This article is for Ableton Live 10 and previous versions. Ableton Live 11 introduced MPE support as standard, so simply enable MPE for your connected MPE-ready device in Preferences > MIDI.
Note: this guide will show you how to load a multi-timbral instrument like Equator into Ableton. For using the Seaboard RISE or GRAND with Ableton’s built-in instruments, check here.
For using BLOCKS with Ableton, see Ableton: Using BLOCKS as Melodic Instruments in Ableton Live or more guides here.
Open ROLI Dashboard and select Multi Channel mode with MPE on. Next select a channel range. With MPE mode on, channel 1 is the global channel, and channels 2 onwards are note channels. The number of note channels you select will determine the expressive polyphony.
Open Ableton and create several MIDI tracks:
- 1 track which has no MIDI input but hosts a multi-timbral plugin like Equator. This is the host track.
- Several more tracks to receive the global channel and note channels according to the range you have selected in ROLI Dashboard. These are your voice tracks.
- Set the input of the voice tracks to channels 1 and up from the Seaboard – do not use omni as the input mode.
- Route the output of the voice tracks to channels 1 and up on the host track.
- Arm all of the voice tracks (not the host track) to record.
Please see attached Equator For RISE 25 and RISE 49 Ableton Live Templates.
The Seaboard uses multiple channels of MIDI so that each dimension of touch can be expressed polyphonically.
When Ableton records multiple channels to a single track (when you select "omni" as the input channel) it sums all of that data to a single channel, which means that the dimensions of touch will no longer be polyphonic –modulations would be heard equally on all notes.
To fully unlock the Seaboard’s expressive potential in Ableton, you will need multiple MIDI tracks in your Ableton project, which we will look at in more detail in this guide.
- One host track – this track will have no MIDI input selected, and will host a multi-timbral plugin like Equator.
- Several voice tracks – these tracks will not host a plugin, but will receive the global and note channels from the Seaboard, then send them to the host track. You will create several voice tracks according to the channel range you select in ROLI Dashboard in the first step of this guide below.
Step 1: ROLI Dashboard Settings
Open ROLI Dashboard from your applications/programs folder.
Take a look at the MIDI and Pitch sections in the bottom-right and select:
- MIDI Mode: MPE
- MPE Zone: Lower
- No. MIDI Channels: 15*
- Note that the Global Channel is automatically set to channel 1.
- Pitch Bend Range: 48
*Smaller channel ranges can be selected. Fewer channels will reduce the number of tracks required in Ableton, but will also reduce the expressive polyphony. More details on selecting the ideal range here. In this example, we are using a range of 2–16 (which will provide 15 voice expressive polyphony) but you can just as easily use 2 – 5 (which will require fewer tracks and provide 4-voice expressive polyphony) if you prefer.
Step 2: Ableton Settings
In the Plug-Ins tab of Ableton’s preferences, select "Use Audio Units" and "Use VST3 Plug-In System Folders" so that your plugins are available to use in your project.
In the Link MIDI tab of Ableton's preferences, check that Track and Remote are ON for the Seaboard RISE's input.
Step 3: Create the host track
- From Ableton's menu click Create ➝ Insert MIDI Track to add a MIDI track to your Set.
- Load a multi-timbral plugin such as Equator by dragging it from the plugins list onto the mixer track.
- In the MIDI From section of the new track select No Input – this is very important. This track will not be used for recording any MIDI.
You have just created your host track. It will produce the audio from Equator. The Seaboard's note data will reach this track on multiple channels via the voice tracks (which we will create in the next step).
Step 4: Equator’s MIDI/MPE Settings
- Open the Equator plugin from the host track in your Ableton set.
- Click on the menu (☰) in the top right of Equator and open the MIDI/MPE Settings menu.
- In the MIDI/MPE Settings menu, ensure that Equator’s MIDI Settings match the ones we set in ROLI Dashboard in Step 1.
- MPE: On
- Channel Range: 2–16 (unless you chose to use a smaller range, like 2–5)
- Pitch Bend Range: 48
Step 5: Create several voice tracks
Next, we want to create a number of MIDI tracks, which together will receive each channel of MIDI from the Seaboard.
- Just as before, right-click to create a new MIDI track.
- Select the first track and use CMD-D (Mac) or CTRL-D (Windows) to duplicate it.
In this example, we are using a channel range of 2–16. Remembering to include the global channel on channel 1, we will create 16 new tracks in total. If you selected a smaller channel range, you won't need as many tracks. For example, if you select a range of 2–5, you will create 5 tracks.
- On each of these new tracks, set:
- MIDI From: select the Seaboard
- Immediately underneath MIDI From, select a channel for each track to cover your full channel range.
- The 1st voice track will receive Ch1
- The 2nd voice track will receive Ch2
- The 3rd voice track will receive Ch3, etc. until you reach your highest channel.
- MIDI To: select the host track as the destination.
- Immediately underneath MIDI To, select the same channel for each track as was selected in MIDI From.
- The 1st voice track has Ch1 as both MIDI From and MIDI To.
- The 2nd voice track has Ch2 as both MIDI from and MIDI To.
- The 3rd voice track has Ch3 as both MIDI from and MIDI To etc. until you have set all of the voice tracks.
Step 5: Arm the voice tracks
Holding cmd ⌘ (Mac), or shift (PC), click each track’s arm button to arm all of your voice tracks – but not the instrument track. The instrument track should not be armed.
With all of the voice tracks record-enabled (armed), simply press record. The notes will be spread out over all MIDI tracks and will play through the Equator plugin.
If you are creating your own patches in other synths, remember to check that you have set the synth to respond to each of the Seaboard’s dimensions of touch in order to unlock the Seaboard’s full expressive potential.
More helpful tips
- A creator has helpfully made an Ableton script that automates the setup process for MPE instruments like the Seaboard and BLOCKS. See this forum post for details.
- You may set up a templates folder in Ableton Live containing the template project for the Seaboard. If you expand this folder you can just drag the group into any project you currently have open:
- In Live 10 you can now highlight multiple MIDI tracks and edit them simultaneously. While you can not access any expression data, you can quantize the note data.