Novation Launchkey Mini MK3
Novation has been producing electronic music systems since 1992, becoming one of the greatest names in music production history. They gained early recognition with the creation of the Novation Bass Station, which since 1993 has been used on countless hit records and Novation have continued to evolve and innovate their products ever since. In 2013 the inaugural Launchkey was released, designed to work with Ableton Live to enable musicians to create on the move. A simple, intuitive design, the Launchkey quickly became the go-to MIDI controller for producers looking to make their first steps into the world of hardware or producers who needed to make music on the move.
Ableton Live is a music production software with a difference. As well as having all the functionality you’d expect of a modern DAW, with the ability to compose, record, arrange, mix and master, it can also be used as a live performance tool. With its clip-launching (sampling) functionality, crossfading and beatmatching it adds the functionality you’d normally expect to find in the realm of DJ. A compact interface designed for use on a single screen makes it perfect for use on a laptop, combine that with a compact MIDI controller and you have a full production suite you can take on the road.
The keybed is consists of 25-mini keys that are velocity-sensitive. They give you great control over your touch sensitivity considering the size of the keys and despite the small amount of travel you can accentuate your playing really nicely. The eye-catching 16 RGB pads are also touch-sensitive and offer plenty of functionality. You can use them as an additional octave for the keyboard, great when you want to input bass and treble playing at the same time, as well as serving the typical function of allowing you to play beats with your fingers. The unique Ableton Live functionality means that they also represent functions of the session view in Ableton, allowing you to launch clips or tweak parameters on the fly.
Using the shift function you can also move your selection around and the RGB pads light up to represent what’s going on, on the screen. Additional Stop, Solo and Mute functions let add further functionality, perfect for live performances where you want to drop tracks out, as well as being great for mixing and mastering in the studio. Knob mode gives you the typical project editing functions allowing you to customise your Volume, Panning, Sends and in the Custom Mode you can assign pretty much any parameter you like to the knobs.
You can utilise the Fixed Chord mode with ease, simply play an interval with Fixed Chord mode engaged and you can then repeat the same chord with one note, moving it up and down the keybed whilst the Launchkey Mini ensures that it retains its key no matter which note you’re playing. Capture MIDI is a really clever function that will help massively with music creation. Just in case you forget to hit record the Capture MIDI function lets you quickly grab the last part you played and automatically put it into a clip in Ableton, a really handy feature that ensures that moment of magic is never lost.
The built-in arpeggiator doesn’t require you to use a computer, making it perfect for use with external hardware synths via the 3.5mm TRS jack. You can latch your arpeggios on and off and there are multiple modes the Arpeggiator can utilise to give you different sounds, with some typical features in the form of Chord, Random and Octave letting you tweak your sound as well as the Rhythm section that lets you utilise beat subdivisions, including triplets. There are also two functions that are unique to the Novation Launchkey Mini. Mutate and Deviate have their own intensity knobs, allowing you to create some really individual sounds, generating notes at random intervals all within a given scale. Use the Deviate function and you can add rests to your arpeggios allowing for some unparalleled musical creations.
The Novation Launchkey Mini comes bundled with a version of Ableton Live Lite, making it the perfect out of the box solution for the roaming producer. Alongside this fantastic piece of software, you also get plenty of tools for morphing your music-making with software from AAS, Softube, Spitfire Audio, XLN Audio and Klevgrand as well as membership of the Novation Sound Collective, which regularly gives away free software every few months. Despite the close working relationship with Ableton Live, the Launchkey Mini also has the capability to be integrated with Logic, Reason or any other HUI compatible DAW, making it far more than a one-trick pony.
The Novation Launchkey Mini continues the long-established tradition of quality craftsmanship and innovation from an industry-leading brand. If you’re a burgeoning producer who wants their first bit of hardware or an established muso who wants something, they can take around the country in a backpack then this is the MIDI controller for you. Building on the foundation of the Launchkey Mini MK2 everything about the MK3 is brighter and better, with added functionality enhancing your workflow and helping optimise the production process.
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Matt is a multi-instrumentalist, music geek and current Content Creator at Dawsons Music. He composes, records and produces out of his home studio in Manchester as well as playing in two bands, China Moon and Sawbones.