Audio to MIDI Tips and Tricks

  • Live Versions: All (Standard and Suite only)
  • Operating System: All

Audio clips can be converted to MIDI by selecting the clip in the Session or Arrangement Views, or in Live's browser. To start, let's convert this one bar synth melody.

To convert the  clip, we'll click to select it. Then choose the appropriate conversion command in the clip's context menu or in the Create menu. We can choose from Harmony, Melody or Drums.

Because this is a monophonic clip, we'll choose Melody.

When the conversion is finished, you'll have a new MIDI track containing a MIDI clip, which will play through the default Melody-to-MIDI instrument. Each type of conversion will load its own default instrument.

When we compare the original audio with the newly converted MIDI clip, we notice that the MIDI clip is missing a note.

Live uses the transients in the audio to help determine where to create MIDI notes. Live places transient markers in audio clips automatically, based on where it detects note events, but you can add, remove, or change the position of these transients in order to change the conversion. 

When we look at the waveform, we can see where it changes as the missing note plays, near 1.1.4 in the timeline. Let's insert a transient here by holding the Alt key and double-clicking in the audio clip. Now when we convert this melody again, the MIDI clip now includes the missing note.

In some cases, you may need to add more than one transient near a note in the audio clip in order for Live to correctly add the note to the converted MIDI clip.

There are a number of things you can do to ensure better MIDI conversions.

If you're recording your voice or an instrument, you'll generally have the best results if you use clearly defined attacks.

For example, if you're recording yourself singing, try to start each note with a soft D sound. Syllables like "da" or "do" work well. The conversion algorithm has a harder time if you glide between notes, or if your pitch is not steady.

Also, you'll generally get the best results if you record without effects. Reverbs, delays, distortion, and other types of processing may result in inaccurate conversions.

In this example, a couple notes are in the right place but play the wrong pitches. You can transpose up or down using your computer keyboard's arrow keys to preserve the exact timing of the converted notes.

MIDI clips might also contain notes that you want to remove entirely. Simply select them and press delete, or mute them by pressing the zero key.

If you are beatboxing [or recording yourself tapping on objects], try to stick to 3 or 4 sounds that are as different as possible.

If you're using samples from records or other existing material, you'll get the best results from phrases that have a limited number of instruments. Converting a full, mixed track with many different types of sounds playing simultaneously will probably result in a lot of extra notes.

You'll find that you'll get more accurate conversions after spending some time practicing with the tools.

Ableton offers these in-depth help and learning resources: