How to setup MIDI keyboards in ableton

Written by seamus islwyn
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How to setup MIDI keyboards in ableton
Assign buttons on your keyboard to trigger clips in Ableton Live. (Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

When you're playing a live electronic music set, putting on a good show for the audience can be difficult. No matter how good the music is, it's hard for one person clicking a laptop mouse to compete, in a visual sense, with a guitarist or singer. Add some spectacle and a sense of performance to your live show by controlling the Ableton Live digital audio workstation with an external MIDI keyboard. Ableton automatically configures the device's piano keyboard to control any software instrument in the workstation, and you can manually configure the keyboard to control the rest of the program.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Connect the MIDI keyboard to your computer using its included cable. Power on the MIDI keyboard, if necessary. Turn all the keyboard's knobs and faders to their lowest possible settings.

  2. 2

    Double-click the Ableton Live 8 icon on the desktop to start the program. Click "Options," then "Preferences." Click the "MIDI Sync" tab to open it.

  3. 3

    Click the first drop-down menu in the "Input" column. Click the name of your MIDI keyboard, or the name of the MIDI port it's using, in the menu that opens. Click the first drop-down menu under "Output" and select the keyboard.

  4. 4

    Click the buttons next to the MIDI keyboard or port's name in the "Track" and "Remote" columns to turn them on. Click the "Takeover Mode" drop-down menu and select "Value Scaling." Close the "Preferences" window.

  5. 5

    Click the "MIDI" button in the top-right corner of the Ableton screen to turn on MIDI mapping mode. Ableton highlights all of its MIDI-controllable elements in blue.

  6. 6

    Click on a control that you want to connect to the MIDI keyboard. Move the corresponding control on the keyboard. Repeat the process for every Ableton control you want to connect to the keyboard. Click the "MIDI" button again to turn off mapping mode and apply the configuration.

Tips and warnings

  • If Ableton includes native support for your keyboard, select its built-in MIDI mapping from the "Control Surface" section of the Preferences window, rather than manually configuring a MIDI mapping.
  • Adjust the minimum and maximum values of the controls in the "MIDI Mappings" section of MIDI mapping mode.
  • Ableton does not automatically save MIDI mappings. Once you've set up your keyboard, save the set, then use it as the default Ableton Live set.

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