Melodics - My experience with learning to play pad controllers

I’ve been wondering quite a lot nowadays about what I would need to get more into making music. One painfully obvious thing for me was that I’m quite weak in making / playing beats. This was something I learned way back in music school, and I knew that it would be a good idea to work on this. (But still, as a piano player, this was not exactly the strongest requirement.) I guess it’s no surprise that this didn’t help much in making electronic music, but what can be done with this?

Launchpad is still quite a nice toy.
Launchpad is still quite a nice toy.

Back then when I was in New York, I bought a Novation Launchpad MK2, mostly to control Live. Even though Launchpad is an excellent controller and it works splendidly with Ableton Live, it ended up somehow underutilized. (Even after finding such nice software as Launchpad95, which backports a few functionality from Ableton Push.) Of course, I did not manage to make music as much as I wanted to, so this is not a surprise at all, but I still feel a bit guilty about this 😅

Even after all of this, I had to run into Melodics multiple times to realize that this might be a solution to both issues. Now, after playing daily for around a month, I can already feel how useful it is. Read on if you’re interested!

Melodics is a pretty nicely built piece of software for teaching playing the keys, pads and drums. From those, I’m into the pads only. This is actually close to a rhythm-based game, so if you ever played anything like that, you will feel right at home. What’s different, though, is that it properly supports music hardware like controllers, so eg. it recognized my Launchpad immediately, without any issues. (By the way, most likely almost any device could be used which can fire MIDI signals.)

That's really all we need
That’s really all we need

There are so many reasons why I would recommend Melodics to mostly anyone:

  • The music is pretty modern and it’s a nice mixture of genres, ranging from 8-bit wonders through ambient, hip-hop, house, trap - whatever you’re looking for. This is enough to make it sure that you won’t get bored during practice.
  • There’s a decent course system to build your skills from scratch. I’m working on this right now, hopefully finishing it soon.
Workouts was pretty tough
Workouts was pretty tough
  • New lessons are being published continuously if the already available few hundreds wouldn’t be enough for you 😂
  • The gamification part is spot on. You get positive feedback all the time (e.g. when you get to the recommended 5 mins / day, or when you do a perfect on a lesson) - I lol’d on quite a few success screens, nice lines there. It shows you how long your streak is, how much time you put into it, there is a leveling system and so on.
Here's the progress overview
Here’s the progress overview
  • Where you really need to, you can customize. E.g. you can change the pad layout, or whether to show success animations if it’s too distracting for you.
The default layout puts the pads to bottom left, for me, it was more comfortable in the middle
The default layout puts the pads to bottom left, for me, it was more comfortable in the middle
  • If you subscribe, you even get some nice perks, like a -30% voucher for AIAIAI headphones, Berklee Online’s free 4-week Ableton Live course and so on.

All this was more than enough for me to get pulled in - now I’m around 80 hours. And I really feel how useful it is: playing stuff on the Launchpad is much easier, and I even feel the improvement in how I sense rhythm! This is exactly the kind of practicing where you even feel improving on a daily level. In short, Melodics delivers all that I expected.

I only have two not-that-major concerns with it:

  • First, the stability. Probably it’s just a bad time for them, but nowadays we have a bit more bugs than optimal. None of them are critical for me, it’s not blocking you from practicing. (They are also pretty fast with fixing those, but on the subscriber’s Slack, you still see a few angry people here and there. We also got word that they’re working on a quite heavy refactoring, which might explain the situation and will potentially help with this.)
  • Also, the price - I would not call this cheap at ALL. The subscription is $30/month or $150 a year. Given that I’m still not sure whether I would use it for a full year, I did not commit to a yearly sub, but this way, Melodics is easily the most expensive subscription that I have! (And I have quite a few.) Even with the discount code that I had, it’s still twice as expensive as the next one on my list. So I would totally understand if you wallet would cry a bit about this. For now, I think that as long as I such improvements, I’m OK with this, but I certainly would not bet that I will actually switch to a yearly sub. 😉

If you plan to get started with this, please make sure that you check their articles. You can find a lot of nice tips on how to get started with playing pads or keys. Those articles even cover the physical aspects of playing, which is missing from the software, but still very necessary to study if you want to feel good while playing and succeed.

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