Map anything in Ableton Live’s Browser to MIDI, keyboard with Max for Live

Get push-button access to your favorite stuff in Ableton Live with this clever Max for Live tool.

Continuing our new year look at some of the coolest Max for Live stuff, flowstate has come up with a tool that lets you map anything in Live’s Browser. If you find yourself frequently using the same instrument, effect, sample, or whatnot, you can now map those to keyboard or MIDI.

The solution is a combination of MIDI Remote Script with Max for Live Device. And it works with almost anything – devices, sounds, third-party plug-ins, basically anything except Live Packs (which don’t support this mapping).

The package is name-your-price, with a £5 minimum.

The developers says instructions and an example set are included, plus 64 button slots pre-mapped to all of the internal Live Suite stuff (MIDI Effects, Audio Effects, and Instruments), including 5 user slots (or remap the whole thing as you wish).

https://gumroad.com/l/SgohV

https://maxforlive.com/library/device/5884/browser-mapper

It’s overkill for me personally, but I imagine it could be really useful to some. And it shows some of the potential of using the Live API and MIDI Remote Scripts to customize Live, so I imagine it might inspire other ideas, too.

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Ableton release free CV Tools for integrating with analog gear, made in Max

It’s all about voltage these days. Ableton’s new CV Tools are designed for integrating with modular and semi-modular/desktop gear with CV. And they’re built in Max – meaning builders can learn from these tools and build their own.

The basic idea of CV Tools, like any software-CV integration, is to use your computer as an additional source of modulation and control. You route analog signal directly to your audio interface – you’ll need an interface that has DC coupled outputs (more about that separately). But once you do that, you can make your software and hardware rigs work together, and use your computer’s visual interface and open-ended possibilities to do still more stuff with analog gear.

This is coming on the eve of Superbooth, and certainly a lot of the audience will be people with modular racks. But nowadays, hardware with CV I/O is hardly limited to Eurorack – gear from the likes of Moog, Arturia, KORG, and others also makes sense with CV.

CV Tools aren’t the first Max for Live tools for Ableton Live – not by far. Spektro Audio makes the free CV Toolkit Mini, for instance. Its main advantage is a single, integrated interface – and a clever patch bay. There’s a more extensive version available for US$19.99.

Rival DAW Bitwig Studio, for its part, has taken an entirely different approach – you’ll get a software modular engine capable of interlinking with hardware CV wherever you like.

Ableton’s own CV Tools is news, though, in that these modules are powerful, flexible, and polished, and have a very Ableton-esque UI. They also come from a collaboration with Skinnerbox, the live performance-oriented gearheads here in Berlin, so I have no doubt they’ll be useful. (Yep, that’s them in the video.) I think there’s no reason not to grab this and Spektro and go to town.

And since these are built in Max, Max patchers may want to take a look inside – to mod or use as the basis of your own.

What you get:

CV Instrument lets you treat outboard modular/analog gear as if it’s integrated with Live as a plug-in.

Trigger drums and rhythms with CV Triggers.

CV Utility is a signal processing hub inside Live.

CV Instrument, with complements existing Ableton devices for integrating outboard MIDI instruments and effects with your projects in Live

CV Triggers for sequencing drum modules

CV Utility for adding automation curves, add/shift/multiple signals, and other processing tools

CV Clock In and CV Clock Out for clocking Live from outboard analog gear and visa versa

CV In which connects outboard analog signal directly to modulation of parameters inside Live

CV Shaper, CV Envelope Follower, and CV LFO which gives you graphical tools for designing modulation inside Live and using it for CV control of your analog hardware

And there’s more: the Rotating Rhythm Generator, which lets you dial up polyrhythms. This one works with both MIDI and CV, so you can work with either kind of external hardware.

I got to chat with Skinnerbox, and there’s even more here than may be immediately obvious.

For one thing, you get what they tell us is “extremely accurate broad-range” auto calibration of oscillators, filters, and so on. That’s often an issue with analog equipment, especially once you start getting complex or adding polyphony (or creating polyphony by mixing your software instruments with your hardware). Here’s a quick demo:

Clocking they say is “jitter free” and “super high resolution.”

So this means you can make a monster hybrid combining your computer running Ableton Live (and all your software) with hardware, without having to have the clock be all over the place or everything out of tune. (Well, unless that’s what you’re going for!)

If you’re in Berlin, Skinnerbox will play live with the rig this Friday at Superbooth.

They sent us this quick demo of working with the calibration tools, resulting in an accurate ten-octave range (here with oscillator from Endorphin.es).

