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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Aug 17 > Control your hardware drum machines and synthesisersfrom Ableton Live

Control your hardware drum machines and synthesisersfrom Ableton Live

Everybody reading this has – or will eventually have – a hardware synthesiser or drum machine that they want to hook into their Ableton Live rig. Martin Delaney explains how to link it with Live…

Workshop

Live works brilliantly well as the hub of a studio or stage rig that features hardware as well as software instruments. And it goes beyond that, into effects, VJ equipment, lighting, even guitar amps. For the walkthrough steps here, I’ve use the Novation Bass Station, a classic 1990s rack synth (there’s a current v2 of the keyboard Bass Station). The Bass Station has MIDI in and out, and audio outputs, so it’s a good example of a typical keyboard setup. More modern instruments might connect with USB for audio or for MIDI, and include their own dedicated editor software, which affects how they integrate with your DAW. Our walkthrough focuses on Live’s External Instrument device, but don’t forget there’s the External Effect device as well, which configures in the same way, but is designed to feed audio from Live out to, and back from, hardware audio effect processors.

While you’re in Live’s MIDI Preferences, make sure you’ve configured the correct inputs and outputs, and disable any that you don’t need – this can solve problems with more elaborate hardware rigs. You can also choose to have Live sync from the hardware, if you think you’ll get better results that way. It’s also possible to build a rig that includes MIDI clock travelling between hardware and software, as well as iOS devices responding to Ableton Link on a wi-finetwork or ethernet. Instrument racks let you build complex setups that use sounds coming in ‘live’ from hardware instruments, as well as sounds from plug-in synths, even stacked and playing together.

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