Nektar Pacer MIDI Footswitch with TC-Helicon’s VoiceLive Touch 2

Nectar’s Pacer MIDI footswitch is an incredibly versatile piece of equipment. The Pacer comes programmed with several patches, but if your equipment or DAW of choice isn’t among them, for example TC Electronics VoiceLive Touch2 or Ableton Live, then you have to do some work.

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Nektar’s Pacer MIDI Footswitch

The question you might be wondering is, “Do I need to get a Touchswitch 3 or Touchswitch 6, or can I get all I from the Pacer?”

What is the VoiceLive Touch2?

TC Electronic’s VoiceLive Touch2 is one of the most popular vocal processors and loopers out there right now. It’s primary customers are 1) solo vocalists and 2) singer-songwriters. It has 9 vocal effects, and you can dial in your preference for how present you want those vocals to be. They range from subtle and tasteful to robot-deathscreech-chipmunky. Take your choice.

Touch2: Singer-songwriter’s best friend?

The Touch2 comes with 200 presets, and there’s another 100 you can program yourself (and, yes, you can replace the factory presets with your own). You’ll also find a great community where you can download more by using the VoiceLive Editor app that’s available.

In short, the Touch2 is a powerful vocal processor and a pretty cool looper. It fits on your mic stand.

Is the Touch2 worth it?

I’m a fan of the 6 loops (each of which can be overdubbed) and the onboard EQ for the guitar input. Most of the vocal effects presets are very useful, and you can customise them as you like.

Ableton’s Push 2: Perfect Ableton integration

I was looking at buying a looper for live work. I had been the DAW route and using Ableton along with the Pacer and a Push. But the lag time and constant fear of a computer crash had me thinking about re-tooling. I’ve moved away from using a DAW and am trying to go computer-less for playing live now.

Nektar Pacer Presets for the Touch2

Nektar Pacer is a MIDI foot pedal that can work with a number of many devices that allow for MIDI input (see my article on using the Pacer with Ableton Live, for example). It’s great for musicians who bought a Touch2, but don’t really want 2 touch it.

I’ve made a preset that you can use with the Touch2 so you can control most important functions without taking your hands off your instrument…or emoting with your hands. These presets allow you to:

  • Start and stop recording your loops
  • Undo a recording
  • Use the Hit button to punch in some extra effects
  • Use the Talk/Tune feature to remove all effect and bring up the tuner
  • Control the gain on your bass or guitar
  • Punch harmonies in and out
  • Control the volume of the harmonies
  • Return your presets to #1
  • Scroll backwards through presets from #128

Where to get VoiceLive Touch2 Presets for Pacer

If you’d like to get these presets so you can install them on your Pacer, email me at brandonxshaw@gmail.com. For just €9.99 I’ll send it right over and you can install.

Instructions about installing are right below, but if you still need some help, I can schedule an online tutorial with you.

How to Install Presets on Nektar’s Pacer

Look at page 20 of Nektar’s manual for instructions on how to upload the file: http://support.nektartech.com/support/User%20Guides/Pacer_User_Guide_ENG_Final109.pdf. I used Snoize, which was the format they recommended for Mac. 
Be sure to check out this website: Francois Georgy’s Pacer Editor, which should let you edit presets from your computer rather than doing the manual entry you see me doing on the video. 

You can download these presets and install them on your Pacer, which gives you some great options while you’re using your Touch2.

Pacer
Pedal 
Touch 2 FunctionColorCC# , Range
1Harmony On/Off Pink110
2Talk Mode + Tuner White14
3Hit On/Off Purple87
4UndoYellow44, 5 (NOT 3 as in
manual!)
5Play LoopGreen 44, 0
6Record/Overdub?Red44, 1
Expression 1Guitar Gain 109
Expression 2Harmony Master Gender 59
CIncrease Presets by 1 (Presets 1 – 126)Orange
DDecrease Preset by 1 (Presets 1 – 126)Orange
Make Nektar’s Pacer control your Touch2 with these Presets.

