More and more guitarists take the stage with their laptops and guitar software like Amplitube from IK Multimedia for example. Keyboard players, producers and studio engineers are used to the use of MIDI gear in their work, but what about the guitarist?
This thought was exactly what Keith McMillen had before he designed the SoftStep MIDI controller. A MIDI controller for guitarists will have to fulfill certain criteria. Such a controller needs to have big, sturdy and, preferably, lit buttons and above all the controller itself has to be rock solid as well, as the user will control it with his or her feet. And Keith definitely achieved these criteria with the SoftStep.
The softStep is 45 cms wide and 10,5 cms deep, with a heigth of about 1 cm. You’ll get ten large square, lit, buttons/pads. Size of these pads are 4 by 4 cms and made of sturdy rubber and they are touch sensitive. Next to these controller pads, we have four pads for navigation and a display for settings and such. The controller is connected to your laptop/pc by USB.
At the rear we have the USB connection and a connection for an expression pedal. This is a MIDI jack. The controller is shipped with a mini to large MIDI cable adaptor in the box.
Lets hook it up!
First required action is to download and install the latest controller software. The software is free of charge and lets you set the SoftStep to your own personal settings. You can also use the standard MIDI mappings for software like Amplitube or even Ableton. The SoftStep is maybe pointed at guitarists but a DJ or Musician (with DAW software) with a need for a foot controller can use the SoftStep as well of course.
The software lets you dedicate a function to any controller pad. The pads can do much more then only on/off switching of MIDI channels. Every pad has its own modulation page (within the software) with six socalled mod lines. This means you can give every pad up to six functions. There is even a rotational function possible where you can use your pad as a rotary switch. However this needs a lot of practise with your feet, but … it does work! The possibilities are endless, way too much to mention here. My tip, try it out, because as I mentioned, the possibilities are (almost) endless. Certainly with software like Ableton for example.
And the methods of use keep going, as even DJ Software like Traktor can be linked to the SoftStep. DJ with your feet! And even video and light jockeys could get use out of this controller.
Is the SoftStep up to the job?
Simple question, easy answer: Yes it is! As the SoftStep is set as a footcontroller I can say it surely is up to the job for use with your feet. And of course the SoftStep can be used as a ‘hand’ controller too. The software I have used during the review was Amplitube from IK Multimedia and the SoftStep worked flawless and good with this software. As the pads are lit, use of the controller in the darkest club should be without any problems. A LED next to the pad shows if the pad is triggered or not.
The SoftStep is one of the most versatile and usable MIDI controllers I have ever had in my hands or under my feet. During the development they have thought of anything, even a very handy long MIDI cable. But, with any device, you have to give it your time to find out what it can do and how! It’s not just installing the software and hooking it up to go for a ride. However, the manual and the software are very good and will get you there…
Marc van den Hurk