Control Surfaces and manual MIDI mapping

  • Live Versions: 6 - 9
  • Operating System: All

What is a Control Surface?

Control Surfaces are specially written scripts which allow controllers to interface with Live. They enable tactile control of Live through pre-defined parameters.

Here an Akai APC40MKII is being used with its control surface to interface with Live:


Push also interfaces with Live through the use of a control surface:


Natively supported Control Surfaces in Live

Here is a list of the natively supported control surfaces in Live.

Configuring a Control Surface in Live's Preferences

Normally a control surface will be chosen automatically when you connect a device. If that doesn't happen, it can be enabled manually:

  1. Open Live's Preferences to the Link/MIDI tab.
  2. Select your Control Surface (e.g. Push)
  3. Then select the correct Input and Output ports for that device
  4. If you're unsure which ports to choose, please check the manual for your MIDI device


How to disable a Control Surface

In case you wish to stop a control surface from activating:

  1. Open Live's Preferences to the Link/MIDI tab.
  2. Select "None" in the Control Surface chooser
  3. Keep the the correct Input and Output ports for that device
  4. This will prevent the automatic detection of your Control Surface.

Overriding the Control Surface with manual MIDI mappings

On certain Control Surfaces (for example the APC 40), in order to use manual mappings, it is not even necessary to disable the MIDI Remote Script as described above. Manually mapping a parameter will disable its regular function to allow for the custom assignment.

User Mode

Some devices like Push or the Novation Launchpad have a dedicated User Mode. This means that after configuring the User Ports correctly, you can enter user mode and create your own custom mappings, allowing you to swap back and forth between your own mappings and pre-defined ones.

Manual MIDI mapping

In order to use such custom mappings or the User Mode, you'll need to configure the MIDI ports. Generally, you will need to enable the "Track" and "Remote" Input switches (to allow for MIDI data receiving and mapping) and the "Remote" Output switch (to allow for visual feedback). The exact configuration might vary depending on your MIDI device. More details in our article on Live's MIDI ports.

To manually MIDI map a parameter:

  1. Turn MIDI map mode on (Mac: CMD + m, Windows: Ctrl + m) 
  2. Select the function you wish to map, eg. a volume fader
  3. Move a knob or slider on your controller
  4. The controls are now mapped
  5. Repeat as required for the remaining controls you wish to map
  6. Exit MIDI map mode

Third Party Control Surfaces

It's possible to also install third party control surfaces for devices (where available).

Additional Information