Again, if installing is difficult for you, we can arrange a tutorial.

Most of these functions are straightforward. The last two, pedals C and D, might be a bit confusing. You can scroll up using the D pedal as much as you want, until preset 126. After preset 126, the Touch2 won’t respond accurately if you press C.

The best thing to do is to place the presets you want to use at the beginning of the list. That way you can start on 1 and go from there.

This is obviously a workaround for the fact that there’s no good way to go through presets with any MIDI controller that I know of.

This is one of the main gaps between Nectar’s Pacer MIDI footswitch and a Touchswitch 3 or Touchswitch 6. So far, I’m happy with Pacer’s integration with the Touch2 and am happy not to have to buy a new piece of gear!

Suggestions to TC Helicon for future updates:

  • Make loop selectors MIDI mappable so we can select a new loop with a footswitch.
  • Make volume controls for each loop MIDI mappable so we can control that with volume pedals.
  • Greater general integration with MIDI controllers. Share that integration that the Footswitch has!

Setting up Nektar’s Pacer with Ableton Live


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Introducing Nektar’s Pacer to Ableton Live

A lot of us were very excited by Nektar Pacer’s functionality, but a little disappointed at the lack on integration with Ableton Live. Is this the foot equivalent of Ableton’s Push, or can we not expect that kind of integration?

While some Track (Solo, but not Mute or Click!) and  most Transport buttons work, there’s still a lot you might want to customised. If you’re wanting to use Nektar Pacer with Ableton Live and control your jamming with your feet, you’re at the right place.

These presets are optimal for use on Ableton Live session by navigating between 5 tracks with 4 external inputs. I have customised A1-A4 to give you 5 MIDI-mappable signals, plus a few features that are useful and don’t change. 

What is Nektar’s Pacer MIDI Footswitch?

Nektar Pacer is a MIDI foot pedal that can work with a number of many devices that allow for MIDI input.

About my Presets for MIDI Integration with Ableton

The basic structure is this. Presets A1-A4 are set up that:

  • Pedals 1-4 have individual CC values that you can map as you like. They are set into on/off (Toggle) mode.
  • The value of the expression pedal in EXP 1 changes with each preset. So in A1, you can map values that are specific to Track 1. When you change your preset to A2, the CC value of the Expression pedal also changes, meaning that you can control parameters on Track 2 that won’t change anything on Track 1.
  • Pedal A functions as an undo (Cmd Z) button on A1-4, but only when you have selected Preset.
  • Pedals B-D remain unchanged.
  • LED lights change in synch with the DAW.

You can see what these presets all get you on my youtube tutorial here:

Before you get started…

Be sure that you have your Pacer’s firmware updated. You might want to restore your Pacer to factory settings if you’ve messed around with some features before you really knew what you were doing.

This video covers basic setup for the Pacer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ea0WaqgTIw&t=341s

Step 1: Download my Custom Presets for Ableton Live

If you’d like to get these presets so you can install them on your Pacer, email me at brandonxshaw@gmail.com. For just €9.99 I’ll send it right over and you can install.

Link here to only one Ableton-friendly preset (Preset A1 below), which you can then copy on other Pacer presets.

This section from tutorial shows you how to download the presets and save them to your own Pacer: https://youtu.be/1Ea0WaqgTIw?t=341.

(I used https://www.snoize.com/SysExLibrarian/ to dump my preset. Thanks to the team at Snoize!)

Otherwise, you can program it all in yourself. You can follow my instructions below, or watch my video to get started:

Step 2: Install new SysEx files on your Pacer.

You’ll need to install the files above to your Pacer. Here’s Nektar’s instructions:

To send the sysex data to Pacer, use Sysex Librarian (OS X) or Bome’s Send SX (Windows).

The sysex data will be loaded as the ‘Current’ preset. You can then save the settings to any of Pacer’s preset slots. If you don’t save the preset, the settings will be lost the next time you select a different user preset.