Watch:

To interface with their gear, they’re using the Expert Sleepers ES8 interface in the modular. You could also use a DC-coupled audio interface, though – MOTU audio interfaces are a popular choice, since they’ve got a huge range of interfaces with DC coupling across various interface configurations.

CV Tools is listed as “coming soon,” but a beta version is available now.

https://www.ableton.com/en/blog/cv-tools-live-coming-soon/

What do you need to use this?

For full CV control of analog gear, you’ll want a DC-coupled audio interface. Most audio interfaces lack that feature – I’m writing an explanation of this in a separate story – but if you do have one with compatible outputs, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the features here, including tuned pitch control. MOTU have probably made more interfaces that work than anyone else. You can also look to a dedicated interface like the Expert Sleepers one Skinnerbox used in the video above.

See MOTU and Expert Sleepers, both of which Skinnerbox have tested:

http://motu.com/products

https://www.expert-sleepers.co.uk/es8.html

MOTU also have a more technical article on testing audio interfaces if you’re handy with a voltmeter, plus specs on range on all their interfaces.

Universal Audio have already written to say they’ll be demoing DC coupling on their audio interfaces at Superbooth with Ableton’s CV Tools, so their stuff works, too. (Double-checking which models they’re using.)

But wait – just because you lack the hardware doesn’t mean you can’t use some of the functionality here with other audio interfaces. Skinnerbox remind us that any audio interface inputs will work with CV In in Pitch mode. Clock in and out will work with any device, too.

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KORG volca fm gets its own custom editor, plug-in

Manage all that FM sound depth of your KORG volca – or dust it off, if you need – with this handy editor for one of the most unique little instruments from the past years.

Momo Müller keeps putting out superb unofficial editors for popular gear – and the latest to get the treatment is KORG’s pint-sized FM synthesizer.

Of all the volcas, the volca fm might be the one that wants this the most – FM synthesis by definition gets some wild results from tiny tweaks. Adding Momo’s plugin lets you integrate your volca with your DAW and get precise control of those settings – plus automate and recall them.

Since you can save presets, this also solves a key issue with the volca fm, which is managing all that variability live and in production.

And yeah, you can give your fingers a rest from those tiny knobs … and have fun playing with the touch strip and sound instead.

U$6.90 / 5,90EUR for Mac (VST, AU, standalone) and Windows (32- and 64-bit VST).

https://korgvolcamidieditor.jimdofree.com

I’m going to put this and the editor for Roland’s D-05 (D-50 boutique reissue) as MVPs here – the D-05 because then you can get away from those well-known presets and take the synthesis engine in other directions.

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Use Ableton Live faster with the free Live Enhancement Suite

Day in, day out, a lot of producers spend a lot of time editing in Ableton Live. Here’s a free tool that automates some common tasks so you can work more quickly – easing some FL Studio envy in the process.

This one comes to us from Madeleine Bloom’s terrific Sonic Bloom, the best destination for resources on learning and using Ableton Live. Live Enhancement Suite is Windows-only for the moment, but a Mac version is coming soon.

The basic idea is, LES adds shortcuts for producers, and some custom features (like sane drawing) you might expect from other tools:

Add devices (like your favorite plug-ins) using a customizable pop-up menu of your favorites (with a double right-click)

Draw notes easily with the ~ key in Piano Roll.

Pop up a shortcut menu with scales in Piano Roll

Add locators (right shift + L) at the cursor

Pan with your mouse, not just the keyboard (via the middle mouse button, so you’ll need a three-button mouse for this one)

Save multiple versions (a feature FL Studio users know well)

Ctrl-shift-Z to redo

Alt-E to view envelope mode in piano roll

And there’s more customizations and multi-monitor support, too.

Ableton are gradually addressing long-running user requests to make editing easier; Live 10.1 builds on the work of Live 10. Case in point: 10.1 finally lets you solo a selected track (mentioned in the video as previously requiring one of these shortcuts). But it’s likewise nice to see users add in what’s missing.

Oh, and… you’re totally allowed to call it “Ableton.” People regularly refer to cars by the make rather than the model. We know what you mean.

Here’s a video walking through these tools and the creator Dylan Tallchief’s approach:

More info:

LES Collaborators:
Inverted Silence: https://soundcloud.com/invertedsilence
Aevi: https://twitter.com/aevitunes
Sylvian: https://sylvian.co/

https://www.patreon.com/dylantallchief
https://www.twitter.com/dylantallchief
https://soundcloud.com/dylantallchief
https://facebook.com/dylantallchief
https://www.twitch.tv/dylantallchief

Give it a go – will try to check in when there’s a Mac version.

https://enhancementsuite.me/

PS, Windows users will want to check out the excellent open source AutoHotkey for automation, generally.

