5 Ableton Keyboard Shortcuts for Productive Producers

One of the most important things in making time spent in any repetitive software as efficient as possible is to learn as many handy keyboard shortcuts as possible. Knowing great shortcuts speeds up workflows and makes the software less of an obstacle and more of an extension of your mind.  Today Gary Harper shares his top five Ableton Live keyboard shortcuts in a quick tutorial.

If there’s a way to speed up my workflow in Ableton Live, I’m all for it! There’s no better way than learning the most useful shortcuts and using them repeatedly until it becomes second nature.

Ableton Keyboard Shortcuts Walkthrough:

This selection is by no means an exhaustive list and there are plenty more really useful ones. Sometimes it’s best to get to grips with a few, get them engraved in your mind then learn a few more!

Windows users – just replace CMD with CNTRL to get your shortcuts! 

  1. Adding new tracks (audio, MIDI and return): I use these constantly in both session and arrangement view.

    New audio track = CMD + T
    New MIDI track = CMD + Shift + T
    New Return track = CMD + Option + T

    BONUS TIP: If you’ve made a new track and added a bunch of instruments or effects and want another track with the same set-up – select the track and hit cmd/ctrl+D to duplicate the track and all it’s settings.

  1. ‘Detail view’ on/off: This one is great for when (like me) you’re working off a small screen/laptop. Also the space where you’d need to double-click the mouse to achieve the same task is very small and fiddly .

    Toggle Detail View on/off = CMD + Option + L

  1. Toggle between ‘Clip view’ and ‘Device view’: This is great when you need to make tweaks to your instrument of effects but also quickly amend MIDI notes or audio clips. It can be a little convoluted to do this without using the keyboard shortcut.

    Toggle Clip/Device views = Shift + Tab

  1. Add new MIDI clip: One of my favorite Ableton keyboard shortcuts! I love being able to simply click and drag an amount of bars. Such a time-saver over messing around with MIDI clip lengths in the ‘clip view’.

    Insert blank MIDI clip = CMD + Shift + M

  1. Toggle between Session and Arrangement views: Possibly the simplest and most-used. When working with samples in session view, it’s great to be able to click, hold, press ‘tab’ and drag the clip into Arrangement view. I can’t even imagine using Ableton without this one!

    Toggle Session/Arrangement views = Tab

Keyboard Shortcut Covers

We actually offer in the DJTT store one of the best keyboard covers for learning to use Ableton’s shortcuts in the DJTT store – click here to grab one (there’s Traktor and Serato versions also). There’s also the added benefit that it also protects your keyboard from in-studio spills!

What are your favorite and most-used keyboard shortcuts? Are there any Ableton needs to include in the next version of Live? (Personally, I’d like to see a shortcut for showing/hiding a VST instrument window.)

Abletonkeyboard shortcutsproducingProductionproductivity tips for djs
Comments (43)
Add Comment
  • Dmob

    highlight a section of the track and hit CNTRL+Shift+M to make a new midi clip. CNTRL+J to consolidate clips

  • Patrick Ijsselstein

    there’s only one shortcut that everyone should learn, and i’m surprised it’s not mentioned…. Just hold Cmd and option, and type any combination of the following letters; s l i m b r o

    instant space on your to small screen!

  • Tommy Thomas

    Not necessarily shortcuts, but great tips for both session and arrange mode

  • calgarc

    the most usefull little trick is to click on the cpu meter on the top right corner 🙂 it disables the audio engine so I can use the soundcard with another program and quickly shift between them.

    • Ben

      calgarc – thankyou so much… I know it’s only small, but your cpu meter tip has just made my life SO much more awesome!
      I spend a LOT of time watching ableton tutorials, but i get frustrated cos Ive been having to close Live down to watch them… so I can never just try stuff out there and then without a bunch of hassle… but now… just hit the button…. BAM!
      Thanks again!

      • calgarc

        another really good tip is to go to the drop down menus up top… they always show the shortcuts next to the command 🙂 you can memorize them lol

  • Timothy Reese

    Hey Gary,

    You can show/hide a VST window by hitting Control/Command – Alt – P.

    I’ve found it only works if you first click the actual Show/Hide button, and then minimize it. I keep a template with my most used plug-ins already clicked through to get around it.

    • Demi Gods

      Timothy! Gold tip buddy thanks for sharing!


      YO! Timothy thanks for that tip also. You’ve definitely made Ableton life a lot easier.

    • Migari

      Actually you can hide and the show multiple VST (or AU) windows if you have unchecked “Auto-hide plug-in windows” in Preferences . It’s not enough to select the device, you have to first open it, or a set of of them, then press Control/Command – Alt – P, which hides this set or brings them all back. This is truly useful because if you move to another track, it’s still the last open set that is called back, so this is is hide feature.

  • Robert Quick

    Would be nice if you actually listed all the shortcuts in the text as well for people who can’t watch the video for some reason.

    • Dan White

      Great point, we’ll add them!

