Controllerism Ideas for Ableton- Multiple Beat Repeats

All of you Ableton heads out there have probably used the beat repeat effect but I suspect most have never strayed far from the basics. By activating beat repeats manually (instead of by chance), you can take away the randomness and make the repeats happen when you want. When you use more than one copy of the effect you can create multiple layers of beats. Then work in a controller to interact with the beat in a really tactile and expressive way. In today’s article we will explore this basic but creative controllerism technique for Ableton Live.

The Beat Repeat effect can be used with all sorts of music to create an almost limitless amount of different effects and sounds. While the most obvious uses rely on using the Chance control in the lower left corner to vary the odds of a beat repeating, to me the most expressive use is by removing the random chance and playing the effect manually with a controller.  With the right settings, you can use this to achieve great beat looping or shuffling, improvise new rhythms using drum loops or other sounds, or manipulate instrumental tracks on the fly.

In the intro video I used two sets of 3 beat repeats, each controlled by a different control on my midi controller. I used the same settings on each set of three to show off two different control possibilities. The video can give you some idea about what you can do, but the best thing is just to try for yourself.




  1. To begin, lower the Chance setting to 0.00% and assign the Repeat to a midi control.
  2. Change the grid size to, 1/8 and leave the rest of the settings alone for now.

Every time you press the midi key assigned to the Repeat button, whatever was playing at the time that you pressed the key will repeat every 1/8th of a bar. Depending on what kind of midi control you use for the repeat, the effect will either be momentary or toggle between on and off when you press it. Regular midi notes will act as as  switch, while pressure pads, for instance, will only have the effect on while they are pressed down.

Add two more beat repeats with different grid sizes and assign the Repeat button to more midi controls. The size has a great impact on what kind of rhythm you develop as you use the effects. Put larger grid size repeats on the left side of the mixer drop area so that the larger grids are not flooded by the smaller, more frequent repeats. When you are finished, your beat repeats should look like this.



First a word on exactly what is happening. Beat Repeat is basically a looper that loops 1 bar or less. The effect records one bar in a buffer at all times. When you press the repeat button, the effect waits until the next interval of the grid size and then repeats that grid size until the effect is turned off. If the grid size is small, the effect turns on almost immediately, however with the largest setting, One Bar, it waits until the next bar before repeating. To repeat a beat, simply press one of the controls when you hear the sound that you want to repeat.


By turning the chance to 0.00%, the controls outlined in red no longer function. You can use the controls outlined in green to change what and how often the effect repeats.

Try using the Ins (Insert) setting. This will cause the repeated sound to completely replace the original sound. This setting is a lot harsher and produces more drastic effects. I would recommend using it on only one beat repeat at a time to keep from destroying the mix too much.
Sometimes the repeats will drown out a track, especially is you are using this technique on instrumental tracks but the filter will solve this problem. I like to set the filter based on the grid size of the repeats. You can also use this to add variety to drum tracks. Try the settings below and then experiment to find the perfect sound for you.

Experiment with the other controls by assigning them to a midi controller. For example, I have a control set up to raise the Decay of all three Beat Repeats to 15% and another to switch all three Filters on and off. Other than that, it is probably better to use as few controls as possible. A simpler control scheme usually results in a more powerful effect.



You can use as many Beat Repeats as you want. Depending on the grid sizes, pitch, decay, and other settings can either provide subtle or extreme effects for all types of music. One great option is to use only one Beat Repeat with a favorite grid size (my favorite is 1/6) so you can add some extra flair to a rhythm at the touch of a button. This effect is great because it gives you tactile control over any clip you are playing in Live. Try it out and see what you come up with.

If you are interested in using Ableton Live as a DJ, check out these articles:

Why DJ with Ableton Live:

For more inspiration watch Interview + Performance with Edison

Comments (52)
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  • diptone

    This is awesome. Thanks so much for sharing, I’ve been playing with this setup all morning with my Launchpad.

  • me

    great you put more focus on ableton as i think the possibilities are endless and also great you do teach so called “basic” tricks! not everybody is super fit with ableton yet, so keep on goin

  • Ezra

    I haven’t DJ’d with Ableton in almost a year, but I set up a loop-roll that I used to control with a knob. I built it using Tarekith’s Super Looper and a couple compound racks. With the knob set to “Max,” the looper is turned off. Start turning it towards zero and you’d get different repeats – quarter-note, eighth-note, sixteenth, etc. There was also a “repeat” switch to turn repeating on/off.

  • frogstar

    would also be nice to have some genre specific ableton dj tutorials. Mixing 4 to floor house kind of mixing vs breakbeat chopping decks and fx.. and any other types.

    And obviously The Bridge would be much appreciated as this is currently the most powerful dj possibilty out there at this point in time.

  • minimal

    [quote comment=”42539″]Great article! I have built an Ableton template for DJing that includes a custom Beat Repeat effect that incorporates much of the above into a single MIDI control knob.