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This free Ableton Live device makes images into wavetables

It’s the season of the wavetable – again. With Ableton Live 10.1 on the horizon and its free Wavetable device, we’ve got yet another free Max for Live device for making sound materials – and this time, you can make your wavetables from images.

Let’s catch you up first.

Ableton Live 10.1 will bring Wavetable as a new instrument to Standard and Suite editions – arguably one of the bigger native synth editions to Live in its history, ranking with the likes of Operator. And sure, as when Operator came out, you already have plug-ins that do the same; Ableton’s pitch is as always their unique approach to UI (love it or hate it), and integration with the host, and … having it right in the box:

Ableton Live 10.1: more sound shaping, work faster, free update

Earlier this week, we saw one free device that makes wavetables for you, built as a Max for Live device. (Odds are anyone able to run this will have a copy of Live with Wavetable in it, since it targets 10.1, but it also exports to other tools). Wave Weld focuses on dialing in the sounds you need and spitting out precise, algorithmic results:

Generate wavetables for free, for Ableton Live 10.1 and other synths

One thing Wave Weld cannot do, however, is make a wavetable out of a picture of a cat.

For that, you want Image2Wavetable. The name says it all: it generates wavetable samples from image data.

This means if you’re handy with graphics software, or graphics code like Processing, you can also make visual patterns that generate interesting wavetables. It reminds me of my happy hours and hours spent using U+I Software’s ground-breaking MetaSynth, which employs some similar concepts to build an entire sound laboratory around graphic tools. (It’s still worth a spin today if you’ve got a Mac; among other things, it is evidently responsible for those sweeping digital sounds in the original Matrix film, I’m told.)

Image2Wavetable is new, the creation of Dillon Bastan and Carlo Cattano – and there are some rough edges, so be patient and it sounds like they’re ready to hear some feedback on how it works.

But the workflow is really simple: drag and drop image, drag and drop resulting wavetable into the Wavetable instrument.

Okay, I suspect I know what I’m doing for the rest of the night.

Image2Wavetable Device [maxforlive.com]

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Split MIDI, without latency, for under $40: meet MeeBlip cubit

You want to play with your music toys together, and instead you wind up unplugging and repatching MIDI. That’s no fun. We wanted to solve this problem for ourselves, without having to trade high performance for low cost or simplicity. The result is MeeBlip cubit.

cubit is the first of a new generation of MeeBlip tools from us, as we make work to make synths more accessible and fun for everybody. cubit’s mission is simple: take one input, and turn it into four outputs, with minimum latency, minimum fuss, and at the lowest price possible.

MeeBlip cubit

Why cubit?

Rock-solid timing. Everything you throw at the input jack is copied to the four outputs with ultra-low latency. Result: you can use it for MIDI messages, you can use it for clock, and keep your timing tight. (Under the hood is a hardware MIDI passthrough circuit, with active processing for each individual output – but that just translates to you not having to worry.)

It fits anywhere. Ports are on the top, so you can use it in tight spaces. It’s small and lightweight, so you can always keep it with you.

You’ll always have power. The USB connection means you can get power from your laptop or a standard USB power adapter (optional).

Don’t hum along. Opto-isolated MIDI IN to reduce ground loops. Everything should have this, but not everything does.

Blink! LED light flashes so you know MIDI is coming in – ideal for troubleshooting.

One input, four outputs, no lag – easy.

We love little, inexpensive gear. But those makers often leave out MIDI out/thru just to save space. With cubit, you can put together a portable rig and keep everything jamming together – alone or with friends.

Right now, cubit is launching at just US$39.95 with a USB cable thrown in.

If you need extra adapters or cables, we’ve got those too, so you can start playing right when the box arrives. (Shipping in the US is free, with affordable shipping to Canada and worldwide.) And if you’re grabbing some stocking stuffers, don’t forget to add in a cubit so your gifts can play along and play with others.

Get one while our stocks last. And don’t look in stores – we sell direct to keep costs low.