  • Tyler

    You can also create your own shortcuts pretty easily (at least in Mac OS X) in System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts, as long as the action is present in a drop-down menu. For example I have mapped the Collect All and Save.. menu item to ? + SHIFT + A

  • Vader Trackerz

    wow, you can read the manual and make videos for djtechtools now , so cool

    • Ezmyrelda

      Only if you have a penis and are a dude..

        • Ezmyrelda

          It comes from a history of viewing the site and a history of having interacted with the forum community. You want more female contributors, actively participate in welcoming them and seeking them. Don’t rest on your laurels. If you’re lacking for female contributors ok sure. I’ll step up.. But one token female (stereotypically pretty at that) writing academic articles does not excuse the blatant issue that I’ve seen here for the last 8 or 9 years or so.

          Regardless, we already have a prior bias.. I think your store is great.. I think your content is good.. I think your editing as always needs work.. But this is less about submissions than it is about seeking already established content streams from people already established. Bluntly? More “How I play” and “Artist gear setups” from established female acts. Just because you don’t see privilege doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. That’s one of the reasons why it’s privilege.

          That said.. I have a shitty camera set up.. I’m working on it. I have a shitty lighting setup. I’m working on it. I live in a truly punk pad that is not ideal for the videos and concepts I would like to put forth.. Of which.. There are a ton..

          All of that considered.. Would DJTechTools be interested in how to perform live breaks on a MF Twister? Would there be a community interest?

          How about concepts and workflows with using a Traktor setup with stems decks, track decks, remix decks, and sequencer decks, as backing for guitar and vocals.

          How about an ableton live article on using simplers to round robin samples for variety within a basic kick sound..

          I’m not saying the company is going out of it’s way to disregard female voices.. But that’s the way it works.. Representation is key.. You can’t see my implication because you simply aren’t in the position or interest of looking at it.

          Please do better, and I will continue to truck along and try to do better myself…

          • Dan White

            I agree that there’s a lack of female DJ contributors to the site. However, we absolutely rely on contributors to put themselves out there and offer – like you are – to make great articles and videos for DJTT.

            Unfortunately, the DJ market at a whole and as a result, our readership, is over 90% male – so the people who we reach and who are inspired to give back or contribute to DJTT often reflect those demographics. This a conversation for not just DJ Techtools editorial staff, but for the DJing community at large. Why are we such a homogenous industry, and have been for decades?

            I’d be happy to see any pitches you’d like to send in, my email is always open, as indicated above.

          • SHONSTARR

            WOW! Ezmyrelda actually has some really good points… And by the way Dan, if & when the DJ community at large has “that” conversation we should also probably talk about why there’s so few “Black & Latino” DJs represented in the industry’s mainstream, especially considering we are talking about music that originated in the “Black & Latino” communities of Chicago & Detroit… Not that I would ever give DJ Mag’s Top 100 any legitimacy, but C’MON SON! – Carl Craig & Carnage that’s it? Out of 100? SMH!

            And Dan I think you also have a good solution to kind of get the wheels slowly turning so I’ll definitely be taking you up on that offer, as well as encouraging friends to contribute and submit content to the site.

          • John Viera

            Complaining won’t get you anywhere ladies and Latino/Blacks. Get off your ass and do something creative and you will be a DJTT star.
            John Viera
            DJ Latino Machoman

          • SHONSTARR

            YO! Johnny Boy if we were in a bar right now I’d buy you a shot out of pity my friend. You obviously don’t have a freaking clue and clearly live in some alternative Donald Trump ruled universe where ALL ladies and “Latinos & Blacks” have to do is stop being lazy, get off their ass and do something creative. SMH!

            Let’s also be very clear there’s a big difference between having a conversation about real sh*t and just simply complaining. Ezmyrelda started an important conversation, Dan offered some ideas to get the wheels turning, I added my 2 cents… By the way i’ll be sure to tell Seth Troxler and The Martinez Brothers to stop complaining and that according to DJ Latino Machoman the industry doesn’t need their Tuskegee project because all “Latinos & Blacks” have to do is get off their ass and do something creative. Cheers! Trump 2016!

          • Ezmyrelda

            Thank you Shonstarr!

            I’m not interested in having this conversation go the way of useless complaining..

            I have nothing against the DJ Techtools team themselves.. As I said.. I love their store. LOVE it.

            I tried to make a point.. and tbh yes attempted to make it in the way that would absolutely get noticed.. Because, I want the situation to change. I really do want to see more How I play, and artist gear setups from female djs. Not just for my self interest but because representation is key.

            Dan gave a very levelheaded, kind, and welcoming response. Voila! Dialogue.. I now have something to go on, and a part of the community sees that some of us feel there is an issue.

          • Dan White

            For the record, your comments have spurred off a new effort on our team get Tokimonsta to do a “How I Play” interview with us this fall.

          • Ezmyrelda

            Tokimonsta! Yes! Amazing talent! I am super excited to see the piece.. Thank you for listening and working towards a result.

          • John Viera

            Labeling yourself a victim will always get you far brother. Keep it up.

