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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > Ableton Live 2017 > Control your hardware drum machines and synthesizers from Ableton Live

Control your hardware drum machines and synthesizers from 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…

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, which is a classic 1990s rack synth (and there’s still a current v2 of the keyboard Bass Station available). The Bass Station has MIDI in and out, and audio outputs, so it’s a good example of a typical keyboard set up. More modern instruments might connect with USB for audio or for MIDI, and include their own dedicated editor software, which will affect 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-fi network 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. I have external instrument device presets that load with limiters and compressors in the chain; nice and easy to recall, and easy to move between different machines if necessary. I love using hardware synths for their sonic character and distinctive workflows, but other than capturing the raw sounds, I prefer to do everything else with Live as working on a computer display is faster, easier and more controllable. You might disagree and have your own level of hardware/software preferences, but that’s the point – with Live you can set it up the way you want it. I mentioned arpeggiators for beats in the walkthrough, and that’s something I’ve been playing around with a lot lately, especially for triggering beats in real time from a keyboard. Create an instrument rack with, say, four chains of arpeggiators, and set each one to trigger notes over a certain range – most likely just a single note, so each arpeggiator is triggering only one note on your drum machine. Try it - it’s very cool, even with software drum kits.

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About MusicTech

Ableton Live can truly become the hub of your music making set-up whatever you use, be it hardware, iOS or software. We have tutorials to help you make the most of it in any situation plus features on freeware, mastering and mobile music making. WORKSHOPS: Making the most of the Sine wave - Create with this versatile wave Integrate Live with your iOS devices - for control and music Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release - what ADSR can do for you INTERVIEWS: Highasakite Stoni Apothek