Full specs from our engineer, James:

  • Passes all data from the MIDI IN to four MIDI OUT jacks
  • Ultra-low latency hardware MIDI pass-through
  • Runs on 5V Power from a computer USB port or optional USB power adapter
  • Opto-isolated MIDI IN to reduce ground loops
  • Individual active signal processing for each MIDI OUT
  • Bright green MIDI data indicator LED flashes when you’re receiving MIDI
  • Measures: 4.25″ x 3″ x 1″, weighs 92 g (3.25 oz)
  • Includes 3 ft (1 m) USB cable
  • Optional 5V USB power adapter available
  • Made in Canada

MeeBlip cubit product and order page

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Free Ableton Live tool lets you control even more arcane hardware

They’re called “NRPN”‘s. It sounds like some covert military code, or your cat walked on your keyboard. But they’re a key way to control certain instruments via MIDI – and now you have a powerful way to do just that in Ableton Live, for free.

NRPN stands for “Non-Registered Parameter Number” in MIDI, which is a fancy way of saying “we have a bunch of extra MIDI messages and no earthly clue how to identify them.” But what that means in practical terms is, many of your favorite synthesizers have powerful features you’d like to control and automate and … you can’t. Ableton Live doesn’t support these messages out of the box.

It’s likely a lot of people own synths that require NRPN messages, even if they’ve never heard of them. The Dave Smith Instruments Prophet series, DSI Tetra, Novation Peak, Roger Linn Linnstrument, and Korg EMX are just a few examples. (Check your manual and you’ll see.)

Now, you could dig into Max for Live and do this by hand. But better than that is to download a powerful free tool that does the hard work for you, via a friendly interface.

Uruguay-born, Brazil based superstar artist and ultra-hacker Gustavo Bravetti has come to our rescue. This is now the second generation version of his free Max for Live device – and it’s got some serious power inside. The original version was already the first programmable NRPN generator for Live; the new edition adds MIDI learn and bidirectional communication.

It’s built in Max 8 with Live 10, so for consistency you’ll likely want to use Live 10 or later. (Max for Live is required, which is also included in Suite.)

Features:

Up to 8 NRPN messages per device
Multiple devices can be stacked
Setup parameters in NRPN or MSB/LSB [that’s “most significant” and “least significant” byte – basically, a method of packing extra data resolution into MIDI by combining two values]
Bidirectional control and visual feedback
Record automation directly from your synthesizer
MIDI Learn function for easy parameter and data size setup
Adjustable data rate and redundancy filters
Configurable MIDI Thru Filter
Easy draw and edit automation with multiple Data Sizes

User guide

Download from Maxforlive.com

https://www.facebook.com/gustavobravettilive/

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Control and unlock hidden features on Roland’s TR-08 (the small one)

While everyone is chasing after Roland’s new TR-8S (see our hands-on test), there are lots of the little TR-08s around. This tool will help you get more out of the Boutique 808.

Okay, first, let’s review:

TR-808: the original 1980-1983 drum machine.
TR-8: the first “AIRA”, the big one with the neon green trim (which can be an 808, 909, 606, 727, 707…)
TR-09: the Boutique Series made to resemble the TR-909 – small and (for extra confusion) more 303-sized
TR-08: the second Boutique Series drum machine, also in a small form factor
TR-8S: the second flagship AIRA, now with sample playback

I’m sure I accidentally referred to that last one as “TR-08S” at least once. Mea culpa.

But there’s still a place for the pint-sized TR-08. And I hear it’s been an enormous hit. Why not? The TR-8S may be more powerful, but the TR-08 is cute and compact and also doubles as an audio interface, so you can pack it into a micro-sized setup.

And with that popularity, you can expect some editors. Often times the user community comes up with stuff that bests what Roland provides.

Momo Müller writes us with his editor/librarian/controller, which joins his exhaustive set for the Boutique Series.

Run this as a Mac or Windows plug-in/standalone, and you can do some handy things:
1. Store parameters in files
2. Recall parameters when you open a project (via the plug-in)
3. Control and automate hidden parameters not on the front panel

#1-2 of course are things you can’t do with an actual 808 – so for live performance or studio sessions, you can quickly recall different settings without having to tweak your way back yourself.

Hidden parameters:
Bass Drum and Snare: Tune and Compression
Clap, CB, Tom, CY, RS: Decay
RS, CB, OH, Clap, CH: Tune

Gorgeous UI, too, Momo – I don’t even have a TR-08, but I would hire you to do UI design. (Plus… does this actually look better than the hardware itself?)

Acid. Demo. Video.

Find the whole series – they call cost just a few bucks, and work in VST/AU/standalone:

https://tr-08-editor-controller.jimdo.com/

For instance:

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Here’s what that software for the Pioneer samplers looks like

You can tote a USB stick and plug into CDJ decks, yes. And now, if the club starts buying Pioneer samplers, you can do the same with sample sets.

It’s bringing us from “USB stick as record bag” to “USB stick as live rig.” Here’s the gear:

Pioneer made a CDJ-shaped sampler – what does that mean for DJs?

