Momentary FX In Ableton Live: Advanced MIDI Mappings

We recently enhanced our Midi Fighter firmware with a new Ableton Mode which allows the entire product line to play super friendly with Live. One of new features is the ability to assign any parameter in Ableton to be mapped as “momentary”, meaning that any button on your Midi Fighter can be mapped to turn on parameters when you hold the button down and back off when you let go. Today, our resident Ableton master Mad Zach shows off three ways to use the new function to create dynamic, inter-dependent controls in Ableton Live – watch the full show from his studio inside!

Make sure to download this tutorial Live template I’ve crafted so you can try this for yourself! This template is pre-mapped for Midi Fighter Pros and Classics. The Midi Fighter 3D sends out momentary signals on a different MIDI channel – so all you’ll need to do is just assign the commands using the below instructions:

How to make momentary assignments in
Ableton with a Midi Fighter Classic/Pro/3D:

  1. Put your Midi Fighter into “Ableton Mode” in the MF Utility and disable “Combos”
  2. Make sure “Track” and “Remote” are both ON in your MIDI preferences (Live>Preferences>MIDI Setup)
  3. Go into MIDI map mode (keyboard shortcut: cmd-M / ctrl-M)
  4. Select the parameter you would like to map in a momentary fashion
  5. Press and hold the button you want to assign as momentary
  6. While continuing to hold the button down, quickly tap and release any other button on your Midi Fighter
  7. Let go of the first button – now your assignment is momentary!
  8. (optional) Edit the range or inversion of your assignment to change what happens when you press your button (hint: inverting the range will make the parameter turn off momentarily when you press it)
  9. Exit MIDI map mode using the same command and rock out!

The Three Techniques

1. Map a button (or buttons) on your Midi Fighter to turn on effects and modulate them

Using this approach we map buttons on our MF to activate and modulate effects in a momentary fashion. This is perfect for integrating into a DJ set, simply use the momentary mapping technique to assign to the ON switch on your effect, and then make a few more assignments on various parameters. This becomes especially awesome when paired with a knob or fader macro, so you can activate an effect and twist your knob through a modulation, then let go right before the drop for extra drama. The cool thing about this technique is that it allows you to play effects like instruments and create some really interesting modulations.

2. Use momentary assignments to create hidden layers in a drumrack and activate behaviors

Store multiple samples in the same slot in a drumrack. This is perfect for creating hyper-dynamic finger drumming routines. For example, alternating between a “subby” breakdown kick and a punchy drop kick simply by holding down the buttons used for the breakdown. Another great example is turning on arpeggiators, filters, FX, or sampler parameters on other slots by holding down certain buttons – in the drumrack tutorial you can turn on a repeating hi-hat rhythm when you hold down the primary bass drop button.

3. Turn a button on your MF into a “transform” for your turntable and integrate real scratching into a finger drumming routine

Leave one slot blank in your drumrack, then momentary map this button to “track on” for your turntable input. Throw on some compression, side chaining, and FX for flavor. I like to replace the hi-hat (or layer it in) with a scratch transform, then layer in a variable bass sound with the kick to fill the routine out.

MIDI FIGHTER EXCLUSIVE?

“Wait just a MOMENT! Are you saying only Midi Fighters can do this?!?!”

If you just want to create a momentary assignment, it is possible to use Midi Pipe (or Midi OX on PC) to “swallow” the note-off messages and achieve a similar momentary assignment. Additionally, many controllers can send either CC or note (such as the Trigger Finger), if you have such a controller you can use a CC to make a momentary assignment.

But the true magic behind this trick is that the Midi Fighters have an integrated dual-messaging system, which means that each button sends BOTH a note and a CC. We didn’t stop there – after extensive testing between the Midi Fighter’s lead engineer (Cheers, Mike!) and myself, we were able order the messages in such a way that you can easily assign a parameter to be either traditional “toggle” or “momentary” depending on how you press your buttons while assigning.

Although these two advanced features aren’t currently available on other controllers, technically it could be possible to create a work-around using Max for Live. As a disclaimer: I did spend a fair amount of time working to create this effect in Max, and although I was able to get the buttons to act momentary, they were constantly getting stuck when I would “mash too hard” and I was not able to easily differentiate between note and CC while making assignments.

In attempting to recreate this effect, I recommend adding a CC to each button, and then either developing an interface for differentiating between the two types of assignments while mapping, or playing with the way your patch orders the two types of messages.

BONUS CHALLENGE!

Calling all MAX/MSP wizards! Whoever can first create a Max for Live patch that accurately mimics this functionality will win a Midi Fighter of your choice. For your effort, you’ll be credited for developing the patch, which we will distribute on our site as an official momentary M4L patch, and give you full credit and links back to your own Soundcloud/Portfolio Site/Resume/Photo Gallery of Adorable Kittens. If you think you’ve got it cooked up, shoot me an email – madzach (at) djtechtools (dot) com.

If you’ve got any questions about this tutorial, feel free to ask away in the comments below and I’ll answer them! 

More Info:

Mad Zach - Author

Mad Zach is a maverick controllerist and producer, focused on bridging the gap between production and performance.

