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How To Sequence Serato Cue Points in Ableton Live

Two months ago we featured a unique way of recording + sequencing Serato cue points by using a hardware sequencer. The DJ behind the idea, John Type, is back with a new concept: using Ableton to sequence cue points played on a MIDI mixer (or any cue point controller).

Ableton Controltablism In Action:

John Type is an Italian “DJ, turntablist, composer, and record producer” who has recently been coming up with unique ways to combine his various skills. Sequencing cue points in a vinyl set is his latest obsession – and this concept of combining Ableton and Serato makes it accessible to many more DJs.

In the performance video above, Type is sending the MIDI messages from his Mixars Duo DJ controller to both Ableton Live and Serato DJ. This allows him to record the exact sequence of cue points in Ableton, and using a IAC driver (virtual MIDI device), can play that sequence back.

It’s a great proof of concept that deserves to be showcased here – and at our request, Type has writen up a full guide of how it was accomplished:

How To Record + Sequence Serato DJ Cue Points

The performance video is significantly simplified so that the concept is easy to understand. That’s also the reason behind using the famous “I Want You Back” by Jackson 5.

The video has four main sections:

  • Ableton Cue Point Mapping: recording cue point triggering MIDI notes, directly from a mixer (or other controller) into Serato and Ableton
  • Cue Point Sequencing: the MIDI notes are recorded in Ableton live in a MIDI clip, which loops to act as a sequencer
  • Controllerism: launching + recording clips in Ableton Session View; playing synth chords with the Push’s Note Mode
  • Turntablism: scratching on guitar Cue Point Sequencing on Deck 2 and a sax solo on Deck 1
"I Want You Back" cue points
The cue points at the beginning of the song “I Want You Back”

Syncing Serato DJ with Ableton Live

The original speed of “I Want You Back” is 98 bpm, with the turntable pitch is sped up to 104 BPM. However, you can synchronize the BPM of Ableton and Serato with the Ableton Link technology. The original key of the track is preserved with the Key Lock function Serato, or Pitch ‘n Time DJ.

Ableton Cue Point Mapping Tutorial

It’s important to understand the same cue points are divided into 2 parts:

  • Hardware Cue Point > physical button on the mixer
  • Software Cue Point > virtual button in the software

MIDI Routing

When you press the cue buttons on the MIDI controller, the same signal is sent to two places: the factory Serato mapping and the Ableton Cue Point Mapping. We’ll use IAC Driver to emulate a virtual MIDI device to allow Ableton to retrigger cue points in Serato DJ.

Requirements

  • Mixer or controller with MIDI cue point buttons
  • Serato DJ software
  • Ableton Live software

The Push 2 used in the video isn’t essential for the concept, but it makes triggering sequences of cue points easier in a performance

Settings

Enable IAC Driver in Mac OS X:

  • Applications > Utilities > Audio MIDI Setup
  • Menu > Window > MIDI Studio > Driver IAC
  • Click checkbox: “Device is online”:

OS X IAC Driver Settings

Enable IAC Driver in Serato DJ:

  • Serato DJ > Setup > MIDI > MIDI Devices
  • Select: Driver IAC Bus 1
  • Checkbox: Enable MIDI Device

Serato IAC Driver

Enable MIDI ports in Ableton Live:

  • Ableton Live>Preferences > MIDI
  • Input: Ableton Push 2 > Track > On
  • Input: Mixars DUO > Track > On
  • Output: Drive IAC (Bus 1) >Track > On

Ableton MIDI Settings

Set Up Ableton’s Session View for Sequencing: 

  • Create MIDI track and name it “SERATO”
  • MIDI From: select Mixars DUO, All Channels
  • Monitor: Off
  • MIDI To: Driver IAC (Bus 1)
  • Ch. 8 (select a free MIDI channel)

Ableton MIDI Track Settings

Depending on requirements, create one or more MIDI tracks with the same settings, to control more Serato decks independently.

Mapping Ableton Clips For Each Cue Point

Before starting with the mapping, load any audio track on the Serato deck, with some cue points stored.

