November 24, 2019

Things you didn’t think you could do in Ableton Live 10

I’ve heard more times that I care to remember that you can’t do something in Ableton Live, when actually, you can do it quite easily. Well, at least do it. In fact, I remember thinking the same things myself before I actually read the users guide and spent some time on YouTube watching more experienced users have at it.

An ability in Live may not be as apparent (an understatement), straightforward, or dead simple as with some DAWs, but it’s likely not difficult either, and it definitely won’t get in the way of Live’s performance mission. (Substitute Cmd for Ctrl on macOS)

03/9/2020: Every time I add another tip here, I’m reminded just how clever Ableton has been with Live. Not perfect, but clever as… Well, you get the idea.

10/11/2020: Ableton has just announced Live 11 which adds multi-lane comp editing, as well as MPE support.


Comping is short for “comparing” takes that you’ve recorded and selecting the best bits from each. It’s normally used with vocals as the human voice is one of the most difficult instruments to “play”.

Sometimes takes will be recorded in a loop, however, if you want to comp in Live with takes form separate tracks, you’ll need to drag them to one track, make them all the same length, consolidate, then reduce the consolidated clip size back to that of a single take. After that…

— Double-click on the looped or consolidated clip to reveal detail view. Turn on looping in detail view if it’s not already on.

— Go back to arranger view and split the clip (Ctrl + E) into the individual phrases or snippets you want to compare. Turn off the grid to split more granularly.

— Double-click on whichever splinter clip you want to audition takes for and detail view should gain focus. If the loop brace isn’t selected, select it.

— Hit the up and down arrows and watch the different takes come into view in the splinter clip in arranger.

— Listen and choose the one you want.


Live doesn’t constrain the detail view loop marker movement to the beginning or end of the file so you need to be your own constraint. It gets easy with practice.

You can loop/play the entire original clip in arranger using the arranger loop points if you want to audition in context. The loop markers in the individual clips will remain the same unless you explicitly change them.

If you want an overview of the entire file (this used to be the default), then just magnify it in detail view.

This works just as well for MIDI as it does for audio!

Pitch correction

— As with comping, turn off the grid and split the clip to be corrected at the note points using Ctrl+E.

— If detail view is not open, double-click on the first split clip to open it. Or press Ctrl+B.

— If the sample box is not shown, show it by clicking on the small waveform button.

— Use the detune function at the lower left of the sample box to raise or lower the pitch. If there are artifacts, change the warp mode.

The detune function works in cents, or hundredths of a semi-tone, i.e., the difference between two adjacent keys on the piano. Use crossfades if there are glitches.

Step entry

— Arm the track you’re going to add the MIDI clip to.

— Create a MIDI clip.

— Double-click on the clip to open detail view

— Click on the headphone icon to enable auditioning.

— Hold a key or keys on the musical keyboard, controller, or using the Live’s musical computer keyboard function, and use the right arrow key to enter those notes. Multiple right arrow presses while holding the musical keys will create longer notes. Using the left arrow shortens them, or aborts entry if you move back to the beginning.

— Navigate using the same arrow keys. Rinse. Repeat.

It takes a while, but once you’re used to it, being able to size the notes on the fly without stopping to select a different note value makes this a very quick entry method.

Folding the Piano roll to scales

— Create a MIDI clip.

— Double-click on the clip to open detail view.

— Enter the notes of the scale you want to constrain your entry to at the first beat vertically, not over time.

— Copy the notes (Ctrl + drag) to as many octaves as you’ll want to constrain

— Select all notes and hit the left arrow to move them out of the active editing area.

— Name the clip appropriately and save it to your user library.

— Use the saved clip whenever you want to constrain entry to that scale.

Random sample playback (round robin)

— Open a Sampler.

— Drag the sounds you want to play randomly into Sampler.

— From the Zones tab, select Vel.

— Right-click and distribute the velocity zones evenly.

— Drag an Add some random velocity MIDI effect in front of the sampler.

— Set Random to 64.

— Play some notes. Or play back the song/track/clip.


— Open a Sampler.

— Drag the sounds you want to play into Sampler.

— Arrange them and set the velocity ranges

— From the Zones tab, select Sel.

— Right-click and distribute the sample select zones evenly across the entire range.

— Under the Modulation tab of Sampler. turn on LFO2.

— Select Sample Selector from drop-down A.

— Set the field next to it to 100%.

— Choose the last entry in Type.

— Change the Rate to the musical note and the Beats to 1/64.

— Turn off retrigger.

— Play some notes.


If you want to round robin a multi-sampled (by pitch), velocity-layered instrument with multiple round robin hits; arrange the samples, set the key ranges, set the velocity ranges, then evenly distribute the sample select ranges for each set of round robin hits across the entire range. Use the LFO2 method described above.

Edit Instrument Rack articulations quickly (relatively)

In virtual instruments, articulations are recorded samples that mimic the different techniques and the sounds produced when playing an instrument. Vibrato, staccato, glissando, scoop, doit, etc. These are often included in sampled instruments (piccolo, clarinet, double bass, violin, etc.), and are for the most part are selected using very low MIDI notes, or in Live’s Instrument Rack–with the Chain Selector.