    Check it out:

    thanks for sharing Paul & thanks for the article Luke. This is going to be my new year’s resolution: use more ableton.

    As mentioned DJ related Ableton tuts seem pretty scarce, so please DJTT, be nice & give us more Ableton content this year.


  • Gav Grant

    [quote comment=”42560″]have always been interested in routing traktor into ableton… but never get around to it – what can i say, the technical side of configuring gear doesn’t interest me enough to put the creative stuff aside for very long.

    anyways it’s welcome to see more ableton related posts on DJTT. even if ableton isn’t an ideal djing tool in itself – the option that you can route traktor into it should be enough reason to see more articles like this one.[/quote]

    I managed to get get the 2 program’s syncing no problem – just download “LOOPBE1” virtual midi cable (if using just the one PC) then adjust Ableton’s Midi Clock Sync Delay (assuming your using Traktors clock as the master) until both metronome’s are spot on.

    Takes a little time, but now I can use my VCI100SE/Traktor and APC40/Ableton all in one go! quality fun 🙂

  • frogstar

    Ableton is the photoshop/aftereffects in the music making world.

  • Pieter Christiaens

    whats the track called at 0.40? I’ve got some ideas for an electro remix/bootleg 😉

  • ftaudio

    [quote comment=”42490″]Indeed. I want to start DJing in Ableton, but the lack of resources for doing so is minimal. MORE ABLETON! ;D[/quote]


  • R3 Bonaire

    the year just started off good. Ableton is not posted much on DJTT. But i use it a lot to make remixes and own creations.But live is kind of prepped play so i prefer to use ableton as line in on Traktor deck 3. Making Cue points in live can only be done if you slice a song in to pices and use different start points and set the quantize to none. With a launchpad youcan activate the different cue points. I Used 3 beat repeaters on my latest track…No Dengue.
    thanks for this great new article and i hope more ableton follows.

  • DJ Devlar

    Basic but great tool. I agree with 7oniiiC, the sheer amount of possibilities you have in Ableton makes it worth looking into. In my sets I often play (minimal and tech) together with guys on live instruments (harmonica, guitar, bass..), and in this situation Ableton gives me more control bringing in new sounds and samples, as well as being able to manipulate each one individually with effects on the fly. While I love Traktor, this is something that can’t be done the same way..

    Great to see some Ableton articles!
    Happy New Year from Macau!

  • lokey

    just to point out, if you instead set chance to 100%, the interval knob becomes a useful and expressive control that works well in conjunction with the grid knob. It really makes a single beat repeat into a very flexible beat rejiggerer…

  • ksimek

    mean some salmonella dub there

  • duerr

    have always been interested in routing traktor into ableton… but never get around to it – what can i say, the technical side of configuring gear doesn’t interest me enough to put the creative stuff aside for very long.

    anyways it’s welcome to see more ableton related posts on DJTT. even if ableton isn’t an ideal djing tool in itself – the option that you can route traktor into it should be enough reason to see more articles like this one.

  • Fernando Midi

    Traktor Pro ( VCI 100 ) + Ableton Live ( APC40 ) + Soundflower ….. All in all …

  • Jono

    Nice post, my first reply too…

    Nice idea, but to me sounds a little sloppy… Just because something does make a new sound doesn’t mean it sounds good just because it is new. beat repeat for me and ‘roll’ ( on pioneer mixers) are well over used… I’m a DJ/producer but crucially a drummer. I love syncopation but I love it when people write it, write the beats, feel the groove, not use built in effects that you turn on and go “hey, this sounds like, clever and look all i had to do was switch on this button. For me it’s like people ion production who use presets, their all well and good but you need to learn how this stuff effects the sound, know where the root is. Flowers are beautiful but the roots hold them there for you to view.

    DJTT… an article on delay units and writing syncopated loops/beats/samples would be super.

    jono x
    london, uk

  • ToOntown

    rhis is awesome. i agree, more ableton stuff would be great.

    i’m going to start using traktor alongside ableton with the internal midi clock sync. it’s looking more and more like the setup i need.

    i don’t want to DJ in ableton, i just want to drop warped samples and loops. i DJ in bars and clubs and people constantly request songs that i have to download. it would be a pain in the ass to have to drop a song into ableton on the fly and cross my fingers that it warped correctly.

  • corlleone™

    [quote comment=”42491″]Is that a Seu Jorge sample in there?[/quote]

    Seu Jorge – Mania de Peitão (Jamais Plus Jamais mix)

    By the way congrats Luke, nice article!!


  • DJ Girish

    Nice Post. Keep bringing Ableton and S4 to DJTechtools. Don’t forget Maschine either.

  • Jordan (FlyingCar) Smith

    iPad and iPod Touch owners that use TouchOSC should try making buttons in there layouts that trigger Beat Repeats to turn on and off.

