Using Ableton Live 12’s Tuning System with External VST Instruments

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Ableton Live 12 now includes a Tuning System, but can it only be used with instruments inside Ableton Live 12, or can it also be used with external VSTi’s?

The tuning system in Ableton Live 12 can be used not only with Live’s built-in devices, but also with MPE-compatible plugins. This means that when working in tunings other than 12-tone equal temperament, you can access various scales not only with Live’s internal instruments, but also with external MPE-compatible VST instruments. However, to use the tuning system with external plugins, the plugin must support MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression). Be aware that with VST plugins that do not support MPE, you may not be able to take advantage of Live 12’s tuning features.

Playing with Live 12’s Tuning System on a Standard Keyboard

When playing in tunings other than 12-tone equal temperament using Live 12’s tuning system, using a standard piano-style keyboard can be difficult for the following reasons:

  1. The relationship between the key layout and the actual pitches is not intuitive
    On a 12-tone equal tempered keyboard, the interval between adjacent keys rises by a semitone each time. However, in other tunings, the intervals are different, making the relationship between key position and resulting pitch less intuitive.
  2. It is difficult to accurately play in tunings other than 12-tone equal temperament
    For example, in just intonation, the pitch of the same key changes subtly. Accurately expressing this on a standard piano keyboard requires skill.

To solve these issues, consider the following methods:

  1. Use an MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) compatible keyboard
    With an MPE keyboard, you can continuously vary the pitch for a single key. This makes it easier to express subtle pitch differences such as those in just intonation.
  2. Use a visual guide
    Some products can indicate the positions to be played on the keyboard with LEDs, matching the scale of the tuning set in Live. This makes the correspondence between tuning and keyboard clear at a glance.
  3. Devise your own fingerings to match the tuning
    Although it may be difficult when you are not used to it, it is also important to practice changing your fingering to match the intervals of the tuning.

In any case, using a standard piano-style keyboard as-is is difficult, so I recommend modifying your playing environment, such as by introducing an MPE-compatible keyboard or using visual guides. It may be challenging until you get used to it, but it is well worth the effort to gain the expressive power of various tunings.

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Born in 1982, he is a Japanese beatmaker and music producer who produces hiphop and rap beats, and also produces and consults music artists. He also researches web marketing strategies for small businesses through music activities and personal blogs. Because he grew up internationally, he understands English. His hobbies are muscle training, photo processing, WordPress customization, K-Pop, web3, NFT. He also loves Korea.

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