1. Select the cue point you want to map in Ableton. For example: Hardware Cue Point 1 (red) to be mapped with Software Cue Point 1 (red).

2. In Ableton, arm the MIDI track “SERATO” and click in an empty slot to start recording a clip

3. When it starts recording, press the physical Cue Point button to record MIDI data into Ableton clip

4. Press the clip again – to switch from recording to playback, you’ll want to keep it playing constantly. Turn on the Loop mode before moving into the Serato window.

5. Open the MIDI mapping state in Serato DJ (next to Setup button)

6. Click the Cue Point in Serato that will receive the MIDI message from Ableton clip and the cue point is mapped (as Ableton is sending out that note via IAC)

7. Close the Serato MIDI mode and repeat the operation for the other cue points on your mixer

Final Recommendations

In Ableton, you can use the audio outputs of some mixers that have built-in soundcards, like the Mixars Duo. Be warned that using this audio routing at the same time as an IAC Driver, can overload the USB bus data flow and might cause audio dropouts/glitches in Serato.

If you do get these dropouts from Ableton, you can always instead use your laptops mini-jack audio output connect it to Aux In of the your mixer, or use a FireWire / Thunderbolt audio interface. This gives more bandwidth for the USB data stream of Serato. This is only useful if you’re also layering audio from Ableton on top of your Serato set.

If your computer is underpowered for this setup, you might want reduce the CPU usage. Try disabling the Expansion Packs of Serato DJ when not in use: Serato Video, Sampler, Flip, Pitch ‘n Time DJ, FX, etc.

Learn more about John Type on his artist website here

Read Next: How To Build A Basic Controllerism Routine

  • audiomontana

    Its so frustrating to see these techniques and workflow touched on and short changed by the software developers for the last 13 years. They dont want this type of workflow in the software. It will create too much advancement of skills and the sound of the mix. Wait Wait Wait

  • Dubby Labby

    So complex with limitations (since Serato can’t do rewire and solutions like soundflower keep the software to connect audio interface dongle) and for a “so-so” result (isn’t new but it didin’t took never off due it’s so niche workflow).
    Probably if it gain some interest Serato will going in the “full perfomance recorder” (True mixtape) creating an xml file from all the midi/timecode manipulation since you hit record (it does it with cues through flip) and let open it in Ableton (adapting what The Bridge was to what to should be in first moment) since Link is an improvement of the remote scripts from it with new UI and open to everyone.

    In the other hand similar solutions had been developed but users didn’t take the time (or interest) to explore. From maxforlive ms. pinky patch (no need for link, no need for iac, etc) to scratch track full automation (including vinyl vector aka scratching) plugin… but hey Controltablism! XD

    In the Traktor side from Digital Warrior to Traxus interactive lemur template sequencing cues (and even slicing loop recorder loops or looped parts in songs like slicer feature in serato) to scratching remix decks (Serato The Bridge FAIL part) to Stems and lately Maschine/Traktor link… makes this easiest with a few imagination even using simple midi din on Maschine/Audio10dj or proper new sequencer in Traktor…

  • locodog

    All ready had editable cue routines [8 per track] in vdj for a few months now [UCC], no other programs needed.
    Once I figure out xml writing [I wrote the plugin] I’ll be going for fx & sample sequencing

  • Patch

    This is not new – this is just The Phat Conductors (now iLL Gates) IAC Juggle Trick, and Ableton Live Dummy Clips.

    Its a great article, though, and will really get people thinking about what is possible with Midi!!!

  • Micha El

    Would be nice to see how it’s done with Serato DJ, Pioneer DJM-S9 plus NI Maschine.

  • killmedj

    I was so ready to be very cynical…. but that was awesome!

  • Pingback: How To Sequence Serato Cue Points in Ableton Live – dPico AUDIOS()

  • Fernando Midi

    Maschine now has LINK and already had its own virtual cable … Well easy to simulate a FLIP but with some advantages … Quantize Cues, Note Repeat on Cues etc …

    • CUSP

      Where did you find all that information? I looked at Ableton’s site and did not get anything more than MIDI clock sync. I’m very curious to find out all the things Ableton Link can bring to Traktor and Maschine.

