Ableton MIDI Note: 4 Common Problems Solved

If you’ve dabbled in music production in Ableton Live, you’ve definitely come across MIDI!

MIDI is the foundation for most music making in the digital age, a way to input and control musical notes with ease.

Unfortunately, working with MIDI doesn’t always go to plan. Luckily, if you’re experiencing problems with your MIDI notes, you’re in the right place.

In this article, I’ll run you through 4 tried and tested solutions to get your MIDI note issues resolved.

Your Computer MIDI Keyboard is Retriggering Notes

If you’re using a computer MIDI keyboard to input MIDI notes into Ableton Live, you might come across a few common issues.

Here are some problems that Ableton users have experienced before:

  • Notes repeating instead of sustaining when you hold down a key
  • Notes being re-triggered in a specific or random rhythm
  • Only being able to play one note at a time (monophonically)

If you’ve experienced any of these issues, don’t worry, we’ve got a solution for you!

All you have to do is reset your computer’s NVRAM, PRAM, and/or SMC (for Intel Macs only).

Here’s how:

Resetting NVRAM and PRAM:

(Non-Volatile Random Access Memory and Parameter Random Access Memory)

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press the power button and then immediately press and hold the Option, Command, P, and R keys all at the same time.
  3. Keep holding the keys until you hear the startup sound for the second time, and then release them.
  4. Your Mac will restart, and NVRAM and PRAM will be reset.

Resetting SMC (System Management Controller):

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. If you have a MacBook with a removable battery, disconnect the power adapter, remove the battery, and then press and hold the power button for 5 seconds. Release the button.
  3. If you have a MacBook without a removable battery, press and hold the Shift, Control, and Option keys on the left side of the keyboard, and then press and hold the power button simultaneously.
  4. Hold all the keys and the power button for 10 seconds, and then release them.
  5. Reconnect the power adapter (if disconnected) and then press the power button to turn on your Mac.

Your computer MIDI keyboard should be back to smooth operation! Now you can get back to creating your next big hit on Ableton Live.

Please also read our article about Komplete Kontrol and Ableton issues – with solutions!

Some of Your MIDI Notes Aren’t Sounding

If you’re working with MIDI in Ableton Live, and certain MIDI notes aren’t sounding when you need them to, it can be a very frustrating problem.

It’s likely that the reason for your MIDI notes not sounding is that you’re working in a drum rack.

Here’s why:

When it comes to drums, they have something called “choke groups” which help replicate the behavior of real cymbals. On a real cymbal, it only reacts to one hit at a time.

To achieve this in software, you can assign certain “hit” sounds to a group, where no matter how many you trigger, only one will sound at any given moment, usually the most recent one (which means whichever shows up later on the timeline).

In Drum Racks, you can create multiple choke groups, each assigned a number. For example, you can put all the cymbals in group 1, and all the chimes in group 2, and so on.

This way, you can play a cymbal and chime simultaneously, but if you try to play more than one chime at the same time, you’ll only hear one since they are in the same choke group.

If you prefer a different behavior, you can go into Drum Rack’s settings for each sound, such as the hats, and change the choke group to “None”.

Another benefit of using choke groups is that it helps cut off the tail end of an open hat when the closed hat is triggered or when the open hat retriggers. This helps tame any potential unruliness from the extra sound of the open hat sample playing out fully.

I hope this helps clarify how choke groups work and how you can get the best out of your Ableton drum-rack MIDI notes.

RELATED: Check out our article about common problems with Ableton’s Drum Rack – with solutions 🙂 

Your MIDI Notes Keep Hanging

If you’re experiencing issues with stuck or hanging notes in your MIDI setup, there could be several reasons for it.

Let’s dive into what some of the causes are and get you back to producing!

Here are some of the more common reasons for stuck or hanging MIDI notes:

  • MIDI feedback loop or log jam can be a common cause of stuck notes in MIDI setups.
  • A large number of MIDI messages sent to a synth at once can overwhelm it.
  • Different synths may handle this situation differently, so it’s important to check if your synth is capable of handling such scenarios.

Sometimes, the solution could be as simple as turning off local control if you’re using a synth keyboard as your controller.

Other times, it may require more in-depth diagnosis using tools like MIDI-OX and examining the event logs. This may get a bit technical, but it’s worth getting an understanding of how MIDI notes work to best get to a solution.

If the issue seems difficult to fix using conventional methods, MIDI-OX offers data maps/scripts that can be used to automate certain actions when specific conditions are met.

For example, you can create a data map or script to automatically send a cc#123 (all notes off) message when it’s detected in the event log.

This can be useful, for instance, when pressing stop on the transport in your DAW doesn’t send the cc#123 message or if it’s not firing properly. You can also set up MIDI-OX to inject a cc#123 message itself when it’s sent by your DAW.

Moreover, you can get creative with MIDI-OX and assign a knob or button to send all note-off messages, effectively creating a Panic Button.

Continuously sending all notes off using a knob can result in some interesting and unique behavior when you twiddle it quickly while your music is playing.

It’s important to note that having a long MIDI thru chain can sometimes result in issues like stuck or hanging notes. So, it’s worth being mindful of your MIDI setup and taking steps to avoid such problems.

In summary, MIDI-OX can be a powerful tool for troubleshooting MIDI-related issues and automating actions to resolve them.

By utilizing its data maps and scripts, you can potentially fix problems like stuck notes or create unique MIDI interactions. Just remember to keep your MIDI setup in check to avoid any potential issues down the line

Your MIDI Controller is Playing the Wrong Notes

If your MIDI controller is playing the wrong notes into Ableton Live, it can be a difficult and frustrating problem to face.

Luckily, there are solutions to help you get your MIDI controller working properly again.

Let’s jump into these troubleshooting tips to get you back on track.

Pitch Bend Malfunction

If your MIDI controller’s pitch bend wheel is malfunctioning, it can cause the controller to play the wrong notes.

If you notice that the piano roll editor is showing a different note than the one you played, it’s unlikely to be caused by the pitch bend wheel.

However, if the piano roll shows the correct note but the pitch sounds off, it’s worth checking if your controller’s pitch bend wheel is sending data unintentionally.

You can use MIDI Monitor (for Mac) or MIDIoX (for PC) to see exactly what MIDI messages are being sent by your controller.

Transpose Issue

Another possibility could be that your software or hardware synth is set to transpose pitch or has an incorrectly set oscillator pitch control function. This is sometimes referred to as “tuning” on hardware synths.

If the piano roll editor displays an incorrect note, along with the possibility of a transposition plugin acting on the MIDI (although they usually come after the editor), you can also check if your controller is sending the correct note data using MIDI monitoring applications.

It’s also worth checking if there’s a controller setting that might be transposing the keyboard or certain notes, as some controllers have this capability.

RELATED: Take a look at our article with explanations for why your MIDI keyboard sometimes suddenly stopped working.

Final thoughts

I’ve found that MIDI is a wonderful and powerful tool but it can be tricky to work with at times.

Luckily, there are tons of resources available online to increase your understanding of how MIDI works, which will help you get better at working with MIDI to create some magic on Ableton Live.


Computer MIDI Keyboard is Retriggering Notes