Keys and Scales in Live 12 FAQ

As of Ableton Live 12, you can view or set the scale for currently selected Clips via the Scale Mode chooser in Live’s transport bar. This guide answers frequently asked questions about Keys and Scales in Ableton Live. 

  • For a tutorial, visit Live > Help > Built-in Lessons > What’s New in Live > Scale Awareness
  • For tips on most features, type [?] to show Info View, then hover your cursor over the relevant feature. For in-depth explanations, visit the Live Manual.

Keys and Scales FAQ

I changed the scale in Live’s transport bar. Why are all Clips not updated?
The Scale Mode chooser in Live’s transport displays the active scale for the currently or most recently selected Clip. It is not a global scale control for all Clips in the Set. You can change the scale of multiple Clips via this setting, as long as they are all selected. Clips that have a scale assigned, but are not currently selected, are not affected by this chooser. To change the scale of all Clips in the set, you can select them all (CMD/Ctrl + A) and set the scale with this chooser.


Why is the Scale Chooser not visible in the transport bar?
If a Tuning System is loaded, this overrides scales. To re-enable scales, delete the Tuning System. Learn more about Tuning Systems.

Why does the Scale chooser disappear when I load a Tuning System?
“Scales” in Live are based on the convention of 12 notes represented by the keys on a piano. The Tuning Systems feature introduces pitch systems originating from additional musical practices and conventions that aren’t congruent with 12-tone equal temperament (12-TET). For this reason, choosing a Scale is not possible when a Tuning System is loaded.

Does changing the scale affect MIDI notes programmed into Clips?
Selecting a different scale globally will only change the scale of the selected Clip (if one is selected). Changing the scale of a Clip does not move MIDI notes already programmed in the Clip, but it affects them if they pass through scale aware devices set to quantize pitches. You need to use the Fit to Scale function in Clip View to change the notes in the MIDI clip. For notes processed by scale-aware MIDI devices, or if you use a scale-aware instrument like Meld, changing the scale of the Clip will affect the quantized pitches, by forcing them to the closest note within the scale.

How are note pitches quantized by scale-aware devices?
If a note doesn’t belong to a Clip’s currently selected scale, scale-aware devices will move it to the closest pitch within the scale. If the note is equally distant from available pitches, the lower pitch will be used. For example, if a Clip contains a C note, but it is set to E Major which doesn’t contain C, the note would be equally distant to B and C#, which are the closest pitches belonging to this scale. In this example, the note will be quantized to B.

What other features respond to scale awareness?
MIDI Transformation Tools and MIDI Generative Tools reflect scale awareness when used in a Clip with a scale selected and enabled.

How do I choose between A# and Bb as a scale? 
In Clip View, right-click on the piano roll to show the context menu. There you can choose whether to display sharps, flats, or both. 

Which MIDI devices allow scale awareness?

MIDI Effects:

  • Scale
  • Arpeggiator
  • Pitch
  • Random
  • Chord

MIDI Instruments:

  • Meld 

Ableton offers these in-depth help and learning resources: