Creating MIDI Instruments & Devices

Now that you know how to record an audio clip, you can use the same method to record midi clips. However, first you need to create a MIDI instrument.

  • Go to the device browser and open the instruments folder.
  • The basic Ableton package comes bundled with just a few software instruments, while the Live 8 Suite package includes the complete collection of Live instruments. Individual instruments can also be purchased separately from the Ableton website.
  • Some of these emulate hardware synthesizers (such as Analog and Operator), while others emulate acoustic instruments (such as Tension, which emulatea string instruments and Collision which emulates percussive instruments).
  • Finally, Drum Racks act as software drum machines that can emulate classic analog drum machines like the 808 and 909. Check out the Ableton website at for more information on Live instruments and bundles.
  • Open the Analog folder, then Synth Leads, and locate the file named “Lead-HoWt SaW”. All of these files are presets for Ableton’s Analog software synthesizer, or soft synth. If you can’t find the Howt Saw preset, don’t worry, just choose another preset from the synth leads folder and use that one instead.
  • When you have chosen a preset, drag it onto the track titled “2 MIDI” Make sure the Track Arm button is lit red, and that the Computer MIDI Keyboard is enabled, then use your keyboard to try out the synthesizer.
  • The middle row on the keyboard, from A to the L key, represent the white keys on a piano style keyboard, while W, E, T, Y, U and O represent the black keys.
  • Z and X move the keyboard down or up an octave respectively, and C and V lower and raise the velocity, or volume, of the notes. For more on musical notation, go to the “Introduction to Music Theory” video.
  • If you have a MIDI keyboard set up, great! Use that instead. You can find information on setting up MIDI interfaces in the help view, under the help menu.
  • To edit the different parameters of the instrument, double click the track title to display the device view at the bottom of the screen. Try playing with the controls to see what kind of sounds you can make. For a detailed tutorial on the Analog synth check out the video on “Synthesis”.

Adding Effects

To add an effect to the instrument, go to the device browser and open the audio effects folder.

  • Folding up the dropdown levels of folders after you use them helps to keep things tidy in the device browser, which is a good practice to get into, as having to search through the browser to find an instrument or effect when the creative juices are flowing can be disruptive.
  • Locate the Ping Pong Delay effect and drag it onto either the track title or into the device panel.
  • Try changing the parameters to see what effect they have on the sound. Every device has a number of buttons along its title bar. On the far left is the device’s ON/Off switch, while on the right hand side we have the hot swap presets button, which we’ll talk more about later, and the save preset button, which allows the user to save the current settings of the device as a preset.

Metering and the Signal Chain

  • There is also a level meter to each side of every device.
  • In the device view the signal always flows from left to right, so the level meter to the left of the device shows the signal level before it enters the device, and the meter to the right shows the level of the signal after it leaves the device.
  • MIDI level meters are displayed as a row of dots that light up yellow when a signal comes through.
  • Audio level meters are displayed as vertical bars that light up green, yellow, orange and red according to the level of the signal.