Synchronizing Live via MIDI

  • Live Versions: 1 - 9
  • Operating System: All

Synchronizing an external sequencer to Live

In order to synchronize an external drum machine, groove box or another sequencer to Live's tempo, activate the "Sync" switch in Live's MIDI/Sync Preferences for the MIDI Output port connected to that device.

Now make sure that the external device has been configured to receive external MIDI Clock: it will then start as soon as the playback is triggered in Live.

Connecting any MIDI device to your computer will cause its MIDI ports to show up in the MIDI/Sync Preferences.

Sync Out.png

In the example above, the Sync option is activated for the IAC driver, which is a virtual MIDI port that can be used on Mac OS X systems. This will allow you to synchronize other audio/video applications to Live on the same computer.

Learn more about how to use virtual MIDI drivers.

Timing Issues

Because of a number of factors, including audio buffer sizes both in Live and in the slave application, the timing of the two sequencers will probably be slightly offset.

For this reason, Live allows you to correcting the timing by adjusting the MIDI Clock Sync Delay. To do this, unfold the MIDI port connected to your external sequencer.

Clock Sync delay.png

Ideally, you should activate the metronome in Live and on the sequencer to be synced to Live. If this is a drum machine or other device without an in-built metronome, you can create a simple pattern with an accent on each beat instead.

Now adjust the MIDI Clock Sync Delay until both metronomes are perfectly aligned. Please note that after pressing play, it will take a couple of measures before both tempi align and settle on a stable value.

The MIDI Clock Type "Song" is used to transmit the Song Position Pointer information together with the MIDI Clock, which is useful when syncing another DAW to Live. If the synced device is a drum machine or groove box that plays looped patterns, "Pattern" type is recommended instead.

Synchronizing Live to an external sequencer

If you wish to synchronize Live to an external MIDI sequencer, drum machine or other DAW, you will need to enable the Sync switch in the MIDI Input port you've used to connect the external sequencer to.

Sync to external.png

Live will accept either MIDI Clock or MIDI Time Code as a source.

The option to adjust MIDI Clock Delay is available also for the Input port, which is handy if the device set as a master does not provide any way of adjusting this timing offset.

Clock Input delay.png

If the master sequencer can generate MIDI Time Code (MTC), this would be the recommended option since MTC has a better resolution.

However, as MIDI Time Code does not transmit any tempo information, the BPM will have to be set manually in Live to match the BPM of the master sequencer.

Once the Sync button is activated for a MIDI Input port, the "Ext" button will appear in Live's main window.

Activating this will bypass the transport control, and Live will only start playing back upon receiving MIDI Sync messages from the master.

Ext MIDI Clock.png

Further recommendations

To improve sync stability, please consider using a dedicated MIDI port to transmit exclusively MIDI Sync messages, rather than using a MIDI port where MIDI Note and Control Change messages are transmitted as well.

More detailed information on how to synchronize Live can be found in a dedicated chapter in Live's manual.

It is also possible to use a MIDI Network driver to synchronize Live instances running on two different computers.

Aditionally, you can also take the time to read our article describing how to use the MIDI Ports in Live.

Finally, you might find the following article useful, which describes how to connect and use external synthesizers together with Live.