How to Midi Map Touch Strips on Guitar Wing (UPDATED 11/23/2015!)

When I went about midi mapping my Guitar Wing I found that as expected, most of the switches are dedicated to on/off stomp box type of switches, otherwise known as "toggles." This means when I tap a button the effect activates, and when I release it it persists. More accurately, you can picture it like once a tap is triggered and then released the effect is triggered (in nerdspeak, an "onRelease" event). Quickly tap and release a button - boom, auto-wah. Tap and release it again, off. Tap and release another - bam, overdrive. Sometimes, for certain special effects you don't want toggle switches, you would prefer to hit a button and while the button is held, to hear your effect, and have it shut off when you release - this is called "momentary." Furthermore, the fact that Livid Instruments included 3 sliders (one linear and one split into 2 separate ones) opens a lot of possibilities to explore incremental effects, or effects that morph from one into another through the use of the Ableton Audio Effect Rack. You could see how a slider with either momentary or toggle functionality would be useful. 

A good thing to know up front is that the sliders on the Guitar Wing can map in these two different manners. The Guitar Wing operates on and is locked to Midi Channel 1 by default, but I have mine mapped to Midi Channel 14 because that is what fits the needs of my multi-device setup. It used to be very difficult to re-map a device to a new midi channel, but thankfully Livid Instruments has come out with companion software for Guitar Wing that hugely simplifies the process. See my post here.

So your computer has 16 Midi Channels. Generally speaking, one Midi Device can live on each Midi Channel without conflicts occurring. So on a given Midi Channel, there are two types of commands you can issue.

  • One is a single Midi Note, and this will operate as a simple stompbox-like on/off toggle. You will know you mapped a Midi Note because it will come in the format of "[Midi Channel]/[Note Value], so for example "14/C" or "14/C#." This Midi Note, when sent by a hardware Keyboard to a virtual instrument like a grand piano or Wurlitzer will issue a sound - audio that is, in note and timbre of the instrument selected. However, if we do not route the Midi Note through an synthesized instrument, it is important to remember that the note still occurs and it can be used to trigger changes even though the note itself will never actually be heard. While this is versatile and cool that you have this flexibility for the many toggle buttons, this is not what I personally want for the touchstrips - I have tons of toggle buttons on the Guitar Wing and elsewhere on other midi controllers. I want a linear touchstrip that can take a parameter from 0%-100% and back, or hold somewhere in the middle if desired until I return it to 0. Luckily, that's a nice segue to the next kind of command...

You can see that the notes C1 and C#1 were fired, but these are toggles, we need need CC messages to be sent. 

 

  • Using Midi CC (Control Change) commands, what we desire is possible. In midi-speak this means that we can send Midi CC commands that range from 0-127 (there are a range of 128 states in a given Midi CC command, but you count 0 as one of them). You will know if you successful mapped a Midi CC because it will be formatted as two numbers with a slash between them, the midi channel followed by the CC ID - [Midi Channel] / [CC ID]. For example: 

Midi Channel 14, Control Change Message 3. Ah, mapped perfectly. 

So that's great, right - but there is one snag, whenever I go into Midi Map Mode in Ableton (⌘M), I map a button and the results always give me a Midi Note, not a Midi CC message. How do I get around this and map the desired method?

The answer, like most good ones, was born of frustration. In fact, I thought I discovered an "Easter Egg" in the hardware/software last night when I was desperately trying to to accomplish this. If you simply touch one of the Guitar Wing's controls, you will just get the first behavior, the toggle on/off. After a few minutes I started getting a little impatient and starting hitting other buttons, and I accidentally realized that when I simultaneously touched another trigger while my finger was on the touchstrip that I would get the Midi CC behavior mapped correctly! I hit up @lividindustry on Twitter a few nights ago and brought it up, and they confirmed - this is the official way to map the linear escalating/de-escalating touchstrip using Midi CC - so there you go!

So this is the flow: 

  1. Enter Midi Map mode in Ableton Live using ⌘M. 
  2. Click on the parameter within Live that you want to map the Guitar Wing touchstrip to. 
  3. Place one finger on the actual touch strip you wish to map. 
  4. Now, with your finger still on the strip, touch any other parameter and watch the screen as you do it, you will see the Midi Note it was previously sending change to a Midi CC instead. It might flicker back and forth and it might take some playing around and re-tapping it, but...
  5. Once you get the Midi CC value to hold still and stayed mapped, continue to hold to hold your finger on the touch strip and with the other hand exit Midi Map mode by hitting ⌘M. The control should now be mapped. Try it out!

Have fun shredding. What kinds of things are you all mapping the strips to? I will post some of my ideas in an upcoming post I am working on...