Synchronizing Live via MIDI
- Live Versions: All
- Operating System: All
Live's playback can be synced with external hardware and software applications using MIDI.
Note: If the app or device has Ableton Link support, we recommend using that instead.
Step 1: Create a MIDI connection
In order to use MIDI clock sync you'll need to use to connect your device/app to Live using one of these methods:
- A MIDI cable to connect hardware sequencers, drum machines, synths and grooveboxes to a MIDI interface on your computer.
- MIDI over USB (if your device supports that). Usually you'll need to install the USB MIDI driver from the manufacturer's website.
- Applications can be connected using a Virtual MIDI bus (if they are on the same computer) or a Virtual MIDI network (to connect with other computers).
Step 2: Activate the required Sync switch in Live's MIDI Preferences
Syncing a device or application to Live
- Open Live's Preferences → Link MIDI.
- Activate the "Sync" switch for the MIDI output port connected to the device:
- Configure the external device to receive MIDI Clock sync (check the manual for the device/app to enable this).
- The Sync out indicator shows that MIDI clock is being sent:
- Start playback in Live. The app/device should also start at the same time.
Syncing Live to another device or application
- Activate the "Sync" switch for the MIDI input port connected to the device:
- Configure the external device to send MIDI Clock sync or MIDI timecode (if supported - see Step 3 below).
- Activate the Ext button on Live's transport. You'll see the "Sync In" indicator flashing and Live's tempo will adjust itself to match the tempo of the external device:
- Start playback in on the external device. Live's transport will start at the same time. "Play" and "Stop" in Live's transport don't have any effect when Live is in external sync mode.
Note: Live's tempo may fluctuate when synced to another device to "nudge" itself into time.
Step 3: Select the MIDI Clock Type
Live can send only MIDI Clock on its output ports. You can choose between Song or Pattern from the dropdown:
- Song is used to transmit the Song Position Pointer information together with the MIDI Clock, which is useful when syncing another DAW to Live.
- Pattern is recommended if the synced device is a drum machine or groove box that plays looped patterns.
Live can receive either MIDI Clock or MIDI Timecode (MTC):
- MIDI Timecode is the recommended option if the external sequencer supports this, as MTC has a better resolution. However, MIDI Timecode does not transmit any tempo information. You'll need to set the tempo manually in Live to match the tempo of the master sequencer.
- MIDI Clock is recommended if you need Live to follow tempo changes.
Step 4: Adjust the MIDI Clock Sync delay
Because of a number of factors, including audio buffer sizes both in Live and in the connected device, the timing of the two will probably be slightly offset. You can correct the timing by adjusting the MIDI Clock Sync Delay.
- Unfold the MIDI port connected to your external device.
- Activate the metronome in Live and on the device which you are syncing with 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: Once you press play, it will take a couple of measures before both tempi align and settle on a stable value.
Step 5: Sync Stability
To improve sync stability, where possible use a dedicated MIDI port to transmit MIDI Sync messages alone, rather than using a MIDI port where MIDI Note and Control Change messages are transmitted as well.
Other protocols: SMPTE (LTC) and MTC output
- SMPTE (LTC - Linear Timecode): Live is unable to sync to incoming LTC. Neither does Live generate LTC natively. However there are two workarounds to generate LTC in Live:
- Use this Max for Live device to output a SMPTE (LTC) audio signal.
- Use a specially generated LTC audio file in Live. See this great tutorial from Ableton Certified trainer Will Doggett which explains how to do this.
- MIDI Timecode (MTC) output: Live can sync to incoming MTC, but can't natively send it. However there is a Max device which can output MTC (requires Max Runtime).