Making the DAW Tactile

i recently found a video where the musician Stimming shared how they use a Wacom pen display and a small transport controller to make the process of using a DAW more tactile. obviously there are tons of ways of doing this (midi controller, ipad, push, maschine, etc.) - but what i really liked about the pen/tablet approach is how well the metaphor of slicing up and arranging bits of audio translates to a pen. it reminds me of when i learned linear film editing on an old flatbed machine.

so i might try a pen with ableton…

if you’ve developed a novel approach to interacting with a DAW and found that it has unlocked a satisfying flow i’d love to hear about it :slight_smile:


I am eagerly awaiting iPadOS in the hopes that SideCar will allow me an easy, tactile way of interacting with MANY of my MacOS audio bits and bobs.

I can think of so many ways to use it effectively. One would be having the Apple Pencil or finger input on VCV Rack, one would be a better sense of control on softsynth knobs. Even just running the ableton clips with a pencil will possibly eliminate the need for a dedicated clip launcher.

Granted, I have no idea if/how that will work with the pencil. Maybe I am totally mistaken about the capabilities of SideCar functionality. But we’ll see.


I really enjoy touch screens, and have at times contemplated moving to Windows as a result.

But wacoms are good too. The arc and stretta’s ArcControl G1 device allow me to map anything to an arc knob. Launchpad is fantastic for clip launching, and even isomorphic grid playing (with velocity, in the pro model, or you could use Push I guess).

Bitwig has a touch mode, but even when using a touchscreen I find I prefer the standard layout.

I’ve always wanted to get foot pedals going for DAW transport and scrub controls… more for audio editing than music though.

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I used a Wacom Bamboo for a few years with Logic and Pro Tools. Great for automation curves, very nice for prolonged editing of audio in Pro Tools, maybe a little annoying to others when you wear headphones and casually keep dropping the pen onto the table to reach for the MIDI keyboard. It had a lousy scroll wheel but 4 great buttons to map to whatever I wished (various tool switches in my case).

In the process of me going through 2 tablets and 3 pens, Wacom changed the way their driver translates movement, making it ever so slightly less nice. A year or two ago they obsoleted the (old) Bamboo driver so it works poorly in Mojave or a newer OS. Now that I have an iPad and pencil, I’m reluctant to give them more money.

Some software doesn’t deal well with pen tablets, because of the way the UI framework interprets pen tablet coordinates, especially when the pen is down (as in pressed against the digitiser’s surface). Ableton Live was among these, but there’s a switch in the preferences that resolves it (or there used to be one and is no longer needed).

I suspect my old pen tablet still works, but the combined value of Apple’s Magic Trackpad makes the Magic Trackpad my preferred input/pointing device at this time.

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After using a footswitch as talkback button during (foley) recording sessions for quite a long time, i got myself a usb-pedal with 3 switches. The bundled software is very basic and only works with windows, but with a keystroke manager it’s easy to assign different more or less complex macros to each pedal. Recently I’ve been using it for basic functions like Play, Record (Punch In/Out) and switching between waveform/automation views most of the time.

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ah footswitch is a great idea.

for a while i was trying to figure out how to use monome arc to navigate in ableton. the 4 dials would map to vertical zoom, horizontal zoom, vertical scroll, horizontal scroll. wouldn’t that be nice??

i’ve seen peers struggle with wacom drivers. it seems like a big headache.

i was looking forward to this until i learned that my (still very functional) macbook pro is too old to support this feature.

Oh man, what a bummer about side car! I’m actually worried about updating my MacOS at any point because it feels like many of my music apps (mainly ableton) are on shaky ground, if you catch my drift.

Has anyone seen this? totally over the top/expensive option but figured I’d share.

Multi touch with gestures

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I can see how that would work for Foley.

Which one? Does it map to Pro Tools then?

I think I imagined jog on a pedal < > and then maybe split on a footswitch. thinking about it if left hand could be window navigation, right hand mouse, feet transport and slice…

I use a “Scythe 3 Foot Switch”. As mentioned above, the bundled software is not that comfortable but the build quality is solid and it was quite cheap if I remember correctly.
With the bundled windows software you can only save simple shortcuts directly onto the foot switch itself.
I used a little workaround though…I saved some really complex keystrokes for the 3 switches onto the foot switch itself, and I remap those via a keystroke manager (QuicKeys). That way I never had to touch the bundled software again, and I’m able to map all sorts of macros no matter how complex they are and I can change them fast and easy. This makes it easy to map it to Pro Tools, and beside that you can also map different shortcuts for other applications (e.g. Browser, Finder, Mail etc.) simultaneously depending on which application is focused at that time.
btw…talking about Pro Tools shortcuts…pretty sure you already know this, but creating your own menu shortcuts in Pro Tools is also very helpful.

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Speaking of using footswitches, pretty much any MIDI footswitch, pedalboard, etc., can be turned into a footswitch controller with most DAWs. You don’t need to use dedicated USB footswitches. Something like Bome’s MIDI translator, Max/PD, etc. could be used if you need to map the Midi to keystrokes instead but most modern DAWs can accept MIDI commands directly.

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i’ve seen this in an actual studio… looked pretty good. over the top I think.