug-ins (pages 1215-1228): https://bandlab.github.io/cakewalk/docs/Cakewalk Reference Guide.pdf

If in addition you want to know how all that works: http://www.azslow.com/index.php/topic,107.0.html

Well... MPK261 does not "fit" into standard plug-ins functionality. M-Audio support some DAWs, but Cakewalk is not in the list (not a surprise, only Roland and some Naktar keyboards are Cakewalk aware).

You can  start with: http://www.azslow.com/index.php/topic,393.0.html
as stated in that post, I do not remember which MPK261 mode should be used. If not Bitwig, that should be some other standard preset. And  I do not remember what this preset does nor which MIDI IO should be set. But it definitively recognize ABC banks and most controls do something useful 🙂

General installation you can find in "Manuals" section / Videos linked on top.

(the preset was created long time ago and remotely... I have never touched real MPK261)

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3 hours ago, azslow3 said:

Original documentation describes both plug-ins (pages 1215-1228): https://bandlab.github.io/cakewalk/docs/Cakewalk Reference Guide.pdf

If in addition you want to know how all that works: http://www.azslow.com/index.php/topic,107.0.html

Well... MPK261 does not "fit" into standard plug-ins functionality. M-Audio support some DAWs, but Cakewalk is not in the list (not a surprise, only Roland and some Naktar keyboards are Cakewalk aware).

You can  start with: http://www.azslow.com/index.php/topic,393.0.html
as stated in that post, I do not remember which MPK261 mode should be used. If not Bitwig, that should be some other standard preset. And  I do not remember what this preset does nor which MIDI IO should be set. But it definitively recognize ABC banks and most controls do something useful 🙂

General installation you can find in "Manuals" section / Videos linked on top.

(the preset was created long time ago and remotely... I have never touched real MPK261)

Thanks @azslow3 for the info. I'll certainly look at those pages. 
Are there any controlling surfaces that really integrate to CbB, or is this really smoking dope? 
The little bit I tried of Ableton it seems to work, but that's not the kind of DAW I'm looking for. Studio One only partially works (so far).  Maybe I'm being unrealistic in purchasing a replacement keyboard with a controller and expecting that I can get it to work.
Silly me.

Edited by QuestorCP

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5 hours ago, QuestorCP said:

Are there any controlling surfaces that really integrate to CbB, or is this really smoking dope?

I have mentioned the whole known set of "supported" keyboard controllers: Roland A and Nektar Impact. Both are limited as hardware (f.e. no encoders) but the integration was provided by the companies. I write "was", Roland is no longer affiliated with Cakewalk and all Nektar's powerful controllers do not support Cakewalk.

But MPK261 is not a bad choice for controlling Cakewalk. It has capable hardware. The only problem the solution is DIY. So you will need to invest a bit of time to make it work. Depending from what you are ready to sacrifice:

  • you want transport buttons and 24 tracks (with ABC keyboard banks) Volume+Pan+One switch per strip (Mute OR Solo OR Arm, etc): setup Generic surface plug-in.
  • you want overlay the right part section (8 encoders + 8 faders + 8 buttons, NO transport, NO ABC banks) for mixing, controlling plug-ins and executing commands: setup ACT MIDI plug-in.
  • you want all controls, overlay functionality, LED feedback: you will need AZ Controller.

First two options you can get up and running within an hour. Set MPK261 to Bitwig mode and follow Cakewalk PDF I have mentioned.

For the third option you start with mentioned preset, that should work out of the box. To extend it or change the functionality you will need to spend significant time (days or even weeks) and without background in programming I would not recommend diving into complex modifications.

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I took a stab at the Generic Surface and didn't get very far. So I'll take a look again as what you described is what I'm after. I might have better luck now with the Cakewalk PDF.

I had transports, 8 fades, 8 pans, no buttons working with ACT Midi plug-in.  

Thanks for the insight

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MPK261 is a flexible device. You can configure what and how each control sends. There are predefined presets for different DAWs, controls are set to send different messages in each of these presets.

For ACT MIDI configure (or find existing configuration) all controls for sending CC messages. For buttons use "momentary" mode. You can use "relative" mode for knobs, but you need to set parameters properly in ACT MIDI then (in addition to control learning), also they can appear "too slow" for you in that mode.

ACT MIDI and Generic Surface do not show messages they receive. You can "record" controllers as normal MIDI clip and then check the recording in Events List mode. You can also use MIDI-OX (with Cakewalk stopped) or AZ Controller (inside Cakewalk) to monitor incoming messages "real time".

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On 5/27/2020 at 1:49 AM, azslow3 said:

you want transport buttons and 24 tracks (with ABC keyboard banks) Volume+Pan+One switch per strip (Mute OR Solo OR Arm, etc): setup Generic surface plug-in.

Using he generic surface I got 1-8 channels with faders and pan working but haven't figured out the switch. Cant get it to work on mute, solo, or Record/arm. 
I also have play, stop and rewind/fast forward working.

I also am still baffled by not being able to get the 3 Bank buttons to work. If I move the WAI indicators the faders and pan work. But how to jump from 1 bank to the next is still a mystery.

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