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Use Hardware Synths with Ableton Live

Erik Hawk

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Want to integrate your old-school MIDI instruments with Ableton Live? Here’s how.

We’re in the midst of an incredible resurgence of modular, semi-modular, and desktop synths. The modular synth components from Noise Engineering and Erica Synths, the Roland Boutique synthesizers, Korg Volca devices, and the ever-expanding line of Behringer models are just a few examples. A slew of amazing vintage synths are on the market today for pennies on the dollar of their original price tag.

You can easily fold hardware instruments into your setup with an old-school MIDI connection. Incorporate a few of these units with your modern DAW, such as Ableton Live or Pro Tools, and you’ve got yourself an incredibly powerful music production and sound design toolbox. A setup like that offers the best of all worlds: analog sound at your fingertips and comprehensive recording and audio editing control in your DAW program.

Once you’ve picked up a few of these amazing vintage and semi-modular synths, how do you connect them all to your system? Or, more to the point, how can you fully integrate them into your music production workflow? For example, if you have two Behringer semi-modular devices, an analog drum machine, and a vintage synth module, then how do you plug all of them into your two-input audio interface for complete audio and MIDI control?

In this video I’ll answer exactly this question and take you through the whole process, step by step. We’ll go from making the MIDI connections to recording the synths and arranging your composition in Ableton Live. Finally, I’ll top off my composition with a quick mix in Pro Tools and mastering in Ozone.

I hope this tutorial gets you cooking with your new and old synths and Ableton Live. If you’d like to jump to a specific section in the tutorial, the times and links are listed in the description just below the YouTube video.

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