PreSonus Blog

Using a Touchscreen with Studio One

 

The first touchscreens could detect a single touch, but modern touchscreens can handle up to ten touch points—which makes sense, because we have ten fingers. Studio One supports ten touch points natively on Windows, and thanks to a built-in TUIO extension, on the Mac as well.

 

DAW control with touch sounds sexy, but using touch on a large monitor is a different experience compared to using touch on a smartphone or tablet. Furthermore, whether a third-party plug-in supports multiple touchpoints is hit-or-miss. Also consider that a good touch monitor costs around $300—that’s quite a bit more than a standard monitor, so you need to decide how valuable touch would be to you. 

 

Practically speaking, you probably don’t need touch, but it does offer two major advantages when working with Studio One. The main plus for me is being able to use a touchscreen control surface and mouse simultaneously—two-handed operation improves the physical workflow. The other advantage is being able to edit multiple parameters simultaneously with effects and virtual instruments (like adjusting filter cutoff while trimming the filter envelope amplitude, or editing EQ frequency and boost/cut8 simultaneously).

 

The Ergonomics of Using Touch

 

To use a touchscreen as a control surface, I lay the monitor down almost flat, at about a 20% angle (Fig. 1). It feels very much like working with a conventional hardware mixer. For this application, it’s vital that the monitor have an adjustable A-frame stand, so that you can adjust it to any angle you want.

Figure 1: The Planar touchscreen is flanked by PreSonus control surfaces—that’s a lot of hands-on control. It’s at more of an angle than I normally use so that the screen is more visible.

 

Where touch doesn’t work, at least for me, is trying to use it with a conventional monitor placement (i.e., at a right angle to the desk surface, directly in front of you). Reaching out tires your arms; when I’m using the touch screen as a conventionally placed monitor for a project like writing an article, I rarely use touch. However, it can be helpful to move windows around while the mouse is doing something else, or touching a function after the mouse has made a selection. If you have RSI issues, touch can also provide a break from using a mouse all the time.

 

Also note that it takes a while to develop “touch technique.” You generally need to use the point of your finger to be sufficiently precise, and with the monitor at a low-lying angle, I usually have to aim a little toward the top of what I’m trying to hit. Also, you need to learn a few new tricks. You “right-click” simply by touching, and then continuing to hold your finger down until the context menu appears. And you can zoom tracks horizontally or vertically with two-finger pinches or stretches, which is pretty cool…as well move a project horizontally along the timeline by just swiping left or right.

 

Integrating a QWERTY Keyboard

 

You also need to decide how to integrate a QWERTY keyboard. If it’s in front of the touchscreen, then the touchscreen needs to go further back, which diminishes its ease of use because you have to reach further. One option is placing a keyboard on your lap, or adding an under-table keyboard drawer. Then you can slide the keyboard out when needed, and slide it back in when you want to concentrate on the touchscreen.

 

Another option is using Windows’ onscreen keyboard. Although primarily intended for tablet mode, right-click on the Taskbar, and choose “Show touch keyboard button.” This button will appear on the taskbar and persist; click on it to show/hide the keyboard. (Also for what it’s worth, you can enable a button for an onscreen touchpad.) Note that you have several keyboard options, from a mini-keyboard to one that includes Alt, Ctrl, Windows, and Function keys (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: This shows the full keyboard, set for the option to float anywhere over the window. Note how the faders are stretched to give excellent touch resolution.

 

So Is It Worth It?

 

If you miss working on a hardware mixer surface, a gently angled, horizontal touch screen is pretty close to that experience. Studio One’s ability to extend the height of faders is also great—when you mostly want to concentrate on fine level adjustments, you can do so with touch. Multitouch on effect and instrument parameter adjustment is also welcome, especially compared to bouncing the mouse back and forth among parameters. Another factor is that unlike an external hardware control surface, you don’t have to “mentally map” the hardware to what you see on the screen—after all, you’re adjusting what’s on the screen.

 

If you have a choice between spending $300 on upgrading your speakers or buying a reasonably large touchscreen, I’d prioritize upgrading your speakers. But if you’re looking for a new tool that can give you an edge in certain workflows, a touchscreen may be the answer. And even if it isn’t, it can always serve as a conventional monitor, and provide an extra screen. And we can never have enough screens!

 

 

  • Daniel Schauer

    Hey Craig!
    I found a workaround for the problem where you have 1 touchscreen attached as a secondary/extended desktop monitor for a windows PC with a non-touchscreen as its primary display (where the touches would register on the main display).