      • Fernando Midi

        Upgrade your Maschine to version 2.5.6 and enjoy Link Function … simply a dream.

        • CUSP

          Will do… I downloaded it yesterday. I was a little bugged by a recent response from Native Instruments support telling me that the Kontrol S8 was not NKS supported device. It makes you wonder how committed they are to NKS when their flagship DJ controller isn’t supported by their own standard… even in MIDI mode.

          • Fernando Midi

            What ?? NKS and Kontrol S8?? What is your idea man?

          • CUSP

            The idea is to switch the Kontrol S8 to MIDI mode, and use the existing controls (and screens) with Maschine software. This isn’t some far-fetched idea either, the screens (with knobs) are there, the pads are there (broken into left and right sides)… I just wish the support was there.

          • Fernando Midi

            Would be wonderful!! But
            that will never happen … They need to sell Machines as well …
            They’re not going to make an equipment that controls everything … or
            if they do it will be the value of a Rhine.

          • CUSP

            I thought about that too, I think Native Instruments would actually sell more of their S8s (currently listed at $999) rather than both the S4 Mk2 (currently listed at $599) and Maschine Mikro Mk2s (currently listed at $349) if they did this. Granted, the price would be about $40 different, but with all of this functionality in one box, this could actually compel more people to buy more of the Native Instruments flagship model DJ controllers rather than *MAYBE* buying both the S4 Mk2 and Mikro Mk2 or maybe the S5 (albeit a little more limited than the S8), and there’s no reason someone would not want to buy more modular gear if that’s what they wanted… it’s all under one roof.

            This is the right time for Native Instruments to be doing this as well with their competitor Serato recently releasing the Roland DJ-808 DJ Controller (albeit for $1,499), they *have both sides of this equation* edging exactly for what I’m talking about, in one box. The Native Instruments method would be the more cost effective way to do things and in my opinion, the better way.

    • locodog

      What’s Note Repeat? I’m writing the vdj version [routine] And I’m not shy on borrowing the best ideas from anywhere.

      • Fernando Midi

        • Fernando Midi

          In the maps I do for the Maschine to control the Serato or Traktor I can use Note Repeat in the Cues …. that’s it!

          • locodog

            So it’s just the cue in a loop?
            Well not just a loop, a loop that has the back end muted,
            I think I could do that.

          • CUSP

            Well… those pads are after-touch sensitive, so you can vary how hard the virtual drumsticks hit the drums by varying the (maintained) pressure on the pads. Effectively it might sound like it’s triggering the same cue (over and over again), but you can change the attack, decay, sustain, and release in real-time, which can make each triggered note sound different (if you change the parameters). Note repeat is re-triggering the instrument each time, but it’s cycling at the trigger rate… so that’s the difference.

  • dj arduino

    i had a similar idea when serato flip was released. i used ableton, traktor, some virtual midi cables (can’t remember the name) and jack audio connection kit. my problems was to get the sync right. bpm was correct but the phase was always off.

    with I should

    • dj arduino

      with ableton link I should retry this…

    • CUSP

      That *could* just be latency.

  • Felix

    This can be done with traktor (and windows), too.

    Create a new controller mapping where you map the hotcues of the deck you want to control, the choose notes from e.g. C1 upwards.

    On mac you can use traktor’s virtual midi port as the input device and traktor and as the midi to in ableton.

    On windows you have to download loopmidi or loopbe to create the virtual midi ports necessary to transfer the midi data from ableton to traktor.

    The time sync can be done either with ableton link or over the internal midi ports (traktors link integration is a bit bad as you can’t link per deck and the midi clock may be too slow to react, you would have to try this yourself).

    Another fun thing to do is mapping e.g. an FX knob to a CC and then automating it in an ableton clip for quantized and automated FX.

    The audio setup for traktor would be the same as the one described in the article.