  1. With Pacer in Preset Mode, turn the Data Encoder to select ‘SAVE’, then press the Encoder Button.
  2. The 5-character display will say ‘STORE’, press the Encoder button.
  3. Turn the data encoder to select the Preset slot, to which you would like to save this preset, then press the Encoder button.

Once you have saved that preset, Pacer’s controls will be configured as shown below:

Your New Pedal Arrangement

This is the layout you’ll have on Presets A1-A4:

A1 [Gold] Preset [never changes]
A: CC 127 [Undo (Cmd Z)]
B: Transport preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
C: Move down one preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
D: Move up one preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
1: CC 096
2: CC 097
3: CC 098
4: CC 099
5: CC 002 [right arrow]
6: CC 003 [down arrow]
Exp 1: CC 006
Exp 2: CC 011 [doesn’t change throughout]

A2 [Purple] Preset [never changes]
A: CC 127 [Undo (Cmd Z)]
B: Transport preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
C: Move down one preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
D: Move up one preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
1: CC 101
2: CC 102
3: CC 103
4: CC 104
5: CC 002 [right arrow]
6: CC 003 [down arrow]
Exp 1: CC 007
Exp 2: CC 011 [doesn’t change throughout]

A3 [Blue] Preset [never changes]
A: CC 127 [Undo (Cmd Z)]
B: Transport preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
C: Move down one preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
D: Move up one preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
1: CC 106
2: CC 107
3: CC 108
4: CC 109
5: CC 002 [right arrow]
6: CC 003 [down arrow]
Exp 1: CC 008
Exp 2: CC 011 [doesn’t change throughout]

A4 [Orange] Preset [never changes]
A: CC 127 [Undo (Cmd Z)]
B: Transport preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
C: Move down one preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
D: Move up one preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
1: CC 111
2: CC 112
3: CC 113
4: CC 114
5: CC 002 [right arrow]
6: CC 003 [down arrow]
Exp 1: CC 009
Exp 2: CC 011 [doesn’t change throughout]

A5 Preset: Percussion

A5 The preset CC values on A5 are one “octave” too high for how Ableton DrumRacks automatically load, so I’ve programmed these in to match where you’ll want them.
Preset [never changes]
A: CC 127 [Undo (Cmd Z)]
B: Transport preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
C: Move down one preset button [doesn’t change throughout]
1: 36
2: 37
3: 38
4: 39
5: 40
6: 41
Exp 1: CC 010
Exp 2: CC 011 [doesn’t change throughout]

If you only want A5’s preset, you can download that here: A5 Presets for DrumRack.

Step 3: Record Arm Automatically

Set up Ableton to automatically record arm as soon as a track is selected. You’ll need to make a .txt document telling it to do this. 

The short version:

  1. Create a file called options.txt
  2. Write this in it: -EnableArmOnSelection
  3. Save it here: MacOS: /Users/[username]/Library/Preferences/Ableton/Live x.x.x/ Windows: \Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Ableton\Live x.x.x\Preferences\

For more information about finding your file, go here: https://help.ableton.com/hc/en-us/articles/209772865

If you prefer youtube, here’s someone showing you how to do it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ8pe7I3C-M

So, now when you select a track, it should Record Arm automatically. Also, if you move your arrow key right or left, you should select and Record Arm the next track as well. 

But we want to do that hands free. That’s why we have the Pacer, right? On to the next software.

You’ll probably need to copy this file into the updated folders with the future Live updates.

Step 4: Convert CC messages into Keystrokes

MidiStroke allows you to turn MIDI CC codes into keystrokes. That means you can make one of your pedals perform and arrow key function, or even the Command Z undo function.