    You can use the windows “Calibrate the screen for pen or touch input” settings screen (available most easily through {windows key} then typing “Calibrate”

    Then press the [Setup] button in the “Configure” section of the screen that appears
    Assuming your non-touchsceen is your main display, press {ENTER}

    Then touch the touch screen to tell windows to only associate touch interactions with that screen/extended desktop.

  • Jamie Kirwin

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2de1de3f3c4aae5d99a4489946da9e6591e66925c32fa3dc2fe9b24291e7d178.jpg
    I’ve been running dual touchscreens on a 2018 Mac mini 64g ram with studio one since September and it’s great. Studio one, the 32 SC mixer and atom sq are all new to me and so are the asus touchscreens 190$ ea. With E8s and xt7s. My main thing was less time reaching for a mouse which is reduced by 70% for me.

  • The stand came with the monitor, so I didn’t have to research any further. At the Studio One meetup last night, someone mentioned using a conventional TV mounting arm but I don’t know the details of what he did. Hopefully he’ll chime in here.

  • Daniel Schauer

    Craig Anderton, what mounting/stand hardware did you use to have the screen sit on top of your desk with an adjustable viewing angle? Was it capable of supporting a 58″ monitor like the Planar EP5824K-T?

  • Faraz Abtahi

    I don’t think fine control modifier is standardized by plugin developers, some choose shift some choose ctrl. I’m less concerned with 3rd party plugins which Presonus has no control over and more with native – specifically the mixer.

  • I think this is key: “Now I can use the mouse with either hand for fine control and touch screen control with other. Combined with hotkeys this method of working now feels natural and efficient and provides multiple options.” It does take a while to get acclimated.

  • Wzrd Wizitch

    Being a poor struggling musician (sound familiar anyone?) I have an older all-in-one computer which has a 10 point touch screen. Given Studio One’s touch screen support it seemed silly to not make use of it. I’ve found several situations where it’s very useful for me.
    Firstly, as Craig mentions, is using it to scroll fluidly through the time lime. When fine editing midi or sound files being able to centre the point I’m editing feels very natural and fluid. I should note (and I highly recommend this to everyone) that I have taken the time to develop the skill of using a mouse with either hand. Initially this was to help counter RSI and was surprisingly easy to master. As a guitarist I already possessed good left hand motor control so it didn’t take long to learn. Now I can use the mouse with either hand for fine control and touch screen control with other. Combined with hotkeys this method of working now feels natural and efficient and provides multiple options..
    My screen is angled back to help with fatigue issues that can arise from touch control on a vertical screen. Along with fine editing I use the touch screen for selecting items from menus and the browser and drag and dropping commands.
    The third use I have for touch commands is to activate transport controls, very handy if I have a guitar in my lap. Finally, touch commands can be very useful with Impact XT for activating and deactivating loops on the fly without resorting to external midi controllers. I don’t yet have an Atom SQ (though it’s at the top of my list for new acquisitions) but one issue I have with external controllers is knowing which control is mapped to which parameter in the DAW. It can be frustrating reaching for an external pad or knob or button only to find I’m modifying the track next to one I want. Touching the controls directly on the screen can avoid this.
    Where a touch screen excels is in situations where you want to activate a button (ie transport controls), select items from a menu and when used to activate a control (ie set your cursor) which you then manipulate with the mouse.
    Thanks for this blog item Craig – it’s nice to know there are other touch screen users out there.

  • I can’t imagine using touch with a 2K or 4K screen! But one aspect I should have mentioned is that a touchscreen is like any other controller, you have to practice with it and learn it before it becomes second-nature. When I first got the touch screen, I thought it was a waste of money. Then I laid it down flat, and that at least piqued my curiosity. But just as I have to force myself not to use a mouse before I learn enough about a hardware controller to feel comfortable with it, the same happened to me with the touch screen. I eventually figured out what it did well, and what it didn’t do well. (FWIW you can’t pinch and grow the screen, but you can use those gestures to zoom. For me, zooming and scrolling with touch is comfortable/fast compared to using a mouse.)

  • First, thanks for sharing your experiences, and I agree that the remote app is great – I use it for situations like remote control with narration (trying to get away from anything that makes noise) or guitar (to avoid hum, transformers, etc.). But I’m not sure I agree with “[a touch screen] doesn’t bring anything truly unique at this point other than multitouch for perhaps mixing, which an MCU style controller is still king at.” For me, the ability to use two hands to do things is huge – one on the mouse, one doing things on screen. I have an 8-channel FaderPort as well, which also lets you use two hands, but having everything in front of me on a screen is pretty useful. Also you can’t extend faders to a greater height for really fine resolution with hardware; I can make the on-screen faders another 50% taller than the FaderPort. That, and multitouch effects editing, have turned out to be quite useful overall. Worth the bucks? Hard to say, because it depends on your workflow. But, it’s helped me for sure.

