The piano roll is where all the magic happens in Ableton Live.
Melodies are crafted, chords are forged and basslines are written.
But there’s a lot about the piano roll that’s left in the dark.
Like this entire section here:
So here are some of my favourite tips to helping you become a piano
roll master in Live.
Most of these you can do in all versions of Ableton Live 10, but
some require at least Standard or Suite. A number of them will also
work in Live 9.
Make sure to grab the PDF version of this list so you can get 6
extra tips + reference it whenever you’re in the studio.
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Note: you can watch the video tutorial, read the full article, or both
completely up to you!
Ableton Piano Roll: 19 Unique Tips To Help You Become A Master
Roll: 19 Unique Tips To Help You Become A Master
Tip 1: Use Draw Mode
Drawing notes offers a much faster workflow than having to
double-click to insert them.
Press ‘B’ on your keyboard to activate this (making sure that your
computer MIDI keyboard is disabled) to sketch notes out faster,
draw velocity hits faster and customize automation faster.
Tip 2: Piano Roll MIDI Editor Preview
Sometimes you want to listen to notes as you write them, sometimes
By default, this feature is turned off but click on the blue
headphones icon in the top-left of the MIDI Editor.
Now whenever you select, draw or move a note, you will hear its
pitch being played, allowing you to make better-sounding decisions.
Tip 3: Move Notes Up/Down an Octave
When a chord progression or melody needs to change octaves,
pressing down or up 12 times can seem laborious.
Hold Shift + Up/Down while selecting the notes to move them an
entire octave at once.
A great time-saver.
Tip 4: Duplicate Notes
Pressing Cmd+D (Ctrl+D) allows you to duplicate notes in time. Make
sure that you double-check the selection area to see exactly how
much you are duplicating.
Tip 5: Force Legato
With the relevant notes selected, pressing the Legato button on the
Notes panel in the piano roll allows you to make all the notes
In other words, it fills in all the gaps between notes, which can
be a big time saver if you’re wanting to extend them all.
Tip 6: Duplicate Loop
If you’re wanting to add subtle variations to a loop of sorts,
‘Duplicate Loop’ is a great way to work.
Simply press the ‘Dupl. Loop’ button and watch the MIDI clip double
in size. Now you can edit the second version to add differences to
that part of the MIDI, instead of just looping the same thing.
Tip 7: MIDI Stretch Marker
The MIDI stretch marker is an underrated tool in Live and allows
you to ‘scale’ the timing of the notes.
This may mess up any quantized timing but can add the human feel of
someone slowly going out of time with the beat, or you can use it
to double/half the length of the phrase.
Think of it like slowing up or down the MIDI, like you would with
Definitely play around with it, especially in conjunction with
other instruments you can get some fun rhythms.
Tip 8: Half Tempo/Double Tempo
Speaking of doubling and halving, there is a quicker way to do this
using the ‘*2’ and2’ buttons above the same area.
This allows you to use the same melodic idea or chord progression,
but with a different feel.
Sometimes it just needs to be slower or faster.
Tip 9: Crop Clip
This tip works particularly well if you’ve recorded a bunch of MIDI
and only want to use part of it.
Simply select the notes you want to keep, right-click and select
‘Crop Clip’ from the menu.
Then it will cut out the unselected or blank part of a MIDI clip.
Tip 10: Reverse and Invert Notes
Another underrated MIDI tool is the Reverse tool and the Invert
Both are found in the same area is the2’ and ‘*2’ controls, as
Both are fairly self-explanatory reverse simply reverses the order
of the played notes, keeping the timing of each note intact.
Invert swaps the pitch of each note for the relative opposite
pitch, based on what’s selected. The timing of each of those notes
is still maintained, but it may change the scale of the notes
Both of these can yield surprising results and can help to flip an
otherwise stale idea into something fresh.
Tip 11: Quantize Settings
Many people know you can press Cmd+U or Ctrl+U to quantize your
notes to the grid, which i