Note that a working knowledge of Live’s Instrument Racks, the Chain Selector, and editing automation will make the following a lot easier to understand. In other words, read the users guide.

An Instrument rack may contain up to 128 devices/instruments, each of which may be assigned a value (0 to 127), or range of values, and selected via such in the Chain Selector. In an articulated instrument, these will be unique, or non-overlapping ranges.

You choose an articulation by changing the current value of the Chain Selector via automation, or a macro control mapped to the Chain Selector (for live performance). If the latter, the macro control name will change to “Chain Selector”.

Before you start editing articulation automation, open an Instrument Rack (referred to simply as “instrument” in the browser) and note the value or range used by each articulation in the Chain Selector. You won’t see the instrument names when you’re editing.

Knowing all that…

— In a Session view MIDI clip, open the Envelopes box using the second button at the bottom of the clip info box; select the name of the Instrument Rack, and then select Chain Selector (or the macro control) from the second drop-down menu. In the Arranger select, press “a” to show automation if it’s not visible, and then select these from the track header.

— Adjust the grid to an appropriately granular value, or turn it off. Inside the clip, click in empty space and drag to select the area starting before the note in the clip whose articulation you want to change, and ending just after the last note you want to change.

— Move the mouse to just above automation line, and when you see the value readout appear, right-click, select Edit value and enter the Chain Selector value of the articulation you want. You can also do this with the mouse, but it’s a more finicky process.

Read more about editing automation for additional editing methods. Tastes vary.

Multi-clip rename and other operations

Select all the clips you want to rename, normally all those on a track, then open detail view. In the upper left corner will be a box which will display the names of the clips if they’re the same, appear blank if they have no names, or show an asterisk if they have different names. Simply type in the name. You can also change the time signature, change grooves, and change color en masse using detail view.

See individual search results in the browser

This is one I always forget–the All results category at the bottom of the Categories section in the browser’s navigation pane. Search with anything else highlighted, and you see only the results in that location, and if they’re in a subfolder, only that. Under All results you see, well, all the results from everywhere in Live.

Additionally, right-click over the header in the results pane and you can sort by name, type, place, date modified, and rank. Rank is assigned automatically by Live and indicates how often you access that instrument, effect, sample, etc.

Make all MIDI notes the same length

No, there aren’t a lot of discrete MIDI functions like Fixed Size in Live, however in the time it takes to find that command in most DAWs… You can select all the notes you want to make the same size, and working on the largest note, drag their left edges as far as they will go to the right, let the button up, then drag them back to size you want. If you don’t let go, then the lengths will extend proportionally as they were.

This can be handy for drum parts or with other instruments that operate as one-shot instruments (samples played from beginning to end regardless of the MIDI note off). It can also be handy to create legato without overlaps for monophonic instruments.

Note that to select all notes use CTRL+A, or all notes of the same pitch by clicking on the piano keyboard on the same row as the notes.

Custom keyboard shortcuts

Though Live allows you to remap some essential keys, the functionality is limited. Many commands, such as those for opening and closing sections, require modifier keys and two hands. As I quite often have a guitar or bass in my lap, I find single key commands handier.

For that I take advantage of AutoHotKey for Windows, and Keyboard Maestro on the Mac. Below is my script for AutoHotKey to get you started. Keyboard Maestro lets you define hotkeys using an editor.

Note that I don’t use Live’s musical computer keyboard and a couple of these remaps will clash with that. Below is an example that you can use as a starting point, and you can find more info, including the key names at the AutoHotKey Web site.

#IfWinActive ahk_class Ableton Live Window Class;! equals Alt, ^ equals Ctrl, + equals shift
 ; The next three will interfere with text entry
 ;You'll need to use the main number keys instead of the keypad with these enabled
 ;I use a Mac keyboard with 19 function keys

Tip: I now use a programmable keypad. It’s easier to define macros than with AutoHotKey, and you still have all the keys on your regular keyboard available for data entry.

Below are some tips that don’t quite fall under the “things that are well hidden” umbrella.

Neatly export stems

Most users know this, but it’s pretty easy to export stems from Live.That said, it can be a bit tedious as Live doesn’t save MIDI song files, only clips.

— Create a new folder for the stems.

— Optionally, save the project under another name, ***_export.als, or some such so you don’t accidentally overwrite your arrangement with the changes that facilitate easier export. Live automatically backs up projects these days, but better safe than sorry.

— Name the tracks something meaningful.

— Stretch the first clip in each track to the same start point so that the tracks will be in sync when you import them. Looping should be off.

— Consolidate all the clips in each track. Live will preserve the spacing.

— Select Export Audio/Video, then select All individual tracks. Export to the folder you created. Alternatively, if you have tracks you don’t want to export, select only those you want to export (Ctrl+Click), and use the Selected Tracks Only option.

— Right-click on each MIDI clip and select Export MIDI clip. Export to the folder you created.