    I have 8 buttons (iPad layout) per effects channel like such: 1/4, 1/6, 1/8, 1/16, 1/24, 1/32, 1/64, “Skid” (kind of like a record stopping sound, but using Beat Repeat) Also, each channel has three sliders assigned to the Mix/Ins/Gate knob, another assigned to Decay, and the third slider assigned to the Beat Repeat’s volume.

    Message me if anyone wants more details on how I did this or if you want a video tutorial. (click my name)

  • jprime

    In your beat repeat units, the top right window shows a line (kind of a hump) with a circle. I find when the circle is below the line, the output (effected) audio is slightly fainter.
    By pulling that circle right up to the line, you don’t lose any volume when the effect is on.

  • 7oniiiC

    I mean “Dummy Clips”

  • 7oniiiC

    If you like this trick, something you should consider is implementing this with dummy tracks. You can do all this with one Beat Repeat.

    BTW, the Super Looper is an Ableton Effects rack composed of the Beat Repeat.

    Effects Racks are another good reason Ableton blows other applications out of the water; speaking on capabilities of course.

    Another reason a controllerists may want to go the Ableton route is that you can get creative with routing your audio through various tracks, sends, effects racks, etc.

    A-B and A-B-C-D mixing is cool and all, but why not go with the entire alphabet? (bad joke)

  • Vinicius Hoffmann

    Really deep tech article, I love those ones 😀

    Would be nice an Article like that:

    “How to do Traktor basic functions on Ableton”

    For example, I wish I could know how to create 8 CUE on a track on Ableton, and how can I map the creation, play e delete CUEs to a MIDI command.

    Another idea: Would be nice a tutorial teaching how to achieve the same result of Traktor FXs in Ableton. I wish I could know how to create a Delay T3 on Ableton (or a Ringmodulator, or a Digital Lofi, or a Ice/Re-verb, etc…)

    Since our community has many traktor tutorials, it may be beneficial to most of the people…

  • Eduardo

    Hey could some tell me keyboard they used in the video at 14 Secs ty!


    amazing article

  • Some_Dj

    nice! nothing more

  • Rynaldo

    Great tricks for Ableton. I started 2011 with the goald to start experimenting in live DJ’ing with Ableton, so I am currently setting up an Ableton setup with an APC40.

    Last week I installed Touchable on my iPad (after already experimenting with some other iPad midi controllers). Oops, went crazy! Everything worked within 10 minutes, and all the Ableton functionality (they even added more flexible DJ usefull functionality to Ableton)on my iPad and working with even less latency then the APC40.

  • Darren E Cowley

    Luke, awesome video, can i ask what you used to create it?


  • ChonieD

    Yeah Yeah. The Tarekith super looper is sick. Aside from the loop saving in the technique described from the article, it makes the effect just as playable with fewer controls. His racks are dope.

  • itskindahot

    made my day!

  • tommyu

    As a long time Ableton user and LOVER, i appreciate the fact that you’re including some Live articles. Although I’ve been implementing similar beat repeat effects as the one mentioned, it’s still cool that you’re talking about Ableton. I made an effect rack that basically loops in measures of 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/16, 1/32 etc w/ the turn of one knob. It’s pretty dope. Kinda similar to Tarekith’s Super Looper. If you haven’t done so, check it out. !!!!

  • Javier Quiroga

    [quote comment=”42495″]This idea is old like a mamonth sheet.[/quote]

    damn right, I learned many interesting things on this site, but sometimes many technics are too basic and old, then i think, Ean is a genius, he is compiling and posting standar tricks, but on schematic and clear way.

  • ninjaontherocks

    [quote comment=”42497″]Ableton is cool and all, but just for productions and converting live tracks to “mix-able” songs, just saying[/quote]

    Abelton’s stable of is not as user friendly as traktor, but that doesnt make it not ready for DJing. I have already used it twice and had a good experience both times.

    How does ableton differ from what Ean does with triggering loops/samples and I’ve seen him use the jog wheel mapped to effects.

    I am not knocking Ean at all, i just wanted to point out that ableton is a great tool. Did i mention that the controllers are sick too?

  • Dj PC3

    Ableton is cool and all, but just for productions and converting live tracks to “mix-able” songs, just saying

    • T

      You’re probably one of those elitist Pro Tools users that thinks that the DAW determines the quality of the MUSIC that is output.. shame.

  • Ivn Os

    This idea is old like a mamonth sheet.

  • BuenDiaz

    Finally some more Ableton techniques, I just started using Live and haven’t been able to learn the effects much to Dj

  • Powers

    Is that a Seu Jorge sample in there?

  • Tyfurious

    Indeed. I want to start DJing in Ableton, but the lack of resources for doing so is minimal. MORE ABLETON! ;D

    • BM

      hi, try for getting all out of live for djing… great community, great tipps, maybe good for all digital djs 😉 but to get here more ablteon tips as well would be nice.