Go to http://charlie-roberts.com/midiStroke/ and download midistroke. Follow the directions and enter these values:

MidiStrokeForDAW
MIDIStroke Codes for Right, Down, and Undo

This allows you to use Pedal 5 to as a Right arrow key (progressing to the next track, which will Rec Arm immediately) and Pedal 6 as a Down key (so you can record into the next clip)

Perhaps most importantly, Pedal A now functions as an Undo button! Note that this is only when you are in the Preset preset. If you press the Transport pedal, then Pedal A goes back to bringing up your Transport preset. NOTICE: you need to tick the box for the Apple icon on the third value so it will register as Command + Z.

Be sure to leave midistroke on while you’re using your Pacer with Ableton.

The Manual Process

If you don’t download and install my files above, you can do all the programming ourself. Again, you can see me doing most of this in this tutorial.

You can also enter the information over your computer using Francois Georgy’s awesome web-app.

Here’s a tutorial for updating and changing your Pacer with the web-app:

Below are the instructions for manual entry.

Copy the D4 Preset onto A1, A2, A3, and A4.

  1. Turn the Data Encoder to select ‘SAVE’, then press the Encoder Button.
  2. The display says ‘Store’, press the Encoder Button.
  3. The display will now show the currently selected preset slot, turn the Data Encoder to select a different preset slot (the preset slot, to which you would like to ‘Paste’ the preset)
  4. Press the Encoder Button
  5. Press the [Preset] Stomp Switch to exit the Save menu.

(http://support.nektartech.com/Support/pacer-support/Creating-and-Customizing-Presets-for-Pacer)

Reassign the MIDI CC values on Pedals 1-6

Next, you’ll need to do what is probably the most important part of your work. You’ll continue the sequence of MIDI CC (Continuous Controller) values. D4 leaves off at CC 95 on pedal 6, so we pick up assigning pedal 1 a value of 96, and continue on down to 4. 

I can’t tell you how to do it any better than the Pacer manual, so here you go:

  1. Turn the Data Encoder to select ‘CTRL’, then press the Encoder Button.
  2. Press the Stomp Switch or Expression Pedal that you would like to configure.
  3. Turn the Data Encoder to select ‘CC’, then press the Encoder Button.
  4. The 3-character display will now show the current CC value for the selected Stomp Switch and the active step.
  5. Turn the Data Encoder to select the CC which you would like the control to send. 
  6. Press the Encoder Button to accept the change or press [Preset] to cancel the change. 

(http://support.nektartech.com/Support/pacer-support/Creating-and-Customizing-Presets-for-Pacer)

Be sure to save your changes!

  1. Turn the Data Encoder to select ‘SAVE’, then press the Encoder Button.
  2. The display says ‘Store’, press the Encoder Button.

If you see 3 flashing dots below your Preset, it’s not been saved.

I leave one out on each preset (for example, there’s no CC 105 between A1 and A2) in case you’d like to add an external pedal which you could assign for each of the Presets.

Program your arrow keys to Trigger

I use 5 and 6 to be Left and Down arrow keys, respectively. Program 5 to CC 002 and 6 to CC 003. 

Follow the directions above for putting those values into the midiSoft program the midi signal will be translated to a keystroke

Then you’ll need to change the Type of pedal from from a Toggle to Trigger.

  1. Press the Stomp Switch, to which you would like to assign Tap Tempo. 
  2. Turn the data encoder to select ‘CTRL’, then press the encoder button
  3. Turn the data encoder to select ‘TYPE’, then press the encoder button
  4. Turn the data encoder to select ‘CCTRG’, then press the encoder button
  5. Press the [Preset] Stomp Switch twice to exit the menu. 

(http://support.nektartech.com/Support/pacer-support/Creating-and-Customizing-Presets-for-Pacer)

These two pedals, 5 and 6, are the same for A1-4.

Program your Undo Pedal

For the “Undo” function and mapping the Click button, you’ll need to make sure the pedal sends only one signal per tap, called triggering. (You don’t want it toggling a signal on and off).

  1. Set pedal B to CC 127.
  2. Set its Type to CCTRG (trigger)

Colors! Programming the LEDs

One the cool things about the Pacer is the ability to change colors of the switches. You can coordinate the Presets with the Ableton track that its controlling, which is super helpful to keep things straight while you have a million other things to think about. 

