Synchronizing Live via MIDI

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

Live can be synced with external hardware and software applications through the use of MIDI Clock sync.

If you wish to sync with an application or device which has Ableton Link support you may prefer to use Link instead. Check our instructions on how to sync using Link.

Synchronizing an external device to Live

In order to synchronize an external device, application or DAW 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.

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 enabled on Mac. 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.

Adjusting the timing

Because of a number of factors, including audio buffer sizes both in Live and in the slave device, the timing of the two 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 device.

Clock Sync delay.png

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. Note that after pressing play, it will take a couple of measures before both tempi align and settle on a stable value.

MIDI Clock Type

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 device

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

Sync to external.png

Live will accept either MIDI Clock or MIDI Time Code (MTC) 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

Sync Stability

To improve sync stability, where possible use 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.  

SMPTE (LTC) and MTC

The following protocols are not fully supported natively in Live:

Further Reading