  • bassc

    I think the app “Studio One Remote” is also worth a mention if you have an iPad/Android tablet before embarking on a touchscreen monitor. I recently tried a touchscreen monitor, first laid flat in front as described, now it’s back in a normal monitor position with keyboard & mouse given prominence again.

    Touchscreen definitely sounds better on paper than reality, but the app, in it’s compactness, is a handy companion for mixer and transport duties at least, plus it’s free if you have a tablet. The pages of commands see occasional use, but could do with icons and layout customisation so a user could bring together the most frequently used into a single space. Note step entry and plugin control representation would seem like prime candidates for the app, but realise that would likely compete with Atom hardware.

    I think touchscreen is best used in combination with something else since it really doesn’t fair that well being a bulky 2-armed obstacle to deal with, which becomes even more chore-some compared to a well configured keyboard/with mouse combo that has more precision/less body movement. It doesn’t bring anything truly unique at this point other than multitouch for perhaps mixing, which an MCU style controller is still king at. But the app also offers multi-touch mixing too in a less sprawled out form, plus it’s portable and you can move around the room whilst using it, i.e. different listening positions, noodle with hardware elsewhere and make DAW adjustments/navigate markers.

  • That’s a VERY good point. I checked to see if using shift with the onscreen keyboard makes a difference, or changing mouse cursor speed, but neither makes touch more of a precision process. I also tried using shift with various third-party plug-ins, and the results were wildly inconsistent. Shift worked with Blue Cat Audio, Steinberg, IK, and Native Instrument plug-ins, but with some plug-ins you couldn’t change parameters with shift held down, others went to a default, and some were like Studio One – it didn’t make any difference whether shift was held down or not. Hmmm…

  • art

    I purchased a 27″ 2K touchscreen for music production long before I even heard of Studio One. First off, trying to work with a touchscreen at 2K is near impossible, at least for me. Everything is way too small to manage without clubbing everything else on the screen. But even at HD, I find things to be latent and sluggish (could be my CPU, but I don’t think so). Most definitely does Studio One work better with touch than my previous DAW. But I maintain that you would need something akin to a 65″ touchscreen at the angle Craig recommends to really get a snappy, comfy workflow. Perhaps if there as some way to pinch and grow the screen as with a phone, that might help. Still, I find a good hardware controller like FaderPort to work best.

    I find it interesting, however, that for a while there I was considering picking up a 15″ portable HD touchscreen monitor as a second screen off to the side devoted exclusively for getting hands-on with effects plugins and the like. Maybe one day.

  • Faraz Abtahi

    Touchscreens are great. But Studio One, despite being one of the first multitouch supported DAWs back in V3, is lacking one critical feature which is using modifier key + touch for fine control. Third party plugins support his but native plugins and the mixer do not. It works via mouse but not touch. I’m sure its a simple tweak but I have been begging for this feature for years now.

  • Craig Anderton

    I don’t think it makes sense to go “touchscreen only.” For precision, a mouse is ideal, keyboard shortcuts are key to efficiency, and you can’t use a touchscreen in a vertical position unless you want tired arms! (I have two monitors, one vertical, and the other is the almost-horizontal touch screen). But being able to use the mouse with one hand while scrolling, pinching, editing, etc. with the other one is a big deal for me, as is being able to edit multiple parameters in effects and instruments simultaneously, which you can’t really do any other way.

  • Hipox Peter Mojzeš

    Having a touchscreen with Studio One is a nice thing for sure! But after some time I must say efficiency is (at least for me) number one in my workflow and allows me to translate what’s in my head to DAW quickly. By efficiency I mean not having to raise my hands from the keyboard and mouse (which has also programmable buttons). Being able to trigger custom shortcuts (with tight integration of macros) is the way to go for someone who’s looking for speed and clean workflow. With touchscreen I still bump into scenarios where I am not able to trigger actions I would be with mouse – it still has the way to go.

  • Daniel Schauer

    I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a long time. After reading this article, and comparing the cost of a nice control surface like a PreSonus Studio Live mixer to a nice multi-touch screen, I finally decided to go touchscreen… I found a Planar EP5824K-T on the cheap!