Using the MIDI Clip to Build a Beat in Ableton Live

This is the fifth lesson in our multi-part course series, How to Make Your First Beat in Ableton Live. To follow along from the beginning, click here, or check out our Mainstage course, Beat Making in Ableton Livefor a more in-depth mentor-assisted experience!

The performance you’ve recorded is stored in what Live calls a MIDI Clip. In session view, it looks like a little block with a play arrow on the left corner.

In the video below, we’ll take an in-depth look at what elements of the MIDI clip we can control and familiarize ourselves with how to start manipulating the performance data.

The process of aligning our notes to play in time on the beat is called quantizing. You can do this by dragging your notes onto the grid, as we did above, or Ableton can do it for you automatically. The easiest way is just to click CMD+U or CTRL+U on a PC when you’re in Clip View.

By highlighting a selection of MIDI notes and using the key command SHIFT+CMD+U, or SHIFT+CTRL+U on a PC, you’ll open a window that displays quantization settings. This will allow you to adjust how tightly you stick to the beat.

The “Amount” parameter controls how effective the quantization will be — 100% would snap the start of each MIDI note you have selected to the closest grid line. Setting the “Amount” to 85% moves the start 85% closer to the nearest grid line. This can be a really effective way to get your beat feeling tighter, but not entirely mechanical.

We go into a lot more depth about quantization and creating more natural-sounding grooves in the Mainstage Course, but for now, know that you can use it to clean up even your sloppiest performances.

Manually, or with the help of Ableton’s Quantization Settings, take a moment to adjust your MIDI performance so your kick and snare hits are lining up with the grid. 

When you’re done with that, we recommend you read John Hull’s recent Flypaper post that details 10 super helpful key commands in Ableton Live that will make your entire workflow instantly smoother. Believe us, these will change the way you make beats.

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