          • SHONSTARR

            Hahaha “victim labeling” that’s funny. You definitely have the wrong one my friend. My heros growing up were Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X 🙂 … Just because the natives have the audacity to speak in contrast to how perfect everything is going in the Colonies doesn’t mean we are looking for your pity and sympathy… By the way for all those reading who feel where I’m coming from or feel sorry for us victims be sure to support all Seth Troxler and The Martinez Brothers’ Tuskegee label releases 😉

          • John Viera

            I’ll support Tuskegee if the music is good. I don’t care if they are Black, White, Puerto Rican or Haitian. You get it now?

          • Ezmyrelda

            Thank you for your oh, so original view. The ol “Squeaky wheel should grease that shit and shut the fuck up”. It’s extremely helpful, not at all trite, and totally unmotivated by your self interest in maintaining the status quo.

            FYI, information I have been witness to the classism, sexism, and racism in dance culture for twenty years.. Before I transitioned, I got some gigs even back when I had no equipment and to my current standards fucking sucked.. Afterwards, essentially nothing. I live down the street from a club venue that caters to the college crowd with a talent manager that works with one of the large production companies in Seattle. I met with him, gave him my info.. Was told he would contact me in a couple of weeks when he needed to book people. Several months later, I contact him again and politely ask him if I could do a warm up. Nothing. I have not once seen a female dj in that club. I know for a fact that at this point in my practice I am better than pretty much any of the “talent” he has brought in. Humbleness and keeping a quiet mouth only goes so far. Did he decline because I’m a woman? or a trans woman? I don’t know.. But, shit is real.

            Further on down the street there is a gay bar. Every last gay male botching mixes and redlining gave me the brush off because they feared losing their position of respect..

            With all due respect to the successes you’ve had in your career, fuck of with your “complaining won’t get you anywhere.”

          • Ezmyrelda

            Oh, and let’s not forget the beauty double standard inherent as well.. A male DJ can be ugly as fuck. Female DJ? You better have big tits with those tracks.. Trainspotting, with a side of female objectification.

          • Aken

            I think your point with females vs males is just totally out of place, especially in the context of DJaying. I’m in this domain for years now and never seen as much woman DJs as now. Some are pretty some are ugly, but I’m quite sure there has never been as much opportunities for girls as now in the DJ community.
            My second point is that, how much the f*ck did you think we even give about if its a girl or a guy who write an article ? Does it changes something ? we all use the same language so if you are a good analyst/writer you will be published, that’s how it works.

          • Ezmyrelda

            Because it’s a pretty.. eh.. article.. Like one person commented.. You can read this in the manual.

            “I think your point with females vs males is just totally out of place”

            Duly noted. “quite sure” quite sure huh? How sure? 95% sure? 98% sure? Where are you basing your opinion from? Globally? Locally? Do you face racism? Sexism? Anywhere? In any way? How about.. Transphobia? Have you ever faced transphobia and sexism in a club? Would you know it if you saw it?

            But my points been made.. The dialogue started. Thank you for your input.

          • John Viera

            So when the exact same thing happens to a White male DJ what do you think they do?

          • Ezmyrelda

            “So when the exact same thing happens to a White male DJ what do you think they do?”

            I suppose it would depend on the person. Possibly same thing I would do.. Possibly not..

            What I would do and will continue to do is look for opportunities and keep on trucking, never letting go of my dreams..

            But I’m not a white male so I give 0 effs about what works for them. Privilege is not having to look at the institutionalised and subtle micro aggressions and oppressions others face.

          • John Viera

            “What I would do and will continue to do is look for opportunities and keep on trucking, never letting go of my dreams..” You forgot to add and complain on DJTT at the end.

          • Ezmyrelda

            Oh, yes.. because my visible disqus record shows such to be true, oh wise and privileged one. Your 43 upvotes really really tempt me to care what your opinion is. Oh, did you have anything worthwhile to actually add to this at any point? Instead of.. say.. chiming in with status quo of the intersection of two privileges that have no interest in anything changing in any way?

            For the record.. Let me just say.. Your body of work impresses me ohhhhhh so much.. That is.. the original work I could find.. (*Ahem* I mean one mix. ) Your 141 SC followers must be sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for your new work.. Meanwhile.. I have close to 700 off of a few reposts (I work that tastemaking shit yo.) and work that is nearing 15 YEARS OLD.

            You are exactly the kind of trope I don’t give a rats ass about.. I wish you success with your residency and whatever success you’ve had off your minimal talent for being a white male.. Good on ya.. Peace out dude.. Have fun with your well fought position.. Because where you are at.. It’s your peak bruh.

          • John Viera

            It all makes sense now.

          • Ezmyrelda

            Whatever.. Believe what you like.. I don’t really care either way.. You aren’t in a position to actually have to care. Your best interest is to believe what is easiest..

            But.. hey.. you want to battle me.. Let’s do it on the decks.. I’ll toast your no talent having ass.. any time..

          • Dan White

            Always happy to get content submissions from anyone of any background. What matters is that you know your stuff, care about the DJ community, can communicate well and teach skills to others. That’s all it takes.

          • Tyler

            Hey I just came across this documentary film (in the making) called Amplify Her http://amplifyherfilm.com/, thought you might be interested if you haven’t already checked it out!