How to Use #AbletonLive as an Instrument in a Live Band – part two


I just created a gig-proof system of playing Ableton live as an instrument in our three-piece roots reggae ska band Cabstars. It did however take two weeks of struggling, so I hope this blog and video will save you some time if you’re trying to do something similar.

Then at a rehearsal just before it’s first a gig, the M-Audio Profire 2626 interface kept crashing my Mac’s Yosemite OSX. M-Audio had stopped supporting upgrades on the Profire, so there was no choice but to buy another interface – despite the Profire still being good quality Firewire 400 hardware. Its replacement – the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40, is also only Firewire 400, but Focusrite upgraded the drivers etc so it will work with Thunderbolt. So why couldn’t M-Audio have done the same?

Anyway… The Saffire Pro 40 works really well, connecting to the Thunderbolt port on my MacBook Air via Firewire 400 to 800 cable and Apple’s pricey little convertor. The 12 Step and Push controllers connect to an unpowered hub (which seems to work fine despite the manuals urging use of a powered hub) into one USB port.

IMG_0435The Saffire Pro 40 is racked into a 6u SKB above my bass amp – a cool-running class D 1000 watt Warwick LWA 1000. Two Samson S-Direct Plus DI boxes are velcroed onto the top of the Saffire allowing minimum length unbalanced jack-to-jack lines to provide standard XLR balanced line outputs from the Saffire to a stage box.

The 12-Step and Push fit neatly into the SKB’s remaining 3u, along with all the cabling.

IMG_0429A A snare drum stand and various other Gibraltar Hardware drum bits form a stand for it all. Velco ensures that the laptop can’t be knocked off. Small stages make it vital to have a really stable stand for these vulnerable bits of kit. It needs to be close to me at the right height so I can play it – plus close to the drummer so that Ableton BeatSeeker can pick up his beat. (One of the criteria for this system was that we didn’t want to be following a click).

IMG_0431Some additional code to the 12-Step’s Live Clip Launching file makes it illuminate key lights showing which Scene slots have clips to launch. The selected keys then flash while their clips are playing.

Midi mechanisation written into the BeatSeeker activation clips set them to play a two-bar click at the song’s set tempo so we can get started, then turns off the click and follows the drummer’s beat. We hear the click and synth audio on outputs 3 and 4 from the Saffire through in-ear monitors. The Saffire’s main output (1 and 2) plays just the synth.

So with it seeming now to be gig-proof, we’re set to rehearse the set using it, then try it out on an audience. Psychedelic Ska is on its way (alliteration at its finest!!).

This video shows you what all this looks like, and some of the Ableton processes involved. If you leave any questions in Comments below, I’ll answer them here.


#abletonlive, #mcmillan12step, #abletonpush,#usingabletonwithaliveband, #BeatSeeker


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