How to Set Up MIDI Keyboards in Ableton Live


Entering data and controlling Ableton Live with a musical instrument digital interface keyboard or controller opens up Live's Session View, permitting real-time performance of audio and MIDI loops with all elements synchronized by the software. Contemporary MIDI keyboards often connect to your computer using USB ports, with Live automatically recognizing a connected device. Keyboards can also connect through MIDI ports available through sound cards or USB MIDI interfaces. These also enjoy the ease of plug-and-play operation.

  • Connect your MIDI keyboard using a USB cable to an open USB port on your computer. Alternately, connect a MIDI cable between the "MIDI Out" port on the keyboard and the "MIDI In" port on your computer, MIDI adapter, sound card or sound card breakout box. Repeat this with another cable between "MIDI In" on your keyboard and "MIDI Out" on your computer connection. USB connections handle both input and output signals, so only one cable is needed. Some USB keyboards are powered through the USB port, while others require separate power sources. Connect these if necessary and turn on the keyboard.

  • Select Live's "Preferences" window by pressing and holding "Ctrl" and the "comma" key at the same time. Click on the "MIDI/Sync" tab. Locate your keyboard on the MIDI Ports list and click the on/off button under the "Track" column to the right. The button will turn yellow and indicate your keyboard is ready to provide input for Live.

  • Verify your keyboard is transmitting by playing the keyboard and observing the yellow square in the upper-right corner. This square will flash to indicate MIDI performance data is being received from the keyboard.

Tips & Warnings

  • Ableton Live includes native support for many MIDI keyboards and controllers. Supported devices will be configured automatically so that device knobs and faders control functions in Live. Unsupported keyboards can be mapped manually by selecting "Remote" for your controller's input port on the MIDI/Sync tab. You can then teach Live which keyboard controller to use by clicking "MIDI" in the upper-right corner of the main window, clicking the parameter you wish to assign, moving the controller on your keyboard and clicking "MIDI" again.
  • These instructions apply to Ableton Live 8. While MIDI connections are the same, software procedures and menu options may vary.

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  • Photo Credit Aleksandr Frolov/Hemera/Getty Images
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