Music Production

Recording a Software Instrument using MIDI in Ableton Live


Hi. I am Darran Kelinske from Austin, TX in the USA. This lesson is for week 2 of Introduction To Music Production at I will be teaching you about adding a software instrument, recording midi, and quantizing in a DAW. The DAW I will be using in this lesson is Ableton Live.

In this lesson we will be recoding MIDI using an MPK mini. This is a portable USB-Powered 25-key keyboard that also includes 8 drum pads (pictured below). The MPK mini will need to be connected to the PC you are recording MIDI with. The song we will be recording is called “The Ash Grove” and is taken from a beginners piano book.




Setting up the MIDI Instrument

To begin this task we will need to setup our MIDI instrument in Ableton Live. To do this, I created a new Ableton Project, named RecordingMidiWithAbleton,  and then removed all of the tracks except for one MIDI track. I then renamed this MIDI track to Piano.

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 3.53.57 PM

Next, I searched for a Piano Instrument in the top left search box.  This produced a “Grand Piano” instrument which sounded nice. MIDI Instruments can be downloaded from This instrument entry needs to be placed over the Piano MIDI track to specify that this MIDI track is using this instrument to produce sound.

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 3.54.17 PM

Setting up the Click and Countoff

Setting up the click and countoff in Ableton is done in the top left of the GUI. To do this, we will need to enable the metronome by clicking the metronome button. When enabled, the metronome button will be yellow. To set the countoff we will need to click the drop-down button to the right of the metronome button and select the appropriate countoff time. In this example, we are using 1 Bar.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 6.44.33 AM

Recording the Instrument

Before recording, it is good practice to practice your performance. Loudon continuously reminds us that there is not substitute for good performance and this is true. After getting comfortable with the music, I clicked the record button and pressed play. After a 1 Bar count off, everything that was played was recorded Ableton Live. The recorded MIDI notes can be seen in Arrangement View in the image below.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 6.50.21 AM


If you click on the above image, you can see in detail that there is plenty of room for improvement on both timing and velocity. To improve the timing we can quantize the MIDI track. To do this, I first selected all of the recorded notes and then right-clicked the selection. From the right-click menu I selected Quantize settings and set them similar to what Loudon suggested. I am using 1/8th note quantization, adjusting from the start, with 20% quantization.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 6.57.11 AM

After running quantization, you can see the start of the MIDI notes get tighter to the grid. This is expected. Some of the notes that were originally played were off to the extent that they are getting quantized to the wrong start. These notes will need to be hand corrected by manually dragging the MIDI note to the correct position. After some more quantizing, manually correcting velocity, and manual correction of a few of the notes, the final MIDI recording can be seen and heard below.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 7.22.49 AM

Copying the MIDI Track

Once we get the the MIDI track where we would like it, we can copy it from Arrangement view to Session view. To do this, right-click the title of the recording in Arrangement view and click copy. You can then paste this into session view.

Arrangement View:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 7.06.27 AM

Copied MIDI recording in Session View:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 7.07.18 AM


In this post, we covered quite a few things. We first found and selected a MIDI Instrument. We then recorded MIDI using a MIDI keyboard. After we made the initial recording, we began cleaning up the recorded MIDI notes using quantization. Lastly, we copied the recorded MIDI notes to session view so that the clip could be launched in future recordings.

The Ableton Project for this post can be found here: RecordingMidiWithAbleton Copy Project

Thank you for reading and please post any questions or comments below. Or feel free to contact me using social media.


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