Getting Started 4: Making Music with MIDI — Beats and Melodies

  • Live Versions: 8
  • Operating System: All


Learn how to use the MIDI Note Editor to make music in Live.


MIDI is data that tells Live’s built-in instruments what notes to play, when and how loud. Live’s MIDI instruments turn this data into sound. Today we’re going to learn how to use MIDI to create beats and melodies in Live.

Let’s start with some Drums. We’ll open our browser with [Control Alt B] on a PC, or [Command Alt B] on a Mac.

Next, click the second circle from the top in the Browser to show Live’s built-in instruments and effects. Open the Instruments folder, then unfold Drum Rack. Drag a preset onto a MIDI track.

Now that we have a kit, let’s draw in a beat/

Double-click in an empty slot on the MIDI track. Then double-click to create hits. Launch the clip to hear the result.

Instead of double-clicking, it’s often more convenient to use the pencil tool to draw in MIDI notes. Press [Control B] on a PC or [Command B] on a Mac to do so.

The grid in the MIDI editor represents beat divisions. Use [Control 2] on a PC, or [Command 2] on a Mac to widen the grid. Use [Control 1] on a PC, or [Command 1] on a Mac to narrow the grid.

You can then adjust the velocity of individual hits with the markers below the note editor. In this movie, notes with higher velocity values will play louder.



Alternatively, we can play in our beats or melodies in real time with our computer keyboard or an external controller.

Create a new MIDI track by pressing [Shift + Control + T] on a PC, or [Shift + Command + T] on a Mac. Let’s go to our library again and find a basic piano sound.

Make sure the track is armed. Then, record by clicking a record button on any clip slot in the track.

With Overdub enabled, you can keep adding MIDI notes while the clip plays back.

That’s how you make music with MIDI in Ableton Live.