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There’s no other way to put it: computers have become a central component of all recorded music, as well as most composed music. Especially when taking on more projects with tighter deadlines, producing quickly and efficiently means you’re going to need to know a few keyboard shortcuts to get the most out of your software.
You likely already know how to add a MIDI track in Ableton (SHIFT+CMD+T), add an audio track (CMD+T), open up preferences (CMD+,), and utilize some other basics, but when it comes to composing with MIDI, there are a plethora of useful commands you can use in the Clip View to get things done faster, saving you time and hopefully a few headaches along the way!
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This command allows you to switch between Clip View and Device View. This lets you quickly jump back and forth between tweaking your MIDI performance and adjusting parameters of instruments and effects.
CMD+1 and CMD+2
While you’re in Clip View, click somewhere in the grid, then try hitting CMD+1. You’ll notice that it makes the grid finer so you can snap notes to smaller subdivisions of the beat. You can see the current subdivision of the grid in the lower right corner and whether you’ve snapped to quarter notes (1/4), eighth notes (1/8), sixteenth notes (1/16), or something else.
Alternatively, CMD+2 makes the quantization of the grid larger. Once again, make sure to click in the grid to set the focus there or it won’t work.
This command turns the grid into triplets. After you press it, you’ll see a “T” appear where the beat subdivision is indicated in the lower right corner (e.g., 1/4T). CMD+1 and CMD+2 will still make the grid larger or smaller, but always in triplets.
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This one shuts down the grid, allowing you to slide notes around within the bar freely. This is great for humanizing beats and getting things slightly off the grid so they don’t sound too mechanical.
Select some of your MIDI notes with the mouse, or select all of them by using CMD+A. When you hit CMD+U, Ableton will automatically quantize the notes to whatever grid you’re currently using. For example, if the grid is set to “1/16,” the notes will be quantized to the nearest sixteenth note.
After selecting some or all of your MIDI notes, this command causes a floating window to appear with a few more quantization settings. You can set the “Quantize to” to either the current grid or different subdivisions. You can also quantize not only the note beginnings but the endings of notes as well.
The “Amount” parameter is very useful for creating musical grooves. Setting “Amount” to 100% will correct the timing of notes by snapping them to the selected subdivision. Setting it to lower values causes notes to move towards the grid, but not snap completely, allowing for more humanized performances. 80-85% percent can be a good place to start.
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If you press “B” in Clip View, you’ll get access to the pencil tool, which allows you to draw MIDI notes directly into your grid.
Touch the loop brace (the dark bar under the point of the red arrow in the image below), then hit CMD+D. It will take whatever’s in the loop brace and duplicate it, doubling the length of the loop. You can also use this command for individual notes. This is great for creating quick copies of parts so you can make variations.
Deactivates selected notes in the clip.
In Clip View, after selecting notes or clicking and dragging to highlight an amount of time, this will adjust the loop brace to contain your selection.
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