Live's MIDI Preferences

Ableton Live's MIDI Preferences enable sending MIDI messages into and out of Live. Push and many MIDI controllers will automatically load the correct settings when connected.

Live's MIDI Preferences tab has two sections:

MIDI Control Surfaces allow control of Live via hardware with pre-assigned mappings.
MIDI Ports determine which kinds of MIDI information will be sent into and out of Live.

You may need to configure MIDI Ports manually when setting up your devices to:

Video Tutorial: Setting Up MIDI

MIDI Control Surfaces

Control surfaces allow easy control of Live via hardware with pre-assigned mappings. Available control surfaces are displayed in the Control Surfaces list, in Live’s Preferences > Link/Tempo/MIDI.

Screenshot 2024-03-01 at 19.19.36.png 
Note: Push 3 is not displayed as a Control Surface. For how to set up Push 3 to control Live, see Setting Up Push 3

Adding a Device

For most MIDI controllers, including Push 2, connecting the device will automatically configure the Control Surface preferences, with no further adjustment needed. 

For devices that don't appear in the built-in Control Surfaces list, you may need to install the relevant script. For more information and troubleshooting steps, see our guide to Using Control Surfaces or check the  device's manual.

Preventing Automatic Connection

When a MIDI controller is connected, Live automatically displays it in the available Control Surfaces list. To prevent automatic connection to a specific device, set Input and Output to the device’s name, and set the corresponding Control Surface to None. 

ControlSurfaceNone.png

Live's MIDI Ports

The MIDI Ports list displays the MIDI ports available to Live. Setting each port On or Off determines which kinds of MIDI information will be sent into and out of Live.

Important Note: Only activate necessary MIDI ports!

  • Switching Sync to On for both In and Out of the same device may trigger a feedback loop and affect Live’s performance. Do not do this unless you have a specific reason, such as with certain hardware synthesizer configurations. 

    NoSyncInOut.png
  • Avoid switching Sync to On at the In port for more than one device, as this asks Live to sync to multiple clock sources at the same time.

Common configurations

Below are examples of some common MIDI port configurations. Additional ports may be needed to enable further functions such as syncing. For more information on the function and use case of each port, see MIDI Port Types below. 

Device Recommended MIDI Ports
Push 3

• Automatically configured when connected
• Do not manually enable any MIDI ports

Push3MIDIPorts.png
Push 2

• Automatically configured when connected
• Do not manually enable any MIDI ports unless in User Mode

Push2MIDIPorts.png

MPE Controller

MPEMIDIEnable.png

MIDI Keyboard

• Receive notes and CC messages from an external keyboard
• Map controls to knobs or pads
MIDIKeyboardPorts.png

Audio Interface

• Optional: send and receive MIDI to devices connected via the interface
• Enabling MIDI ports not necessary for sending and receiving audio
• Learn more about Setting up an Audio Interface

InterfaceMIDIPorts.png

Hardware Synthesizer

• Send MIDI Note and MIDI CC data (if supported)
• Learn more about Using hardware synthesizers with Live

MIDISynthTrackOut.png

IAC Bus
(macOS)

• Map notes and CC from MIDI Clips to other controls in Live
• Must be enabled in macOS Audio MIDI Setup > MIDI Studio
• Learn more about Setting up a virtual MIDI network

IACBusMIDIPorts.png

MIDI Port Types

Track: Note and CC Messages

MIDIPortsTrack.png

Track allows Live to send or receive note and CC (control change) messages, for example, when using a MIDI keyboard to play or enter pitches. 

Activate Track In to enable:

• Playing instruments in Live with a MIDI keyboard.
• Recording notes into MIDI clips.
• Recording MIDI CC messages into MIDI clips, for example to capture parameter changes from an external hardware synthesizer.

Note: The MIDI track monitor in Live’s Mixer must also be set to "In", or "Auto" and armed to enable recording MIDI.

Activate Track Out to enable:

• Triggering an external hardware device (like a synthesizer, drum machine etc).
• Sending MIDI notes to another application (using a virtual MIDI bus).
• Sending MIDI CC automation to an external device or application.

Note: You only need to activate Track on the output port for a MIDI controller if it has a built-in sound generator. Otherwise, leave this switched Off. 

Learn more about Using hardware synthesizers with Live

Sync: MIDI Clock and Timecode
MIDIPortsSync.png

Sync allows Live to send or receive MIDI Clock, or receive MIDI Timecode. 

Note: In most cases, Sync Input and Output should not be activated simultaneously for the same device, even if the device’s manual instructs you to do this, as this can result in MIDI Feedback loops and interrupt Live’s performance. Avoid switching Sync to ON at the In port for more than one device, as this asks Live to sync to multiple clock sources at the same time.

Activate Sync In to enable:

  • Synchronizing Live to an external sequencer, drum machine or groove box.
  • Synchronizing Live to another DAW using MIDI.

Learn more about Synchronizing Live via MIDI.
 
Activate Sync Out to enable:

  • Synchronizing an external sequencer, drum machine or groove box to Live using MIDI Clock.
  • Synchronizing another DAW to Live using MIDI Clock.
  • Synchronizing the LFO and arpeggiator of an external synthesizer or MIDI controller to Live.

Learn more about Synchronizing Live via MIDI.

Note: Unless it has a built in sequencer or arpeggiator, you won't ever need to activate Sync on the input or output ports of a MIDI controller.

Remote: Mapping Control of Live
MIDIPortsRemote.png

The Remote switch allows you to create mappings from a MIDI controller to parameters in Live or to send feedback to a MIDI controller.

Activate Remote on Input ports to enable:

  • Creating custom MIDI mappings to be able to control parameters in Live.
  • Using a MIDI keyboard to trigger MIDI Clips.

Activate Remote on Output ports to enable:

  • MIDI controllers with LED's that reflect the status of mapped Live parameters.
  • MIDI controllers with motorized faders that reflect the status of mapped Live parameters.

Learn more about Making custom MIDI Mappings.

Troubleshooting

To troubleshoot MIDI connection issues including:

  • Device does not show up under Control Surfaces List
  • MIDI Input / Output indicator flashes continuously
  • MIDI messages are not received from the device

Follow these steps:

  1. Follow above guidelines for how to configure MIDI Control Surfaces and MIDI Ports. Only enable necessary MIDI ports.
  2. Install or update all relevant third-party software and drivers.
  3. Consult the manufacturer’s manual for how to configure the device.
  4. Use Live’s MIDI Monitor device or a third party MIDI Monitor app to check incoming and outgoing MIDI messages.
  5. Check macOS Audio MIDI Setup / Windows Device Manager to see if the device is recognized by your computer.
  6. Check condition of all cables, ports, and adapters. Connect directly and not via a hub or adapter if possible. If using a USB hub, try disconnecting other devices and/or using a powered hub. 
  7. Follow the steps here on How to reset Live.

More information:

 

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