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  • Kenan

    I just uploaded a device to MaxForLive.com called Midimashinator. It let’s you achieve identical results (in terms of mapping) on a Launchpad or any other midi controller that sends note data. I was able to use the Midimashinator to layer the drum rack sounds as the Mad one describes in the video. The device is located at: http://www.maxforlive.com/library/device/1408/midimashinator

    For more crazy button mashing fun in Ableton, check out the sister device, Launchpad Mashinator. It let’s you map a row of buttons on the Launchpad in the “momentary fashion” and includes features such as combos, global mappings, latching, etc. That device is located at http://www.maxforlive.com/library/device/1407/launchpad-mashinator

    Hope they are useful and fun.

  • Guest

    is there any way to something similar to scratching with the midi fighters? jw

  • TakeYourVitamins

    Darn it…looks like I need a new Mac that can handle the MF utility to turn mine to able ton mode huh? No love for the broke college kids

  • Hasenmond

    actually, the routing for the first two techniques works just equally fine on the launchpad (since all you need is the “momentary”-mode assignment which the launchpad also seems to support) – and you have even more buttons to use. 😉

  • Hasenmond

    actually, the routing for the first two techniques works just equally fine on the launchpad (since all you need is the “momentary”-mode assignment which the launchpad also seems to support) – and you have even more buttons to use. 😉

    • puya

      what do you mean it seems to support it? as far i know it doesn’t support momentary control with the ableton mapping. you have to use novations automap and then you can programm toggle, momentary and step and map automap

  • Hasenmond

    actually, the routing for the first two techniques works just equally fine on the launchpad (since all you need is the “momentary”-mode assignment which the launchpad also seems to support) – and you have even more buttons to use. 😉

  • Walter, Texas Ranger

    Re: If you just want to create a momentary assignment, it is possible to use Midi Pipe (or Midi OX on PC) to “swallow” the note-off messages and achieve a similar momentary assignment. Additionally, many controllers can send either CC or note (such as the Trigger Finger), if you have such a controller you can use a CC to make a momentary assignment.

    I’m trying to set up my Trigger Finger for CC to send a momentary “on” effect, and then to turn “off” when I stop pressing the pad. What is the best way to do this? I had it set up like this previously with Enigma, but Enigma doesn’t work very well in my experience with Windows 7, and I am not able to get this to work. I’m not super technical, so a detailed explanation and ideally step by step would be really appreciated!

  • robb

    Could this be used on a AKAI MPD 24?

  • ToOntown

    Mad Zach’s features are by far my favorite features on this site.

  • tr4gik

    Sr Zach U a fuckin’ beast. thanks

  • beatzhoven

    The MIDI Fighter Classic Lives!

  • Zach, This is truly inspiring and useful! Thanks a lot for sharing it with the word.
    Best!

  • Laurent

    Zach,
    Would it be possible for you to show us how to integrate this to a DJ template in live?
    Also how does it differ from Stutter edit vst?
    Thanks

    • Mad Zach

      which part do you want to integrate? It is different from Stutter Edit because that is a vst that does sequenced fx whereas this is an Ableton mapping technique that allows you to assign a button to do anything in Ableton momentarily

      • Laurent

        Well, let’s say you have a template for an APC40 and you want to add another controller with this…

        • Mad Zach

          you’d just have to bring these template elements into one project. You may have to remap once you get into the new project but just look carefully at all the assignments in the example template

  • This is sick! Is there any way to route audio coming from traktor to ableton so you could utilize these FX on tracks playing via traktor?!

    Btw ~ Check out Kontrol, a group for controllerism / turntablism enthusiasts!: http://www.facebook.com/getinkontrol
    And our twitter here: @Get_in_Kontrol

    • Mad Zach

      yes absolutely, thinking about doing a tutorial on just that soon!

      • tr4gik

        Zach that would be awesome mang, can’t wait for that.

  • Calling BS

    Old news Ean. Momentary via Livid for years. Momentary+note via Trigger finger is circa 2005. Thx for adding the functionality. But your knowledge of controllerism is weak and disrespectful. Same for Ableton.

    • Mad Zach

      hey, first of all, Ean didn’t write the article, I did. You’re right that the Trigger finger and Livid controllers can send CC’s on buttons (I’ve worked with both including working directly with Livid to build custom controllers) but the difference here is that the MF sends both and you can seamlessly jump between the type of assignment with just a slightly different button move when you’re mapping. I don’t know how that is disrespectful.

      • RockingClub

        Don’t think there is any need to think about this troll too much.
        Nothing disrespectful there as claimed…

    • Its just information. Hes not claiming to invent the wheel. Get a life troll.

    • guest

      lol … ^ look at me I’m a d-bag

  • Ben Leighton

    This is very very cool indeed.

    I’d be interested to see if the scratching thing could be re-created in Traktor. I tried to do it months ago but gave up after having serious trouble comprehending MIDI assignments in Traktor.

    • Mad Zach

      seems like you could use cue points for the beat part, and then map one of the buttons to track on or transform

  • YUNG LOCC

    This is sick!

  • AbhiJeet Singh

    very helpful…
    quick, fast n clean routine 🙂

  • Finally, my adorable kittens will be world wide DJ superstars!

  • EveryDay

    This can be done really easily for anyone who doesn’t have a midifighter – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08MbIdNYtl4

    • EveryDay

      check out the discussion about punch-in effects over at the ableton forums https://forum.ableton.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=179534

    • Mad Zach

      wooahh that guy was on crack. Good trick but doesn’t quite accomplish the same thing – which is to use both note AND cc at the same time and to be able to seamlessly switch between the two types of assignment without any additional routing or programming

      • EveryDay

        It is exciting that the MF can do it without much configuration . But if you are one of the unlucky few without one, you can use “dummy clips” to do bascially the same thing.