I did different colors for each Preset, and purple for the Undo button when it’s not functioning as the Track button.

Program you LEDs to Synch with the DAW

Here’s the tutorial for synching LEDs:

Here’s Nektar’s instructions for setting the LEDs:

First you will need to enable MIDI feedback for the Stomp Switches:

  1. Load preset D4 (GM CC)
  2. Press the [Preset] Stomp Switch
  3. Turn the Data Encoder to select ‘CTRL’ (Control Edit menu), then press the Encoder Button
  4. Press the Stomp Switch, to which you would like to send MIDI feedback
  5. Turn the Data Encoder to select ‘LED’, then press the Encoder Button
  6. The display should now say ‘MIDI’, press the Encoder Button
  7. The display should now say ‘OFF’. Turn the Data Encoder to select ‘On’, then press the Encoder Button
  8. Press the [Preset] button, then turn the Data Encoder to select ‘SETUP’
  9. Repeat steps 3-7 for each of the Stomp Switches that you would like to respond to MIDI feedback
  10. Press [Preset] button again to exit the Control Edit menu

Now, in the ‘Link/MIDI’ page of Live’s Preferences menu, activate the ‘Remote’ button for the ‘Pacer (MIDI 1)’ output port in OSX, or the ‘Pacer’ output port in Windows.

(http://support.nektartech.com/PRODUCTS-TEST/Setup-for/Ableton-Live-Setup-Pacer)

Drums! A5 Preset

A5 is great if you want to play notes, as Nektar suggests, but for me it’s super useful for drums. Unfortunately the key values which are the default on A5 are an octave above where they need to be for Ableton’s drums. So you have to reassign those buttons. 

  1. Turn the Data Encoder to select ‘CTRL’, then press the Encoder Button.
  2. Press the Stomp Switch or Expression Pedal that you would like to configure.
  3. The 3-character display will now show the current Note value for the selected Stomp Switch and the active step.
  4. Turn the Data Encoder to select the Note which you would like the control to send. 
  5. Press the Encoder Button to accept the change or press [Preset] to cancel the change. 
  6. Save your changes.

Tap tempo button

Last, I changed the 3 pedal on Preset D4 to Trigger with a CC value of 001. This button is labelled Click in the Transport Preset, but doesn’t work with Ableton. I then mapped that onto the Tap button in Live.

Personalise your Presets’ Names

The last thing you may want to do is change the name of the Presets A1-4. Again, quoting Nektar here:

  1. Turn the Data Encoder to select ‘SAVE’, then press the Encoder Button.
  2. Turn the Data Encoder to select ‘NAME’, then press the Encoder Button.
  3. The name of the current preset will appear in the 5-character display with the first character flashing.
  4. Turn the Data Encoder to changing the first character. 
  5. Press Stomp Switch [D] to select the next character. Observe that the second character is now flashing.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 to create your custom patch name. 
  7. Press the Encoder Button to accept the change or press [Preset] to cancel the change.
  8. The 5-character display should now say ‘STORE’. Press the Encoder button
  9. Turn the Data Encoder to select the Preset*, to which you would like to save, then press the Encoder button or press [Preset] to cancel the save operation.
  10. Press the [Preset] Stomp Switch to exit the Save menu.

(http://support.nektartech.com/Support/pacer-support/Creating-and-Customizing-Presets-for-Pacer)

Conclusion

Using Nektar’s Pacer along with some work-arounds, you’ll be able to get a lot of control over Ableton, or any DAW you want. This set-up gives you

  • 4 effect-controlling stomp switches
  • 2 expression pedals that are either 1) unique to each track/preset or 2) globally control across the tracks/presets
  • An Undo Function
  • Right and Down arrows

Obviously this is just one possibility, but I hope it will inspire folks to get creative with their Pacers and share what they’re up to.

Enjoy!