And the software that makes it all happen … is …

Not really very exciting. But let’s have a look anyway, just so we understand the process.

Basically, Pioneer’s DJS-TSP Project Creator – named in the way only a Japanese music gear maker would – gives you a picture of the layout of the new Pioneer samplers, and the ability to manage projects and samples.

So, even if you don’t own a DJS-1000 or the previous TORAIZ SP-16, you can sit with this thing and load up some custom samples, then bring a USB stick with you to a studio or club that does have the sampler. You can load and offload projects, load and offload individual samples (though sample file format is restricted to what the hardware supports), and you can name scenes and clips.

And … that’s it.

Of course, that’s fine. This is a librarian for samples, essentially. Though it’d be nice to make other edits to sample settings without the hardware.

That may make this headline seem, well, like an overreaction:
Ableton and Native Instruments should worry about the DJS-1000

Well, okay, I wanted “maybe a little bit worried” to be the headline, but it didn’t fit.

While this particular editing software is nothing glamorous, though, I think Ableton, NI, and others ought at least to pay attention. Remember that Rekordbox had similar, humble beginnings – before it blew into its own Traktor-style DJ software and took over the world. Pioneer could consider making standalone software that does the actual sampling and editing, perhaps on desktop and mobile, that then can act as a satellite to the hardware samplers.

The point stands, though. Clubs that have this gear installed may be less amenable to complicated live or live/hybrid rigs. USB sticks are really, really convenient. And the competition for computer/software combos is increasingly standalone hardware – whether that’s Pioneer, Elektron, Akai, or something else entirely. The lines are blurred enough that computer-tethered tools need at least to hold their own as a value proposition.

A few minutes mucking around with this may remind you that, heck yeah, the computer tools may still be better. Or you can look at something like Akai’s MPC line – we’ll be hands on with the latest version of that soon. It behaves like computer software, and even works with a computer, but also works untethered like standalone hardware – without sacrificing computer software flexibility.

I do think that we’re starting to see the tools and workflow change for live, though. Time will tell. Until then – download the manual and software here:

https://www.pioneerdj.com/en/support/software/djs-1000/

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Here’s how to download your own music from SoundCloud, just in case

SoundCloud’s financial turmoil has prompted users to consider, what would happen if the service were switched off? Would you lose some of your own music?

Frankly, we all should have been thinking about that sooner.

The reality is, with any cloud service, you’re trusting someone else with your data, and your ability to get at that data is dependent on a single login. You might well be the failure point, if you lock yourself out of your own account or if someone else compromises it.

There’s almost never a scenario, then, where it makes sense to have something you care about in just one place, no matter how secure that place is. Redundancy neatly saves you from having to plan for every contingency.

Okay, so … yeah, if you are then nervous about some music you care about being on SoundCloud and aren’t sure if it’s in fact backed up someplace else, you really should go grab it.

Here’s one open source tool (hosted on GitHub, too) that downloads music.
http://downloader.soundcloud.ruud.ninja/

A more generalized tool, for downloading from any site that has links with downloads:
http://jdownloader.org/

(DownThemAll, the Firefox add-on, also springs to mind.)

This tool moves to a new service – unattended – though I’m testing that now. (I do think backup, rather than migration, may be a good step.)
https://www.orfium.com/

Could someone create a public mirror of the service? Yes, though – it wouldn’t be cheap. Jason Scott (of Internet Archive fame) tweets that it could cost up to $2 million, based on the amount of data:

(Anybody want to call Martin Shkreli? No?)

My hope is that SoundCloud does survive independently. Any acquisition would likewise be crazy not to maintain users and content; that’s the whole unique value proposition of the service, and there’s still nothing else quite like it. (The fact that there’s nothing quite like it, though, may give you pause on a number of levels.)

My guess is that the number of CDM readers and creators is far from enough to overload a service built to stream to millions of users, so I feel reasonably safe endorsing this use. That said, of course, SoundClouders also read CDM, so they might choose to limit or slow API access. Let’s see.

My advice, though: do grab the stuff you hold dear. Put it on an easily accessible drive. And make sure the media folders on that drive also have an automated backup – I really like cloud backup services like Crashdrive and Backblaze (or, if you have a server, your own scripts). But the best backup plan is one that you set and forget, one you only have to think about when you need it, and one that will be there in that instance.

Let us know if you find a better workflow here.

Thanks to Tom Whitwell of Music thing for raising this and for the above open source tip.

I expect … this may generate some comments. Shoot.

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